Oracles, Gurus, and Distributed Agency
This chapter examines oracles and gurus, the two main types of ritual specialists in the healing cult of Bhairav. It shows that they are distinguished above all in terms of agency and patiency. The oracles are the gods' patients: they subordinate their personal agency to that of the gods whose vessels they are, and their reputation and success depends on the degree to which they are thought to embody completely the god. The gurus, on the other hand, are masters of the spirits, and their reputation and success depends on the degree to which they are believed to control supernatural beings, turning them into their “disciples,” that is, their patients. The chapter introduces several oracles and gurus, mostly in their own words, and attempt to shows how such relations of agency and patiency work themselves out in practice.
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