For a long time no one moved across the compound. I watched the translucent fingers of the pedandas spraying pinches of incense on the blue flames of the torches.

Suddenly I heard an outcry above; I glared at the night and saw that on the mats one of the men was suffering some kind of seizure. He stood stiff on sprung legs, his arms flailing. Strong young men jumped up, caught hold of his arms and held him. A pedanda stood before him, held a handful of smoldering leaves under his face forcing him to draw in the heavily incensed smoke. He fell limp and began to sob, then leapt up with rasping shouts. Abruptly a second man sprang up twisted and shaking. Young men were at once at his sides and took hold of him forcibly but then one after another each of a dozen men on the mats were overcome by convulsions, springing up or falling forward, flogged with invisible blows. The metallic cadence of the gamelan raced between the moans and cries…..

I tried to jolt my legs into movement to escape through the gate, then fell back: a few feet in front of me a young man had pulled his twisted kris dagger from its scabbard and held it before his chest. With a cry he drove it toward his ribs; the bone seemed to stop it. He now held it upright between his thighs and screaming drove it upwards into his abdomen. Again the point of the dagger seemed stopped by the contorted flesh and did not break through. Now several other men were brandishing daggers; two of them rushed through the gate.

Alphonso Lingis, “Pura Dalem,” Abuses (University of California Press, 1994)


[Samuel to the young Saul:] And it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy. And thou shalt prophesy with them, and be turned into another man….

And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all these signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hil, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.

1 Samuel 10:5-6, 9-10

And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that an evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of his house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it.

1 Samuel 18:9-11


I don’t have time for a real post this morning, but here’s an old poem of mine. This is based on a story from my sister-in-law about a roommate she had back in college who used to suffer from frequent seizures, in the course of which she was sometimes visited by evil spirits. So while the voice here is my invention, the incident is real, so to speak.


he was handsome in his double-breasted suit
tall & anything but dark he made me weak-kneed
he appeared in our midst with eyes
only for me
all colors had gone out of the room

he was strong full of promises money
couldn’t buy Only say you love me
better than you love yourself
he was old

where were the colors when the room started turning
slow as the hour hand on a grandfather clock
turning like a sunflower toward his face

then i saw his suit too was alive
braided snakes basking on a white rock
my tongue stuck fast on the first syllable of Jesus

he was saying Your brothers are evil
their church is an abomination
he was saying
not to let them put their hands on my head

or pin my arms back where
my two new wings will sprout & spread
& i’ll go like a pale moth to the light
like the Prophet to New Jerusalem

until i heard very faint & far
my mother’s voice
& it was You
your uncomplicated concern was worth
an eternity of sweets

i secreted his business card in a pocket of my purse
the other cards rustled together
like beech leaves in winter
still clinging to their tall pale tree

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