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Title:Mental Health Aspects of 'Zar' for Women in Sudan
Author:Grotberg, Edith H.
Book title:Women's mental health in Africa
Geographic term:Sudan
mental health
Cultural Roles
Health, Nutrition, and Medicine
Abstract:'Zar', a possession cult found throughout northern Africa, addresses many of the mental health problems of women in Sudan. The continuing and increasing participation in 'zar' ceremonies by Sudanese women probably results from the effectiveness of 'zar' as it is adapted to the unique needs of Sudanese women. The effectiveness of 'zar' is consistent with the effectiveness of mental health programmes around the world, as it incorporates the universal concepts and assumptions of most successful mental health treatment programmes. These concepts and assumptions are: 1) the client recognizes something is wrong and seeks help; 2) a theory is available to explain the problem; and 3) a therapy is used which includes a trusted leader, assumptions of client guiltlessness, a ritual of meetings and actions, and expected results. The 'zar' ceremony draws upon each of these concepts and assumptions, with the priestess being the leader, the blameless victim possessed by an evil spirit, a ritual of dancing, incense, etc., and satisfactory results for the woman's mental health. Social changes and upheavals, particularly rural to urban movement, seem to account for the continuing and increasing participation of Sudanese women in 'zar' ceremonies. Bibliogr.