In 2018, I encountered several elderly female mediums (rnal-‘byor-ma, Yogini and/or bsnyen-jo-mo, ‘Invocation-Lady’) whose practices had just been ritually proscribed by the village Lama who took possession of their ritual paraphernalia consisting a headgear, and small handheld drum and bell. By dispossessing them of their implements, they were unable to become possessed by the deities for which they were mediums able to intercede between humans and other inhabitants of the more-than-human lifeworld of rural Bhutan. Their incapacitation by the Buddhist Lama was done in tandem with influential village elders for whom single-minded adoption of Buddhism in their gentrifying village was being challenged by the continued presence of these mediums in the competitive circle of ritual specialists. This paper will study how these mediums perceive their world of spirit possession and ritual services for a village community where their services were historically deemed inalienable and efficacious in appeasing the constituent deities and numinous beings of the land. This will be done by studying the changing socio-political contexts which make their practices not only irrelevant, but also marginalised. Simultaneously, this paper will also study the affects, phenomenology, and performativity of these ritual practitioners, and how new hybridised practices and cosmologies are being produced when the deities of these mediums become incorporated into the local Buddhist pantheon. The Lama assumes the ritual roles of these mediums, and in the process, ensures that even as their practices may be marginalised, the ethos of their practices resiliently continue unabated.
© Dendup Chophel