Session 3: “Traditional” Healing Practices
The Case of Jaarii among the Arsii Oromo of Kokossa District
Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Rural communities make use of plural healing systems that comprise herbal remedies, modern treatment systems, and spirits mediated healings. Each of these healing systems can be used separately; or a combination of either of them is used at a time, which is often the case. Beliefs and rituals are usually involved when people make decisions to use either of these plural healing systems. For instance, practitioners of traditional medicine sometimes advise their customers to perform certain rituals or obtain prior permission from their guardian spirits, or observe some taboos, for the treatment to be ‘effective’. This circumstance gives rise to a dynamic relationship between the spirits know as jaarii in the research area, and other forms of healing. Taking this dynamic relationship into consideration, this presentation focuses on the couple of spirits (jaarii) that play, among other things, a healing role in the research area.
The following points will be considered as major areas of discussion. (1) What is jaarii and what distinguishes it from other forms of spirit possession that have been studied in Ethiopia? (2) What kind of relationship does exist between jaarii and other sources of healing? (3) What roles do the spirits play in health and other aspects of socio-cultural life of the people in the study area?
Key Words: Jaarii/spirits, healing, Arsii Oromo, beliefs, rituals
A Study in the Dynamism of Healing Practices
Department of Philosophy, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Zar, as an elaborate type of spirit mediumship, provides a variety of services ranging from consulting people on interpersonal relations through diagnosing and treating illnesses to bringing people of similar problems, largely providing a comforting zone for those who need it very badly. Dealing with health problems is one of the central concerns of zar. Many people in Ethiopia, particularly in small towns and rural areas, rely on spirit mediums to get advices, to come to terms with spirits, to deal with other humans, or get some detailed diagnoses on specific ailments. This paper inquires into the place of zar in producing and maneuvering knowledge for diagnosing and healing ailments. This will be presented in two parts. The first section will discuss how zar mediumship produces and mobilizes different forms of knowledge. The second will focus on how zar appropriates knowledge in, and related to, clinical medicine in order to diagnose and/or manage health problems, and by doing so, how it develops and augments its domain of influence while at the same time helping people to draw on competing discourses.