During last Thursday’s class when we were discussing the articles written by Bilu and Seidel, Professor Staub brought up the multiple points of view that religion can be looked through, such as a psychological point of view, religious point of view, anthropological point of view, and a gender studies point of view. Since I am a psychology major and just stepped out from a Women and Gender Studies class before heading into last week’s class, many ideas about possession were being looked through the psychological and gender studies point of view while I was reading the articles.
From the psychological point of view, I could see how some of the “symptoms” of these possessions could go along with a lot of mental or physical illnesses. For example, when discussing the possession of the zar spirits, some of the behaviors that were associated with this specific possession including, “…pain and other somatic problems to depression, eating problems, and hysterical symptoms” (Bilu, p.353). All these symptoms could be a result of depression, anxiety, or any other number of psychological disorders that are related to going through the teenage years. When we were discussing the psychological point of view of possession, we had said that a possession could be used to explain something, such as a mental illness, that we could explain now with all of the new medical information and knowledge we have gained throughout the centuries, and so the reason why I found the possessions so interesting in the psychological point of view is because it does seem that the possessions can now be explained with psychological reasonings.
In my Queer Studies class, we have been discussing the importance of power between the genders, so after reading the two possession articles, I found it really interesting that most possession victims are women with a male spirt inhabiting them. As Professor Staub pointed out, as well as Bilu and Seidel, it is a rare occasion that a man will be possessed and there is no evidence whether these male victims were inhabited by male spirits. It is a popular theme that men like to be seen as more powerful than their female counterparts and show their dominance over other men so I found it interesting in the case of the zar, aslai, and dyubbk that male spirits inhabit the female victims. Looking at possession through the gender studies point of view, this is a great example of how the males have the dominance.
I have never thought about looking at something as specific as possession through so many different point of views. As we continue reading for this class, it will be interesting to see where the class discussion goes with other aspects of religions when looking through all these different point of views.