Spirit worship and possession in Vietnam and beyond

Authored by: Oscar Salemink

Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415635035
eBook ISBN: 9781315758534
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636465


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Many other commentators have noticed an upsurge in spirit possession practices in East and Southeast Asia, resulting in a growing scholarship on spirits, ghosts, possession and shamanism over the last two decades. 1 Some scholars distinguish between shamanism – where the shamans soul leaves the body to engage with the spirit world (Vitebski 2001) – and spirit possession or spirit mediumship – where the medium s body acts as a vessel for spirits to enter and engage with this world. In Vietnam spirit mediumship is the most common form, and lately there has been a veritable explosion in mediumship practices and in scholarship about it. This chapter surveys some of that scholarship and pays particular attention to the – simultaneously theological and political – question whether spirit possession constitutes a religion. (Obviously, the fact that this chapter appears in a Handbook on Asian Religions partly gives away my answer.)

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