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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A river of metaphors: interpreting the Xhosa diviner's myth
Author:Hirst, MantonISNI
Periodical:African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
myths (form)
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/00020189708707876
Abstract:The oral narrative or myth concerning a candidate diviner's calling to the river is a familiar tale found among some Zulu and Xhosa-speaking diviners. In this article a Xhosa version of the myth, narrated by a Mfengu diviner ('igqirha lokuvumisa'), is presented and analysed. The myth records what is believed to have happened to the first diviner in the distant past. The narration of the myth is the prerogative of a fully fledged diviner, and constitutes the final part of the diviner's instruction to the novice or candidate diviner, concluding the candidate's initiation and training. It articulates the ontological charter of the diviner institution as a long established form of conduct. The myth can only be properly understood against the background of the social practices which constitute the candidate as a diviner and of which it is part. Indeed the myth is continually recreated by diviners in and through their activities. In order to show how culture and practice are thus intertwined, the author begins by summarizing the process through which one particular diviner and narrator - N.S. Tyota (1925-1995), who lived in Tantyi in the townships of Grahamstown, South Africa - received and answered his calling. The experience of becoming a diviner as well as certain aspects of the practice of divination are thereby revealed. App. (Xhosa version of the river narrative), bibliogr., notes, ref.