Working Paper 73

Religiöse Heilung und Heiler in Choresm, Usbekistan

Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 73

Disturbances of the health are in Khorezm often attributed to the impact of bad spirits and the evil eye. In dealing with spirit possession and related phenomena, healing specialists (folbin, tabib) resort to several practices ranging from prayers, magic spells, and laying-on of hands to exorcism with the help of spirits they claim to master. Faith healing was repeatedly the target of antireligious propaganda in the Soviet Union and the ‘official’ ulama too condemned it as un-Islamic superstition. Due to these official attitudes and the overall secularization of the society, faith healing has lost much of its social relevance and prestige. The reassertion of Islam after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, however, brought about also the revitalization of traditional healing practices. Regarded as part of the cultural heritage of the nation, in the process of nation building faith healing even witnessed official acknowledgement and thus it is also tolerated by the now ‘official’ ulama. This paper deals with faith healing in Khorezm against the background of post-Soviet transformation processes. It discusses local conceptualizations of illness and shows how the ideas concerning spirit possession and the healers’ selection by divine agencies confirm well defined cultural patterns. The paper also addresses the problem of regarding faith healing in Khorezm as a local Islamic phenomenon or as ‘shamanism’.

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