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Observations placeholder

Lyall Watson - On African totem groups



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Lyall Watson – Lightning Bird

Each clan has its siboko, around which it is united and which distinguishes it from all other clans.  The attributes of the totem become those of the clan and may be embodied in its ritual.

……….  Originally each chiefdom had its own totem.  Among the Sotho, for instance, the Ngwaketse chose kwena – the crocodile; the Twana venerate phuti, the duiker; the Malete are identified with nare – the buffalo; the Tlokkwa with thakadu – the aardvark; and the Kgatla with kgabo – the baboon.

…………….. There  is an implicit connection between the name of a thing and the thing itself.  A man and his name are often regarded as identical and a personal .. name is a thing of power and significance… it is a person’s spirit.

The totem is also a thing of the spirit and so a man and his name and his spirit and his totem are all one.

And – arguing on the basis that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to one another -  if a man and a bird are called by the same name they must belong to the same species.

A natural consequence of this belief is that the totem becomes taboo for the clan.  Boshier learned that the killing of an owl by a man called ‘Owl’ is regarded as equivalent to the murder of a clan member, and is treated as such.…

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items


Totem group



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps