A Mirror of Ourselves
A Mirror of Ourselves
A Personal Encounter with the Zar
While I was participating in the Clairvoyant Training Program at the Berkeley Psychic Institute, there was a spiritual pilgrimage to Egypt. As a lover of Middle Eastern music and dance, I had always been aware of past lives and a strong present time connection with that culture. I so desperately wanted to go, but the time was bad, and the cost prohibitive. I thought of the lucky spiritual pilgrims frequently during the time they were gone and wished I could have been one of them.
On the morning they returned from Egypt, just before awakening, I had a very powerful, very real dream. I was wearing a galabea (long Middle Eastern gown worn by men and women) in a room with several men also in galabeas. The men were playing percussion instruments, mostly defs, and one was rhythmically swinging an incense holder. I was in the middle of the group swinging my head to the music in a trance. The dream seemed so real, that when I awoke in my own bed, I had a difficult time believing I was there.
The vividness of that dream, the smell of the incense, and the feeling of the trance state lingered in my mind. I was genuinely puzzled.
About a month later, I was in the home of another dancer with whom I frequently watch Middle Eastern videos, especially those from Egypt. We had watched several dancers, when suddenly there appeared on the screen an image exactly like my dream. Out of my mouth came the words, “I’ve done that.” Another dancer sitting next to me giggled at what she thought was a joking remark.
I continued to have a strong fascination with this ritual, which I found out is called a zar. According to my Egyptian friends, it is a process in which a spirit or spirits which inhabit a woman’s body respond or resonate to a specific rhythm. As a result, certain blocks are removed making it easier for the woman to achieve her goals. I’ve always had a problem with this particular explanation, because I felt there was somehow a deeper level involved in this process. I truly believed that one day I would participate in a zar, and as a result gain an understanding which had been formerly out of reach.
My opportunity appeared this last winter. I was urged by several Egyptian friends to go to Egypt with them during the month of December. The price of the flight was affordable. I would be staying with one of my friends in her family’s house. With my friend’s permission, I invited the members of my dance group, The Dancers of DeNile. One of them was able to have the experience.
Through another dancer who had attended a zar in Cairo, I got the phone number of the man who had arranged it for her. Upon arriving, I contacted him and we met and made arrangements to attend the zar. First, we went to a darwish performance and met the musicians to be sure it was all right with them.
The night for the zar finally arrived. We had been supposed to connect with two other friends at the man’s apartment. They were late. Our host suddenly said with great certainty that we must not wait, but go ahead.
We easily got a taxi and were driven to the outskirts of Cairo, near the City of the Dead. When the cab stopped, to my right I saw a house decorated with clay statues and ornaments and another door close by, out of which came a strong energy. Although we could not hear any music or drumming, I knew this was the place. After a few minutes, one of the musicians appeared and escorted us into the house.
I was excited and ecstatic. My vision, my dream, was about to become real in present time, in this body.
Once we entered the room, I immediately responded to the heady atmosphere. The upper part of the walls were painted a vivid blue. Pictures of saints, and handprints of blood were on the walls. Several women were seated quietly on the floor around the edge of the room. One woman, whose face was covered with a black lace veil, was standing in the center of the room, moving her head and the rest of her body rhythmically to the drumming and chanting. One man, who appeared to be the leader, played a def and sang directly into the woman’s body — standing quite close and facing her. Other musicians were either seated or standing, and were obviously, spiritually as well as physically, more peripheral. However, one younger man, also standing, was playing zagat (large finger cymbals). He was often close to the woman. He appeared to be also in a trance state as he frequently turned in a darwish-like frenzy. It was as if his body mimicked and acted out her inner state, supporting and validating it, helping it to happen.
I was very happy and also feeling somewhat trancey as I sat along the wall. The man who was leading the ceremony was suddenly in front of me. He held out his left hand for me to take. He gently stood me up and began to play and sing at me. He was doing quite simple steps which appeared to be Nubian. I moved with him until suddenly, I felt a wave of energy move over me. My movement became involuntary. As my head began to sway with the drums, I didn’t resist it, but went with it. The main singer and I seemed to sink down through several levels. At one point we were facing a door, like a temple door, which was being opened in front of me by a person dressed as an ancient Egyptian. There were mysteries and articles associated with these mysteries which the figure showed me. Suddenly, I had a sensation of having been under water and returning to the surface. The main singer, whom I had begun to think of as a very skillful guide, had changed the energy and brought us back to present time with much amusement. He led me to my chair after some regular dancing. A woman who owned the home, someone with a lot of information and quite powerful, brought a cup of tea to me, our musician contact and the man who had brought us to the zar.
Later during the evening, I watched as my traveling companions responded in a similar fashion to what I felt as a somewhat sad, plaintive, heart chakra rhythm. Their heads dropped as they swayed rhythmically and were led to the middle of the room by the very capable musicians.
They got me up to dance two or three more times during the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. I feel I contacted places in my body that contained old spiritual information of which I was not formerly aware. Each experience took me to a slightly different place and a little deeper.
As we left, I experienced an improvement in my eyesight which I perceived as a clearing out of energy which was not my own.
I know I will return to that spot. It felt like home with a strong spiritual “hello and welcome back” from the participants.
What happens during the zar is not completely clear. I feel it as a mystery which is continuously opening and defining itself — ever changing with always more mysteries to be revealed. It is, in short, a mirror of ourselves.
Latifa began performing and teaching Middle Eastern Dance in the mid-seventies in Europe and San Francisco. She formed a troupe while working in nightclubs in Southern Spain, Ibiza and the Canary Islands, and did work in commercials for British television. She continues to dance and teach throughout the Bay area. Her troupe, the Dancers of DeNile, originally met at the Berkely Psychic Institute, and are all trained psychics. Many of their pieces are humorous performance art, based on issues we all face, using Middle Eastern Dance as a healing medium. www.latifadancersofdenile.com