Spirit possession among the Mijikenda
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The Mijikendal believe that illness results from possession by malevolent spirits. Pepo za mwiri, a "spirit of the body", manifests itself in various ailments such as malaria, whooping cough, arthritis and smallpox. Bodily possession is treated with therapy, herbal medicine and magical ornaments. Pepo za kitswa, an Arabic-speaking Muslim "spirit of the head", can cause mental disturbances and necessitates a lengthy course of treatment which is similar but also includes an important exorcism ceremony called ngoma za pepo, "spirit dance". Both kinds of afflictions are diagnosed by specialists, waganga, who first identify the spirit then prescribe the course of appropriate treatment. The identity of the spirit is learned when the healer speaks to it, saying "we are here to listen to your wishes; reveal yourself; we are friends", etc. The spirit is thought to respond to the healer via the possessed person who speaks the spirit's own tongue. Thus, the spirit may be identified as Arab, Pemba, Somali, Maasai, Mugalla, etc. Waganga, who may be men or women, are concerned with curing people and use "good" medicine (uganga). Wachawi practise "bad" medicine in great secrecy. The Mijikenda are convinced that wachawi still exist but, of course, no one who practises uchawi would admit doing so. The belief in the existence of "evil" medicine offers Mijikenda people a convenient excuse when they are in conflict with their community. By claiming to be possessed by an Arab spirit, or being the victim of uchawi, an individual may go to a Muslim muganga who will exorcise the spirit. When this happens, it is often said that the spirit wanted the individual to break with Mijikenda tradition2. Entrepreneurs for example have commonly adopted this method of distancing themselves from the community.