Rivalries inside out: Personal history and Possession Ritualism in Coastal Andhra

David M Knipe


This paper examines the narratives of lay and professional women and men whose vocation is the ritual use of possession by a goddess, god, deceased person, or other divine power. Observation, interviews, still photography, and videography took place in the Godavari River Delta of coastal Andhra between 1980 and 2000 with the majority of interviews occurring through the 1990-2000. The focus here is on ritual rivalries in two dimensions, not only objective competitions observed and readily acknowledged among possession ritualists themselves, but also the subjective rivalries among divine powers described by ritualists as competing possessors. A comprehensive glossary of Telugu terms is appended to this essay.

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