Handbook of Contemporary Animism

Part IV : Dwelling With(out) Things



Auctor, -trix



Being Alive to a World Without Objects

Tim Ingold



Animate Objects among the Bambara

Tord Olsson



Submitting to Objects ... of Capitalism

Alf Hornborg



The New Fetishism ... Statue-Devotion

Amy Whitehead


Capp. 17-18.



Being Alive to a World Without Objects

Tim Ingold


p. 213 material & forces, form & matter

""Form-giving is movement, action. ... (Klee 1973:269). ... It seeks ... to join with those very forces that bring form into being. ...

Taking their cue from Klee, philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari argue that the essential relation, in a world of life, is ... between materials and forces (Deleuze & Guattari [1987]:377)."

"To create any thing, Aristotle reasoned, ... bring together form (morphe) and matter (hyle) ..., this hylomorphic model ... as imposed, by an agent ... to art history and material culture".

Klee 1973 = Paul Klee (ed. by Jürg Spiller; transl. by Heinz Norden) : Notebooks, Vol. 2 : the Nature of Nature. London : Lund Humphries; New York : G. Wittenborn (DOCUMENTS OF MODERN ART, 17). [originally published 1970 Basel : Schwabe, as Unendliche Naturgeschichte]

Deleuze & Guattari 1987 = Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari (transl. by Brian Massumi) : A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis : Univ of MN Pr, 1987. [reprinted 2004 London : Continuum] [originally published 1980 Paris : :Éditions de minuit, as Mille plateaux]

pp. 222, 224-5 thread-lines & deer




p. 222 "Life, for Deleuze and Guattari [1987], issues along such thread-lines."

Codex Borgianus Mexicanus, p. 33

A-ED, p. 788a

p. 224 "for the spider ... the line of the web ... registers ... vibrations down the threads ... . ...

Tzitzimitl (spider-deity) spinneth its thread for

/GAZZALAH/ 'spider'; /GAZL/ 'spun thread'

[p. 225] The likeness ... that sees the sun is one of a seer".

the sun which

{"ghazala ... meaning 'sun' is rare" -- EAL, p. 660b, s.v. "Rhetorical Figures"}

{p. 148 supra (Yukaghir) : cf. the elk which is

is carried by a white deer.

/GAZAL/ 'gazelle'

erotically attracted (flirted about) by a hunter.}

/GAZAL/ 'flirtation, dalliance'

Codex Borgianus Mexicanus, p. 33 http://www.famsi.org/research/graz/borgia/img_page33.html

A-ED = J. Milton Cowan : Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. 4th edn.

EAL = Julie Scott Meisami & Paul Starkey (edd.) : Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature. 2 voll. London : Routledge, 1998. http://books.google.com/books?id=DbCFBX6b3eEC&pg=PA660&lpg=PA660&dq=



Animate Objects among the Bambara of Mali

Tord Olsson


p. 226 wind-goat as steed for atrophied-footed god

"The big he-goat, who is the residence of the jinn, ... stands still ..., with his head against the wind."

{The Hellenic goat-god is proprely named (OCD, s.v. "Pan", p. 773a) /Paon/, evidently cognate with Skt. /Pavana/, the name of the wind-god.}

"the genius of the village ... is male, ... his feet are atrophied, and for this reason has ... the he-goat as his riding animal."

{This may be a way of expressing being subject to ("GM") "destruction under the feet of Agni", who is the god often depicted riding a divine goat.}

OCD = Hammond & Scullard : The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 2nd edn.

"GM" = "Gāyatrī Mantras". http://srath.com/spirituality/mala-mantra/gayatri-mantras

p. 227 "double gaze" {= Scottish "2nd sight"}

"Ritual agents ... are regarded with a double gaze. Human beings ... can in ritual situations appear ... as instruments for ... ancestors or other-than-human persons. Those men and women who are advanced on the trail of wisdom, who have refined their mind and have a clear vision regarding these matters, are called n~e-fila-tigi-w, "the masters {and mistresses} of the double gaze"."

pp. 227-8 praeternatural entities

p. 227

"not physically living humans, belong to specific circles of persons ...

{committees (or councils) of praeternatural persons, i.e. divinities}

that ... take action ... : ... the jinn {jnun}, who are shape-shifters and during noctural se'ances take possession of the bodies of men and women; the semi-divine heroes of the past whose presence is conjurered up at the hunters' ceremonies in the bush, and the many other-than-human persons, who are linked to fetishes that the hunters hold in veneration ... . ...

Many of my instructors also assert ... that these other-than-human persons ...

p. 228

live their life together with them. For that reason they put confidence in them, respect them ... . This attitude characterizes people's way of being, ... their faculty of forming ideas, and how they convey thoughts and feelings ... . There are also decided ways to meet with persons who are other than ... living persons, and there are well-defined ... contexts and times for such meetings ... which ... demand a special form of discourse and etiquette. Right decorum must be observed. ... They are spoken to; one communicates with them ... . And those other beings ... themselves communicate with people by means of speech ... . ... They have the ability of perception, thinking and knowledge; they have powers of volition, communication and agency."

p. 229 deities' employing of animals' and plants' bodies as if their own

"even some animals, plants ... and natural phenomena, can be understood as persons."

{This occupying of material bodies of animals and of plants by deities is, in every case, only temporary -- soon a deity will depart so as to occupy and different body. (Occupation of any particular instance of "natural" weather-phainomenon will not last longer than the instance of phainomenon itself.)}

p. 230 bamananya

"in everyday speech in Mali, the word bamanan is ... used ... to mean "animist" or "fetishist". ... Since theword bamananya ... refers to a type of religion, the term can be used about "traditional religion" among other ethnic groups ..., especially in contrast to Islam and Christianity."

pp. 231-2 ton-tigi-ya; boli

p. 231

"tontigiya ... is an abstract noun, ... a compound ... . The first element ton refers concretely to the leather bag that its owner, tigi, carries on his travels. Everyone knows that this bag contains one or more fetishes (boli, pl. boliw). A tontigi is thus a person who has fetishes is his bag, and the compound tontigiya is a generic term for the most typical of [viz., traditional] Bambara religion."

p. 232

"The type of artefact the Bambara themselves call "fe'tiche" when they speak French is in the Bambara language called

boli, in the plural boliw.

{likely cognate with Kemetic /bl/ (/b3/) 'soul'; and with /bla/ 'soul' in other West African languages}

This is the most common term, but

also basi (pl. basiw) is used."

{cognate with /BS/, name of Kemetic dwarf-god}

"Certain fetishes, however, are so big and heavy that they are as good as stationary."

{This may the the sort which originally was an abode of the dwarf-deity; for, in some Norse myths, Dwergar (Dwarves) are said to enter, or to become, immobile boulders.}

{Was the historic South American military leader named BOLI`Var chosen (to promote) by Bambara deities in order that his name become widely-known, simply in order to promote the term /BOLIW/ to fame in the world? If so, such deities may have planned that Bambara religion eventually shall become praevalent in South America -- but when?}

pp. 232-3 usefulness of boliw

p. 232

"A great hunter (donsoba) often has dozens or more of fetishes at his disposal. They help him find the game, and also protect him, since in his lethal task he is exposed to

n~ama, the revenging power issuing from the body of the animals he kills.

{evidently cognate with Khoi-san /n/um/ (/N>uM/) 'spiritual power'}

When he sojourns at night in the bush he is also subjected to the machinations of evil jinn ... . For instance, a fetish like

Dibi, "Obscurity", is able to make him invisible in the eyes of jinn ... ."

{cf. /DaBBah/ 'sand-hill' (A-ED, p. 311b) : Valmiki was, for long, hidden out-of-view in a sand-hill (according to the Rama-ayana).}

p. 233

"On the other hand, women have their own fetishes -- for instance N~akonin, "Little Benefit"". "the Bambara ... determined five of the six ritual initiation societies are only for men, but ... most of the mediums of possession rituals are women."

pp. 233-4 addressing speeches and requaests (prayers) to boliw

p. 233

"The relation between the boliw and their owners is very intimate. The objects are treated with care and respect. The owner offers them water in the morning {similar to the Bauddha offering to preta-s of water every morning} ... . The transfer of a fetish to another person is a pronounced act of friendship that creates a bond between giver and receiver. The act of transference to the new owner must be established in a rite of passage, which ... cements the new relation ... . ... During the ritual act the giver addresses the fetish {i.e., by metonymy for the divinity having an interest in that fetish} in order to convince him {or her, as the case may be} to work for his new master {or rather, new agent} from now on. The ritual is cloased by instructions to the new owner, concerning the needs of the fetish {i.e., expectation for attention to the fetish on the part of the divinity interested in it} and the way of dealing with him."

"the boliw-person becomes present inside or in close proximity to his fetish-object during the ritual. In meta-ritual discourses one sometimes says that the fetish-person {divinity interested in the fetish} arrives {from heaven} at his {or her} object, at other times one says that the fetish-person issues from his object. ... .

p. 234

... when requesting the fetish for a concrete matter ... the autonomous person {divinity} of the fetish ... carries the request into effect, provided he is in the right mood."

{Commonly, in Siberia the personal ritual instruments of a shaman are regarded as incapable of being gifted, and likewise as incapable of being inherited. However, this African system of transferring custody of such objects can be practicably useful, especially where a shaman hath acquired (by means of indications suggested in dreams) too many of such objects to have time to tend to them, and other persons who might wish to tend such objects are lacking any such objects (on account of never having dreamt the appropriate dreams).}

pp. 234-5 manifestations of deities in spirit-possession and in dreams

p. 234

"the human body ... is permeable, so that external ... beikngs can enter it and its own psycho-...components can leave it. Such a process is vividly {i.e., while alive} performed at the {spirit-}possession rituals (jine,do,n) when a jinn penetrates into the human body and its {the human body's} inner component constituting the personality (ja) of the individual leaves the {material} body (Olsson 2000:47-54; 2010:140-48)."

"When I tell my dreams ... to [a Bambara priest], he says they are induced by the boliw who come to my house to visit me ... . The boliw make their presence known through my dreams. They are curious about me, and they sometimes ... tease me ... .

{Instead of the more usually-accepted-worldwide statement that during dreaming we mortals are visiting the aeternal deities in their world : for them to visit us could imply that they are visiting inside our material bodies while we are dreaming within our material bodies. If so, this is closely similar to the TL-MRJ doctrine that at night for the material world, souls of the dead repose dreaming within their own material corpses (mummies).}

In this connection he also stated that the fetish-persons (boliw) are able to shift shape {in peculiar dreams?} and reveal themselves [as deities?] {also in certain dreams?} ... . But unlike the jinn {/jnun/; /jinn/ is only singular},

they have their dwelling place in the fetish objects (boliw), in which they ... rest or sleep during the day.

{This doctrine that divinities sleep dreamingly within idols (effigies) of themselves, or (through sigil-imprints) within talismans containing their secret names, is likely to be very a widespread, if a very secret, element of traditional theologies.}

If they are not aroused from their slumber they remain inert. To become activated they need ... cola nuts".

p. 235

"My instructors maintain, however, that human beings (mo,go,w), the jinn {/jnun/} and the fetishes (boliw) are three different categories of sentient beings ... . ... Boliw and jine,w are agents on different ritual field {these two different "fields" being (1) the state of dreaming, and (2) spirit-possession trance} where they meet mo,go,w, human beings (Olsson ... 2007)."

{The differences among them are : mortals can encountre boliw in dreams, and can encountre jine,w through spirit-possession; jine,w can commiunicate with mortals by entring mortals' bodies during spirit-possession; and boliw can communicate with mortals while mortals are visiting divine worlds in dreams.}

Olsson 2000 = Tord Olsson : "De rituella fa:lten i Gwanyebugu". SVENSK RELIGIONSHISTORISK AORSSKRIFT 2000 9:9-63.

Olsson 2010 = Tord Olsson : "En bera:ttelse om ... bambarafolket i Mali". In :- Anne-Christine Hornborg (editrix) : Den rituella ma:nnisken -- flervetenskapliga perspectiv. Linko:ping University Pr. pp. 115-50.

Olsson 2007 = Tord Olsson : "Riter i den heta zonen ... fraom Mali


{While deities are sleeping and dreaming with their aitheric-body countreparts within idols, their astral body may be experiencing the dream in the astral world, or their mental body experiencing the dream in the mental world, or mutatis mutandum (for causal-plane, dreamless-sleep realms, etc.)}

p. 236 deities invoked by name in fetish-litourgia







p. 238 fetish-rite

"At the making of the fetish, [the priest] whispered formulae (kilisiw) over one black, on white and one red thread of cotton, twined them together and spat gently on them before putting them inside the horn, so that the power of the words should be transferred with his breath and saliva to ... the fetish. We sealed the horn with beeswax and pressed down a cowry on it. The substance of the elements in the fetish-object is activated and the object is ... converted ... at the consecration ...; only the outward appearance ... still remains. In other words, it is a transubstantiation ... . At the same time, ... the substances empowered by the consecration of the boli-object attract an other-than-human person {i.e., a divine animal}, Kungo Dono, who makes his presence ... in the object ("your thing" in the text) ... . ... The name Kungo Dono,

bush rooster,

{Feral chickens are known as "jungle fowl" in Indo-China.}

shows that the boli belongs to the bush (kungo) and hence to the domain of the hunters."

p. 239 invitation to divinity to come to new fetish

"this is announced ... "Kungo Dono, you who have {thou who hast} never been seen", ... not before "received your sacrifice, that gift of yours", and for the fetish's {divinity's} guidance this is specified as the red cola nut ... . ... Furthermore, the new fetish needs to be informed of recent circumstances, such as ... my participation in the Ko,mo, rituals ... . In fact, an essential part of the ritual ... is an invitation of a fetish {i.e., of that fetish's particular divinity} into the circle of older and more knowledgeable {divinities of} fetishes."

p. 239 paralysis is inflicted by divinities on account of seeming disrespect for them; need for mortals to be instructed concerning how to shew respect to divinities

"One common type of narrative tells that someone has maltreated, neglected, or tried to sell his fetish, whereupon it {i.e., its divinity} seizes the owner and paralyses him."

"When entering a room ... used for boli rituals one takes off one's sandals as a sign respect. ... The hunters and fetish masters ... have been instructing me at their shrines; they have taught me the names of their fetishes, their individual characters and fields of action, how to invoke them and treat them with proper sacrifice, and how to interpret their will."

pp. 240-2 sacred masks of the secret-society

p. 240

"certain information about the Ko,mo, has has been reported by early anthropologists ... (Olsson 2006b:271-2, with reference to Dieterlin & Cisse' 1972; Kante' & Erny 1993:228-49). ... When Ko,mo, ceremonies are performed, the paths to the ritual ground are guarded by watchmen, who prevent unqualified persons ... . ... the women were the original owners of the Ko,mo, fetishes. But it happened that their fetishes were dropped into a deep well so that the women were unable to reach them. The men, however, tied their waist-belts together (women do not wear belts), and used them to descend into the well and succeeded in fetching the fetishes. Since then they belonged to the men alone ... . ...

Many ... have witnessed ... sacrifices of dogs ...,

and the ritual consumption of their meat. ...

{also customary among Aztecs, Chinese, etc.}

In the metaphorical parlance used in the Ko,mo, society, wisdom and knowledge are ... said to be a "well" (ko,lo,n), while the wooden posts around the mouth of the well that keep sand from sliding down it are compared to sages, the guardians of traditions ... . ...

p. 241

And then ... observe the peculiar sign in greeting the Ko,mo, maters ... : to reach out the forefinger and little finger of you left hand, with middle finger and ring finger bent onto the palm and with the thumb over them. This forms an iconic sign of an animal head, ... [that of] the hyena, suruku ... . ... This desirable knowledge is itself called ko,mo,, and this knowledge ... is considered to exist on its own in the form of a substance (fe,n) ... above (sanfe,) common human bodies and minds, but it may enter the body at the secret rituals. ... The acquisition of this knowledge is shown as descending from above (sanfe,), down to the initiated. For this reason the Ko,mo,-suruku mask is worn on the [crown of the] head, as a head-crest ... . ... The imposing mask is ... four metres high {tall}. ... it is made of a cylindrical wooden frame covered with cloth and feathers. The man inside the mask {i.e., the cylindre} is entirely hidden. He speaks in a half singing register through a gele , an iron mirliton (a tube containing a membrane which vibrates when sung through). ... The voice from inside

p. 242

the mask, thus strongly distorted, ... create ... a Verfremdungseffekt (distancing effect). ... The priest paraphrases and interprets in a loud voice, to the participants of the ritual, what the mask says in a half singing manner."

Olsson 2006b = Tord Olsson : "Experiences of Orature in Sahelian West Africa". In : Literary History : Towards a Global Perspective, Vol. 1 = Gunilla Lindberg-Wada & Anders Pettersson (edd.) : Notions of Literature Across Times and Cultures. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 245-90.

Dieterlin & Cisse' 1972 = Germaine Dieterlen & Yousouf Cissé : Les fondements de la socie'te' d'initiation du Komo. Paris : Mouton.

Kante' & Erny 1993 = Nambala Kanté & Pierre Erny : Forgerons d'Afrique noire ... en pays malinke'. Paris : E`ditions L'Harmattan.

p. 242 transsubstantiation as fusion of the worlds

"during the ritual it is not mentioned that a man hides inside the mask. ...

The mask itself is perceived as the ritual agent ... in ... a ritual fusion.

{This grandiloquent way of describing the mask is able to impart more dignity to the caerimony : so as to impart piety to mortal participants, and aisthetic satisfaction to any actual deities who may be invisibly praesent as observers.}

Even in our meta-ritual discourses this fusion sometimes shows itself, ... as a tendency to disguise their different identities. Sometimes I sensed a certain disinclination to discuss the matter in such terms, and ...

the unwillingness to acknowledge a human person as an agent inside the ritual mask."

{This could be due to the expectation that actual deities may be invisibly watching the pageant, and would praefer, for their own entertainment's sake, for any comment about the performance to be phrased in terms of acts of deities being personified, rather than in terms of acts by mere mortal actors.}


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.