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25 Remote Warehouse Anthropology- Cultural Anthropology

Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo


Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

As a new resident of Togo in 1985, Judy Rosenthal witnessed her first Gorovodu trance ritual. Over the next eleven years, she studied this voodoo in West Africa's Ewe populations of coastal Ghana, Togo, and Benin, an area once called the Slave Coast. The result is Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo, an ethnography of spirit possession that focuses on law and morality in medecine Vodu orders. Gorovodu is not a doctrinal set, but rather a lingusitic, moral, and spiritual community, with both real and imagined aspects.

In medecine Vodu possession, the deities evoked are spirits of bought people from the savanna regions, slaves who worked for southern coastal lineages, often marrying into Ewe families. Drumming and dancing rituals, replete with voluptuous trances and gender reversals, bring these foreign spirits back into Ewe communities to protect worshippers, heal the sick and troubled, arbitrate disputes, and enjoy themselves as they did before they died. (Rosenthal employs Bakhtin's theory of carnival to interpret the openly festive element of Gorovodu.) The changeable nature of the religion echoes the lack of boundaries of the Gorovodu family and the residents' belief that communal and individual identity are fluid rather than fixed. Numerous name changes early in this century indicated a strategy for resisting colonial control.

Writing from a background of anthropology, Rosenthal carefully monitors her own role as narrator in the book, aware of the cultural distance between her and the Africans she is writing about. She intends this ethnography to mirror the texts of voodoo itself, a body of signifiers and meanings with which the reader must interact in order to make sense of it.

Book News Annotation:

An ethnography of spirit possession among the West African Ewe people. Focusing on concepts of law and morality in the Gorovodun religious order, the author depicts the order not as a doctrinal sect, but rather as a linguistic, moral, and spiritual community that can help people come to grips with social and economic realities. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


An ethnographic study of voodoo in West Africa's Ewe populations of coastal Ghana, Togo, and Benin.

Product Details

Rosenthal, Judy
University of Virginia Press
Charlottesville :
Ritual & Practices
Anthropology - Cultural
Ethnic & Tribal
Togo Religion.
Christianity - Ritual & Practice
Christian Rituals & Practice - General
Spirit possession -- Africa, West.
Ewe (African people) -- Religion.
anthropology;cultural anthropology
Publication Date:
9.04x6.08x.80 in. 1.02 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
Metaphysics » Magic Witchcraft and Paganism
Religion » Comparative Religion » Religious Experience

Possession, Ecstasy, and Law in Ewe Voodoo New Trade Paper
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Product details 282 pages University Press of Virginia - English 9780813918051 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , An ethnographic study of voodoo in West Africa's Ewe populations of coastal Ghana, Togo, and Benin.
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