More from Gianni Dore, “Chi non ha una parente Andinna?”. Donne e possessione come archivio storico ed esperienza dell’alterità tra i Kunama d’Eritrea.” Online: http://www.ethnorema.it/pdf/numero 3/04. GIANNI DORE.pdf [Excerpts in quotes; some of my commentary is in italics.] The title of this article comes from the exclamation, “Who does not have an Andinna relative?” It [...]
More from Gianni Dore, “Chi non ha una parente Andinna?”. Donne e possessione come archivio storico ed esperienza dell’alterità tra i Kunama d’Eritrea.” Online: http://www.ethnorema.it/pdf/numero 3/04. GIANNI DORE.pdf [Excerpts in quotes; some of my commentary is in italics.]
The title of this article comes from the exclamation, “Who does not have an Andinna relative?” It perfectly expresses the fact that the institution of Andinna is common and widespread among the Kunama. This name can be used in a broad sense for any woman who becomes entranced, and more specifically for the women (andinna shadia) who are chosen by the ancestral spirits and are recognized as called and formally initiated. Only women become entranced and enter the sisterhood of Andinnas. 
Dore tells us that the term Andinna “may be related to andà, great one, elder, ancestor… perhaps alluding to their function of mediating with the world of spirits (inà is a suffix that indicates a quality of of something).” [50 note 11] Every year, the Andinnas fall in trance in the dry months of December and January, after the sorghum harvests. For three or four days up to a fortnight, they roam across the land, across dry, often difficult paths, visiting and being ritually welcomed into villages, where they heal and perform divinations or channel the spirits of ancstors. They “cure with herbs, are able to drive away evil spirits and protect from misfortune.” 
To begin with, the Andinne undo their hair and are anointed with butter. They cover the front of their head and sometimes two forelocks with a white, hornlike crown of sheep fat. [And, according to Frank-Wissman, the fat is mixed with other sacred substances, possibly herbs.] They hang long black feathers from their heads and hold poles, the senior Andinnas carryiing staffs with bells on top for calling the spirits. 
“They gather within a dagasà enclosure, usually four or five of them with their apprentices, a small, ad hoc feminine confraternity; they drink aifa, the local sorghum beer, they eat valuable foods like sesame and honey, burn incense, hold a sword. They enter trance to the accompaniment of music, singing in call and response. They also express themselves with masculine voices and bearing in public performances, and may threaten or pursue anyone who comes close…”
The Andinna are said not to remember what they say or do during these trances. The words they speak are a mixture of Kunama with Arabic and Tigrinya (a majority language in Eritrea), with glossalia (non-words) and infusions of Islamic words and place-names such as Mecca and Medina. [54, 59] As an example, here is an invocation by the Andinna Ka_i_a Annè of Dagìlo:
“O-di-de-do ele-le-le the spirits come, raised/ the spirits come, O mother, O mother! A single spirit comes from Mekkamedina! (…) Like a brigand o-di-de-do-oi-da-do prays in the evening, prays in the evening, I Kagigia I begin to pray/ the spirit comes only from me oi dabò.” 
The women carry swords, lances, sticks, shields, feathers, and sheep fat, for ceremonial use; plants and roots for curing, and sacrificial animals. “Even the entranced movements in their strangeness and irregularity (such as scrambling up on the roof of a hut or into the trees) are codified… Spectators sometimes participate by stepping up to support the women when they fall to their knees or into someone’s arms in deep trance.” 
“The traumatic experiences of the andinna women make them agasè, intermediaries between the living and dead. Immersed in the pain of the living, they are called to resolve the sufferings of life; with their traveling as shadows, hella, between the earth, lagà, of the living and that of the dead, they reassure on the fact that the dead don’t have suspended accounts, but respond to the anxietes of the living on the fate of those whose death is not certain.”
At the end of the sacred period, the Andinnas go through ceremonies that return them to normality. Their relatives prepare sorghum beer and invite guests; the women often gather together in a single hut, even if there are various spirits, and they make sàmeda, the festival with the closing dance as the period of trance ends.  (Several descriptions of these ceremonies follow below.)
The andinnas return and are greeted by their relatives, who ask “How was your journey? Are you well?” And then: “Have you seen our relatives? They answer that they have met this one and that one. Various kinds of rites are performed. Some announce and prepare the ceremonies for the dead on behalf of the relatives. Others, the sasalilé, perform divinations, receiving questioners from behind a cloth, speaking in the voice of a dead relative who asks for sacrifices. Pollera describes them being wrapped in a futa on the ground, and hidden there, speaking in tongues. 
This hiding of the entranced seer behind a veil or cloth appears in many places, including Indonesia, Philippines, Uganda, the beaded veils of the izangoma in South Africa and the machi in Chile.
At the end of their sacred journey across the land while immersed in ancestral consciousness, the Andinnas return to their village for the closing ceremonies. One Italian observer described how the women danced four times, then returned in procession, with the head Andinna coming last. They were joined by two ex-andinnas who repeatedly cried out, “sullum, sadellà lilina ibba” (“goodbye, Father Sadallà, I leave you…”).
The women moved across the clearing, performing protective ritual theater and offerings: “they turn, with weapons lowered, execute right and left turns like soldiers, cross arms, remove their diadems of fat, scatter aifa-beer and milk to the four directions, leap toward the east, hissing, and then compose themselves. Finally they closed with a sacrifical meal of chicken and injera.” [Dore, 62-3, citing Cittadini's description]
In Oganna, the procession ends up in the lower part of the village, where the Andinna dance on the final day. They act out raids with lances, chasing away spirits. A 1966 description recounts that three andinnas sang to the sound of the stringed abankalà, always played by men (while only women play the kubulà drum). [69-70] The Andinnas made four turns around the neñeda clearing with their lances, shouting, “Ussumullai, alanga, gasc, negusc, makkamedina, eliti, bitame!” They kissed the drawn sword, then the lance. Each one sacrificed a hen and drank its blood. In the afternoon they acted out a cattle-raid. They started singing outside the village and reentered, shouting over and over “Sanni morò, sanni morò abbagarà naneto. Sanni morò.” Then they ate the sacrificed meat, washed themselves and, crying, went over to a space in front of the huts. 
Although the Kunama are matrilineal, the profession of Andinna is not handed down by descent, only by spirit calling. They have a saying, “Andinnas don’t have heredity.” They may have children, but not as married women (kokidiginà) whose unions are contracted between two families. They join another social category, the kokàta, who are women free to pursue love affairs as they choose. 
When an Andinna accepts a student, she teaches her how to control her spirits, and ultimately decides when the novice andinna is ready to begin her practice. “The teachers of possession and their students consist of a temporary confraternity in the dry months of December and January, leading a life apart, moving from village to village and carrying out divinations and curing activities.”  They can bring through many kinds, of families or villages or deities, often on request: “… the andinnas can be invited by relatives of another village and there make festivity and fall in trance.” [71-72]
“The girls are initiated and put through a long training which includes control of the body and voice. When the relatives, after having failed to find other means of resolving the crises, finally decide to take the girl to become apprenticed to an Andinna…” she is given a structured way of dealing with her state. The author calls possession “a system of action and knowledge that they absorb through a controlled process, which gives order to ‘disorder’, that coordinates everyday time with extraordinary time…. The students accompany and do services for the andinnas as they rove the spaces between this village and that…”
“The Andinnas are ankoradina, which means they are skilled with herbs and roots, carry out curing activities.” Some are sadinà (“those with sada”) which means both healing medicine and poison. The sadinà also uses ceremonial and sacrifice in her treatments. She goes several times around a sick person with a female goat, if it is a woman; with a billy goat, if a man. She offers an invocation to Annà [the co-gendered Supreme Deity of the Kunama] “that what I give you with joy will bring good effects.” She collects the goat’s blood in a receptacle and mixes the medicine into it, then bathes her patient with it, and gives a little of its meat in a broth mixed with the medicine. They split the cooked meat, and the rest of the medicine the patient mixes with milk or beer every two or four days. [Dore, 57-8, citing Ilarino Marichelli]
Other magical titles include usìne and awawe (sorcerers), and the awame, travelling healers who take out “dirt” and do massage, cure with roots and herbs. The Kunama conceive of illness as able to hide or insert itself into the body. A skilled healer can expel it through massage, especially abdominal massage, a process referred to as ula-kieke or nieke. [58, 71] Lugga, an andinna of Oganna, described how “we take out sand, stones, bones” from the body of sick people. 
Diviners deal with spirits of dead relatives and help people in personal and family crises. The sesalilà are seers whose consultations are done at dusk, speaking from behind a curtain. The categories of awame, sesalile and andìnna are female professions, and often overlap.  Sometimes a diviner will tell where the medicine is to be gathered.  Dore mentions a traveler’s account of a female diviner (wäyzäro) Essai in `Addi Sasalù, along the customary route of the Andinnas. [54, citing Sapelli's Memories of Africa]
So many aspects of Andinna spirit-selection, altered states, prophecy, and healing fit the patterns of shamans and medicine people all over the world. They travel between the worlds of the living and dead. Like shamans in many traditions, they say they do not remember what they say or do during their ecstasies. Even the strong involvement of ancestral spirits fits patterns in South Africa, Congo, Siberia, Mongolia, Chile, and other parts of the globe. The fact that the Andinnas are all women may be attributed to the matrilineal/matrilocal culture of the Kunama. My next post will look at these sociopolitical aspects of Kunama culture and history.