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The Qawa Incident in 1968 and Other Cases of 'Spirit Possession': Religious Syncretism in Fiji

Aubrey L. Parke
The Journal of Pacific History
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Dec., 1995), pp. 210-226
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25169269
Page Count: 17
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The Qawa Incident in 1968 and Other Cases of 'Spirit Possession': Religious Syncretism in Fiji
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Abstract

Government medical officers investigating an outbreak among adolescent Indian schoolgirls in Fiji diagnosed mass hysteria and identified the trigger girl. Their school was temporarily closed and parents were advised to keep their daughters quietly at home. The Hindu parents were not satisfied with reassurances, since they believed that their children had been possessed by hostile Fijian spirits of a sacred pool on the edge of the school playground that had been damaged by an Indian bulldozer operator who later died. The girls were taken to Hindu healers and to a Muslim healer with Fijian-derived powers. The local Fijian chief performed a Fijian ceremony of appeasement at the pool. A Hindu pujari prayed to the Hindu elephant god and, following Fijian ritual, poured yaqona (kava) into the pool and asked the spirits for forgiveness. Finally a Hindu pandit prayed to Hindu gods to exorcise the evil spirits, conducting the public Om Shanti ceremony. All the girls who attended the final ceremony recovered. The Indian and Fijian communities combined their beliefs and rituals to appease the spirits and, as far as they were concerned, to cause the girls to recover and to remove the troubles from the school and to prevent further troubles from occurring.

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