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 IV
CLANSHIP: THE NAMOOS

The Dispersion of Mosuor biis

FOR the Namoos of Tongo i history begins with Mosuor. Of his Mampuru forbears nothing is known. When a Namoo piously invokes the names of Toohug and Gbamwaa, the mythical founders of the Mampuru State, these are to him mystical words. Dominated in his moral and mystical thought by the ancestor cult, he is ready to infer that they were probably remote ancestors of the Mampuru stock; but no one in Taleland knows the myths which the Mamprusi relate about them. There is at the present time constant intercourse between the Tallensi and the Mamprusi, especially between the Tale chiefs and the court of the Paramount Chief of Mampurugu (Mampurugna'ab); but the myth of Toohug and Gbamwaa has not diffused to the Tallensi, for it has no relevance to their internal social structure, and the names alone suffice to symbolize the bond of common stock with the Mamprusi.

Mosuor died at Tongo. His grave indicates where his homestead stood, a stone's throw from the sacred dancing-ground, Giηgaaη Puhug, which was the site of Tendaan Genat's homestead. After Mosuor's death, it is related, his eldest son, Naηkamuη, wished to assume the chiefship at once; but a younger son, Seyahag, insisted that his father's death should be ceremonially reported to the Mampurugna'ab, the fountain-head of their chiefship (na'am). He went secretly to do so, and was invested with his father's chiefship by the Chief of the Mamprusi in return for a payment of 100 cattle. Naηkamuη, resenting his younger brother's guile in robbing him of his patrimony, thereupon seceded and settled at Yamalag beside the people of

and their tendaana. This place, it is related, came to be called so because Naηkamuη declared that he would go and settle just nearby (yama yama), where he could keep in touch with his kinsfolk at Tongo.

Sie, which the Namoos say means beside (sie, side) Yamalag, was founded by another 'son' of Mosuor, Kuηkye. Sie people claim to have been the first settlers in the area. On the other hand, with characteristic emphasis on their own priority, Sawalag people assert that Kuηkye was received by their ancestor the Sawalag tendaana, who had 'sprouted from the earth'. The tendaana allowed him to settle there beside (sie) himself, after having presented him ritually to the Earth shrines. This myth is a replica of that told by the Gbizug people, and symbolizes a structural and ideological relationship of the same order as that which exists between Gbizug and Tongo.

Yet another 'son' of Mosuor—the exact genealogy is obscure, since bii, child, can be used to refer to any descendant—migrated to Biuk, where his descendants adopted the speech and customs of the

____________________
i
The correct vernacular form is but we shall keep the more familiar English form throughout this book.

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