Spirit Possession in a Present-Day Russian Village

  • Olga Khristoforova


The article is based on the data collected in the period from 1999 to 2005 during the author’s field work among the Old-Believers of the Urals and Udmurtia (Verkhokam’e historical region). The author examines beliefs in spirit possession which have existed in this region since at least the beginning of XVIII century. Local synonymous terms for spirit possession are ikota and poshibka. In the present-day Verkhokam’e one can find not only а large corpus of folkloric memorates about ikota/poshibka, but also actual persons who consider themselves to be possessed by or to have ikota. Other persons in their social environment share this diagnosis.

The author analyzes a large number of folkloric memorates about ikota as well as interviews with possessed persons. She reviews the semantics, pragmatics, and social functions of ideas about spirit possession in the Verkhokam’e.