SPIRITS OF ENVY
Helene Basu | India, Germany 2013 | 83 Min. | OmeU
The idea that feelings of envy constitute moral threats to human bonds and personal well-being is widely shared across cultures, religions and historical periods. In contemporary India, people live in a competitive environment of a booming economy which produces winners and losers. Hindu and Islamic notions converge in translating envy into an aggressive, evil power enacted in practices of sorcery targeting at the ruin of success and a good life by attacking minds, bodies and persons’ wealth. The Sufi shrine of Mira Datar in Gujarat provides ritual healing and a refuge to those who became victims of black magic and subsequently suffer from madness or other illnesses, experience financial losses, homelessness, social ostracism and the breaking up of domestic and kinship relationships.
The film presents an ethnography of the shrine by exploring the moral discourse of sorcery, afflictions of madness and practices of ritual healing through prayer and possession-trance. Priests share their knowledge of how black magic is done and removed, while afflicted women, men and caretaking relatives tell their own stories of suffering and spiritual deliverance. The protagonists’ narratives and performances provide insights into predicaments shared across religious boundaries as well as into a lived Islamic ethos which is rarely acknowledged in global media representations of Islam.