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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:An Ethnography of 'Bitterness': Cucumber and Sacrifice Reconsidered
Author:Kurimoto, Eisei
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:Sudan
Subjects:African religions
sacrificial rites
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1580783.pdf
Abstract:E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1956) writes that the Nuer of the southern Sudan may sacrifice a wild cucumber in place of an ox. What is the conceptual resemblance and 'qualitative analogy' between a cucumber and an ox? Why can they be equivalent in relation to God? Why is one specific wild plant chosen rather than another wild or cultivated plant? This paper examines these basic questions. In doing so, reference is made to relevant ethnographies on Nilotic peoples other than the Nuer, particularly the Dinka, Atuot, and Pari, all of whom use wild cucumbers in sacrifices. The data on the Pari were obtained during four successive field trips made by the author between 1978 and 1986. A discussion of the actual way and the ritual context in which a cucumber is sacrificed in each case shows that a cucumber is used in specific contexts, not in all sacrifices. It is concluded that the purpose of cucumber sacrifices is to cast away the dangerous condition of human beings caused by the intervention of powers or ultrahuman forces. Second, the paper argues that the notion of 'bitterness' which is found among the Dinka and Pari may be a key to explaining not only the 'cucumber and ox' issue, but also Nilotic religious philosophy in general. Cucumbers can be substitutions for animal victims because they are 'bitter'. 'Bitterness' is neither good nor evil. It is both. 'Bitterness' is a notion representing the attribute of amorphous ultrahuman forces, which are beyond good and evil from the human perspective. Bibliogr., notes, ref.