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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Initiation into the Ugao; Rethinking the Structure of Tharaka Symbolism
Author:Giarelli, Guido
Year:1997
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Volume:67
Issue:2
Pages:175-199
Language:English
Geographic term:Kenya
Subjects:healers
Tharaka
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1161441
Abstract:This article deals with the author's initiation in the 'territory' of 'ugao', the art of healing of the Tharaka of Meru District, Eastern Province of Kenya. Material was collected over a period from 1984 to 1993, twenty-nine months of which were spent directly in the field. After analysing the myth of origin of 'ugao', the author describes his initiation by three 'agao' (healers) during a period of seventeen days, paying attention to the different kinds of teachings and ritual performances and the conclusion of the initiation with a practical apprenticeship. In particular, he gives an account of the 'giciaro', the blood brotherhood sealed by the 'muma', the oath made with goat's blood between the master and the novice, and the ritual handing over of the horns, the instruments of the 'mugao's' healing art. The author analyses the key symbols of the 'ugao' therapeutic rituals in order to show the specific structure that defines the healing pattern. He questions the validity of 'dual classification' and discusses the shortcomings of the analysis of Meru symbolism proposed by R. Needham. Instead, he argues that a triadic classification would be more suitable for the analysis of Tharaka symbolism. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.
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