The Dynamics of Clanship among the Tallensi, Being the First Part of An Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe

By Meyer Fortes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
TOTEMISM AMONG THE TALIS AND
OTHER NON-NAMOOS

The Unity of all the Talis

IT is commonly said, everywhere in Taleland, that the Talis are 'all one' (bonyεni). The Talis themselves, in spite of their elaborate differentiation by clanship ties, always picture themselves as a cohesive group. As might be expected, the implications of this idea vary considerably as between the Talis adjacent to Tongo and the Hill folk. For any of the latter, with the exception of Yinduur and Sii, it meant in the old days, among other things, mutual assistance in war against the Namoos. Yinduur and Sii, however, never fought against Tongo, and sometimes took the side of Tongo on account of their ties with it through the chiefship held by the clan head of Sii. Yet nobody would be more indignant than a Sii man if it were seriously suggested that this indicated closer bonds between his clan and the Tongo Namoos than between his clan and the other Talis; for in a fight between the Talis and any settlement other than Tongo, Sii and Yinduuri would rally unhesitatingly to the side of their 'kin', the Talis. The people of Zubiuη, again, invariably took the side of Tongo in war, whereas the people of Ba'ari generally ranged themselves with the Hill clans. Gbizug, bound by equally strong politico‐ ritual ties to the other Talis and to Tongo, was ritually prohibited from taking part in war between them at all. In keeping with its function of maintaining the political balance between the Namoos and the Talis, it was the traditional peace-maker. But Gbeog fought with its Talis kin and might even attack Zubiuη. Thus by the crucial test of warfare the Talis do not form a single, permanently cohesive group. But at the same time, clans that stood outside the Hill Talis cluster, or opposed them in warfare, never infringed their specific ties of clanship by doing this. Zubiuη, for instance, would fight against the Hill Talis in a general war, but not against Ba'ari, with which it has clanship ties. For the same reason Sii, coming to the aid of Tongo, would attack Gorogo or Gbeog but not a Tenzugu clan.

These divergent loyalties in war are indices of divergent social and political ties springing from the internal structural differentiation and local relationships of the Talis. They are an aspect of the interlocking of Talis and non-Talis in the social system. They do not invalidate the claim of the Talis to be a cohesive group. Their unity is based on the network of structural ties binding them to one another. It is symbolized, in native thought, by a number of ritual observances that are closely correlated with their social ties and cleavages; and its most significant expression is the cycle of the Great Festivals.


Funeral Customs as Criteria of Social Alinement among Talis Clans

For a Namoo, the social definition of the Talis is primarily 'those who

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