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Possession by the 'Zar' among Ethiopian immigrants to Israel: psychopathology or culture-bound syndrome?

Authors
  • Grisaru, N
  • Budowski, D
  • Witztum, E
Type
Published Article
Journal
Psychopathology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1997
Volume
30
Issue
4
Pages
223–233
Identifiers
PMID: 9239794
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The article describes a cultural pattern related to altered states of consciousness, observed amongst new immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel. The belief in possession by Zar spirits is one of the most common possession phenomena in Africa and in other continents. Possession by Zar is expressed by a wide range of behaviors, such as involuntary movements, mutism and incomprehensible language. Such behavior can be misinterpreted as representing symptoms of neuralgic or psychiatric disorders. We demonstrate the Zar phenomenon by a description of a detailed case. The article discusses the cultural and anthropological aspects of the Zar and its clinical implications and suggests that the Zar phenomenon should be understood as a culture-bound syndrome.

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