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By Meyer Fortes

Meyer Fortes (1906-1982) was once one of many premier anthropologists of this century, who for a few years labored one of the Tallensi of northern Ghana. even if he released seminally vital monographs on Tallensi kin and kinship and on political association, his paintings on their faith has hitherto remained restricted to disparate journals and edited volumes. This assortment brings jointly in a single position his significant writings on faith.

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I have said that spontaneous individual prayer is not a Tallensi practice. Perhaps the main reason for this is that freedom to offer sacrifice and prayer is not general. 11 Similarly, the right and duty of officiating in worship of the Earth shrines and of the founding ancestors of the lineage at the altars dedicated to them is regulated by age and office. There are also ritual restrictions on freedom to offer sacrifice and prayer. It is, for instance, ritually prohibited for the officiants, and all other participants, in a sacrifice at an Earth shrine or an External Boghar to wear a cloth upper gar- Prayer 27 ment; a man whose wife is pregnant or menstruating may not officiate in mortuary and funeral rituals; and there are many other ritual restrictions of this type.

It is done with a flourish but impersonally. ' The consultor has sat quietly listening and watching perhaps for a minute or two, perhaps for 5 to 10 minutes — for the diagnostic probe can be complicated and devious. The consultor now grasps the foot of the divining staff. He holds it loosely and repeats the diviner's diagnosis. He recites the diagnosis item by item and as he does so the stick swings, stabs, picks out objects, points to his side, his abdomen, his mouth and so on. The diviner sometimes interpolates a phrase or a word to eke out the argument.

Within minutes complete silence descended and the multitude sat down on the ground. Then the tendaanas spoke, each in turn, standing on the rocks which are the altar of /700, dimly visible, and seeming to tower above the audience. They hurled their invocations towards the audience at the top of their voices, with many dramatic pauses, with insistent repetition of the key phrases, and with manyfigurativevariations. The effect was that of a reverberating incantation; and the audience, though well acquainted with this ceremony, sat as if spellbound in complete silence.

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