Definitions for ZAR
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Zār or Zaar is a religious custom. Apparently originating in central Ethiopia during the 18th century, later spreading throughout East and North Africa. Zār custom involves the possession of an individual by a spirit. It is also observed in Egypt, Sudan, southern Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. A featured musical instrument in the Zār ritual is the tanbura, a six-string lyre, which, like the Zār practice itself, exists in various forms in an area stretching from East Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. Other instruments include the mangour, a leather belt sewn with many goat hooves, and various percussion instruments. The Zār cult served as a refuge for women and effeminate men in conservative, Muslim-dominated Sudan. In Ethiopia, zār also refers to malevolent spirits. Many Ethiopian Christians and Muslims believe in these spirits. Among both groups, mental illness is often attributed to zār possession. In Ethiopia, zār possession is more common among women, while among immigrants in the West, men are more commonly afflicted. At the same time, many Ethiopians believe in benevolent, protective spirits, or abdar. While this belief in abdar and zār fits the traditional dualism of good and evil, it is also deeply rooted in superstition.
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