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New Books on Ritual Healing and Pilgrimage

05. Nov. 2015

Two new books by Prof. William Sax, Speaker of Research Area C, have been published by Oxford University Press. "The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State" was edited by Prof. Sax together with Prof. Helene Basu (Münster). This volume was launched on November 10 at the South Asia Institute Heidelberg. Furthermore, a Hindi translation "Himalaya ki Nandadevi" of his 1991 book "Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage" was released.

"The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State" 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, types of healing rituals persist and even thrive because they meet widespread human needs. 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. 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 book "The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State", edited by William Sax and Helene Basu, has been published by Oxford University Press. It was launched on Tuesday, November 10, at the South Asia Institute Heidelberg. For more information see the programme poster.

Furthermore, a Hindi translation of Prof. Sax' book "Mountain Goddess: Gender and Politics in a Himalayan Pilgrimage" has been published under the title "Himalaya ki Nandadevi". Every few decades, thousands of Hindu villagers in the Central Himalayas carry their regional goddess Nandadevi in a bridal palanquin to her husband Shiva's home. 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.

William S. Sax is Speaker of Research Area C "Knowledge Systems" and Head of the Department of Ethnology at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg.

Helene Basu is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Muenster.


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