© 2023 Dr. M. Sheppard

Health Ayurveda Plants Mantra Tovil Treatments

The Patients

Case 3

Another tovil ceremony  was held for a young lady who had been married for about 10 years but had no children and had suffered several miscarriages. Her husband’s family had heard of another girl in their village who had suffered a similar problem and been cured by this group of Tovil dancers so the extended family decided to engage the group to help the young lady. About a year later she and her husband were blessed with a son and had moved to Colombo.

Case 4

This woman was suffering from confusion and erratic behaviour and various other mental health symptoms. The family had consulted a Tovil Edura (healer) and he diagnosed that her problems were caused by her failure to cook for the customary 3 month pirit following the death of a family member (see section on Beliefs).  According to the diagnosis this failure to observe the pirit had “weakened” her and consequently Mahasona (the Cemetery Demon) had entered her and was causing her confusion. Thus a Mahasona Tovil ceremony was required to exorcise Mahasona and end her symptoms. This ceremony was duly held by the family.

Case 5

A Mahasona Ceremony was held for a young woman who had been deserted by her husband leaving her to support their 4 year old son. About a month previously, the family had held a tovil for the child as he had been confused and was diagnosed by the Tovil Edura as being troubled by Mahasona following eating pork. This pork had attracted Mahasona who loves meat and consequently “entered” the child causing his symptoms. (It is very unusual for tovil ceremonies to be held for such young children.) Unfortunately during this ceremony, although the child had been cured, Mahasona had entered the mother instead. The Tovil dancers had generously provided their services (2 drummers and 5 dancers) at a very much reduced rate (35,000/- rupees) as the family was poor and had already had to pay for another tovil ceremony. (The family had had to pay another 95.000/- rupees for the necessary tovil structures - hiring the protective metal roofing (it was during the monsoon season) for the Performance Area, refreshments etc.

Case Studies

The patients presented with a wide variety of symptoms. Most had already undergone other therapies, such as traditional home therapies,Western medicines, Ayurvedic medicines, consulted astrologers and clairvoyants, special Temple pujahs (offerings), consulted mantra practitioners etc. Tovil curing dances were held for all these patients.

Case 1

A man aged about 40, had suffered from epilepsy for several years. He was married and had 3 children. He was the main support of his wife, three children and his elderly mother. He worked as a day labourer. As his seizures had increased of late, and  the pills supplied by the hospital appeared to have little effect, the family finally  consulted a Tovil healer. He diagnosed  and advised that the patient required a Mahasona Tovil Ceremony to exorcise Mahasona (the Cemetery Demon) who was causing the problems. The Disease causing Sanni demons also danced. The ceremony followed the usual format. Unfortunately it was not wholly successful as about 2 years later the patient suffered a fatal seizure.

Case 2

A fisherman of 69 became partially paralysed (stroke?). His family had taken him to hospitals etc without much luck. Then he was taken to a clairvoyant at Ahumgama who “saw” that a tovil would be required to help him. Following the clairvoyant’s advice, the family asked a monk from the nearby Temple. He recommended a reputable group of tovil dancers. By the time of this ceremony, the tovil healer had held two small (family) tovils, each of which had led to some improvement. The Edura of the tovil group now consulted, further diagnosed that the patient had been given poison in his drink (he was fond of alcohol) and in addition his enemies had made a wax image of him and were bewitching him. An “18 sanni” major tovil ceremony was therefore necessary to effect a cure. As the family were able to provide everything required on the list the tovil dancers provided quickly, the tovil was very unusually organised within a week. The cost of this tovil was 90,000/-. There were 5 tovil dancers and 2 drummers. In addition the family had to provide refreshments for the dancers and the audience.

(Another man in the audience related that he too had suffered from the same problem as this patient. This same tovil group had conducted this ceremony for him and he reported that he was now completely cured.)

Case 6

A 13 year old girl had been very frightened when walking in the dark, by  a man who had suddenly appeared from behind a tree. In her “weakened” state of fright, Mahasona had entered her causing nervousness and confusion. The family were very poor and the Tovil dancers had provided their services for free. The man who had frightened the girl contributed to provide the Tovil ceremony requirements. This was a  Mahasona 18 Sanni Ceremony and during the ceremony she danced with the Tovil dancers.

Case 7

This was  an 18 Sanni Ceremony held for an elderly lady who was suffering from confusion and had become very thin . Her family had already tried the various alternatives –  special Temple pujahs, Western medicine etc. - but without effect so now had organised to hold this Tovil ceremony for her.

Some months later, on following up this case, the family reported that the woman had apparently recovered following the ceremony but had then become confused again. They had then  held a further Tovil Ceremony provided by a different group of Tovil dancers  and she had again shown some improvement.

Case 8

Another Mahasona 18 Tovil Ceremony where the patient danced, was held for a man aged about 28. He had started to suffer symptoms following sighting a large black dog one early morning just before dawn when he had been taking the family’s 18 cows out to graze. This large black dog had suddenly appeared in front of him. He became confused and his family who had a kiri (sour milk) business, had twice found that he was adding sand to the milk. They then consulted a Tovil Edura who diagnosed that the black dog had in fact been Mahasona who had “entered” him and was causing his symptoms. The Edura advised that a Mahasona 18 Tovil Ceremony was necessary as soon as possible to cure him. In the meantime whilst the family collected the items on the list of requirements for the Tovil, the Edura temporarily protected him by tying a protective cord around his upper arm.

Following this ceremony, the man made a complete recovery and again functioned normally.

Case 9

This was held for a 22 year old girl who about 2 weeks before had become ill. She started disappearing from the house at midnight and could not sleep. The Tovil Edura diagnosed that a Mahasona Ceremony was necessary and following the family holding this ceremony for her she made a full recovery.

Case 10

A young pregnant lady who was about 5 months pregnant had been very frightened by dogs fighting  near her. As she still had experienced problems, and her family feared these could cause a miscarriage, a Ratayakuma Tovil Ceremony was arranged by her family to ensure she had a safe pregnancy. She was later delivered of a healthy baby.

Case 11

A family was much troubled by ghosts especially in one room of their house. There were strange noises and they could not sleep well at night and suffered nightmares. On the recommendation of one of their neighbours whose household had suffered similar problems, they consulted the Tovil healer who had successfully helped the neighbours.

This healer suggested holding a Family Tovil ceremony to investigate and hopefully cure the problem. For this ceremony only close family and immediate neighbours attend. If this did not cure the problem then a larger Tovil Ceremony would be required.

One neighbour at this Tovil stated how she had had asthma and stomach problems three months before and had been cured completely by this ceremony conducted by this healer. On this occasion too, the Tovil healer cured the family who were no longer troubled by ghosts.

Case 12

One of the Tovil healers had developed problems. Unfortunately while he was exorcising demons from others during Tovil Ceremonies, the sanni demons had entered him instead. His symptoms were extreme fatigue, he became very thin, his eyes felt as though they were burning. His face and arms had burns from when he was dancing with lighted torches at Tovil ceremonies

His Tovil dancer Uncle prescribed a special protective Pujah ceremony - a Bali Tovil - to restore his resistance to, and protection from, the sannis and demons he exorcised from his patients. This was held in the presence of his family and close neighbours and he quickly recovered.


Another lady  had developed the powers of clairvoyance about 4 years previously and had a small devale in her house where neighbours came to consult her. Her clairvoyance  was via her dead ancestor who had also been a Tovil dancer. Then she started to suffer from disturbed sleep and dreams in which the ghost of this ancestor appeared.

Her family consulted a Tovil healer who advised holding a Family Tovil ceremony to appease the ancestral ghost. He recommended a group of Tovil dancers from some distance. They performed their ceremony and dancing “throwing fire” all around the house. The woman was cured and no longer troubled by the ancestral ghost, but she also lost her powers of clairvoyance.

Case 14

A Clairvoyant hosts and annual Pattini Ceremony to enable him to retain his gift.

Apparently he had previously experienced severe mental health issues. His family consulted a Tovil Edura who had diagnosed that his grandfather’s spirit had entered him and was telling him that he had the gift of clairvoyance which he should use to help other people. He then built a devale dedicated to the Deity Pattini from whom he derived his gift, and people regularly consult him on Wednesdays and Saturdays. His former problems had then disappeared.

Other family members such as his mother’s brother, are Tovil dancers.

(See Section on Pattini Ceremonies)

Case 15

The inshore fishermen based on one of the Southern beaches had suffered from drastic reductions in their catches. These fishermen fished from traditional single or double crewed orus or from fibre glass small outboard motor boats crewed by two or three fishermen.

Their leader consulted a Tovil practitioner from further along the coast about their problem. He then advised they should engage him to conduct a special pujah/tovil dedicated to Pattini and Kali - Deities who assist businesses. The fishermen’s group collected the 25,000/- rupees to cover the costs and the fees of the specialist and an all night ceremony was held by the beach.

Following this ceremony, the catches greatly improved and a larger Tovil ceremony was therefore unnecessary. (See section on Specialist Ceremonies)

(Fuller details of these different Ceremonies can be found in the Sections on Pattini Ceremonies, Dances and Specialist Ceremonies.)

It should also be noted that a Community can be considered as a Patient. For example following the devastating 2004 Tsunami the Ambalantota Police engaged Tovil Dance Groups over three nights to help the local community who had suffered not only a high death toll, but destruction of housing, property and paddyfields. Two Pattini Ceremonies I attended were community vows in gratitude to the Deities for saving them from disasters. (See Sections on Pattini Ceremonies and Specialist Ceremonies)