Feb052017: Spirit Possession

“What IS your opinion on spirit possession??”

OH this is fun!
I did some reading on spirit possession in non-Western cultures. Though I suppose you can find some parallel with incidences that happen in the West, and you can do your own study from there.

Simply defined, spiritual possession is an explanation for when a person (usually cis female, so I’ll speak in those terms) behaves oddly. Both the observer and the victim will pinpoint the source of the behaviour to the displeasure of a spirit, due to a variety of reasons. So the spirit can be angry because

1) the behaviour of several members of its society has offended it (why haven’t you paid your respects to me?)

2) the victim has transgressed societal norms (if she places herself out of the expectations of her gender – where she is allowed to be, what time she’s allowed to move, how she is supposed to speak) or is in a liminal period of her life – say menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth or widowhood)

3) the trauma of the victim has made her vulnerable to spirits (spirits love spiritually weak people apparently) – either due to changes she’s undergoing in her life/society, or by history.

Spirit possession can be passive, or it can be active. Active spirit possession is what I found most interesting, because it means the victim is actively participating in the odd behaviour, even if she doesn’t realise it. When she is possessed by a spirit, she no longer exists as just a ‘woman’. She is a vessel for the spirit, who must be given due respect and attention. The spirit must be listened to, in order to please it. If she belongs to a patriarchal society, this is an unbelievably EMPOWERING privilege. She can voice out her anger and discomfort about her social conditions, freely, without the usual constraints of genderised behaviour, and also having men take her seriously. What she is displeased about, the spirit is displeased about too. The line between spirit and woman is blurred.

I really thought this was cool. Being from Malaysia, spirit possession is something I’ve witnessed myself multiple times in everyday life. I never thought too much about it – I simply figured it was ghosts taking advantage of people (in my mind only Asian ghosts are real ghosts) or the victim suddenly psychologically snapped from pressure. But then last year when I learned about it it was so much more nuanced – there were rules of purity, societal transgressions, socioeconomical changes in the village due to globalisation that threatened the social order, personal drama…. I think most of the people in my class were ??? about it, as they are Australian and so have NEVER seen this phenomenon in their life. To them it was an abstract concept. To me it was my culture opening up to something more.

Ong: The Production of Possession

#everytime I learn about the fringes of culture it’s an absolute treasure

#try asking me about vampires AND Orientalism

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Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

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Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

Upcoming Events

Perth Comics Arts Festival, July 27-28

Comic Arts Workshop, September

Melbourne Comics Art Jam, every Saturday 1-3pm

Follow My Blog

Pop your email in the box below and be notified of my next post.

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Archives