03 octobre 2021

The Marabout.

The Marabout.

To the Badyaranké, marabout refers to anyone slightly conversant with the Koran and who has learned to write some Arabic. Such individuals are common in the western sudan and their role as religious leader, diviner and curer has been most recently described by Mon-

teil in his L1 Islam Noir. The marabouts are believed to possess magical powers derived from the Koran, and to know a wide range of techniques and medicines, that can be sold. One consults a marabout to learn who might be threatening by witchcraft or sorcery, to learn one's future, or for prescriptions to remedy any conceivable problem. The prescriptions fall into three major classes that I shall translate as marabout prescription (sada), written or Koranic amulets (kahiti) and Koranic water (nassi).

When the marabout's prescription involves a sacrifice it may resemble the pagan asking shrine. Indeed the Badyaranké often use the term for asking shrine (koasé) to refer to any rite where a libation or oblation is made, or an animal destroyed. The categories, asking shrine and marabout prescription, are often confused and here I shall attempt to extricate their meanings.

Firstly, an asking shrine exists in nature and can be discovered, whereas a marabout prescription must be (or thought to be) recommended by a marabout. The places of sacrifice described in Section 4 were not asking shrines, but rather locations where génies live. The marabout who found these locations then prescribed the sacrifices to be performed there. A marabout prescription may be anything from a blood sacrifice, to a redistribution of kola nuts, a libation of water on the lintel of one's house, or simply the wearing of a copper bracelet. At the asking shrine the victim may be killed and eaten by a pagan. If a marabout prescribes a blood sacrifice, the killing must be done by a Moslem. One pagan informant told me that : « The marabout prescription is to salute God. It is to send a message to heaven as in assuring good passage for someone who is dead. An asking shrine is a thing of the ground. » The element of conditional contract, usually present in asking shrine sacrifice, is completely absent in the sacrifices prescribed by the marabout.

The marabout prescriptions described above in Section 7 are all collective village rites. It remains here to describe some individual prescriptions, geared to more personal situations. Whenever the young men of Tonghia leave for wage labor to the north of Senegal, they consult individually with various marabouts for advice on what to do for a safe voyage. Some young men trailed cotton behind them as they left the village, others placed little piles of kola nuts or cotton thread where two paths converge. Before the young men of the chief's compound returned, the women prepared a little bowl of milk and sugar for the infants, to ensure the safe return of their husbands and brothers. One man wears a copper bracelet prescribed for him by a Man- ding marabout to protect his body from witches. Another wears a sil-

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