Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nitsur and possession

Reading through Endicott's analysis of Malay magic, I find that amnesia is commonly thought to be a consequence of the loss of one's soul, or the part of it referred to as semangat (with diacriticals that I'm not coping with right now). This makes perfect sense with Nitsur's ordeal by fire as a child, followed by amnesia and a sense of complete detachment from his family and surroundings. Maybe he should have gone into shaman training instead of drumming. Or maybe that's why he has the ability to become the catalyst for the drum magic. Mafileo's in a very similar situation with her traumatic muteness and near-catatonia when they first meet.

I'm going into multiple-explanation mode. Both their cases can be easily explained in conventional psychological terms, or in terms of Malay-style magic (these concepts probably aren't unique to the Malay area). The question then is, how does it appear from the inside? Both Nitsur and Mafileo will see themselves as being set apart (Nitsur more so, because this all happens earlier in his childhood), but do they see themselves as being other than human? Nitsur entertains doubts, at least.

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