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Egyptian Zar ritual (Asghar Besharati / CC by SA 4.0)

Rhythms of Possession: Egypt's Mysterious Zar Exorcism Tradition (Video)

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The ancient 'zar' ritual of Egypt is a captivating and enigmatic cultural practice that dates back centuries. Rooted in ancient beliefs and folk traditions, the zar ceremony is performed to exorcise evil spirits believed to possess individuals, particularly women. The word 'zar' itself means 'possession,' and the exorcism ritual seeks to restore harmony and balance within the afflicted person's life. During a zar ceremony, participants gather in a vibrant and rhythmic setting, often accompanied by mesmerizing music and dance. A key aspect of the ritual is the belief that each spirit possesses a unique preference for music and dance styles, which the participants must perform to appease and ultimately drive away the possessing spirit. As the music intensifies, the affected individual may begin to exhibit trance-like behavior, allowing the spirit to express itself through them.

The zar ritual has endured through generations, defying modernization, and urbanization, and still holds significance in some regions of Egypt. Despite facing criticism from religious authorities who consider it a form of superstition, the zar ritual remains an integral part of Egypt's cultural heritage and a testament to the enduring power of ancient beliefs in contemporary society.

Top image: Egyptian Zar ritual (Asghar Besharati / CC by SA 4.0)

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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