Kasurupan: Spirits Taxonomies and Interpretation in the Practice of Kasenian Réak
Kasenian réak is a regional variant of the Javanese horse dances from Bandung, Indonesia. Commonly known in the archipelago as jaranan, kuda lumping or jathilan, the Javanese horse dances are a group of ceremonial musical performances during which a group of performers, led by a trance master, undergo voluntary possessions on behalf of spirits of the ancestors and other supernatural beings, under the influence of a musical ensemble. In different possession and trance phenomena around the world recognizing the acting spirit is often the key to communication with the supernatural being and treatment of the possessed. Thus, more or less different and precise taxonomies may be developed in order to do so. In réak, the possessed behaviour is interpreted by the trance master and members of the group in order to meet the spirit’s various demands and act accordingly to manage the possession. The purpose of this article is to examine the spirits’ taxonomies at play in réak as a case study. I do this in order to show in which sense analyses of the phenomenon of possession based on classification often fail to grasp the complexity and thus the significance of the experience. The outcome will underline which benefits can be obtained by a an approach that gives more value to a context-based ethnography of the possessed and its peculiarities than to the development of a general theory of possession with comparative purposes.
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