Title Page
 Appendix A
 Appendix B. Women's ritual roles,...

Title: Epidemiology of Luvale spirit possession -- alternatives to procreation
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Title: Epidemiology of Luvale spirit possession -- alternatives to procreation
Series Title: Epidemiology of Luvale spirit possession -- alternatives to procreation
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Spring, Anita
Publisher: Spring, Anita
Publication Date: 1974
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
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        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Appendix A
        Page 23
    Appendix B. Women's ritual roles, fertility, and marital status by age
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
Full Text



.! *

Anita Spring

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

[Quotation of isolated portions (not exceeding four lines). for
purposes of review or news articles is permitted. All other
rights are reserved by the author and other quotations may not
be made without written consent of the author. .


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

of possession.

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

to men..
I12 traditional male-dc'inated scieiees that Lewis

and vil--n focus on ,';ltu: spirit possession is a peripheral

- 4 -

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

her status.

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



5 -

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

social benefit.

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


The Epidemic

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.

- B-

- 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

- 10 -

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.

- 11 -

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

- 12 -

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
(Spring 1975).

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

14 -

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

15 -

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

and wastage.

16 -

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

- 17 -

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

18 -

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

specialist positions.
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'. .
Appendix B.)
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

~~ ~ ,..

-.20 -

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, .



21 -

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


22 -

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. .

I. *

Appendix A




45+ 4


S Village Sa.iple (N-127)

S. ,2.47

:. . 5 .

+Hospital facilities were opened in 1954


(total pregnancies 359)

Miscarriages .' .12.8 .

Stillbirths 7.5 ..

Hospital Sample (NM-88)


S 4.74

a pita'Samle

3 9.5


Neonatal Deaths 8,.9 .. 19.
*29.2 .12.7%

'*46% of these were first pregnancies delivered by village midwives.


Village Sample

'15-29 30-44'

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*





infant, baby.

child, youngster-

mwal i
puberty girl

young woman



person past

old person


birth-2 yrs.

3-14 years

17-16 yrs.
mean 14.7

17-30 yrs.

25-45 yrs.

40-60 yrs.

55-90 yrs.



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 *
treatments .

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
midwife menopause

mahamba and herbal doctor--sometimes fertility completed
advisory, sometimes practicing, post-menopausal
midwife, (funerary society) :


married virilocall
at end of wall

virilocal marriage

nue, second or third
d.-- marriage, divorcee
-resi.des "uxoriloca

second to fourth.
marriage,. divorcee
resides "uxoriloca

final marriage,. w
of-divorcee reside
"uxorI locally"2

1Categories are based on health and well-being more than chronological age.

2Appendix -6


References Cited

Colson, Elizabet

Leis5 Nancy B.

Lewis, Ian M.


Mitchell, J. Clyde

Ohadike, Patrick O.

Rormaniuk, A.

Schlegel, Alice

Smith, Mary

Spring, Anita

"Spirit Possession among the Tonga of Zambia,"-'-
inJ. Beattie and.J.Middleton, eds., Spirit
Mediumship and Society in Africa. New York:
Africana Publishing Corp. pp. 69-103.

"Women in Groups: Ijaw Women's Association,"
in M. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere, eds., Women
in Culture and Society. Stanford, California:
Stanford University Press. pp. 223-242.

"Spirit Possession and Deprivation Cults."
Man (ns) 1:307-329.

"Spirit Possession in Northern Somaliland,"
in J. Beattie and J. Middleton, eds., Spirit
Mediumship and Society in Africa. New York:
Africana. pp. 188-219.

"Differential Fertility Amongst Africans in
Zambia," Rhodes-Livingstone Journal: 37: 1-25.
Manchester: Manchester University Press.

"Some Demographic Measurements for Africans
in Zambia," Institute for Social Research,
Communication, No. 5. Lusaka.

"Infertility in Tropical Africa," in J. Caldwell
andC. Okonjoeds. The Population of Tropical
Africa. New York: Columbia University Press.
pp. 214-224.

Male Dominance and Female Autonomy: Domestic
Authority in Matrilineal Societies. New Haven,
Connecticut: HRAF Press.

Baba of Kano. London: Faber and Faber.

"An Indigenous Therapeutic Style and Its
Consequences for Natality." In J. Marshall
and S. Polgar, eds., Culture, Natality, and
'Pamily Planning. Chapel Hill; University
of-N'orth Carol na Press.

S. -*


References Cited (continued)

Spring, Anita

Turner, Victor


"Ritual Roles and the Life Cycle among the
Luvale of Zambia." Manuscript.

Schism and Continuity in an African Society.
Manchester: Manchester University Press.

SThe Drums of Affliction. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

White, C.M'N.


Wilson, Peter J.

"Stratification and Modern Changes in an
Ancestral Cult," Africa: 18 324-331.

S"Elements in Luvale Beliefs and Rituals,"
Rhodes-Livingstone Papers, No. 32. Northern

"Status Aibiguity and Spirit Possession."
Man .hs) .3:366-318. .
.1: . '



I -




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