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Thus far we’ve looked at cases of possession from the western perspective and to have a better understanding of the subject, it would be worth our while to briefly turn our attentions to the sub-continent (including Nepal and Bhutan) where possessions are much more frequent and where exorcisms are performed on an almost daily basis.
The concept of demonic possession does not exist in the sub-continent and while they are more common or more acceptable here, demonic possession is attributed solely to malevolent or malicious spirits and are perceived to be the returning spirits of those that have died an un-timely death.
Possession is also attributed to malevolent spells or charms that have been directed at the victim as a result of jealously or some other enmity that though they may seem trivial and inconsequential to others are serious enough to warrant a visit to the local black magician.
The spirits that are used are the spirits that are most likely to possess a victim i.e. the spirits of those that have died as a result of accidents, murders or suicides.
The more grotesque the death the more vengeful the spirit and these spirits are classed or categorized as belligerent spirits. Regardless of whether possession occurs naturally or is the result of a curse or a malediction it often results in serious or fatal illnesses.
In countries like Bhutan even normal football matches require the intervention of a shaman and it is not uncommon for the opposing teams to visit their respective shamans prior to the match to bring about a turn of good-fortune.
The symptoms of possession are more or less the same everywhere and this includes the alternate personalities that appear. However, there is an additional element that isn’t mentioned or covered in cases of possessions that originate from the west in that possession or what we accept as possession is a state that can be induced i.e. the person as in the instances of shamans can decide whether he or she wants or wishes to be possessed.
Possession in the sub-continent can be divided into two types - induced possession as in the case of shamans or possession in the normal sense of the word or possession which occurs naturally.
The trance state is relevant in both instances because in either case there are visible changes in the shaman or the victim for example changes in their voice, in their mannerisms, in their appearance and sometimes the shaman or the victim displays additional abilities otherwise not associated to him or her for example the ability to speak in a different language or the sudden ability to predict or foretell future events (clairvoyance or pre-cognition).
Now, possession in the sub-continent is also divided into possession by divine entities for example heavenly and celestial deities and possession by malevolent spirits.
The former occurs mostly during non-Vedic religious festivities or unorthodox Hindu rites that are synonymous to the locality or the principality and the subject (not necessarily a shaman) goes into the trance state and starts to display all the symptoms that are associated to possession. The subject can slip into the trance state merely by chanting mantras.
This type of possession can also occur during prayers at home or at temples and it is by no means harmful. In most cases and instances it lasts for no longer than an hour or so and the subject is no worse for wear.
The latter type of trance state occurs naturally or when the victim has not done anything to prompt matters and it is classed or categorized as non-induced possession.
In almost all the latter type cases the victim is possessed by a spirit that is evil or malicious and it is either a result of unfortunate circumstance or the outcome of a hex that has been directed at the victim for some reason or another and in these instances the victim has to be exorcised to remove the malevolent spirit from the body and to rid the person of the curse or the malediction that has resulted in the victim being possessed.
Once it has been established that the victim has been possessed, the symptoms of possession are more or less the same with recorded cases in the west and once the victim has sought medical treatment (though I must admit that in many cases victims of perceived possession especially in rural areas are never brought before a physician) and the treatment does not seem to work then the victim is brought before a shaman and an exorcism is performed.
In many cases and instances, it works. Anyone who is willing to take a trip to certain rural areas in the sub-continent can witness these exorcisms personally.
The shaman usually treats the victim after she or she enters the trance state. What the exorcist or the shaman (they are the one and the same) does is that he or she allows the essence of a divine entity or a divinity to enter his or her physical body (the induce trance state) after performing certain rites or chanting specific mantras that are known only to them (these rites and mantras are kept secret and in many cases it is believed that the rites and mantras of invocation are given to the shaman prior to the shaman becoming a shaman by the divine spirit that has chosen the shaman to be its messenger).
Hindu priests do not perform exorcisms because it is not their role or function. The function of a priest is to keep the religions teachings intact and to adhere to or to conform to the rules of worship as prescribed by the Vedas and the Puranas.
Shamanic teachings are more sutra and tantric orientated and they are not rites and rituals associated with orthodox or contemporary Hinduism.
© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward