St.ambeli, 3


3. (pp. 68-91) "Black Spirits, White Saints : Geographies of Encountre in the St.ambeli Pantheon".

pp. 68-9 music

p. 68

"Each member of the st.ambeli pantheon has its own nuba (pl. nuwab, sometimes nubet), or tune. [p. 209, n. 3:1 : /Nuba/ may be translated as "hierophony".]

{/nub/ ‘to utter words’ (Strong’s 5107); /no^bah/ ‘howling’ (Easton’s). No^bah renamed after himself (B-Midbar 32:42) the town Qnat (‘Possession’ [cf. spirit-possession?], Strong’s 7079).} {Nob was the "ancestral" home of prophets (FJ4, p. 173, fn. 957).}

p. 69

"It is only through music that these unseen beings arrive".

Strong = Hebrew & Aramaic Dictionary of Bible Words.

Easton = Bible Dictionary. 1897.

FJ4 = Christopher T. Begg : Flavius Josephus. Vol. 4 = "Judean Antiquities" 5-7. >Leiden : Brill, 2001.

pp. 71-2 families of spirits in Mali and in Niger

p. 71

"Among the Songhay of Mali and Niger ..., each spirit family represents a particular period in Songhay history.

The Tooru are ancestors and founders of the Songhay kingdom ... . ...

The Hausa spirits arrived ... starting in 1911, while

the Hauka first appeared in 1925 ... (Stoller ... 1989:30).


Most recently, the Sasale spirits, representing "social deviants" such as prostitutes, appeared in the 1960s ... (Stoller 1989:175)."

{Sasale is a village in the region of Tillabe’ri, Niger.} {"The Sasale were in fact the ghosts of famous singers, prostitutes, playboys, who had died some years before and come back. ... . ... all the dances, all the songs, are about sex : "Look at my clitoris," "Oh, your testicles are wonderful," and so on." (Stoller 2003, p. 194)}

p. 72

"In the Kurfey region of Niger, bori spirit families include ... Asna (spirits of the indigenous animist religion of the region) ... .

In nearby Ader, Sorcery spirits first appeared ... in 1967 and did not stop multiplying until 1973".

Stoller 1989 = Paul Stoller : Fusion of the Worlds. U of Chicago Pr.

Stoller 2003 = Jean Rouch with John Marshall & John W. Adams : "Les maîtres fous, The Lion Hunters, and Jaguar". In :- Jean Rouch (Transl. by Steven Feld) : Cine’-Ethnography. VISIBLE EVIDENCE, Vol. 13. U of MN Pr, Minneapolis.

p. 78 Jerma spirits

"Among the Songhay, Bilal is the head of the Jerma spirits, who ... bring or withhold rain, wind, thunder, and lightning".

p. 84 st.ambeli-spirits contrasted with jnun

"While Muslims often utter the word "bismillah" (in the name of God) to protect themselves from the jinn in transitional situations (such as upon entering a room or lighting a fire or incense, st.ambeli clients are carefully instructed not to say "bismillah" before lighting their incense because the spirits might be offended ... . St.ambeli canot heal those afflicted by the jinn, and its practitioners readily acknowledge the existence of spirits such as the jinn that are beyond their ritual reach." [p. 210, n. 3:13 : "possession by the jinn is not treatable by st.ambeli. Exorcism of jinn may be sought from traditional healers such as <azzama (magicians or sorcerers)".]

p. 84 nuances of synonyms for ‘st.ambeli-spirits’

"The st.ambeli spirits are referred to in a variety of terms. At Dar Barnu, the collective terms in use are

(1) in-nas il-ukhrin, or "the other people";

(2) (sing. s.alih.), or "the Holy Ones"; and

(3) il-kh.ul (sing., or "the Black.""

"The first term, in-nas il-ukhrin, is the most general of the three and indicates that the spirits are humanlike actors. ... They are gendered, have spouses and offspring and are organized into families.

The second term,, is slightly more specific, and defines the spirits as distinct from both the from both the jnun and the awliya>. ...

The third term, il-kh.ul, is more specific still. It marks the spirits as "Black," in contradistinction to the "White" saints."

pp. 84-5 categories of st.ambeli-spirits

p. 84

"The main categories of st.ambeli spirits in the Dar Barnu tradition are

Banu Kuri (Kuri’s Children or Kuri’s tribe),

Bah.riyya (Water spirits), and

Beyat (Royalty).


[p. 84] There are two other groups, the Brawna ("from Bornu’) and

the Sghar (Children),

pp. 84-5

which are composed of spirits that are often sub- [p. 85] sumed under the Banu Kuri and

the Beyet, respectively."

p. 85

"The "blackness" of the Banu Kuri is emphasized in ritual, and they are understood to be Christian".

pp. 85, 87-90 differing assignments of spirits to silsilah (‘lineage’ of spirits)

p. 85

"Ummi Yenna is often described as a member of the Bah.riyya, but ... her nuba with those of her husband Kuri’s family in the Banu Kuri, while others situate her along with her daughters in the Beyet."

p. 87

"Ya Arnawet, a rarely performed nuba, is situated in ... a subgroup of spirits called the Arnawet (lit. "those of Arni," Arni being a spirit originally from the bori pantheon) ... singled out Kuri, Migzu, Jamarkay, Baba Magojay, Nikiri, Sayyed, and Salama as "also" Arnawet." [p. 211, n. 18 : "Cf. Rahal (2000), who lists the Arnawet as a distinct spirit family including Arni, Baba Kuri, Ummi Yenna, Dan Droso, May Ska, Karare Ye, May Kiri, May Lima, and Yakuba"]

p. 88

"Less frequently appearing nubas, including Kumar Karkaji, Wada, Yarga Yarga, Danilya, and Jigu, are often classified as Banu Kuri ... .


The Brawna spirits, whose nubas may be performed as a separate silsila or incorporated into the Banu Kuri silsila, include Gindima, Yakba, Jato, Ubana, Guwaray, Megru, Tatani (tatani is Kanuri for "my child"), Baybay, and Siwa."

p. 89

"in 1914, May Nasra was one of the "Little Spots," so classified due to his penchant for causing smallpox, sore eyes, and rashes. He was also characterized by holding a large spear.

Today, May Nasra wears a tarboosh, carries a luh.a (schoolchild’s chalkboard), and complains of problems in school."

p. 90

"May Nasra and

Gidima may be classified with the Beyet,


but their location within the Sghar and

Brawna families, respectively, are more often emphasized."

Rahal 2000 = Ahmed Rahal : La Communaute’ Noire de Tunis : ... rite de possession. Paris : L’Harmattan.

pp. 86-8 the Banu Kuri

p. 86

"The Banu Kuri family membership ... reveals ... Hausa bori traditions ... .

The Banu Kuri spirits are all Christians (masih.iyyin) and must be invoked after sunset, ideally after midnight. ... something black (usually


mlukhiyya, a dish characterized by its dark-colored sauce made from powdered jute)

{/muluh^iya/ ‘Jew’s mallow (Corchorus olitorious); dark-green sauce made of this herb’ = Nalta jute, Tussa jute}


must be eaten, and the dancer must wear a hooded black cloak (kashabiyya)."

"The silsila typically "opens" with the nuba for Mashi {this name /Mas`i/ being cognate with Old Persian */Mas`ya-/ (attested as /Masya-/ in the Zend-Awesta), the plant-deity couple} (also called Istiftah. il-Kh.ul, lit. "opening of the Blacks")

before invoking Sarkin Kufa, ... unpopular today {because Kufic calligraphic style is no longer in vogue?} ..., although st.ambeli musicians are obliged to play

p. 87

his nuba, ... not ... a single instance of anyone possessed by Sarkin Kufa ... .

Dundurusu (Hausa : "hammer") and H.addad (Arabic : "blacksmith"), both identified as blacksmiths, come next,

followed by Garuji, originally a Hausa bori .. spirit (Tremearne 1914:360).

The following spirits, namely, Dakaki, Kuri, MIgzu, Jamarkay, and Baba Magojay, are the definitive spirits of the Banu Kuri. ... As is true of other spirit families, when an adept of the Banu Kuri group dances, she dances to and is possessed by several spirits in succession. The host wears a black kashabiyya when she or he is possessed by any of the five spirits, beginning with Dakaki, "the crawler" (a.k.a. Mai-Ja-Chikki, "drawer along the stomach," in the bori context), who dances by squirming in a prone position on the ground, gradually advancing toward the gumbri.

Once he reaches the gumbri, it is Kuri’s turn to enter.


Kuri (Hausa : "hyena")

{Maori /KURI/ and Mun.d.a /kukKURI/ both mean ‘hound’.}


is known as a spirit that enjoys drinking wine. In the past, his hosts would often take swigs of wine while possessed. ... those afflicted by Kuri would ... make wine part of their sacrifice to him ... at a four-way crossroads ... . In the Songhay context, Kuri is a Hausa spirit, and the four-way crossroads represents the intersection of the social {mortal, not "social"} and spirit worlds (Stoller 1989). {The intersection of the worlds would be along a vertical axis through the crossroad, making for a 6-way intersection.} Kuri begins his dance on his knees, reaching up into the air with each hand, alternately, as if climbing. {A huaina cannot climb -- is, perhaps, some climbing animal, such as a sloth, indicated instead?} After this strenuous episode, he will fall back and request his wooden pestle ... .

Next comes Migzu, a brother of Kuri, who dances in a manner similar to Kuri’s but ... with a walking stick rather than a pestle.

Following these (without stopping, but with an abrupt change in rhythm) are Kuri’s brother Jamarkay (Jam Maraki, "the white maraki tree, in Hausa) and Baba Magojay (or Ba Maguje in Hausa-land)."

"ended the Banu Kuri silsila with Ummi Yenna (a.k.a.

p. 88

Mai-Inna or Doguwa in Hausaland) and her sisters. Ummi Yenna is Kuri’s wife, and


her host sits on the ground, covered by a white cloth. ... When the music stops, the host usually emerges from this speaking as

{Likewise in Vietnamese spirit-mediumship, the host is covered with a cloth until becoming spirit-possessed.}


Ummi Yenna, divining the futures of those present.

When the consultations are completed, the silsila begins again, this time with Ummi Yenna’s sisters Mama Zahra and Adama.

Other spirits in this silsila include Nikiri (Kuri’s brother, ... with a club with a hooked end), Salama, and Sayyed. The latter spirit is the youngest of the family and often appears at the end of the ceremony to begin the silsila for the Sghar spirits."

Tremearne 1914 = Arthur John Newman Tremearne : The Ban of the Bori. London : Heath, Cranton & Ouseley.

{comments on mluh^iyya / muluh^iya}

{[mluh^iyyah jute] Jute can be made into clothing, hence /malah./ ‘old garment’ (Strong’s 4418) : this word from */MLH^/ is distinct from /MLH./ ‘salt’ (Strong’s 4414-7, 4419-20). The word for ‘Jew’s mallow’ is mistranslated ‘salt’ in Euangelion according to Matthaios 5:13; however, this mistranslation may be deliberate, based on a tale (b. Bek. 8b) of a she-mule’s giving birth to a mule-foal only when salt loseth its savor (C&ECGM, p. 474, fn. 7). [The punning-reason for a "mule" in this context is that salt is obtained by evaporation of sea-water, and the word for ‘sea’ (/YaM/) is similar to that for ‘mule’ (/YeM/).] Jew’s mallow literally lost its savor when it was forbidden from culinary use for commoners, in the reign of the founder of the Duruz (Druze) religion; much as lettuce (a favorite of rabbits) is forbidden among other >isma>ili.

The prophets’ guild at No^bah, disbanded by king S^a>ul, may have taught something akin to resurrection, judging from the facts that (1) mluh^iyyah is used to flavour rabbit-meat ("JMS"), and (2) Glaukos (‘green’ [cf. the color of muluh^iya-sauce]) "once observed the restorative property of a certain grass {muluh^iya?}, sown by [Kronos] in the Golden Age, when a dead ... (... hare) was laid upon it and came to life again." (GM 90.j)}

C&ECGM = William David Davies & Dale C. Allison : A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Volume 1. 1988.

"JMS" = "Jew’s Mallow Soup (Shorbat Maloukhiya)" [concerning the coming from Tunis]

GM = Robert Graves ; The Greek Myths. 1955.

pp. 88-9 Bah.riyya

p. 88

"The Bah.riyya are spirits that reside in and around water. ... Bah.riyya often afflict those whose work involves water, such as fishermen, Turkish bath attendants, and maids. When involved in ritualized possession, a Bah.riyya spirit can be coaxed out of its host only by the <arifa sprinkling water on the neck and head of the host.

The Bah.riyya are led by Mulay Brahim (Lord Ibrahim), who is also known as Dodo Ibrahim, dodo referring, in the Hausa language, to evil spirits in general ... . At Dar Barnu he is known as Sarkin Ka<ba (sometimes Sarkin Ka<bi). He, along with several other Bah.riyya spirits, dances in a swimming motion.

His nuba follows that of Jawayay ...,

and, if played, the nuba of Badam Khiyaru, which serves as an opening of the silsila.

Mulay Brahim is usually followed by Bah.riyya (the name of a spirit as well as the family), Bakaba, and Sarkin Gari ... .

This group also includes May Saderwa (Mulay Brahim’s mother), Sidi <Ali Diwan (also described as a hunter), Lilla Malka, Derna, and Badaydu."

p. 89

"Carelessness with water (e.g., disposing of hot water by pouring it on the ground or down the drain without uttering "bismillah") is one of the most common ways of inviting affliction by spirits."

pp. 89-90 the Beyet "(the Beys, or rulers of Ottoman Tunisia)"

p. 89

"Beyet ... names are often easily traceable to the bori pantheon".

"The Beyet silsila begins with Ma<llem Sofu, followed by Lawra, Baba

p. 90

Nduzu, May Gajiya, May Ftila, and Jiji. Most wear a red tarboosh ... .

Ya Rima (also known as YaRimshi or Sidi Rima; a.k.a. Dan Galadima in Hausaland) presides over the assembly seated in a chair; he wears luxurious robes and smokes a cigarette from along holder.

His sister May Gajiya sits cross-legged under a yellow sunjuq, crying out and stabbing herself with wooden daggers.

Irziqi, Kulayta, Badawri, and Matango are spirits in this silsila that appear less frequently."

p. 90 the SGar

"The final two nubas of the Dar Barnu st.ambeli are those of Miryamu and Nana <Aysha, two of Ummi Yenna’s daughters who are also understood as the first spirits of the Sghar.

Nana <Aysha is associated with treating women’s sterility, while

Miryamu helps women find suitable husbands. ...

<Arabiyya and Mama Zahra are also part of this silsila, and

Sayyed, Siwa, and May Nasra, as the youngest of their families, are also considered Sghar spirits.

Just before the nuba of Miryamu, a large decorated bowl of sweets is brought in front of the gumbri and covered with a cloth. Miryamu and <Aysha descend into their host’s body in order to bless the sweets, which are distributed to all attendees by members of the group".


Richard C. Jankowsky : Stambeli : Music, Trance, and Alterity in Tunisia. U of Chicago Pr, 2010.