Elegba, why am I ill?: Healing and transformation of persons in an Ocha community in Miami, Florida
Albus, Michelle Christine
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This dissertation examines the processes of healing and transformation experienced by persons in the Cuban American, white, middle class Orisha worship community in Miami, FL, focusing on all the areas in which healing can take place. Orisha worship uses a holistic approach to health, in which physical, mental and spiritual illnesses may be healed. In the process of healing, persons embody the discourse of mastery and enslavement and the social processes of this Orisha worship community, via religious rituals, and exist in relation to Orishas. My research question focuses on how people in the Orisha worship community of Miami who are ill seek embodied healing and advice from orishas who are not ill and have the power to heal them. My data was gathered using questionnaires for direct interviews, and observations during religious rituals including ceremonies (both public and private), drummings and Ocha birthday parties. I also draw on my personal experiences and initiation onto the Orisha worship community. My overall findings indicate that there are a variety of modalities of healing in Orisha worship, each with the aim of manipulating ashe, the divine force in Orisha worship. People take an active role in changing their illnesses by performing ebos; or by becoming initiated in Orisha worship through receiving collares, guerreros or making Ocha; or via the healing and transformative effects of spirit possession. People are agents of change that seek to ameliorate their symptomology by invoking and employing the spiritual world. My research contributes to the Anthropological literature on embodiment, personhood and healing.