This was the first full-length account of this hitherto little-known people and remains one of the very few modern accounts of an African ancestral cult. The Lugbara are an African people in whose society formal political authority and sanctions are almost completely lacking. There are neither kings nor indigenous chiefs, and holders of what authority there is are merely the senior men of families. The Lugbara sacrifice to their ancestors, and in this book the author shows how the significance of their beliefs and rituals may be understood only within the context of a struggle for power between family heads and their dependents. In addition, ritual involves oracles and diviners, and belief in witches and sorcerers. But in spite of logical contradictions between many of their beliefs and actions there is a sociological consistency and the whole forms a single coherent pattern. The Lugbara also have the concept of a creator God, who watches over the ultimate well-being of their society. Though rapidly changing, the Lugbara conceive of it as being ideally unchanging: they can accommodate this apparent inconsistency in their thought by their notions of God and myth.
This reprint has a new introduction by Thomas Beidelman, Professor of Anthropology at New York University.
"A notable ethnographic tour de force", American Anthropologist "The best and most detailed study of the ancestral rites of an African people which has yet been published. As such, it is essential reading for anyone interested in the study of the relations of primitive peoples." Anthropos
John Middleton is an anthropologist who has taught in many different institutions, including the School of Oriental and African Studies and University College London in the UK, and Northwestern, New York and Yale Universities in the USA.