Possessed By Joy: A North American Drummer in Cuba

Repeating Islands


Professor Harris Eisenstadt (for NPR) writes about his moving experience in Cuba, where he attended a series of religious ceremonies. [His photo above shows an Eleggua shrine in Matanzas, Cuba.] See full article and supplementary videos in the link below.

In Afro-Cuban religious ceremonies, it’s common for participants to become possessed by spirits. All sorts of people are possessed: older ladies and teenage boys, lifelong adherents and new initiates. Most are handled expertly by other ceremony participants, who flank the person being « mounted, » make sure he or she doesn’t injure anyone, usher the person out of the ceremonial room and help him or her out of a trance.

[. . .] In January, I took a two-week study trip to Cuba, supported by a research grant from SUNY Maritime, where I’m a humanities professor. I spent 11 days in Matanzas and three in Havana, studying Afro-Cuban folkloric music every day…

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