The visible invisible: Mimetic manifestations of the spirits in ‘shamanic’ dance movements among the Dumi Rai of Eastern Nepal

Wettstein, Marion (21 December 2017). The visible invisible: Mimetic manifestations of the spirits in ‘shamanic’ dance movements among the Dumi Rai of Eastern Nepal (Unpublished). In: Symposium “Encounters with the Invisible: Revisiting Possession in the Himalayas in its Material and Narrative Aspects”. Marçay, France. 18th-21st December 2017.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

“My chimmo”, says a Dumi Rai nāgire nokcho (village priest) and sele dhāmi (healer or ‘shaman’) about his master spirit, “looks like a very small black dog with glowing red eyes. When I perform a cintā he sits on one of the two posts, usually the right one, to which the drum is fixed inside the house during the night.” When performing his cintā ritual, he relates, he imitates the movements of his chimmo in simultaneous synchrony. Taking this example as a vantage point, my paper follows the simple thesis that invisible powers or beings are not invisible. What one needs for seeing them with one’s own eyes and hearing them with one’s own ears are a calling, special abilities, a good training and the right method. But also to people who lack these qualifications, such as the majority of villagers and researchers, the spirits are indeed visible, at least in part: by accurate mimesis, the shaman directly transfers their bodily movements to the non-skilled. This becomes especially salient in the ‘dance’ movements he or she performs in the function as sele dhāmi in the cintā, which are in the center of this paper. Avoiding controversial concepts such as possession, trance or mediumship, and in accordance with local theory as I understand it, I propose to consider the bodily movements of the sele dhāmi during a cintā as a primary form of material or physical mimetic manifestation of the movements of the chimmo. This implies that certain limited aspects of the chimmo can be directly perceived by all participants: Ritual specialists and assistants, audience, and researchers alike. To think about the challenge of reflecting and translating this local reality into research methods, data analysis and representations, is one of the aims of this paper.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute for the Science of Religion

UniBE Contributor:

Wettstein, Marion


200 Religion
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Marion von Stockhausen-Wettstein

Date Deposited:

10 Apr 2018 10:57

Last Modified:

10 Apr 2018 10:57


Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback