Masked men possessed by Kaalima, the Mother Goddess, dance during the Padayani ritual in the Travancore region of southern Kerala. One of the many masks used during the Padayani ritual. It is magically inhabited by the Mother Goddess or one of several other deities or spirits.Drummers announce the arrival of the divinities.A torchlit procession leads the gods to the Bhadrakali temple in Kadammanitta village, where the Padayani ritual will take place.A procession escorting the gods to the Mother Goddess temple, where the Padayani ritual will take place.A caretaker at a small shrine to the Mother Goddess.Men attempt to raise a large, chopped down palm tree into a vertical position and place it so that it stands erect in a hole in the ground. Success in this act of immitative magic augurs fertility for the village.A man prepares for a ritual bath in a water tank prior to dancing in the Padayani.A dancer meditates for a moment before beginning a dance that will lead him into a trance and ultimately into possession by a god.A man becomes a goddess as he dances entranced during the Padayani ritual in Kadammanitta.Entranced men possessed by nature spirits dance in front of the Bhadrakali temple in Kadammanitta.A man in a trance, seized by the gods of Time and Death, being restrained to prevent him from hurting himself or others.In many cultures, spirit possession is known as the Swords flashing in the sunlight, oracles of the Mother Goddess circumambulate her temple in the town of Kodungallur in the Malabar region of central KeralaAn oracle of the Mother Goddess. They are called velichappadu, literally Entranced oracles dance in frenzy and ecstasy and throw themselves on the ground before the Godess' temple during the Bharani, a ritual which aims to propitiate the bloodthirsty goddess Sri Kurumba, or Kali, and obtain her blessings as the engenderer and protector of life.The magic sword. Among the oracles' aims in making the pilgrimage to the Sri Kurumba temple is to have the magical power of their swords replenished by contact with the Goddess.The Goddess speaks.The moment of possession.A young oracle.A masked dancer possessed by the Goddess known as Sri Kurumba or Kali.A priest spinkling sacred water upon the oracles.Turmeric powder raining down onto an oracle.A non-Brahmin ritual specialist, called an atikal, blesses an oracle's sword.Drawing blood from his head with his own sword, an oracle of the Mother Goddess stands prophesying under an ancient tree.An oracle from the mountainous tribal region of Kerala.Devotees of the mother Goddess under a holy banyan tree.The Raja of Kodungallur, long since divested of any political power, still retains his ceremonial role at the Sri Kurumba temple and  presides over the main ritual of the Bharani festival.Upon the signal from the Raja of Kodungallur, frenzied oracles and their devotees run around the temple striking it with sticks, yelling sexual explitives at the goddess, and hurling cocks, coconuts and packets of turmeric into the temple courtyard. Then they fall on the ground before the Raja to receive his blessing.An oracle stands in trance and ecstasy in front of the Goddess' temple, while behind her devotees clack sticks that have an association with death and sing obscene, sexually explicit songs to the Mother Goddess.Wearing an archaic, upper-class style of female dress, and affecting effeminate gestures while waving a sickle shaped sword, a male oracle dances in trance, while other devotees sing obscene songs full of expletives and sexual innuendo glorifying the Goddess' sexuality.Smiting his head with his own sword an oracle offers up the sacrifice of his own blood to the blood-thirsty Goddess.The ecstasy of blood.In a state of euphoria and mysic self-transcendence an oracle dances in an ecstatic trance.After delivering her prophecies, the Mother Goddess spirit inhabiting the oracle flees, and he swoons and collapses unconscious.In the northern Malabar region of Kerala the Mother Goddess is worshipped as Bhagavati — "the Blessed One." A young priest before a shrine to Bhagavati, the Mother Goddess.Villagers with offerings wait to welcome the gods.An incarnate god appears and dances before a shrine in a sacred grove.A theyyam: a man seized by a god.A theyyam: a man seized by a god.A theyyam: a man seized by a god.Theyyam: a man possessed by a god.A large bonfire rages in the sacred grove where the Theyyam takes place.A man possessed by the god of fire rests on a bed of glowing coals.The remains of a cock sacrifice.A Theyyam, an incarnate god, receives the the blood of a chicken sacrifice. Behind him drummers pound out a frenzied and furious beat.At dawn Bhagavati, the Mother Goddess, appears in the sacred grove. After performing an ecstatic dance, she rests and receives offerings from devotees, who que in a long line for their turn at a personal audience with the Goddess.