Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
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New publications from HEIDI (UB Heidelberg)
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Publications

William Sax:The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State

 
Oxford University Press published a new book edited by Prof. Dr. William Sax (Head of the Department of Anthropology, South Asia Institute): "The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State"

and
"Himalaya ki Nandadevi" - the Hindi translation of Prof. Dr. William Sax´s 1991 book "Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage". 


 
The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State

Rituals combining healing with spirit possession and court-like proceedings are found around the world and throughout history. A person suffers from an illness that cannot be cured, for example, and in order to be healed performs a ritual involving a prosecution and a defense, a judge and witnesses. Divine beings then speak through oracles, spirits possess the victim and are exorcized, and local gods intervene to provide healing and justice. Such practices seem to be the very antithesis of modernity, and many modern, secular states have systematically attempted to eliminate them. What is the relationship between healing, spirit possession, and the law, and why are they so often combined?

Why are such rituals largely absent from modern societies, and what happens to them when the state attempts to expunge them from their health and justice systems, or even to criminalize them? Despite the prevalence of rituals involving some or all of these elements, this volume represents the first attempt to compare and analyze them systematically. The Law of Possession brings together historical and contemporary case studies from East Asia, South Asia, and Africa, and argues that despite consistent attempts by modern, secular states to discourage, eliminate, and criminalize them, these types of rituals persist and even thrive because they meet widespread human needs.


 

Himalaya ki Nandadevi (Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage) 
 
Every few decades, thousands of Hindu villagers in the Central   Himalayas of North India carry their regional goddess Nandadevi in a  bridal palanquin to her husband Shiva's home, walking barefoot over  icebound mountain passes to a lake surrounded by human bones. This  Royal Pilgrimage of Nandadevi is a ritual dramatization of the post-marital journeys of married women from their natal homes to   their husbands' homes. _Mountain Goddess_ is an anthropological  study of this pilgrimage and the cult of Nandadevi, especially as  they relate to local women's lives.
The author shows how Nandadevi's  appeal stems from the fact that her mythology parallels the  life-courses of the local peasant women, and that her ritual  procession imitates their annual journey to the village of their  birth. Drawing on formal Indian theories, verbal commentaries,  songs, interviews, articles, propaganda, legends, pan-Indian  Sanskrit liturgies, historical documents, and the author's  remarkable personal account of the pilgrimage, this gripping  narrative is a unique resource for courses in the anthropology of  religion, Hinduism, and folklore, ritual, and gender studies.
29 Oct 2015
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