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The Dancing DeadRitual and Religion among the Kapsiki/Higi of North Cameroon and Northeastern Nigeria$
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Walter E. A. van Beek

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199858149

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199858149.001.0001

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The Brass Boys

The Brass Boys


(p.207) 10 The Brass Boys
The Dancing Dead

Walter E. A. van Beek

Oxford University Press

The Kapsiki/Higi have a yearly boys’ initiation that forms a major focus of interest, since villages are proud of their initiates. The ritual proceedings are complicated, centering around a seclusion period, which gives a clear ritual definition of the boy’s new adult status. The symbolism is replete with references to war and to exploits in the bush. The coming-out rituals after seclusion focus on the collective identity of the boys as age-mates and on their association with the brides. Boys’ initiation rites vary between villages, as variations on a number of themes. From different subgroups within the Kapsiki/Higi conglomerate, three of these variations are given, which serve as a means for identity construction for the villages. The structure of initiation follows the classic tripartite format of rites of passage, but in a double way, both in the individual rites within initiation, and in the ritual complex as a whole. Characteristic is the close connection between human and agricultural fertility in this surprisingly gentle initiation.

Keywords:   initiation, seclusion, symbols, ritual variation, identity, fertility

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