EPIDEMIOLOGY OF LUVALE SPIRIT POSSESSION--
ALTERNATIVES TO PROCREATION
University of Florida
Prepared for the Symposium on Women in Ritual and Symbolic.
Systems: "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," American
Anthropological Association, Mexico City, 1974
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Spirit possession has attracted the attention of many
.Observers who have attempted to explain its occurrence.
Articles by Ian Lewis.and Peter Wilson that appeared in Man
in 1951 and 1967, respectively, focus attention on the
"epidemiology of possession." That is, they are, concerned
with an examination of what categories of people are most
apt to be possessed,.and an explanation in terms of social
tensions. Both authors are r:lyd-g. spirit possession as
a function of social conflict. Both authors also.confine
their focus to spirit possession as a peripheral institution
in "male-dominated societies." n .these societies women,
and especially married women, are the category of people most
frequently po:sses.e. My purpose is. to use these two articles
as background to present mry on. explanation for the phenomenon
Ian Lewis (1966, 1969) views possession as a means
by which deprived, frustrated, and insecure people air their
-grievances to their superiors and seek attention and redress.
SSince women, especially m'rried. women, are most frequently
possessed, and their husbands are responsible for sponsoring
the\ure, his analysis focuses on the "War between the Sexes."
Among the Islamic patrilineal .Somali that he. studied, women
lack authority and other means of defense and are therefore:
treated like "pawns" by ;rIn. raHenae, "aggrieved wives' use
illness, -in. the : .:.'. of .. .....ri to *.::;ot "mystical.
pressure" upon their he,.nd; .
Mary Smith (1954) reports that Nigerian Hausa women
turn to possession because under Islam women have little
participation in ceremonial life. Women.do, however,
have.access to economic participation and essentially a
separate status hierarchy from men's. Curley (1973) uses
Lewis' view to show that Ugandan Langi women, who have in
fact gained some independence from their husbands, still
use spirit possession in the war between the sexes because
the traditional social system provides them with little
mobility and freedom. This portrayal of spirit possession
as a manifestation'of the war between the sexes is very
popular indeed, perhaps because in many male-dominated
societies women do indeed;,use illness to gain attention and
Although most of Lewis' material concerns patrilineal
societies, he cites Elizabeth Colson's (1969) analysis of
the matrilineal Tonga of Zambia to demonstrate how the per-
spective easily incorporates economic deprivation anywhere.
The Tonga husbands during the colonial period became incres-
ingly involved in labor migration, leaving the isolated
Gwenbe Valley towork in towns. The wives remained at home
and, relatively, became increasingly deprived.of equal access
to desired goods.available only in the towns. As this depri-
Yation increased they responded by being m.re frequently
. '* ' ,
3 '- I
possessed, and being possessed by different types of spirits
that needed offerings of.sought-after town goods to be expiated.
Peter Wilson responds to Lewis' article and the war
.between the sexes concept in his 1967 article. Wilson dis-
agrees:with the view that possession reflects inter-sex
conflict and the recognition by wives that they.are deprived
relative to their -husbands. He instead contends that the
conflict is among individuals of the same sex, and generally
among won:-n, the most frequently possessed. To the extent
that men interact with the.w ori who are possessed, the: men
are agents or "tools," as it were, of the women involved.
Wilson denies the importance of the war between the
sexes in traditional male-dominated societies. It is pre-
cisely in these societies, he argues, where the sexual division
of labor is well defined, and the possibility of any overlap
between the sexes in the performance of tasks is minimal.
:Men and women do not compete for .the same goals or in.,the same
arenas, Rather, women compete with other women as men compete
among themselves. Only in societies such as ours, where men-
and women compete for the same goals.and in the same arenas,
is the war between the sexes a reality, based partially on a
conscious ra: among women. of their deprivation in:relation
I12 traditional male-dc'inated scieiees that Lewis
and vil--n focus on ,';ltu: spirit possession is a peripheral
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or central institution, wives are structurally peripheral in
the virilocal residential unit. The status of each in-
marrying wife is periodically rendered ambiguous or threatened
by tensions among co-resident women, or by the arrival of a
co-wife. In Wilson's view .spirit possession is a means by
which the threatened woman restores, transforms, or improves
In this paper I too will focus on the "epidemiology of
possession," but my presentation differs in two respects
from that of Lewis and Wilson. First, both of the sociolo-
gical explanations given above explain spirit possession as
a function of social tension and social conflict. In my own
epidemiological explanation,:I include the physiological
conditions and states that are,. in fact, .the "epidemic."
Second, whereas the previous explanations mainly referred to
patrilineal societies, my own research was carried out in a
matrilineal society. Matrilineality has important effects
on-women's autonomy in economic, reproductive, domestic,.
and ritual spheres.(Schlegel: 1972).
I do not'accept the sociological conceit that spirit
possession is precipitated solely by social tension. Spirit
possession is a means of treating personal illness. It is
true that illness and. possession may be considered by the
people concerned to have social causes. Similarly, the
attribution of certain illnesses to possession by spirits
may be an emic recognition of specific social tensions. It
is also true that the social mobilization of personnel and
resources involved in the possession ritual, and-the cath-
arisa associated with the spirit possession, have social
consequences, and indeed, the makblis.tion may be wrought
with conflict or result in increased.solidarity.
For anthropologists, however, to continually pursue
social-functional explanations for spirit possession is to
flirt perilously close to suggesting that the illnesses
treated by spirit possession are all psychosomatic or con-
sciously induced. When Curley speaking of the Ugandan
Langi says, "many of the patients in these ceremonies had
become-possessed as the result of conflicts among their
kinsmea" (Curley 1973:12), what is he apparently saying?
Lewis remarks, in reference to peoples who practice spirit
possession, that "the use of spirit possession as a way
of.classifying and treating disease implies ignorance of,
disregard for, or dissatisfaction with, the explanations9of
modern rmepic.l science" (Lewis:.1966:321). Those same
cautions are equally applicable to anthropologists who seek
explanation for illness in social causes. They display
ignorance of, disregard for, or dissatisfaction with the
physiological explanations of modern. Ec'.esnc.
I agree that some illness may cis psychosouBaticaliy
induced thus, indirectly caused by social tensions. A spirit
possession ritual with its attendantmedicines may relieve
those tensions and, as a result, cure the psychosomatic
symptoms. But fundamental patterns and scheduling of illness
among a population, as well as the selection of victims, are
.the patterns of disease. The question to be asked is: in
any specific case what are the diseases or physiological con-
ditions that underlie the scheduling bo spirit pbtsesoion
and the selection of specific victims?
The specific case I shall discuss is that of the Luvale
people of Zambia whom I studied in 1970-1972. They are a
matrilineal people with virilocal residence, so a married
woman lives in her husband's village. The Luvale use spirit
possession to cure illness and are similar in many ways to
the nearby Lunda Ndembu studied by Victor Turner (1957; 1969).
The Ndembu also have many spirit possession rituals associated
with women's reproductive disorders. Turner (1957:301)
questioned the influence of physiological disorders, but
decided to focus on the social determinants of rituals.
The rituals are anxiety reducing mechanisms, so that once
the body is.not socially "'uptight," it may be symptom free.
On the contrary my research shows that Luvale women
have very good reasons to be anxious about reproduction.
r r n-. : + : T
In fact they have excellent reasons to complain of a series
of illnesses that not only are painful, but prevent them
from achieving the natality that they desire. Luvale
ethnogynecology is such that they may be the "original
contracepting society" at great physical cost and much
I shall discuss 1) the "epidemic" or reasons for this
,lew natality, .) the types of cures, i.e., the spirit possession
rituals, and 3) the categories of women they affect. Finally
the social and ritual consequences of the situation are
Compared with the natality figures of other Zambian
ethnic groups and other African countries, the Luvale have a
very low birth rate (see Appendix A). I have been able to
document this low natality for about one hundred years.
Characterized colloquially as the "one child per family" people,
by the national government, Luvale and neighboring groups
. ,.indeed show a low fertility structure that is unusual. The
normal: fertility standard for Africa is a birth rate of 50-60
per 1,000.and.a "natural sterility" of 5% among women of com-
pleted natality (Romaniak 1968). Presently the Luvale popu-
lation shows a birth rate of 38 and childlessness of approxi-
mately 30%. The national Zambian fertility ratio is 769, while
the.:Luvale are in the lowest fertility area in Zambia
(Northwestern Province) with 563 (Ohadike 1969). Earlier
in the.1950's the specific local area studied had a ratio
of 304 (Mitchell 1965). This means that women of completed
natality show a rate of live births of approximately 2.00,
which is simply a replacement population.
Because of modern medical facilities, Luvale natality
is increasing so that some younger women have higher natality
that most older women. Fortunately, I was able to study the
effects of modern medical facilities by comparing two samples
of women. The first, which I call the Village Sample, consists
of women who use traditional midwifery techniques and have had
many indigenous medicinal and ritual cures, including spirit
possession. The second, which I designate the Hospital Sample,
consists of women who use hospital facilities and have not had
many traditional medicinal and ritual cures. The fertility of
the second sample is twice the fertility of the first, which
supports the hypothesis that traditional midwifery and medical/
ritual techniques directly affect natality.
In this epidemiological study of spirit possession among
the Luvale, the "epidemic" is one of reproductive disorders
and wastage: barrenness, menstrual problems, stillbirths,
and neonatal deaths. The frequency of these disorders is
Great and due in part to the traditional Luvale therapeutic
style pf treanient. In short, most of Luvale female
- phar-macopoeia is administered vaginally for reproductive.
- 9 -
disorders, gynecological and non-gynecological illness, and
parturition. The therapeutic style contributes to illness and
reproductive wastage because of three characteristics: intra-
vaginal application, use at vulnerable times, and consistent
frequent application. Timing is important because times
of greatest usage coincide with times of greatest physio-
logical vulnerability, viz., parturition, gynecological ail-
ments, menstruation. Use of these medicines is frequent
and consistent during the reproductive span.
Especially noteworthy are the use of intra-vaginals
at parturition and for midwifery techniques. Methods of the
officiating midwife, who is often a barren woman herself,
are sometimes injurious to mother and child. Early and
frequent bearing down prior to dilation increases the chance
of a stillbirth or subsequent'neonatal death and in fact
the rates of stillbirths and neonatal death are very high
(Appendix A). The pharmacopoeia for the normal parturient
include an incredible variety of intra-vaginals; the number
and persistent use for a troubled delivery is greater. The
post partum woman continues a series of intra-vaginal douches
to return the birth canal to the pre-pregnancy state. These
often result in post partum 'infections.
Part of the reason for using intra-vaginals is to
maintain "proper vaginal" conditions which are considered
vital for good health and sexual well-being. However the
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continued use of intra-vaginals may serve to develop pelvic
sepsis and salpingitis eventually rendering the woman sterile.
As expected there are many miscarriages and febrile illnesses
along the way.
Types of Cures
Herbal medicines and "home remedies" are the first
treatment given for reproductive disorders and general ill-
ness. If the response is not considered satisfactory, the
people turn to spirit possession. Divination names the illness
and reveals the causal agent and the ritual cure necessary.
The illness is based on the patient's symptoms. The causal
agent is usually the woman's female ancestors who were
possessed during their lives and were either adepts or experts
in particular cults. The ritual cure necessary varies with
one's female ancestors who were cult members, and one's own
age,'natality, and child mortality history.
In contrast to the Ndembu, (Turner 1957; 1969) the Luvale consider
that one or more ancestors belonging to one or more cults may
afflict. Hence each possession ritual typically has multiple
possessions and cults involved. In.specifying the illness and
cure the diviner's and the ethnographer'swork are similar
in many ways.
A spirit and its ritual exorcision or possession is
called lihamba, sing. or mahamba, pl. The term mahamba
also includes all the cults surrounding spirit possession.
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The Luvale distinguish three varieties. Cults for general
illness and hunting cults.may be designated here as simply
mahaimba. Those for reproduction are distinguished by
adding wakusema, for reproduction. A recent type is w.acho,
from the air.
The ritual cure consists of the medications and possession
in which from one to ten-depending on the diagnosis- shades
as members of cults appear to dance, be medicated, and leave
the patient's body along with the illness. Ritually, the
patient is thereby initiated into the cult as adept and may
become an apprentice doctor upon recovery. The illness
provides the continuation of matrilineal cult participation
from deceased to-living descendants and reminds the patient
to keep in touch with her entire matrilineage (particularly
when she is married virilocally see below).
Illness and some subsequent relief provide the path
for cult membership and eventual specialization in doctoring.
Many of the doctors have had successful cures and conceived
when thought barren or successfully raised children after
losing some. In fact there are a whole series of names given
to children which reflect their mother's ritual participa-
tion. These people are always pointed out to express the
efficacy of the rituals and medicines.
Given the emphasis on ritual participation and ritual
expertise in Luvale society it is not surprising that women
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gain status through ritual, as well as importance within their
matrilineage as carriers of cult membership. I will discuss
more fully below these alternatives to reproductive success,
i.e., how a woman who fails as a mother to continue her
matrilineage may achieve alternative importance and personal
success. The ritual sequence may be thought of as a'
coordinated curriculum, with women being involved both as
the sufferers and, unlike modern medicine, the curers. Women
are linked in common participation as well as in rather
elaborate apprenticeship systems to transmit this esoteria
Categories of Persons Possessed
Spirit possession is used to treat general illness for
both sexes and reproductive disorders for women. People
possessed by the traditional modes for reproduction (mahamba
wakusema)are married women living with their husbands. The
possession sequence generally starts when the woman has repro-
ductive disorders, including difficulties conceiving or bearing
children or having children die. Repeated miscarriages,
stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, four-five years exposure to
intercourse without conception, long menstruation, and loss of
children -- all of these are considered reproductive failures
to be treated by spirit possession rituals.
A youny woman still in her reproductive period has these
spirit possession rituals for successful natality and child
rearing at her husband's.house (i.e.. when she is living
virilocally). In this situation she is residentially separ-
'ated from her.matrilineage for whom she is reproducing. .In
the past her matrilineage performed the fertility confering
ritual at puberty. However at marriage the.husband is
held accountable for bringing her fertility to fruition.
Her husband and.his matrilineage are involved because her
matrilineage.transfers the responsibility for health care for
herself .and- her children to them.: (In return the husband
receives sexual and domestic services). Although her husband
and his'relatives.have to care for her and her children, they
are the agents. in the conflict between the woman and her own
matrilineage in her failure to remember her female ancestors.
.. Wl buke her by sending her "uterine" illnesses
(both physiologically and socially speaking).
The husband and his matrilineage mobilize and provide
resources.to sponsor the ritual. Lewis would see this as
; conflict between. the husband and wife, Wilson as secondary
Sto the-conflict between co-resident women. However although
the Luvalehusband and his kinspeople are responsible for
mobilizing-resources,. the significant relationship is between
the woman and her matrilineage. A husband who fails to treat
a sick wife or child i. severely censured by the wife's.
matrilineage and quickly divorced.. (This contrasts with
t. he. husband's right to divorce a healthy wife-whenever he wants
In this regard it is significant that a divorced woman
with reproductive problems, who is in between unions and
residing at home with her matrilineal relatives, rarely has
a spirit possession for natality. If she becomes sick she.
will be cured by herbals, air spirits or cults for general
illness. Spirit possession rituals are not necessary if the
ill person is close enough to her matrilineal village shrine
where she or a relative can invoke, the ancestors directly.
One woman doctor explained that she could not administer
medicines for barrenness to cure her recently divorced
daughter now staying with her unless the woman's past husband
had engaged or.future husband would engage her services.
Doctoring must be remunerated and she could. not collect from
her daughter, she explained. The daughter could of course,
apprentice herself to her mother and eventually learn.the
medicines by paying a reduced fee because they were related.
Older women have spirit possession rituals for general
illness which include traditional cults (mahamba) and air
spirit cults (mahamba wapeho). They do not have the cults for
reproduction (wakusema). Depending on their marital status
they may be still married and living virilocally, in which
case their husbands are again responsible for the cure. The
husband may not divorce a sick wife and is caught in a zero-
sum game, for he pays a very large death forfeit if she dies.
at his house. More commonly an older woman (past 55-60 years)
prefers to be divorced and once again reside'with her matrilinea
kin which is'understandable sin6e she is "approaching"
her ancestors. If she is ill at this time, herbals, minor
rituals, or air spirit rituals are generally performed,
although a few general mahamba cult possession do occur
very rarely. This contrasts with men who may have spirit
possession rituals at any time during their adult lives and
who tend to have them mostly as they get older (60 years plus).
Lewis, Wilson, and I are looking at the same major
category of people possessed by spirits, married women.
Lewis and Wilson see women being possessed to gain attention
and economic consideration, and these anthropologists give
cursory attention to the physiological causes for the enact-
.ment of possession cures. Since possession is to gain attentior
the illnesses are thought to be generally psychosomatic or
psychological. I see the scheduling of illness and the selec-
tion of victims as basically physiological. For the Luvale
the epidemic is reproductive disorders and wastage.
Lewis and Wilson, examining principally patrilineal
societies, seek the causes of possession in social conflict.
.Lewis finds women possessed because of conflicts with their
husbands. Wilson finds women possessed because of conflicts
with other.unrelated women in the virilocal residence unit.
I find Luvale women being considered possessed because they
have, in fact, personal historiesof reproductive disorders
Given this de facto medical history, I also find that
the attribution of reproductive problems to possession by
spirits and treatment by a possession ritual occur in a certain
specific social situation, when a woman is living separated
from her matrilineage. The tensions are not between wife
and husband or wife and other unrelated women, but between a
woman and her matrilineal relatives who are living elsewhere
or deceased. These tensions reflect, at another symbolic
level, the conflict between matrilineality and virilocality
that has been discussed by Victor Turner (1957).
Social and Ritual Consequences: the Unity of Women and
Alternatives to Procreation
Now I want to turn my attention to examining some of
the social and ritual consequences of spirit possession as
it is institutionalized among the Luvale. This is the realm
of explanations, in terms of the functions of ritual, in which
anthropologists usually deal. In particular I will concen-
trate on 1) the unity of women within a matrilineage and
within Luvale society and 2) the alternative roles open to
women who fail to be adequately fertile.
Ethnogynecological procedures are controlled and
administered by women who consider their domain very important.
Women are constantly engaged in learning ritual and medicinal
esoteria and instructing other women. A group of specialists
including midwives and doctors of various sorts has developed,
and some women have become important curers. This means there
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is an apprenticeship system run by women for women. It is
organized into a coordinated curriculum-that -draws,women
into a ritual and social system of meaning. A community of
women ritual experts is developed and continuously renewed.',
Through ritual each individual woman receives her place
within the matrilineage and eventually becomes a revered
and significant ancestor. .The living'are linked to.the
recently departed by carrying on the cult memberships of.the
deceased. Any failings reproductively may be translated
into ritual participation. Dispersed matrilineal women .
become integrated through their participation, and in this
sense spirit possession-and ritual become.the vehicle for
bonding women of a matrilineage. Along with membership ritual
expertise is passed down through matrilineal lines and cer-
tain matrilineages have'a preponderance of ritual experts.
Male members of a matrilineage are bonded. by co-esidence,
positional inheritance and succession, and ritual participa-
tion. Female members, of a matrilineage are, bonded by ritual
participation, reproduction, positional inheritance.and
succession. For males the positional inheritance and succes-
siond is based on ritual.and political leadership roles. For
women these are based on ritual roles which enable them to.
translate failures of reproductive potential into status
and ritual power.
Low natality enables many wm~en to 'end their child" -
bearing and rearing careers-early. Many women .cease
reproduction many years prior to menopause because of infer-
tility. For some, the time period before cessation of
menstruation may be five to twenty-five years. Traditionally,
women ceased bearing after one or two children which were
conceived.in their late teens and early twenties; additionally
there are many barren women. Hence there is often a long
period of menstruation which is not related to gestation.
Most. women interviewed in 1972 who were over 45 years
(technically the cut-off to consider completed family size)
had in fact spent only j10-15 years.of their reproductive
span actively involved iin reproduction, i.e., when they
were between the ages of fifteen and thirty years. Hence
by the time a woman is thirty she could have terminated
conceiving and bearing children, even though she is exposed
to intercourse and uses no contraception. Of course there
are a few women who continue to conceive and deliver at
.regular intervals until menopause. A very few more are
surprised to find themselves pregnant after an. interval
Sof five years, but these cases are rare.
.. An interesting confirmation of the early cesession.
of reproduction occurred at the performanceeof the lihamba,
Tuta, Since women still young enough to'become pregnant may
.not.attend, I was surprised to see several traditional women
S.who were in their late twenties and early thirties-present.
When asked about theiri participation, they simply stated
: .. : :i ;
S-. 19 -
that-they were finished reproducing as they had not conceived
in at least five or six years.
The most typical pattern is for a woman to have spirit
possession rituals for reproducing with concomitant successes
"or failures during her: twenties and thirties. Then the
S. ..woman.spends .her time after reproduction has ceased, but.
long before menopause, taking up the calling and undergoing
apprenticeships by serving t.n a variety of female ritual
A woman may specialize in spirit possession doctoring
for :reproductive or. air-spirits mahamba, in the chipango
sequence for child rearing, and/or in mahamba for long
menstruation. (Kula). Ritual specialists are typically mature,
vigorous women married to their second or. third husbands.
They have terminated reproduction and child care, although
manyy are still mehstruating. There is no ritual distinction
made between pre- and post-menopausal women,: Nor are there
social distinctions, especially if the former has completed
S child bearing. Older women, however, usually 'are less
vigorous .and anct as the "retired consultants." (See'. .
Interestingly, the Luvale mahamba wapeho, air' spirits,
Sare similar to the Tonga masebe ,possession cults reported
.--by Colson. (1969). Some such a .isIrpline"*and higelaare.
Exactly thescame. Wheread Colson views 'these cults'among
~~ ~ ,..
the Tonga as a response to economic deprivation I .see them
among the Luvale as a means to cure non-reproductive illness
of old age as well as to a new ritual.path. Women who failed
to have the-initiatory rituals for traditional mahamba cults .
in their youth and those who lack the matrilineal antecedents
to become mahamba wakusema doctors may specialize in these
air spirits cures. bOften divination is by-passed--possession
by the spirit may be confirmed by its appearance (through
dance) during the ritual. These rituals are never used to
cure reproductive disorders or children's illnesses..
The midwife role attracts.women who are strong and
do not fear the birth process even though they may not have
experienced it themselves. Some women dream of a.;matrilineal
kinswoman, who was a midwife., often their mothers or grand-.
mothers, but they do not fall ill, have a ritual cure, and
take up the specialty as in mahamba. Rather, long amounts
of time and interest are needed to become a midwife. Often
a rmtrilineal kinswoman takes.a junior kinswoman along to.
aid her in the delivery and.the junior eventually apprentices
Thus far I have only mentioned the midwife and spirit
possession doctor. specialists. Both use herbals.but there .
are also some women who specialize only in herbal remedies.
In addition. to these, there are ritual roles for younger.
women as girl'5 puberty teachers which many women fulfill, .
and in the past there was a women's funerary society which
occupied many old women. Perhaps the.introduction of air spirit
cults contributed to its demise..
There are, other mechanisms to enter ritual specializa-
tionn in addition to the transference of ritual participa-
tion and expertise within matrilineages.. Women in close
residential proximity, who are often'affinally related, may
participate .together in rituals. The junior aids the senior
and eventually apprentices herself and becomes a specialist
as well. Women form a community of sufferers, and the parti-
cipation .in cults cross-cuts kinship ties (Turner 19570 1969).
Hence. women. are linked in groups wider than their matrilineages
and for purposes, other 'than. domestic .(cf. Leis 1974). .
Wherever a woman may go (at marriage or on visits)
she wi'1. find, other women who can rally t. her aid through
the idiom of ritual and-through common membership in cult
groups. Women feelit. is their obligation to help other
women during sickness and ritual cures s that they may
expect reciprocity (good, insurance policy when sickness
abounds). Even where social interactions may be less than
harmonious, illness and ritual will generate this expecta-
tion of aid'a good will.
.My purpose. hee has'been to propose another explana-'
'tion for the. social and ritual consequences of spirit'pos-
session rituals among matrilineal: groups, which indeed cannot
obtain in patrilineal ones. Spirit possession in a
matrilineal.society may operate to link and-bind living
women to their deceased ancestors, and living kinswomen to
each other as well as to non-related women. Rather. than
seeing.women in."special situations which regularly though :
not necessarily give rise to conflict, competition, tension,
rivalry, or jealousy between members of the same sex" (Wilson
1967:366), spirit possession rituals may be viewed as one
of the bonding mechanisms that enable:women to form ritual
groups and enter arenas other than the domestic one;..
Luvale women are able to translate the reproductive
Potential into alternative pursuits. There are many women
who only achieve low fertility. Women generally have .a
long period of time when they theoretically should be fertile
and engaged in child-rearing but are not. People.cope with
these situations with ritual and medicinal techniques
1) through individual participation-.in curing reproductive.
disorders and 2) through specialization in doctoring and
midwifery during the non-reproductive period. .
RATE OF LIVE
S Village Sa.iple (N-127)
:. . 5 .
+Hospital facilities were opened in 1954
PERCENTAGES OF REPRODUCTIVE WASTAGE
(total pregnancies 359)
Miscarriages .' .12.8 .
Stillbirths 7.5 ..
Hospital Sample (NM-88)
Neonatal Deaths 8,.9 .. 19.
'*46% of these were first pregnancies delivered by village midwives.
PARTICIPATION IN MAHAMBA RITUALS FOR REPRODUCTION (percentages)
Reproduction 42.8 63.6
Other traditional' '2.8 9.0 .
Air sgirits 14 :2 24..2
Child hearing 45'47-'. 54.5
(N=127) Hospital Sample (NM88)
45+ years 15-29 30-44 years,
69.4 9 ..2 28.5
S13 .5 0 '2.8
30.5 i9 2.8
50.8' 23.0 37.1*
WOMEN'S RITUAL ROLES, FERTILITY, AND MARITAL .STATUS BY AGE
participant In chipango ritual, for
own illness or mother's reproductive
problems (mother is possessed)
participant in ritual for own illness .....
(mother is possessed)
puberty girl in wall ritual, bride ritual to Insure
(mwenga) fertility, sexual
Nyakemba (mother, mahamba participant fertility tested,
for barrenness, menstruation, child--" motherhood
rearing, miscarriage and herbal *
participant in mahamba, adept for fertility may conti
imahamba and herbal doctoring, barrenness confirm
.apprentice to midwife (chifunguji) .
doctor for mahamba and herbals, fertility completed
mahamba and herbal doctor--sometimes fertility completed
advisory, sometimes practicing, post-menopausal
midwife, (funerary society) :
at end of wall
nue, second or third
d.-- marriage, divorcee
second to fourth.
final marriage,. w
1Categories are based on health and well-being more than chronological age.
Leis5 Nancy B.
Lewis, Ian M.
Mitchell, J. Clyde
Ohadike, Patrick O.
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References Cited (continued)
"Ritual Roles and the Life Cycle among the
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.1: . '