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Beliefs and Practices in West and South Asia

Beliefs and Practices in West and South Asia

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Published by: Dilara Ararat on Jun 17, 2010
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Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture
The Magicality of the Hyena: Beliefs and Practices in West and South AsiaAuthor(s): Jürgen W. FrembgenSource:
Asian Folklore Studies,
Vol. 57, No. 2 (1998), pp. 331-344Published by: Nanzan Institute for Religion and CultureStable URL:
Accessed: 26/05/2009 15:43
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 Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture
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 Asian Folklore Studies.
Beliefs andPracticesinWestand South Asia
AbstractAsananimalto whichmagical propertiesareattributed,thehyenahas movedtheimag-inationofpeoplenotonlyinAfrica,whereitplaysaprominentrole inmythandritual,butalso inwestern andsouthernAsia. Thestripedhyena,a nocturnalscavenger,issometimescaughtalivein Asiaandemployedin animalfights.In thisessayit isshownhowallpartsof anewlydeadhyenaare usedin lovemagicand to ward offevil.Keywords:hyena-hunting-androgynity-lovemagicAsianFolkloreStudies,Volume57,1998: 331-344
hyenas belongto afamily(Hyaenidae)comprisingfourspecies:thespotted hyena(Crocutacro-cuta),thestriped hyena(Hyaenahyaena),the brownhyena(Hyaenabrunnea),andthe aardwolf(Protelescristatus)
n.d.).Whereas the distributionofthespottedhyena,the brownhyena,andtheaardwolf isconfined to Africasouth of theSahara,thestriped hyena(com-prisingfivesubspecies)is foundin northern and easternAfrica,theArabianPeninsula,as well asin western andsouthern Asia. Thismiddle-sizedpred-ator hasabig, sturdyhead,pointedears,andfrontlegs longerthan itshindlegs.It haslonghair andamane that canbe erected as athreat;thetailisbushyandlongerthan that ofthespottedhyena.Thestripedhyenascav-engescarrionand theremains ofanimals killedbyotherpredators.It alsohunts andconsumes awidevarietyofvertebrates,invertebrates,vegetablesandfruits,andhumanassociatedorganicmaterial.Themassiveupperteethandsupportingmusculatureeasily permitthegnawingandbreakingofbonesandcarapaces.Furthercharacteristictraits areweakeyesight,anexceptionalabilityfordistinguishingsounds andsmells,and astrongodoremitted from itsanalglands.Whereas thestriped hyenais,so tospeak,a"silentspecies,"theAfricanspottedhyena'seeriecryhas oftenremindedpeopleofahowlingandgigglinglaughter.Thestriped hyenamovesaloneorinsmallgroupsover alargeterritoryandsleepsinnatural cavesorenlargedburrowsdugbyporcupinesorwarthogs.
Beforedealingwith thescarcelyknownfolklore ofthestriped hyenain west-ernandsouthernAsia,itseemsappropriatetobrieflyreviewthemuchbet-terknownbeliefson"hyenas"andrelatedpracticesinwesternandcentralAfrica.Serioussourcecriticismconcerns thefactthatmostanthropologistsdonotdifferentiatebetweenthespottedandthestripedspeciesofthehyenawhichoftencoexistin thesamearea.Similarly,inmanylocalwesternAfricanlanguagesboth ofthesespecieshaveidenticalnames

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