Applies new religious and ecological theory to African traditional religion Detailed, vivid description of a lived religion based on the author’s firsthand experience Walter E. A. van Beek draws on over four decades of extensive fieldwork to offer an in-depth study of the religion of the Kapsiki/Higi, who live in the Mandara Mountains on the border between North Cameroon and Northeast Nigeria. Concentrating on ritual as the core of traditional religion, van Beek shows how Kapsiki/Higi practices have endured through the long and turbulent history of the region.
Kapsiki rituals reveal a focus on two fundamental concepts: dwelling and belonging. Van Beek examines their sacrificial practices, through which the Kapsiki show a complex and pervasive connection with the Mandara Mountains, as well as the character of their relationships among themselves and with outsiders. Van Beek also explores their rituals of belonging, rites of passage which take place from birth through initiation and marriage – and even death, with the tradition of the ”dancing dead,” when a fully decorated corpse on the shoulders of a smith ”dances” with his mourning kinsmen.
The Dancing Dead is the result of the author’s lifelong study of the Kapsiki/Higi. It gives a unique description of the rituals in an African traditional religion based not upon ancestors, but on a completely relational thought system, where in the end all rituals are integrated into one major cycle.
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