RITUAL AND ENVIRONMENT: THE MOSIT CEREMONY OF THE ETHIOPIAN ME'EN PEOPLE BY JON ABBINK (University of Nijmegen and African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands) Introduction This essay deals with the problem of the relation between ritual behaviour and environmental conditions in an African rural society. Many studies in anthropology/ethnology have been devoted to the inter-relationship of these two spheres, especially by proponents of the 'ecological anthropology'-school, but also by those favouring a more social-structural, symbolic or cognitive approach to ritual life. The present study will try to integrate the 'ideational' and the material-environmental elements, in order to explain how meaning in ritual is constituted in the dialectic between human action and environmental conditions. For this purpose, a text of the mdsit, a central ritual of the Me'en people, a lesser-known group of South-East Surmic (Nilo-Saharan) speakers in Southwestern Ethiopia' will be presented and discussed. It will be analysed as part of the action structure of the ritual as a whole, placed in its cultural context. The Me'en people have only had marginal contacts with (Ethio- pian Orthodox) Christianity (none with organized Islam) and pro- vide an interesting and perhaps amazing example of how a 'tradi- tional' local religion
Journal of Religion in Africa – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1995
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