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This paper seeks to understand the outbreaks and the development of grisi siknis , a form of mass spirit possession among the Miskitu of. Miskito villages line the Atlantic coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. Nietschmann ( 47) estimated the number of Miskito speakers in Nicaragua at in. Grisi siknis (which literally means “crazy sickness”), is characterized by long periods of anxiety, dizziness, fear, and irrational anger. The most.

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According to the American Psychiatric Association, a Western medical condition similar in many aspects to culturally bound syndromes, particularly the “running” syndromes, of which grisi siknis is part, is dissociative or psychogenic fugue.

Retrieved from ” https: This is a disputed fact, as not all cases involve sexual encounters. This paper seeks to understand the outbreaks and the development of grisi siknis, a form of mass spirit possession among the Miskitu of north-eastern Nicaragua. Although grisi siknis behaves like a virus, hrisi have not been sikns to trace anything irregular in the blood samples of victims. According to Prof Dennis, grisi siknis is a “culture-bound syndrome” unique to the Miskito, comparable to anorexia nervosa which is known only in the affluent west.

Grisi Siknis in Nicaragua | ANP Introduction to Medical Anthropology (Summer )

Retrieved 20 March In such a crazed state, these women are difficult to stop. The American Journal of Psychiatry. He claims that his treatment, which involves local plants and ancestral rituals, cures most sufferers in 15 to 30 days.

The research took place during 11 months from to in the port town of Puerto Cabezas. Culture is something that I feel makes us very unique depending on where we come from and the traditions and beliefs we choose to follow.


A team of doctors, psychiatrists, and anthropologists have reached a remote Miskito community in the jungles of northern Nicaragua where 60 people are suffering from a mysterious “collective madness”. Miskito tradition, according to Dennis, holds that grisi siknis is caused by possession by evil spirits.

She said there was no indication that a virus was responsible, but many different tests were being carried out. Archived from the original on 4 June The affliction has previously been considered a ‘culture-bound syndrome’ only occurring among the Miskitu. The medical team has taken samples of water from local wells and recommended that people only drink coconut juice until they have tested the supply. Most of the victims are young girls from 15 to 18 years old. Most of the victims were girls.

Nicaragua village in grip of madness

Some scholars in the country conclude that it is due to the extreme poverty that the Miskito people endure and that was worsened by Hurricane Felix of September The causes of grisi siknis are unknown, says the American Psychology Associationbut the prevailing Western theory calls this syndrome a “psychological disorder due to stress, upheaval and despair”. Even though it is not clear why or how the illness exactly comes about, it is clear that it is attacking a certain location and group of people.

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The outbreak of the malady, known as grisi siknis in the local Griai language, began in the Raiti community near the Honduran border a month ago.

Grisi Siknis in Nicaragua

Grisi siknis has been the subject of anthropological studies and is defined as a culture-specific malady found only in the Miskito culture, although with many similarities to pibloktoq, or “arctic hysteria”, found in indigenous peoples of Greenland. Both articles describe the ineffectiveness of western medicine in healing this illness and how it should be recognized as a true disease because we should realize an illness is not solely based on biological markers but complex intertwining of various aspects of culture with human social conduct.


This page was last edited on 20 Mayat They then tried testing the local drinking water and advised the locals to drink coconut juice since in past outbreaks investigation concluded that people had put hallucinogenic substances in the water, but nothing was found. Symptoms of grisi siknis vary, but there is a distinct set of central characteristics.

Cultural Politics and Health: Simons, professor emeritus of psychiatry and anthropology at Michigan Geisi Universityas quoted by Nicola Ross in The Walrus magazine, upholds this argument, proposing that grisi siknis is caused by poverty and stress among the Miskito.


In Namahka, the seven affected are all girls gdisi 14 to Unconfirmed reports say the girl who died was Isabel Wislop. In all cases, the patients have the same symptoms: July 20, at 7: Seven cases were reported in neighbouring Namahka last week, where one year-old girl is said to have died. Joseph Westermeyer, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahomastates that a culturally bound syndrome is sjknis as “certain trance-like disturbances [that] occur with unusual frequencies in certain societies”.

And because of this, Grisi is considered a disease. Richard Castillo, as quoted by Dr. Then moving onto Miskito healers many of the victims were reported to being healed 15 to 30 days later, using the ancient rituals of the native healers. Austin, TXUnited States: More recently cases occurring amongst people of Spanish descent have also been reported. The anthropological field technique of participant-observation was used.