North Africa

North Africa – Due to the emphasis on Siberia and the Arctic as the locus classicus, alongside the rare extension of the term into Southern Africa, and the fact that Islam and Christianity have heavily missionized indigenous peoples in the region, shamanism has only rarely been discussed in the northern part of Africa. A major work of reflexive anthropology by Vincent Crapanzano on spirit possession in Morocco entitled Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan (1980), however, presents an interpretive ethnography of an illiterate tile maker who believes himself to be married to a camel-footed shedemon. Tuhami is a master of magic and a storyteller, and he endures nightly visitations from demons and saints including ’A’isha Qandisha, the she-demon from whom he seeks liberation. Such themes of possession, “demons,” and magic are not unusual in Islamic folklore here and elsewhere. To assume that referring to Tuhami and other practitioners as shamans is an interpretive leap is to miss the point: rather, shamanism can work hard as an active tool in disrupting conventional nomenclature and practice, exposing neocolonial stereotypes and facilitating alternative avenues of approach.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


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