Journal article Open Access

"Wild" Spirit Possession in the Dominican Republic: Parallels and Differences between Local and Euro-American Therapeutic Approaches.

Schaffler, Yvonne

This article explores a variety of spirit possession within Vodou in the Dominican Republic that is unbidden and characterized by uncontrolled movement. Local explanatory models for states of distressing possession are being overwhelmed or punished by the spirits. While in most cases possession behavior becomes more organized and rich in symbolic meaning as an individual progresses on her spiritual path there also exist (rare) cases of chronic unbidden possession with violent features. The article draws on such case, in which dissociative states reflecting the dynamics of trauma are locally interpreted as possession by an unruly Indian spirit. In this case possession functions as an idiom of distress, allowing a young woman to communicate her past traumatic experience in a culturally acceptable way, which opens the possibility to receive attention and comfort. Since both Vodou and psychodrama are based on experiencing and making visible the soul in action, communalities and differences between the two therapeutic systems are elaborated and juxtaposed.

Funded by the FWF, T525-G17.
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