Breeders usually say they've been blessed by the Ball Python Gods in light humor when they get excellent results from a clutch of ball python eggs. I too was blessed tonight as I peered into the incubator and noticed that several eggs were slit by hatchlings using their egg tooth. I wrote a blog recently about why I've decided not to cut eggs early anymore but I did cut this clutch because the hatchlings already started the cutting process, I just continued the process for all of the eggs, slit or not.
To my surprise another double clutch but this time it's Pastel and Mojave ball pythons! Out of seven eggs, only one was normal. There was a stillborn Mojave ball python in the clutch but nevertheless, I got great odds, hence the blessing reference to the ball python Gods. :)
While I'm on the subject of Ball Python Gods, I thought it would be fitting to include some interesting information about Ball Python taboos in Africa, the native homeland of ball pythons. The following is an excerpt from the Ball Python Survey by Dr. Steve Gorzula. This paper is the foundation of Ball Pythons in the Wild DVD video as well. If you don't own this video I suggest you buy it because it's the actual video documentation filmed on location in the bush of Ghana, Africa during the survey!
3.6. Royal Python Taboos
There were two main areas where the royal python is sacred to the inhabitants. These centred around Afife in the Volta Region and Somanya in the Eastern Region.
Afife (Site 06) was the only area where, for religious reasons, permission to hunt was denied. However, the Senior Divisional Chief Togbe Adzaklo II invited the team to return for the annual royal python festival on 6 February 1997. The team members were required to have bare feet and to wear traditional African short cloths. Permission was given to film everything and anything, including inside the fetish house. Plates 15 and 16 show scenes from the annual royal python festival at Afife. There are also 8’30” of edited video on Video Annex 4 (see sequence on from 0.22.09).
The local name for the royal python is “Ayorgbor” or “Togbe Dagbui”.
More than 28 towns and villages constitute the Afife Traditional Council. Within the Afife Traditional Area it is believed that, if one is killed, it will not rain. If anybody does kill a royal python, he/she must purchase a new cooking pot and carry the “corpse” to Afife for burial. The culprit’s hair on head, armpits, anus and genital area are shaven. He/she must carry the corpse on the shaven head and walk barefooted to Afife for the burial and ceremony. The programmemed ceremonies for purification and for royal python burial are tedious and would discourage any person(s) who would have wished to kill them. Most chiefs informed the team that Christianity has eroded this belief to a certain degree. The royal python is the god which led this particular group of Ewes from Togo to Ghana about 150 years ago.
Worshipers cover “road-kills” with clothes or leaves if they come across a royal python “corpse”. Mr Harry Yebuah informed us that, some months before the survey, the villagers of Afife had set up road blocks, been stopping drivers and asking them to drive more carefully so as to avoid running over pythons. During the team’s first visit to Afife the chief requested ideas about the types of signs that could be erected to warn drivers to respect pythons on the highway.
Not all Ewes hold the royal python to be sacred but, they “know that it is friendly, so it is not killed.” Villages adjacent to the Afife Traditional Area do not kill royal pythons out of respect for their neighbours.
Many Ewes have migrated away from the Volta Region to areas such as the Ashanti Region, Central region and Greater Accra. The reverence for the royal python has been taken with them. In villages with mixed ethnicity the Ga, Fanti and Awuto inhabitants, although not worshipping the royal pythons, do not now invariably kill them. This was told to the team at Asweniagnor (Site 07), Honi Obluakua (Site 08), Akuffo (Site 11), Tembibian (Site 16), and Konkon (Site 17).
The second area where the royal python is considered sacred was Somanya (Site 20) and the adjacent towns, which together have a population of more than 20,000. The population is composed mainly of Nyala-Krobo, together with some Ga and Ewe. Six clans constitute the Nyala-Krobos. These are the Bornya, Plan, Bunase, Myewe, Ogone and Okper. The royal python is revered, especially by the Bornya clan who are the priests of the Nyala-Krobos. Bornya is made of the villages of Sawer, Okonya, Korlegen, Adzikpo, and Basano. As with Afife they have a python festival at the beginning of the year. The youth of the Christians also have respect for the fetish because it is strongly linked with the annual festival of the Krobos called “Dipo”. “Dipo” is a virginity right and transition to womanhood celebration. The fetish shrine is called “Ayerbida”.
By their tradition, there are certain localities where people are not even permitted to touch or otherwise bother a royal python. It is a taboo to kill one. A royal python entering the house is regarded as a blessing and a libation ceremony has to be performed. The team was given permission to hunt, under the condition that all of the captured pythons would be returned at a later date. This was done, and was the event was covered by Ghana Television (GTV) and the national press (see Annex 3, Articles 6 and 7). Crocodiles are also revered by the Nyala-Krobo, and the team was informed that crocodiles were quite common in the area. The team observed 7 African slender snouted crocodiles (Crocodylus cataphractus) at Danfa, some 40
km to the south-west.
Agomeda (Site 23) occurs to the south of the Somanya complex. The inhabitants of Agomeda are Adangber with an Ewe minority. Here the royal python is also taboo. If a royal python enters a house it is not killed but carried outside to the bush. The Adangber also celebrate “Dipo” during the weeks before Easter. Agomeda was another site used for royal python releases with the GTV.
Ruvell (1996) has reported similar reverence for royal pythons in Benin. This author wrote that the “main temple and python high priest are in Ouidah, Dahomey (the python Vatican so to speak), is an early example of sustainable use and conservation. Grain is stored by villagers in granaries raised on stilts. Rodents are a persistent problem. For at least the last 600 years pythons have been venerated as god, with local priests exhorting villagers to bring them into the villages as sacred animals where they are kept in a kind of religious farming. No python worshiper would ever harm a ball python or think of eating one. The village python collections and their offspring keep the rodent population down and protect the village grain stores. The python cult is so strong that the Portuguese in the 17th century built a cathedral directly across the square from the python temple. Sustainable use may be a difficult concept for some today, but the Dahomeans in their corner of Africa have been practising species protection through value for hundreds of years to their advantage and that of the pythons.”
thank you very much for this great note and research on royal python in ghana. i will love to know more about the survey you have done and if there is any way you can kindly help me with some books or journals that will be very useful in my survey of snakes. i am currently working on snakes survey in asubima forest reserve of ghana and i need works done on snake surveys. i will love to be assisted in the literature review and so much that is needed for this work to be complete.
i am in the kwame nkrumah university of science and technology finishing my 4 year degree course in bsc natural resource management.
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