The Edge of the Bush


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One of these is the Chobe Bush Lodge which looks out onto the Chobe National Park and for travellers like us, who had thrown away their leaking tent on the first night of a day trip around Botswana, this lodge saved our entire trip. We arrived in Kasane at around 18h00 and our GPS directed us straight to the lodge or so we thought.

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The Safari Lodge is the oldest of the two and is literally on the banks of the Chobe river while the Bush lodge, across the street is merely two years old and looks out on to the Chobe National Park. We checked in to the Bush Lodge and were impressed by the modern design and feel of the lodge while still keeping a natural, bush-theme about it. The next day we strolled over to the Safari Lodge and after having a look at their rooms we decided to in fact stay at the Bush Lodge. None of the rooms have fridges, but the staff gladly and quickly brought us a small bar-fridge in which we could keep the food and drink we had brought along on our trip.

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The room itself was spacious and elegantly designed with carpeting all round the rooms in the Safari Lodge had cold tiles all round , a very comfy bed with mosquito nets, a large bath tub and a massive walk-in shower. This information is not entirely helpful, since he nowhere discusses the social composition or the average size of a household. But we are able to infer from some of his case histories that certain households-a house hold may own several houses, for each wife has her own-contain three generations ofkin. He also mentions here and there that the Saora practice polygyny and widow-inheritance.

In Dokripanga I found every married man had at least two wives" p. Now let us suppose that an average elementary family contains four members. Then let us suppose that various accretions from polyg ynous marriage, temporary coresidence of adult brothers Saora are patrilocal , widow-inheritance, and such account on the average for another four members.

The first village would then contain approximately inhabitants, the second , and the third The first village he mentions, Boramsingi, he refers to several times as "large" and divided into "widely separated hamlets" p. I think that we would not be too much in error if we assumed that the average size of a Hill Saora village was between and inhabitants, with a range of from about 30 to Limitations on village magnitude may, for example, impose limits on the number of groups of unilineal kin who can dwell together, and on the size of each group.

Such limitations can also control the extent of differentia tion of the village into occupational and subterritorial groups. Village;: size may significantly influence the relationship between lineal and familial modes of organization. If patrilineal descent is an important principle governing residential affiliation, as it appears to be among the Saora, and if in small villages patrilineages are stunted, it is probable that the social mechanisms for promoting cohesion and reducing conflict in the residen tial unit will differ from those found in patrilineal societies where a larger village is typical or in social systems, such as the Zulu, where emergent.

Again, the average magnitude of villages may be connected with ecological factors. Above a given population threshold a village may have to split to avoid pressure on resources. And indeed Elwin writes that in the Western Ganjam District "there is considerable pressure on land" p. Elwin, indeed, gives cases of quarrels over gardens in such vil lages. The small villages that he mentions may well result from the fission ofvillages that have exceeded a certain optimum size. And it is in just such over-large, quarrel-ridden villages that I would have expected to find many performances of curative ritual, a type of ritual that writers on Central African ritual have found to have the latent function often of redressing disturbed social relationships.

It may be more than coincidence that many of Elwin's examples of ritual are drawn from villages he describes as "large," such as Boramsingi, mentioned above. Since Elwin has emphasized that most Saora villages are long established and "have nothing of the nomad about them," and since most are difficult of access, and were formerly "forts" for defense against the raids of other Saora, we may infer that such villages are social entities with a high measure of cohesion and continuity, towards which their members feel strong sentiments ofloyalty.

Yet at the same time Elwin shows us that each village is internally divided into a number of local and kinship sub divisions. In the first place, most Saora villages are divided into a number of groups of houses called sahis which Elwin translates as "quarters" or "hamlets. In Saora villages, there are a number of political officials. Each has a quar ter named after his office. So has the village priest or Buyya, who has political as well as ritual functions.

The nuclear group in each quarter consists of the paternal extended family of the quarter-head. Not infrequently, however, quarters are named by some geographical or occupational term, and not after a political or ritual office. What is the social composition of a quarter? Here as elsewhere in his introductory section Elwin is extremely vague. He points out that in contrast to all the neighboring tribes the Hill Saora have no exogamous totemic clans, no phratries, no moieties.

This extended family, the birinda, is the main exogamous unit of Saora society. It has no name and no totem. It is possible, as I suggested earlier,.

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If both senses are present in birinda, there may be conflict between the organizing principles of these two kinds of grouping. Members of two or more birindas may live together in one quarter or hamlet, or members of one birinda may be divided between two or more quarters. But nearly every birinda is to be found within a single village. A woman does not change her birinda membership after marriage, and it appears from several of Elwin's texts that a person's mother's birinda plays an important part in his or her affairs.

There does not appear to be any clear rule of postmarital residence and we hear of married sisters living in the same quarter as their seminal brothers, that is, brothers by the same father. I suspect that one of the basic conflicts of Saara society is between a woman's husband and father or brother for control over her and over her children's residential allegiance. In other words, the conflict would lie between her husband's birinda and her own.


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Furthermore, this indeterminacy with regard to postmarital residence would appear prima facie to inhibit the development of deep local patrilineages, for a man has the choice of residing with either his father's or his mother's birinda. Residential affiliation would seem in fact to be "ambilateral," in the sense in which Professor Firth has defined this term. This view receives support from Elwin's remark that "if a man migrates to another village and settles there, he can-provided that some one in the relationship of mother's brother, father's sister, or their sons is living there-be admitted to a sort of honorary membership of their family" p.

As Elwin always translates birinda as "family," one has now the impression that the local birinda is a composite group containing a nuclear membership of patrilineal kin of both sexes, with men prepon derating, descended from an apical ancestor, perhaps not many gen erations back from the oldest living members, with a fringe of sisters' children and their children. The fact that cross-cousins are forbid den to marry is also consistent with the view that sisters' children are re garded as "honorary members" of the birinda. One might infer from this feature of residential structure that there is incompatibility between the principles of patrilineal and matrilateral affiliation.

Since Elwin points out that there is considerable intermarriage between separate villages, it is possible that this conflict of loyalties underlies the hostility between. One might also postulate that dis appointed claimants for village office and men who have failed to obtain what they considered to be a fair share of their patrimony express their discontent by going to reside with their matrilateral kin in the villages of the latter.

They might bring up their children in those villages. Such chil dren might be unable to succeed to office or inherit birinda property-for it would ap pe:u that the birinda owns the permanent terraced rice-fields supplying the staple crop. If thiM conception of the structure of the. For three shamans, mentioned by Elwin, said that their tutelary wives were brought to them by the tutelaries of their mothers, and one by his mother's brother's tutelary, in other words, from tutelaries associated with their mother's birindas.

In complementary fashion many shamanins acquire their tutelary husbands from their fathers' sisters' tutelaries, that is, from mem bers of their fathers' birinda. Shamans of one sex stress ritual loyalties to the birindas of their parents of the opposite sex. In the case of shamanins, ritual loyalties coincide with their secular loyalties and strengthen an attachment which conflicts with that of marriage. Thus many shamanins emphasize the ritual importance of principles other than those which ought to govern their dominant loyalties in secular life; a significant pro portion of shamans in Saara society stress matrilateral ties against patriliny and women stress a reinforced patrilaterality against the marriage bond.

In this connection it is interesting to note that funerary shamanins Guarkumbois , who are "usually trained and initiated by their fathers' sis ters, ought not to marry and have children'' p. The patrilateral tie is reinforced in a ritual context at the expense of the secular marriage tie. Such shamanins are "outsiders" to the customarily expected role of women. Both shamanins and shamans use ritual links with the birindas of their parents of opposite sex to place themselves outside their customarily expected group allegiance and emphasize their personal independence from customary claims made upon their loyalties.

Freudian analysts might postulate that the shaman's marriage with a matrilateral tutelary spouse represents a barely disguised wish for incest with his mother and that the shamanin5 patrilateral spirit-husband is really her father. But this inter pretation would have to reckon with the fact that religious beliefs are customs, collective representations, social stereotypes, not private fan tasies. It might be argued, however, that the operative residential group among the Saara is not, as it ideally ought to be, strictly patrilineal, but consists of brothers and sisters and their adult children who stand to one another in the relationships of cross-cousin.

This bilateral group resists the loss of its women by virilocal marriage. And although in social reality it must recognize the force of exogamy, in the powerful wish-world of ritual, men and women mate in fantasy within forbidden degrees of kinship, or with surrogate parents, and thus assert the omnipotence of the primary group against the structured, differentiated order, based on exogamy, of adult society. It would seem that some women prefer celibacy shamanins to relinquishing full participant membership in their father's roups.

We can only speculate because Elwin's material is thin on this po. Because Elwin was preoccupied with religious custom and belief sui generis, he failed to collect the data that would have enabled him to make a prior analysis of the Saora social system, and this has given his book a curiously invertebrate appearance. For the same reason he has been unable to interpret adequately those items of religious custom itself which are directly linked to the social structure.

For, as Simmel once wrote , p. Even in its autonomy, religious life contains elements that are not specifically religious but social. What I am about to say may seem elementary, indeed naive, but the omission of the data I shall list has seriously reduced the value of many otherwise excellent compilations of ritual customs by leading modern anthropologists.

We need census surveys of several complete villages both in Ganjam and Koraput.


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We need information about the amount of bridewealth paid or received at every marriage recorded, the amount of compensation paid for adultery or divorce, the number and ages of children of village mem bers, the natal villages and villages of rearing village members, the quar ters of those villages in which they formerly resided, the village, quarter, and birinda affiliation of their parents, their own occupation and status, and similar situationally relevant information.

We also require full genealogi cal data from birinda-heads and elders, so that we can attempt to link together all members of a birinda on a single genealogy. We need records of all the affinal ties interlinking different birindas in the same village, and the affinal ties connecting members of census villages with other villages. We should also have hut diagrams of a considerable number of villages, relat ing the hut-ownership pattern to our village and birinda genealogies. From our numerical analysis of census and genealogical data we would then be in a position to infer the effective principles determining village structure.

We would then have been able to compare this analysis of"the situation on the ground" with the ideal pattern as it is stated by Saora informants. Collaterally, we require village histories giving actual cases of succession to various kinds of political and ritual positions. From these we may infer not only the mode of succession but also whether struggles for office follow a definite pattern, so that we may ask, for example, whether the factional groupings that support the main claimants tend mainly to be.

We would also like to know the class and occupational attributes of such groupings. It would be reasonable to collect data on the mode of inheritance of movable and immovable property and on the system of land-tenure. It would be important to have case histories of disputes over inheritance of property and rights to different categories of land, for quarrels over land are mentioned in Elwin's cases of sorcery accusation. I consider that information of these sorts, properly analyzed and succinctly presented in a couple of introductory chapters, would have enormously enhanced the value of Elwin's ritual data.

Furthermore, if he had collected systematic information about a series of rituals performed in :1 single village, or in a neighborhood cluster of villages over a period of months or even years, he might have greatly illuminated our understand ing of the role of ritual in Saora group dynamics. In other words, if he had ;iven us first a general model of Saora so. He would then have been in a better position to detach from the whole complex of ritual behavior and ideas what was "purely rt'ligious," in Simmel's words, and "independent of anything social.

But let us nevertheless try to construct a model of the Saora village from these scanty bits of information. The village, as we h11vc seen, is divided into quarters or hamlets. The nucleus of each quarter IM a birinda, which itself has a core of patrilineal kin and a fringe of IIHltrilaterally attached kin, cognates, and affines. Cutting across these f"l'oupings is a division between aristocrats and commoners.

In most Saora villages, there are titled political functionaries, and in Ganjam there is iHiditionally a village priest or Buyya. Each of these functionaries, of whom the most important is the village chief, has his own quarter, named 11 1icr his title. Elwin does not tell us whether the birindas of these function! The birindas of political functionaries and village priests together constitute the aristoc rul'y. It is possible that villages are spatially divided between prepon drrantly aristocratic and preponderantly commoner sections, each section ron,l'liNting of several quarters.

Each quarter also would appear to have its lutcrn:tl divisions between patrilineal kin and its "honorary" members. AM11in, each birimla contains separate households, and a household may be. Beyond these divisions there is the gradation in descending order of prestige between the three branches of Hill Saora, Jatis, Arsis, and Jadu. Members of all three branches may live in one village.

Then there is the distinction in status between cultivators, both aristocratic and commoner, and occupa tional groups, such as basketmakers and potters. In summary, the Saora village is by no means a homogeneous, undifferentiated unit. It is gov erned by a number of distinct, and even discrepant principles of organization. Professor Srinivas, in his book Religion and Society amo the Coorgs cf South India , isolates the various subunits of Coorg society, village, caste, joint family, domestic family, and lineage, and refers to each of these in different contexts as the basic unit of the Coorg social system.

If he had said that each of these subunits was a basic unit, he would have resolved the discrepancy in his analysis by affirming the existence of discrepancy in social reality. For the structural principles to which he refers in some situations may come into conflict with one another, in others again may operate in isolation from one another. From the point of view of social dynamics a social system is not a harmonious configuration governed by mutually compatible and logically interrelated principles.

It is rather a set of loosely integrated processes, with some patterned aspects, some per sistencies of form, but controlled by discrepant principles of action expressed in rules of custom that are often situationally incompatible with one another. Similarly in Saora society, we may expect to find conflicts, under varying circumstances, between its different articulating principles: village affiliation, quarter, birinda, household, elementary family, social class, and occupation. Within the individual these would take the form of conflicts ofloyalty to different social groups.

It is primarily in ritual that discrepancies between structural princi ples are overlaid or feigned not to exist. One way in which the Saora do this is by ritualizing each crucial principle in isolation from the others. Thus we find periodic rituals each of which celebrates the importance of a different principle of grouping.

These rituals are performed at different periods in the annual cycle. Each of them asserts the paramountcy of a particular principle of grouping in connection with a specific se. The functionaries at the periodic, prescribed rituals that celebrate these structured groupings of Saora society are not, like the shamans, outsiders, but rather insiders to the groups they concern, although shamans also have a role in some of these rituals, as represen tatives of the most inclusive Saara community.

I have no time to do more than point up the contrast between cal endrical rituals of this type, associated with the fixed structure of the Saora. Here is an abbreviated list of these regular rituals, the groups they typically involve, and the principal ritual officiants at each. Most of the Harvest Festivals, which ostensibly celebrate the har vesting of different kinds of crop, involve the whole membership of the village. In that part of Saora country where the institution of village priest exists, this priest or Buyya presides over the ritual. His special function is to offer sacrifice for the whole village in the culminating phase of the rit ual at one of the public sadru-shrines, which are located outside the vil lage.

These shrines are for the gods; shrines made within the village are for the ancestors of particular households, and for the gods worshipped in pri vate cults. The Buyya priest, who has political and jural, as well as ritual, func tions, has the further task of guarding the village lands from the inter ference of hostile sorcerers, spirits, and gods connected with other localities ofSaora-land. He is not usually invited, as the shaman is, to visit other villages to perform ritual. It would seem that his office has to do with maintaining the unity and continuity of the village.

A new priest is selected by a shaman in state of trance from among the patrilineal kin of his predecessor. This mode of succession to office conforms to the general Saora pattern, and contrasts with that followed by many shamans. In the Harvest Festivals, presided over by the Buyya priests, the principle of the unity of the village is stressed over and above its internal divisions.

The emphasis here is on the maintenance of the social order, not, as in curative ritual, on its reestablishment after breaches have occurred. But in the HC'cular interstices of the ritual, as it were, in the intervals between sacred cvcnts, and on the margins of sacralized sites, behavior indicative of con flict in other ranges of behavior may be observed.

To quote Elwin p. Both priest and shaman uphold the order of Saora godcty: the one by positively affirming it, the other by redressing natural mi11fortune and the consequence of human error or malice. The interdependence of priest and MIHmum is recognized in the fact that a new priest is selected by a shaman. Again, the priest worships the same gods in their fertility bestowing aspect that the shaman propitiates or exorcises in their punitive capacity. Elwin gives little detailed information about ritual associated with the village-quarter, but writes that "many ceremonies take place within the quarter for its own members who owe a special loyalty to their particular leader.

The Doripur and Ajorapur ceremonies, to propitiate respectively the fever-giving god of cattle grazers and the snake god who causes miscarriages, are performed only for and by members of the affiicted person's birinda, although I suspect that doctor-shamans initiated into the cults of these gods may also take part regardless of their birinda affiliation. Each birinda has its own hereditary funerary priests and priestesses, who succeed patrilineally; these cannot function for other birindas.

At the great funerary rites of the Guar, Karja, and Lajap, at which members of several villages attend, members of the birinda of the dead person eat their share of the ritual food in their own homes and obtain more than strangers, who eat out in the fields and obtain less. At the actual cremation of the dead only members of the birinda may attend, and each birinda has its separate burning-grounds and separate cluster of stone memorials for its dead.

But these funerary rituals interlink neighboring villages, as well as emphasizing the value set on patriliny. For at the Guar ritual, which transforms a dangerous wandering shade into a reputable ancestor with a home in the Under World, certain physical remains of patrilineal birinda members who have been residing with matrilateral kin or who have married out in other villages are brought back by their kin.

Members of both villages perform roles in the Guar ritual cycle. And there is a special class of shamans and shamanins, the Guarkumbois includ ing many celibate women , who officiate at these interconnecting fu nerary rites. Some occupational groups are recognized as distinct units in some rituals. For example, at Karja ceremonies the Kindal basketmakers cere monially exchange mats and baskets for a share in the rice and meat of the feast. The household, in some ritual situations, becomes the effective nit, for the rites of the threshing-floor are performed by each householder separately.

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We see how, in these different kinds of rituals, the validity of certain crucial principles of organization is insisted on, outside the specific con texts in which they produce conflicts. These rituals, as it were, feign that the principles are never in conflict, and that there arc no antagonisms of interest or purpose between persons and groups organized under each. But in social reality, there is much antagonism of principle and purpose.

And it is at this point, I think, that we should reconsider the outsider position of the shaman. For the shaman, as I have said, does not represent a particular group, but, as Elwin says, "may go wherever he is summoned p. He is regarded with respect and often with affection, as a man given to the public service, a true friend in time of affiiction.

These mystical agencies affiict with misfortune and illness, and the shaman cures the affiicted. Such affiictions are the common lot of mankind, and ritual directed towards their removal seems to possess in Saara culture a politi cally integrative function. The widest Saara community is a community of suffering; there is no Saara state with centralized administrative and mili tary institutions. Nor are there great national rituals attended by the whole Saara people. The concept of pan-Saara unity, transcending all the divi sions of the secular system, and expressed in beliefs and symbols shared by all Saara, is rather the product of innumerable, fitfully performed occa sions of localized ritual, each couched in the idiom of unity through common misfortune.

The shamans and shamanins maintain this widest unity, mainly because they are structurally located outside the local and kinship units of their society. Men and women become diviner-shamans as the result of an experi rnce that Elwin calls "conversion. At first he or she refuses and becomes very ill, Nometimes to the point of madness.

There exists, in fact, the implicit , :ssumption that psychic conflict in the individual prepares him for the later task of divining into the conflicts in society. Such psychic conflict itself may be related, as we have speculated, to the social fact of exogamy. The diviner-elect wanders about the village and out into the woods danc iup; and singing. This may be said to represent his disaffiliation from the ordered life of village society.

Dreams and illnesses of these sorts typically occur during adolescence for diviners-elect of both sexes. When the t fll icted person consents to marry his tutelary, he recovers his health and poise and enters on his vocation as a diviner. He then receives additional t r:ining from accredited diviners, who are frequently his close paternal or maternal kin.

But the question remains: was he or she in any sense, Mod11l or psychobiological, an outsider before conversion? Arc shamans :. In the first place, many, but by no means all, diviner-shamans and -shamanins possess some physical or psychical abnormality. For example, Elwin mentions a male eunuch who practiced as a shamanin with a male tutelary. This tutelary had formerly been the eunuch's mother's tutelary husband, according to the diviner's account. Another shaman was born "with a great head that caused his mother much pain. One shamanin was a leper, another said that "because she had a child in the other world she did not think she would have one here," and yet another had lived naked from birth, doing a man's work, "even sowing seed," among the Saora a typically masculine task.

But before saying that abnormalities of these kinds mark men and women out to be shamans and shamanins, we should like to know how many abnormal people did not become diviners. For shamanism is a phenomenon of culture and society, not of bodily or psychic abnormality, and sociocultural phenomena are associated with a plurality of moti vations and interests.

Thus many apparently normal Saora become diviners, and it is possible that many abnormal Saora do not. Again, it looks as though social factors are involved. Elwin has said that both male and female commoners, as well as aristocrats, can become shamans and shamanins. Village priests, on the other hand, and political functionaries are drawn exclusively from the aristocracy.

But he does not tell us what is the ratio of commoner to aristocratic shamans. He writes p.

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For Elwin stresses p. He has also said that polygyny is fairly common, and we navenoticed above that he mentions a village where "every married man had at least two wives" p. The question arises, where do the Saora obtain the women to enable them to do this? By raiding other tribes? Clearly, no, for tribal warfare is forbidden by the Central Government. Alternatively, there may be a very early marriage-age for girls and this is indeed the case , al d a late marriage-age for men.

But Elwin states explicitly p. The village with many polygynists might be a village of Jati aristocrats. But this situation would produce numerical imbalance between the married and unmarried ofboth sexes in the different social classes. For example, under hypcrgamy, some aristocratic women might not be able to find husbands. Perhaps it is from these women that the celibate funerary shamanins are mainly recruited? It might also mean that there would be a shortage of marriageable commoner women, with corresponding male competition for them.

If, in addition, commoner men married fairly late, there might well be sharp tensions between the older and the younger men who might tend to commit adultery with the older men's wives. We have no information on these important points. Indeed, Elwin regards the "conversion" of a shaman or shamanin as a general phe nomenon of adolescence, instead of considering differences in adolescent reactions between members of different groups and sections of Saora society.

It is not a universally human psychological problem but the prob lem of a specific social system. I have already mentioned earlier that there appears to be a conflict between patrilineal and matrilateral affiliation, and that a certain proportion of patrilineal members of each birinda live with their mothers' patrilineal kin. This linking-political role must impose a strain on those who perform it, and so I suggest that a significant propor tion of shamans may be recruited from avun.

All one can safely say is that many shamans may be recruited from groups and categories of persons whose social position debars them from obtaining political or priestly office, substantial wealth, or high secular prestige. Their only path of upward mobility may be through shamanism. As individuals, shamans of this sort may be psychobiologically normal, and may even inherit their shamanistic status patrilineally.

On the other hand, some of the shamans who exhibit aberrant psychic or physical characteristics may not be structural outsiders, but may belong to office holding classes and families. Elwin has introduced a certain amount of confusion by classing under the rubrics of "shaman'' and "shamanin'' the roles of diviner and doctor. Doctors are specialists who do not have tutelaries, and who learn the medicines and practices of particular curative rituals, such as the Doripur and Ajorapur, from other experts. I would guess, by analogy with African studies, that such doctors were formerly patients themselves in those rituals.

Then, when they were successfully treated, they became doctor-adepts in a curative cult to propitiate the god who had aillicted them. Certainly, those who are believed to have been killed by a particular god are thought by Saora to "become" that god themselves, either by becoming merged in him, or by becoming one ofhis assistants in aillicting the living.

There remains the problem of how shamanism is made respectable, in view of the fact that many of its exponents withdraw themselves to a. In the first place, it is an imperative ofSaora culture that the diviner-shaman has to be coerced by his tutelary into accepting his vocation. He affects to resist the forces that prevent him from occupying the social position that would have been his in the normal course of social maturation.

Everyone believes that the diviner has had little or no choice in the matter, that he is not a diviner by free will but by mystical election. He cannot then be held personally responsible for seeking an exceptional and indeed often lucrative status at the expense of many of his normal secular commit ments.

In the second place, his fantasies of sexual intercourse with his tutelary are legitimized by the belief that he must marry the latter. The value set on marriage in secular society is upheld by the cultural ster eotype of spiritual marriage. The tutelary is not an incubus or succubus, a "demon lover," but a spouse. Yet the illicit nature of a diviner's sexual strivings is sometimes betrayed by his choice of a spirit-mate.

For, as we have seen, Elwin mentions several cases of marriage to the child of a parent's tutelary, in other words, to a spiritual half-brother or half- sister. Other Saora shamans married their spiritual cross-cousins, although cross-cousin marriage is prohibited in reality. Diviners' fantasies may thus offer a legitimate outlet for incestuous wishes.

They constitute further aspects of the shamanistic syndrome, that is, compromise-formations between social norms and illicit wishes. A social factor may also be pres ent here: for commoners may have only a few available mates and there may be a high polygyny rate among elders. This situation may encourage sexual relations between forbidden categories of kin in this group. Several features of the behavior of a diviner-elect during the period before conversion are consistent with the view that a diviner-shaman is outside and in a sense opposed to the structural arrangements of the social order.

It is significant, I think, that conversion occurs on the threshold of adult life. I have found no evidence in Elwin's book that the Saora have life-crisis ritual, initiating juniors into adult tribal status. Rather it would seem that most Saora gradually attain social maturity, and that men achieve social and economic independence rather late in life-often after their fathers have died. But for the diviner-shaman there is an abrupt break between his childhood and his adult life as a ritual practitioner.

His conversion and spiritual marriage is a life-crisis that sets him outside e normal life-cycle. During the limited period between childhood and divinerhood, he is culturally conditioned to behave as though he were mad. Now, madness in many societies seems to symbolize the negation of all order. In more than one African society, for example, the Nyakyusa, either the simulation of madness as ritual behavior, or madness as a sanc tion against breach of ritual taboos, is a feature of several kinds of life crisis ritual, especially of funerary ritual Wilson, M.

Funerary ritual constitutes a passage from one set of ordered relations to another. During the interim period the old order has not yet been obliter ated and the new order has not yet come into being.


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The effect is analo gous to the attempt to photograph two successive family groups on the same negative. Many events of a typical funerary ritual are concerned with the careful disengagement ofpast from present, and with the system atic reordering of social relations, so that the dead person is converted from a dangerous ghost into a helpful ancestor, while the relationships of the living are reorientated so as to take account of the changes in status and mutual positioning brought about by death. Madness in such a situa tion may represent the breakdown of a former order or the confusion of two orders.

Similarly, the disordered, disorientated behavior of the shaman-elect is the appropriate accompaniment of his transference from an ascribed position in a local subsystem of social relations to a new position where he will perform a role concerned with the maintenance of Saora tribal values transcending those of household, birinda, quarter, and village.

It must, however, be stated that not all diviners completely separate themselves from secular life.

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Some marry and have children by earthly as well as spiritual spouses. Elwin claims that there is less conflict between a person's role as diviner and as ordinary citizen than might have been expected, yet he gives examples of sharp conflict. One man, whose mother had been a shamanin, treated his shamanin wife with great brutality pp. There was always something going on; she had a range of interests into which he could not enter.

She had a baby from her tutelary and a lot of her heart was wrapped up in the boy whom she saw only in dreams, but who was as real to her as any human child. Once she wandered out into the jungle and stayed there three days, living entirely on palm wine. She said that she had been with her tutelary and had enjoyed the experience. These cases indicate, to my mind at any rate, the existence of conflict in the role of a shaman or shamanin who is not a celibate. To sum up both the section on shamanism and the essay as a whole: Simmel's point that "even in its autonomy, religious life contains elements that are not specifically religious, but social" would appear to have some justification in the case of Saora shamanism.

Conversion and spiritual ' m:rriage arc better understood' not as religious phenomena sui generis, but. It is also possible that investigators trained in psychology and psychoanalysis would have been able to throw further light on those elements of Saora shamanism that appear to be "independent of anything social. It might help to explain, for example, some of the phenomena of mysticism, asceticism, conversion, and holy mendicancy in the higher religions. Waititi enjoys taking out for a spin. For the most part, Mr. Waititi transcends most of the narrative bumps and generally dodges the obvious land mines, including cuteness.

Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes.

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