The Zār Cult, a sort of healing ritual mostly practised in Islamic countries like northern Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Iran. The Zar, is a spirit, a demon, a spiritual wind. This air elemental is a supernatural creature which may possess a person causing illness and abnormal behaviour. In the Qu’ran this class of elementals are called jinn. Zar cult practitioners believe that anyone can become possessed by a jinn. They also believe that a jinn can fall in love with someone. If this happens the jinn enters that person’s body and the person becomes ill. So, the Zar ritual is a sort of dance exorcism, the dancer tries to get rid of the air spirit making him/her ill. Usually, the person dances until exhaustion. The dance is a negotiation process to try to pacify the jinn. The ritual involves special drums and music played, processions, special clothing and ornaments. Most of the jinn’s ‘victims’ are women. Many scholars suggested that the zar is a process of women empowerment in places where the sharia law exists. This is so because once a woman is possessed by the zar, unorthodox behaviour becomes accepted and women may do things and behave in ways she was not allowed under normal conditions.
This video explains the Zar cult and how women dance day after day until exhaustion, in the rhythm of drums:
“for centuries women in Africa and the Middle East have used this music to cure pain in times of stress or illness. Followers of the Zar cult believe that sometimes their illnesses are caused by “red spirits” – the Zar – who use human bodies as hosts….” Zar-Trance Music for Women, Al-Gheit, Awlad
Artistic Performance of Zaar