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Contents: 1) proverbs as statements of belief, 2) animals in neo-animist studies 3) proverbs about animals’ identity (Arvo Krikmann 1999) 4) Human-animal.

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Presentation on theme: "Contents: 1) proverbs as statements of belief, 2) animals in neo-animist studies 3) proverbs about animals’ identity (Arvo Krikmann 1999) 4) Human-animal."— Presentation transcript:


2 Contents: 1) proverbs as statements of belief, 2) animals in neo-animist studies 3) proverbs about animals’ identity (Arvo Krikmann 1999) 4) Human-animal transformations: cases fromNorth Eastern India 5) Conclusion

3 Arvo Krikmann: “Proverb is a generalized sentence, within the means of Estonian language a generalised statement (Haukuja koer ei hammusta) or a generalised imperative (Ära vanasse kaevu sülita, kui uut ei ole)“ (1997: 52) Wolfgang Mieder: “Proverbs are concise traditional statements of apparent truths with currency among the folk. More elaborately stated, proverbs are short, generally known sentences of the folk that contain wisdom, truths, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed, and memorizable form and that are handed down from generation to generation“ (2004: 4).

4 Why animals matter? “Proverbs on Animal Identity: Typological Memoires” In: Proverb Semantics: Studies in Structure, Logic and Metaphor”. Edited by Wolfgang Mieder. The University of Vermont: Burlington, Vermont, 2009. 207-246. = “Vanasõnad loomade identiteedist (Tüpoloogilisi memuaare)”. - Mäetagused 19, 1999.

5 Edward B. Tylor (1832 – 1917) Religion – “belief in spiritual beings“ (1871) Its archetypal form – soul, spirit of individual Animism – assumption that all objects have a non- material, spiritual element

6 Graham Harvey

7 Stewart Guthrie Animism – perceptual strategy of personification Religion – systematic anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman things or events Continuity of humans and animals

8 Philippe Descola: Animism – an ontology that endows humans and non-humans with identical interiorities and different physicalities Distinctive features of animism: 1)the subjectivity, which is attributed to plants, animals, and other elements of physical environment; 2)person to person relations that are maintained with these entities (Descola 2011: 18-19). [a classic features of] “most animic ontologies is the capacity of metamorphosis attributed to beings who have a similar interiority: a human can take the shape of an animal; an animal can adopt the appearance of another animal; a plant or an animal can discard its bodily clothing to unveil its soul objectified in a human body” (ibid. 20).

9 Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: Animism - an ontology which postulates the social character of relations between humans and non-humans (1998: 473) Perspectivism –“Typically, in normal conditions, humans see humans as humans, animals as animals and spirits (if they see them) as spirits; however, animals (predators) and spirits see humans as animals (as prey) to the same extent that animals (as prey) see humans as spirits or as animals (predators). By the same token, animals and spirits see themselves as humans: they perceive themselves as (or become) anthropomorphic beings [---]. In sum: animals are people, or see themselves as persons. Such a notion is virtually always associated with the idea that the manifest form of each species is a mere envelope (a ‘clothing’) which conceals an internal human form…” (“Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism” 1998: 470-471)

10 Arvo Krikmann: “the semantic field of animals must be the most productive one in proverbial metaphors” (1999) A. Proverbs concerning animal identity B. Proverbs concerning the relationship between people and animals (usually in metaphorical meaning) C. Proverbs concerning the relationships between (metaphorical, as a rule) animals D. Proverbs concerning the relations of animals towards non- zoological nature and dimensions


12 Mrs Kre Lyngdoh (30.01.2012) Raid Khatar Nonglyngdoh, Ri-Bhoi district, Meghalaya



15 ● ● Mayong

16 “This is a story I have heard. When a human has to transform into a tiger, they first do jara-puka with water. Then the human transforms into a tiger by saying a mantra. Before turning into a tiger the man says [to his companion]: “When I become a tiger, I obviously become greedy when I see animals and humans because of the violent nature of a tiger. If you see that I get violent and I feel that I should attack someone, you sprinkle some water on me, then I’ll turn into a human again. If you are not able to sprinkle water on me, if you are scared…”, then he remains a tiger and goes to the jungle. To identify him as a human tiger (manu-bhag), some bejes used to wear rings on fingers. Then the were-tiger can be identified through the ring on the finger”. Phandidhar Nath (31. 01. 2012 )

17 Weretigers in the folklore of Mayong: Human-animal transformations: - instructions: man to tiger - instructions: tiger to man - weretigers in action - weretiger characteristics

18 Conclusions: how to understand human-animal transformations? Genre and narrative world Genre system Animal metaphors and projecting human psychology on animals are aspects of animist world view

19 Thank you! I also express my gratitude to Meenaxi Barkataki-Ruscheweyh, Kishore Bhattacharjee, Pallavi Dutta, Margaret Lyngdoh, Phanidhar Nath, Prabin Saikia, Utpal Nath, Neelakshi Goswami, Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (CECT)

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