Frauen und Feen

ISBN 978-3-89645-157-6

Frauen und Feen

Entwicklung und Wandel einer Beziehung (Besessenheit in Yasin / Nordpakistan). With an English Summary

Author: Maria Marhoffer-Wolff. Series edited by: Irmtraud Stellrecht.

Series: Culture Area Karakorum Volume 10

16 pp. Roman, 408 pp.
1 map, 3 graphs, glossary
Text language(s): German
Format: 170 x 240 mm
810 g
€ 69.80

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Shamanism is a classical topic of anthropological research. The present book deals with a hitherto rather unknown form of shamanism in North Pakistan, i.e. the special relationship between fairies (parí) and women. Those fairies are depicted as female entities, who belong to a world of spiritual purity and bliss. They often possess young women called mómalas, who receive religious treatment to rid them of the intruder, but a few of these women cannot be healed and develop into spiritual media between the physical world and the world of the fairies. When their possession is cultivated, a mómala can call her parí for prophesying purposes.

The author spent 20 months of field study in the Yasin valley of North Pakistan (1989–1991) on ethno-medical research in the context of an interdisciplinary research project concerning the relationship between humans, environment and culture in North Pakistan. During her stay she became aware of the existence of the mómalas and began to focus on the influence of fairies on the lives of these women.

The discussions with the mómalas and their social environment resulted in a collection of empirical reports, self-descriptions, accounts of narrative situations, local and emic stories, as well as appraisals by others. With her book, the author breaks new ground in this traditionally male dominated ethnological field of study in North Pakistan, gaining intimate access to the otherwise closely guarded women of Pakistani society.


[...] the author's method of discussing indigenous world views on possession in Yasin without any recourse to sociological or psychological explanations provides an array of insights which would have been lost, had she clung to the current anthropological approaches. Her "multi-perspective approach", taking into consideration both the female perspective of the mómalas and the male perspective of the xalífa, not only meets an important methodological demand in anthropology, but also reveals the existence of conflicting discourses on the phenomenon. Marhoffer-Wolff shows, among other things, that even in a male-dominated society, as is the case in the Yasin Valley, women have been agents resisting male efforts to "cure" them from their "fairy illness" for a considerable period of time.

Elisabeth Schömbucher in European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, 25/26, 2003/2004, 227-229

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