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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The ritual sacrifice of pangolins among the Sangu of south-west Tanzania
Author:Walsh, MartinISNI
Periodical:Bulletin of the International Committee on Urgent Anthropological and Ethnological Research
Geographic term:Tanzania
Subjects:African religions
sacrificial rites
Abstract:The Cape Pangolin, Manis temminicki, holds a special place in the beliefs of some Sangu. The appearance of a pangolin is treated as an event of considerable significance, requiring a specific set of ritual actions involving the chief, and ending in the ritual sacrifice of the pangolin itself. The author's description of the pangolin ritual among the Sangu is based on information he collected in Usangu, southwest Tanzania, in 1980-1982, as well as on notes made by an earlier researcher, Jacques Bilodeau. He touches on the role of pangolins in Sangu cosmology and ritual practice as a whole and then explores alternative approaches to an understanding of the Sangu ritual by considering its wider occurrence, for example among the Lele and their Zairean neighbours, and raising the question of its historical origins, and by examining the zoological correlates of Sangu beliefs about pangolins in greater detail, in particular four main features of reported pangolin behaviour before and during the ritual: the rare appearance of pangolins in Usangu, their attachment to humans, the fact that they dance on their hind legs and shed tears. He notes that the massive influx and increasing cultural dominance of immigrant peoples in Usangu, many of whom kill pangolins for other purposes, is an obvious threat to the survival of the ritual, as well as of the animals which are its subjects. Bibliogr.