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The Zaar-  A Healing Dance

The Zaar is best described as a "healing cult" which uses drumming and dancing in its ceremonies.

Despite the fact that the Zaar, (which is the trance ceremony of North Africa and the Middle East) is technically prohibited by Islam, it continues to be a part of the culture in this part of the world... Interestingly Islam itself has always believed in the existence of "spirits", which it calls the “jinn’’. The Zaar today is practiced more as a relaxation and spiritual healing for stressed or troubled individuals. The sacrificial animal may or may not be a part of the modern form of the ceremony.

The Zaar ceremony can last for an afternoon or days. Participants and guests are expected to contribute money to support the leader and helper’s .This works more like a charitable service than a business. Perfumes (especially frankincense) are the most common offerings to Zaar spirits. At the beginning of the ceremonies guests, purify themselves by inhaling  fragrances.
In whatever country the Zaar occurs, it is important that the domestic living space be separated from the sacred space, or the place of sacrifice to the Zaar. The Egyptian Zaar is usually set in a large room with an altar. In Egypt the altar is a round tray placed on a tall stool and is placed in the center of the room. It is covered with a white cloth and is piled with dried fruits and nuts. This is certainly a recollection of past pagan practices. of providing offering to spirits.
Diriye Abdullahi, a native of Somalia, says that the Zaar  is basically a dance of spirits, or a religious dance . The Zaar is spirit dance inspired from the old African deities, a Form of what we describe in the west as "voodoo". According to Bobby Farah, the word "Zaar" is from the word for "visitation", referring to being "visited" by a possessing spirit or demon. Many western anthropologists will look at possession through a western lens and invariably attribute this strange phenomena to sociological or psychological reasons that lie within there own paradigms.
An oft-cited analysis focuses on the frequency of possession in newly married women. This is seen as a method of expressing loneliness and frustration. Inevitably these interpretations are coming from an ethnocentric perspective. They cannot be fully understood unless one is immersed in the ways of the people concerned. Western culture does not have the notion of spirits or discarnate entities as being ‘real’.
Many cultures are difficult for women. Women can feel as alienated in the west as they do in the east (where female possession is common) yet women in the west are less likely to be ‘possessed’. Yet may have a diagnosis’s of mental illness, Most leaders of Zaar are women, and most participants are women. Many writers have noted that while the majority of the possessing spirits are male, those possessed are generally female.
Zaar is a ritual among and for women ;( although reports of a Zaar ceremony by men, for men have been described). It is a cathartic ritual for stress and various negative, mental emotional or physical states. The Zaar is hosted and led by a shamanic type of female leader. Those looking in with western eyes may dismiss Zaar as a mere "primitive superstition". This degrades and simplifies the experience. Doing so makes these events more digestible and less challenging. Many Western academics find methods used in the Zaar for healing to be alien and exotic . Generally, the methods employed do not fit into the western medical models of what constitutes a cure or /and illness. The Zaar does have a therapeutic effect that can be scientifically measured. The work of Felicitas Goodman involved the analysis of physiological changes during trance. She found distinct changes in blood chemistry and brain waves. Perhaps the Zaar is a valid and effective medicine that works for a variety of physical and psychological maladies. Experiences like this also have therapeutic value as a form of group therapy.
The Zaar is not an "exorcism" as people often understand that concept. This is because the spirit is not necessarily ejected. Rather it is accommodated and placated; instead of being exorcised. The patient is advised to "be continually attentive to her spirits, perform such daily work as they require, avoid dirt, and refrain from negative emotion.”. As Dance Therapist Claire Schmais explains, "It is community-based, followers and members are not sent away to be cured. It creates a sense of community while it heals, embracing the individual within a community."