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October 2022

Cult Med Psychiatry. 1979 Dec; 3(4): 363-80.

Demonic explanations of disease among Moroccan Jews in Israel.

Bilu Y.

Demonic explanations of disease preserved among Moroccan Jews living in two Israeli moshavim are described and amalyzed. Applied most often to sira, a traditional ailment involving somatic and anxiety symptoms, these explanations are construed as a two-level ordered sequence of steps including elements from both ordinary reality and the demonic world. Traditional patients are usually more aware of the manifest chain of precipitating events centering around emotional consequences of a real trauma. Their rabbi-healers, however, are predisposed towards molding these events into a covert-demonic pattern, the core of which involves a human injuring a jinn and the latter's retaliation. In the explanatory scheme the real-traumatic and the demonic plots are intermingled and this fusion lends the etiological sequence a meaningful rationale as exemplified by two case illustrations. Nevertheless, our analysis renders the demonic substratum quite vulnerable, since the manifest-traumatic plot may be singled out as an autonomous explanation under the impact of the mainstream of modern Israeli society. Reasons for the hitherto tenacious preservation of the demonic component among traditional segments in Israel are presented by comparing the explanatory status of demons and psychoanalytic concepts. Certain vulnerabilities of the denomic explanation which throw doubt upon its long-term survival in modern context are discussed as well.


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