Totemic Rituals And Myths
Beliefs, rituals, and customs of people who believe in totemic myths
One day, while I was on a fishing trip in Africa with my family, I caught a very small shark.
According to the people on the boat with us it was a small white shark ! As you can imagine, I was the most happy and proud of all the fishermen but unfortunately my joy was for a very short time because as soon as I got the white shark out of the water, and as soon as my parents saw that it was really a white shark, they ordered me put it back in the sea myself, not anybody else but myself !! At first, I was very astonished about my parents reaction, and I refused to obey, arguing that it was my catch. But then, when I perceived the anger of my father and the tone of his voice when he said “Faycal, white sharks are our familly’s totem, so just obey and release him”, I had no idea what he was talking about but I quickly obeyed and under the astonished eyes of everybody I released the white shark, our totem .
At that time, I knew nothing about totems, and I didn’t understand the reaction of my family but I needed an explanation. So I went to my father and asked him what did he mean by totem and why did I have to free the shark ? He told me that for many generations now, our family have had the white shark as totem because of events that happened a very long time ago. So I asked, what were these events and why all this respect to white sharks. Then he said “well, as I said, a very long time ago, the first person carrying our name was a fisherman living in a small village on the sea where most people were living on what they were fishing. They used to go on boats for days in the ocean to bring fish for all the village inhabitants. One day, as usually, five or six boats were prepared to go on a fishing expedition that was suppose to last 3 days. Strangely, after two days in deep sea, no boats had caught any fish, not even one ! and the last night of the trip was falling when suddenly a storm started !! A terrible storm, accompanied by very strong winds. Lightening, thunder and rain started right after and all of the boats were caught right in the middle of this terrible storm. After two long hours of fight against the storm, the first boat started to sink under the eyes of the fishermen who were unable to do anything but hold on anything that floated. And suddenly, it happened, a huge fish appeared on the surface with its gigantic mouth opened and with only one bite, he cut one of the fishermen in the water in two pieces. Then in very little time, the sea was filled with these killer fishes that where eating everyone in the water. At the same time, the storm was getting worst and the boats where sinking one after the other, giving more and more food to these strange fishes. After many hours of fighting against the sea and these creatures of the sea, our ancestor’s boat started to sink and all the crew was being eaten by these fishes when suddenly something happened. One of the fishes was heading mouth opened to attack our ancestor when suddenly he was pulled under the water by another one of the killer fishes and in one bite he was swallowed by the beast. This is when suddenly, according to the only fisherman remaining alive, the fish started to change its color. It suddenly went from black to white and right after changing its color it became totally friendly and instead of trying to kill the fishermen it took him on its back and it swam as fast as possible far away from the scene of disaster. Eventually, after two days the fish that was still holding the fisherman on its back ended up on an island on which it dropped the fisherman. After days of trying to find people on the island, the fisherman was discovered by a woman who also, was the only survivor of a boat that sank very close to the island. Together, they survived, got married and started a new family. During that time, every now and then, the big fish that saved the life of the fisherman would be swimming around the island to protect him. So the surviving fisherman gave him the name White Shark . White because it changed its color to white and Shark because it was the name of our ancestor that was eaten by the fish. Since this day, a myth has been developed saying that the spirit of our ancestor took control of the body of the fish. That is why it turned friendly and saved the last fisherman. The myth states that the white shark that saved the fisherman is still in sea, protecting us, that’s why since this day, no one of our family ever killed a white shark. Because if the shark having the spirit of our ancestor was killed a disaster such as the first one could happen to us.” That’ why I didn’t want you to kill this white shark which is our totem.