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Appendices: data

Myth texts

Divination myth - Bi's version T407B OhO - 095

In the past divination spoke with its mouth. If you were going somewhere, it would say 'throw your spear there. Look! An animal is there, an animal is there.' You would throw your spear kap! kap! And uou would spear the animal. So once upon a time a man went, and he shot an antelope with an arrow that he had borrowed the arrow from a friend. He went and he shot an antelope with it. Now the antelope is the goat of our fathers (ancestors) Yes, the antelope is the goat of our Fathers. The antelope ran away and hid. It hid away, lost to sight. But then his friend said to him 'give me back my arrow'. He said he had looked and looked for it, but this antelope it had run off with the arrow. The friend said to him 'I said, I said, give me my arrow. If you dont give me back my arrow, then things will not go well with us'. So he went and found the divination spider.
He told the spider what had happened to him, and asked it what he could do? He was afraid his friend would kill him. He had looked and looked for the arrow If he had seen it what would he have done but return it?
The divination spider said put me in your hat. So he took the spider and put it up in his hat. They went to the bush then the spider said told him lift up a particular clump of grass. The spider said, stop here. Take hold of this grass, then run,and enter the ground.
He took hold of the grass. It said, seize and open it quickly. He took hold of it and pulled it open.
He looked, they went in. Then the spider said to him that he shouldn't run but t go on, go on, and he would see his arrow. For your father has put it up in a tree, like so. He's put it in a banana tree. They went on and then the father saw him. He said "ooo What are you doing?" He said "Something is threatening me back there." "Who showed you the path?" He said "It was the divination spider" "That spider, Where is it?"
He raised his hat and said "That divination spider, here it is." "You spider, if people have patience you can divine and tell them, but someone who hasn't got patience, you wont speak to anyone with your mouth again."
The Father rose and got down the arrow, having given it to him, he asked him [again on oath? ] why he was there. He said they sent me here. Then the Father produced a medicine treatment and said to him Here! Come and take the arrow. Go and give it back to your friend. Take this bracelet and put it on your hand. If you put it on, where-ever you are with that thing, women will flock to you! On the day he said your friend will ask to borrow it. He will ask you to give him that bracelet so he can go with it to the dance, so he can dance with it. So he can go with it to the dance beer drink. So he can dance with many women. The bracelet will stick to his hand.
And so it was. He went back with it. He said to his friend take back your arrow. He took the arrow and gave it back to that person. Then came the day of the dance. Came that old bracelet, the bracelet which father gave him. They gathered around him.
The bracelet which god had given him, so he could dance. Kiya! Women, women came and danced with him, many many many. His friend saw this and said to him 'Oho, for you, many women are dancing with you, but for me over there I've not found a woman, I'm just dancing there, I've not found a woman'. He said 'are you just talking? Or is it not just talk. If you cant see the place where I'm dancing here its because they're crowding around ... All the women are dancing with you'. Came another dance day, the beer was ready. The friend said 'take off your bracelet. Give me that bracelet'. The friend took it, but he hadn't been given it. He entered the dance and it fell out thus: Oh there were women in front of him, others around him. He was surrounded, packed in tight! He was packed in. His friend sent for him and said to him 'Give me back my bracelet, then'. 'How?' 'Give me back my bracelet'. He said the place where he found it, he didnt know it, he didnt see anyone. But his father had told him among the children, that he would come, that he would tell to him to give back his bracelet today, that day, then, at once. Not tomorrow dawn. That is because he has done evil to his friend. He looked, they said they'd take the bracelet. The bracelet stuck tight. They grabbed it, they pulled, the bracelet stuck tight. They looked, they put his hand on a tree branch. He said they must chop it off. They chopped the hand off. Bap! The bracelet came off. He gave it to his friend. His friend said aha. Since the thing which you have shown me, since you have cut off your hand then I ask what's an arrow worth? Since I went, and found our fathers who are there in the ground, I didn't know. If the divination hadn't spoken I wouldn't have been mistaken. Now you want to kill me. You want to kill yourself. It was thus.

Despite much enquiry into the subject of divination it is notable that the myth had not been elicited before, and in particular that the myth in no wise addresses the question of why or how the divination spider gains its knowledge. This is presented as a fait accompli in the story. Moreover, there is a clear resonance with the dream which Farnham Rehfisch documented in Warwar in 1953 (Rehfisch, 1969). I quote his account in full. Rehfisch describes the serious illness and subsequent recovery of a woman who

"afterwards ... began to describe her adventures which I shall call a 'dream', though the Mambila would firmly resist my interpretation and would argue that the events recalled were in fact true.
She said that she had died and come back to life. The ancestors had come to her and offered a choice morsel of chicken cooked in palm-oil and highly spiced with red peppers. Who these ancestors were is not certain, other than its being known that they must have been her direct ascendants. Having accepted the food, she died and was taken to the world of the shades. There she found a village very similar to the one she had left. The Mambila believe that the shades live in villages much like those of the living. Farms surround the settlement as is the case here on earth. The sick woman, however, found some differences. The shades owned vast quantities of coloured cloth of European manufacture, a commodity which had only recently become desirable to the Mambila. There were many more chickens to be seen, far more than would be found in a village of the living and they had one odd characteristic, namely that all were white. The houses were all in an excellent state of repair and the settlement looked extremely prosperous. She began to speak to some of the ancestors, who asked her about her life on earth. When she mentioned that she had left two small children behind, one two years old and the other four, they became very angry. They scolded her very severely for abandoning her offspring and they said it was a mistake to let her die. The next thing she knew, she awoke on her bed."

However, Rehfisch also wrote "The Mambila have no origin myths. Much time was spent enquiring into the origin of the tribe, all to no avail. ...Some of my informants said that comparatively recently, perhaps about a hundred years ago, some of the Mambila groups now on the plateau had emigrated from the lowlands in what is today the French Cameroons. The villages from which they came are were located near settlements occupied today by Mambila-speaking peoples." (1972:10). In contemporary Cameroon Mambila say that they come from the highlands, on the Mambila Plateau. The last wave of Mambila arrived on the Tikar Plain in the last half of the C19th (see Zeitlyn n.d.).

Rehfisch's conclusion is that the dream was used to claim supernatural sanction for the wearing of European manufactured cloth, although there is some evidence from early photos 16 that it was being worn before this date.

In his article "A Hundred Years of Change in Kalabari Religion" (1970) Horton argues that it is peripheral, relatively unimportant deities which were the agents of change in Kalabari religion. Horton's argument implies that the use of the Mambila dead to legitimate change as documented by Rehfisch, constitutes an argument for their unimportance.

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