Serer Dancers in Dakar. Courtesy http://gewel.files.wordpress.com/
The Serer group comprises the Sereer (the Serer people or Seex), Niominka, Ndut, Saafi, Noon, Laalaa and Palor. The Sereers are the most numerous among the Serer group. Although all the Serer group are ethnically Serers, some of this group do not speak the Serer language but speak Cangin languages. The Sereers speak the Serer language, and the Niominkas speak one of the dialects of the Serer language.
Serer Fishermen of Sine-Saloum. by Patrick Smith
In Senegal, the Serer people are the third largest ethnic group with a population of over 1.8 million (2011) constituting 14.7% and live in the west-central part of the country, running from the southern edge of Dakar to the Gambian border. The Serer (also known as "Seex" or "Sine-Sine") occupy the Sine and Saloum areas (now part of modern day independent Senegal). The Serer-Noon occupy the ancient area of Thiès in Senegal. The Serer-Ndut are found in southern Cayor and north west of ancient Thiès. The Serer-Njeghen occupy old Baol; the Serer-Palor occupies the west central, west southwest of Thiès and the Serer-Laalaa occupy west central, north of Thiès and the Tambacounda area.
In the Gambia, Serer people who are traditionally fishermen and boat builders are found along the coastal regions (they occupy parts of old "Nuimi" and "Baddibu" as well as the Gambian "Kombo"), as well as the entrance to the Gambia River and in particularly Barra. They make up less than 2% of the Gambian population.
Senegambian wrestling known as Laamb or Njom and sabar drum traditions which the Wolofs have taken over originated from the Serer people. The Njuup (progenitor of Mbalax) and Tassu traditions (also Tassou) (progenitor of rap music) both originated from the Serer people.
Serer woman from The Gambia
Along with Senegal and the Gambia, they are also found in small numbers in southern Mauritania. Some notable Gambian Serers include he famous Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour , Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President of the Gambia since 20 March 1997, and the late Senegambian historian, politician and advocate for Gambia's independence during the colonial era – Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof . In Senegal they include Leopold Sedar Senghor and Abdou Diouf (first and second president of Senegal respectively).
Leopold Sedar Senghor, Serer man and first president of Senegal
The Serer people from Senegal bear names such as Joof or Diouf, Faye, Ngom or Ngum, Sène (sene or Sain, N'Diaye, Tine, Ndaw or Ndao, Loum, Diene (Diène or Jein), Thiaw, Senghor, Ndour or Ndur, Sarr, Kama, Ndione, Gadio etc.
Abdou Diouf is a Senegalese politician, and served as the second President of Senegalese Serer tribe`s man from 1981 to 2000. Diouf is notable both for coming to power by peaceful succession, and leaving willingly after losing the 2000 presidential election to Abdoulaye Wade. He has been the Secretary-General of La Francophonie since 2003.
Serer Mythology (Creation story)
The creation myth of the Serer people is intricately linked to the first trees created on Planet Earth by Roog. Earth's formation began with a swamp. The Earth was not formed until long after the creation of the first three worlds: the waters of the underworld; the air which included the higher world (i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars) and earth. Roog is the creator and fashioner of the Universe and everything in it. The creation is based on a mythical cosmic egg and the principles of chaos.
Serer women of Sine-Saloum in a boat
Serer people and their relationship with the Moors
In the pre-colonial era, Moors from Mauritania who came to settle in the Serer kingdoms such as the Kingdom of Sine, etc., were ill treated by their Serer masters. If a Moor dies in a Serer kingdom, his body was dragged out of the country and left for the vultures to feast on if there is no family or friend to claim the body and bury it elsewhere. They were also never accompanied by grave goods. No matter how long a Mauritanian Moor has lived in the area as a migrant, he could never achieve high status within the Serer aristocracy. The best position he could ever wish for within Serer high society was to work as a Bissit (Bissik). Apart from spying for the Serer Kings, the Bissit's main job was to be a clown - for the sole entertainment of the Serer King, the Serer aristocracy and the common people. He was expected to dance in ceremonies before the king and liven up the king's mood and the king's subjects. This position was always given to the Moors. It was a humiliating job and not a title of honour. According to some, the history of this position goes back to an early Moor in Serer country who had a child by his own daughter.
Serer woman, Senegal
Origin of the name "Serer"
The meaning of the word "Serer" is uncertain. Issa Laye Thiaw views it as possibly pre-Islamic and suggests four possible derivations:
1. From the Serer Wolof word reer meaning 'misplaced', i.e. doubting the truth of Islam.
2. From the Serer Wolof expression seer reer meaning "to find something hidden or lost."
3. From "the Arabic word seereer meaning sahir magician or one who practices magic (An allusion to the traditional religion)".
4. From a Pulaar word: meaning separation, divorce, or break, again referring to refusing Islam.
Another author, Dennis C. Galvan of the University of Oregon, believes the derivation of the name reflects the origin of the Serer in about the 11th century CE as a part of a culture living in the Futa Tooro that refused Islam, split from the main group and migrated. He writes that "The term Serer is most probably a derivative of the Pulaar term sererabe, meaning to separate or to divorce."
Youssou N'Dour, Serer tribe man and a Senegalese singer, percussionist, songwriter, composer, occasional actor, businessman and a politician. In 2004, Rolling Stone described him as, "perhaps the most famous singer alive" in Senegal and much of Africa. Since April 2012, he has been Senegal's Minister of Tourism and Culture. N'Dour helped to develop a style of popular Senegalese music known in the Serer language as mbalax, which derives from the conservative Serer music tradition of "Njuup". He is the subject of the award-winning films Return to Goree directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud and Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, which were released around the world.
Serer people of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania speak Serer language, which is also called Serer-Sine "Serer proper" (Seereer-Siin, etc.) after its prestige dialect. Serer language belongs to Senegambian branch of Niger–Congo phylum spoken by 2 million million people in Sine-Saloum, Kaolack, Diourbel, and Dakar in Senegal and 40,000 in the Gambia and a sizable number of over 4000 in Mauritania. Some Serers speak the Serer language. Some speak the Cangin languages such as Ndut and Saafi although all are ethnically Serers.
Serer woman and her child
The Serer language is characterised by consonant mutation, and it is written from left to write based on the Latin alphabet. It is one of the recognized languages of Senegal. There are various dialects of Serer with Serer-Sine being the prestige dialect.
The following greetings and responses are spoken in most regions of Senegal that have Serer speakers.
Nam fi'o? (pronounced nam feeyoh) = How are you doing? Mexe meen. (pronounced may hay men) = I am here.
Ta mbind na? (pronounced, tah mbind nah) = How is the family? Owa maa. (pronounced owa maa) = It is good.
In Senegalese culture, greetings are very important. Sometimes, people will spend several minutes greeting each other.
According to the celebrated Egyptologist Chiekh Anta Diop, the distribution of megaliths of Senegal, the Gambia and Mali are considerable markers of the migration of Serer from the Nile Valley to the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Serer people still worship these stones.
Serer woman from Senegal. Circa 1890
However, other historians claim that the bulk of Serer people trace their origins to migrations from the Senegal river area. According to the historian David Galvan, "The oral historical record, written accounts by early Arab and European explorers, and physical anthropological evidence suggest that the various Serer peoples migrated south from the Fuuta Tooro region (Senegal River valley) beginning around the eleventh century, when Islam first came across the Sahara." This explains the similarity between the Sereer and Pulaar languages, which are more closely related to each other than to Wolof or any other known language. There is also a joking relationship between Tukulor, another name for Pulaar speakers, and Sereer which persists though the former were the most intensely Muslim and the latter the last people north of the Gambia to convert. In spite of their northern
origins, oral traditions trace the source of the Sereer state to a northward moving group of Mandinka
migrants from Kaabu. The Mandinka influences on the Sereer seem, however, to be limited. W. J.
Pichl reports, for example, that there are very few Mande words in the Sereer language.
Some Serer group is made up of peoples who were part of the same southward migration, but who never became part of complex state systems. This includes the Sereer-Njegem, who live east of Portudal and Mbour and the Ñominka of the Saalum delta islands. They speak dialects of the language spoken in Siin. They did not, however, have any kind of centralized institutions. They also had an egalitarian social structure. That is to say, there were in these areas no slaves and ñeño (artisans) or where these institutions developed, it was a very late development.
The other Serer group speaks languages unrelated to the language spoken by the Sereer of Siin or Njegem. It includes the Noon of the Thies area, the Ndut of southern Kajoor and the Saafeen of southern Bawol. For centuries, travelers have identified these people as Sereer or “Sereris” by contrast to the “Barbecins” (Buur Siin, of Siin). Like the Ñominka and Sereer-Njegem, they had egalitarian social structures, though many paid tribute to the Damel or the Teñ Bawol. Their languages are very distantly related to Sereer-Siin and their customs seem to have been distinct. W. J. Pichl has classified their languages as Cangin.
Professor Étienne Van de Walle gave a slightly later date, writing that "The formation of the Sereer ethnicity goes back to the thirteenth century, when a group came from the Senegal River valley in the north fleeing Islam, and near Niakhar met another group of Mandinka origin, called the Gelwar, who were coming from the southeast (Gravrand 1983). The actual Sereer ethnic group is a mixture of the two groups, and this may explain their complex bilinear kinship system".
Serer people’s medieval history is partly characterised by resisting Islamization and later Wolofization from possibly the 11th century during the Almoravid movement (particularly the Serers of Takrur) to the 19th century Marabout movement of Senegambia. Although the old Serer paternal dynasties continued, the Wagadou maternal dynasty was replaced by the Guelowar maternal dynasty in the 14th century. After the Ghana Empire was sacked as certain kingdoms gained their independence, Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar, leader of the Almoravids launched a jihad into the region. According to Serer oral history in November 1087 a Serer bowman named Amar Godomat shot and killed Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umarwith an arrow.
Isatou Njie-Saidy is a Serer tribe woman and Gambian Vice President of the Gambia, as well as Secretary of State for Women's Affairs, since 20 March 1997; she is the first Gambian woman to hold the position of Vice President. And one of the first women in West African politics to reach this senior position.
Origins of Siin (Serer proper)
Most of the ethnic groups of Senegambia were formed largely during the early centuries of the second millenium. Oral traditions suggest that most state systems in the area can be traced to this period and they indicate a series of population movements which were undoubtedly crucial in forming both peoples and states. The general tendency in these migrations was toward the south. We can hypothesize several reasons. The Almoravids have often been given credit for a stimulating southward movement, but more likely there was a longer term pressure both from nomadic groups in the Sahara and from the slower processes of climatic change. Just as the heart of medieval Ghana was in an area that could not support a large city today, so too, the major political center in northwest Senegambia, Jolof, has, in the 20th century, had more Fulbe pastoralists than Wolof.
The one exception to the southward movement was the Mandinka migration which moved out of the
Mali heartland in the l3th century to settle the Gambia river area.
There are three stages in early Sereer history: the movement of proto-Sereer from the north, the formation of new political institutions with the arrival of Malinke immigrants in Siin, and the creation of a later and more complex polity in Saalum. Jean Boulègue has persuasively argued that the last of these three events can be dated to the late 15th or early 16th century. The origins of Siin are a good bit earlier. Jolof traditions refer to it as one of the founding states of the Jolof empire and it clearly existed when the first Portuguese navigators arrived . On the other hand, it can probably be dated well after the formation of Mali in the mid-13th century. It is reasonable to guess that the gelwaar migration, which led to the creation of Siin took place in the l4th century, though an earlier date is not impossible. When the Gelwaar arrived in Siin, the early Sereer were already there. The fact that there are few Malinke words in Sereer would suggest that the Gelwaar were only catalysts in the process of state formation, and that though they provided the ruling matrilineage and new institutions, they were speedily absorbed in a much larger Sereer-speaking population. It is clear that on the banks of the Gambia River, the Malinke migrants tended to slowly assimilate pre-existing inhabitants while north of the Saalum, they were so few in numbers that they left relatively little impact outside of the political system. This does not give us a precise idea of when the first Sereer arrived. It is probable that they did not all arrive at the same time. It is therefore also probable that most of the migration that brought them south took place before the l4th century. Father Henri Gravrand has suggested the l2th or l3th
century. In the absence of more precise chronological information than is now available, this seems quite logical, though it is not impossible that future research will push this and other dates back a little further.
Oral traditions speak of earlier inhabitants called Socé. Though often translated as Mandinka, it is probable that this is simply a generic term for earlier peoples. In any case, these earlier peoples have left little evidence of their history besides the Cangin languages and the stone circles found near the Gambia. It is probable that the area was not densely populated and that they were relatively quickly assimilated by the new-comers except in the hinterland of Cape Verde peninsula.
The tradition of origin of Siin, which has been reported in a number of places involved a Mandinka colonization under Mansa Waali Jon. These traditions are fairly consistent, though there is an alternative tradition which seems to be of little importance. The variants of the principal tradition are not always consistent on why Mansa Waali Jon left Kaabu, but they are on many other particulars.
They are consistent on the association of him with his three sisters: Kular O Meo, Kin o Meo and Siin o Meo. The migrating party crossed the Gambia and settled first at Kular, a village on a tributary of the Gambia about 40 km from the ocean. From there they went to Sourou in the mouth of the Saalum, and after several other stops, went to Jaxanor on the Sangomar peninsula and then finally to Mbisel, less than 10 km from the coast just southeast of Joal. Though the various accounts of this migration report it as a short trip, it probably took place over many years, possibly several generations and involved a scattering of Malinke colonies through the area north of the Gambia. Kular was founded during this migration as was Jilor, and a whole series of miniscule states. The tradition is probably an account of the colonization of the western part of what is now Sine-Saloum region.
After arriving at Mbisel the immigrants held wrestling matches, after which the champion, Bugar Biram Fay was married to Siin O Meo. It is from the offspring of this marriage in the uterine line that Buur Siins have descended. Descent is purely matrilineal though patrilineal links seem to have been valuable in building alliances in any struggle for power. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Buur are described as sons of Bugar Biram and Siin O Meo. The expansion of Siin seems to have been relatively rapid. The version presented by the late Buur Siin Mahecor Diouf suggests that Maissa Waly settled his retainers at Faajut and Jong and incorporated Simal, Jilas and Mbisel. (This list is not necessary exlcusive). These places are within 20 km of the coast. Waagaan Maysa (for Mansa) seems to have been a major colonizer, for he is supposed to have founded villages as far away as Patar, (60 km from Mbisel) and near the later NE frontier. The capital of Siin also moved east and north, though different traditions disagree on the speed.
Serer girl from The Gambia
The Serer kingdoms
Main articles: Kingdom of Sine, Kingdom of Saloum, and Kingdom of Baol Serer kingdoms included the Kingdom of Sine and the Kingdom of Saloum. In addition to these twin Serer kingdoms, the Serers also ruled in the Wolof kingdoms such as Jolof, Waalo, Cayor and Baol. The Kingdom of Baol was originally an old Serer Kingdom ruled by the Serer paternal dynasties such as Joof family, the Njie family, etc. and the Wagadou maternal dynasty prior to the Battle of Danki in 1549. The Faal (var: Fall) paternal dynasty of Cayor and Baol that ruled after 1549 following the Battle of Danki were originally Black Moors (Naari Kajoor). Prior to the Faal dynasty of Cayor and Baol, these two kingdoms were ruled by the Serer people with the patrilineages "Joof" or Diouf, Faye and Njie, and the maternal lineage of Wagadou – members of the royal families from the Ghana Empire (proper "Wagadou Empire") who married into the Serer aristocracy.
The Last Serer Kings
The last kings of Sine and Saloum were Maad a Sinig Mahecor Joof (also spelt : Mahecor Diouf) and Maad Saloum Fode N'Gouye Joof (also spelt : Fodé N’Gouye Diouf or Fode Ngui Joof) respectively. They both died in 1969. After their deaths, the Serer Kingdoms of Sine and Saloum were incorporated into independent Senegal which gained its independence from France in 1960. The Serer kingdoms of Sine and Saloum are two of few pre-colonial African Kingdoms whose royal dynasty survived up to the 20th century.
King of Sine, Maad a Sinig Ama Joof Gnilane Faye Joof. Reign : c. 1825 - 1853.
The Serers practice trade, agriculture, fishing, boat building and animal husbandry. Traditionally the Serer people have been farmers and land owners. Although they practice animal husbandry, they are generallly less known for that, as in the past, Serer nobles entrusted their herds to the pastoralist Fulas, even today. However, they are known for their mixed-farming. Trade is also a recent phenomenon among some Serers. For the Serers, the soil (where their ancestors lay in rest) is very important to them and they guard it with jealousy. They have a legal framework governing every aspect of life even land law with strict guidelines. Apart from agriculture (and other forms of production or occupation such as animal husbandry, fishing especially among the Serer-Niominka, boat building, etc.), some occupations especially trade they viewed as vulgar, common and ignoble. Hence in the colonial era, especially among the Serer nobles, they would hire others to do the trading on their behalf (e.g. Moors) acting as their middle men.
The Serer's favourite food is called Chere (also "Chereh" etc.) in the Serer language - (pounded coos). They control all the phases of this dish from production to preparation. Other ethnic groups (or Serers), tend to buy it from Serer women market traders or contract it out to them especially if they are holding major ceremonial events. Chere is very versertile and can be eaten with fermented milk or cream and sugar as a breakfast cereal or prepared just as a standard couscous.
Pounding millet in Serer village
The Serer Kings and land owners (Maad, Maad a Sinig, Maad Saloum or Lamane or even Barr, Bour or Bur, as used by some mainly non-Serers when referring to Serer kings) were at the top of the social strata. The terms "Buur Sine" and "Buur Saloum" (King of Sine and King of Saloum respectively) are Wolof terms when referring to Serer Kings. "Buur" or "Bur" are not Serer terms but Wolof terms. When Serers refer to their kings they say Maad, Mad or sometimes Maat. The Serer kings divided their capacity as follows (not in order of importance): the King of Sine Maad a Sinig or Maad Saloum appointed the chiefs of provinces named "Lamane", of "Serer" or "Guelowar" origin (pre 1335 Lamanes were not mere province Chiefs but kings, also the Guelowars became Serers and had Serer surnames). The central government is appointed which included the lingeer (queen usually the king's mother or sister), the Farba Kaba (chief of the army) and the Great Jaraff (head of the noble council responsible for electing the kings from the ruling family). Other notable titles included the Buumi or Bumi (of Serer origin meaning inheritor). The word (Bumi) is also found in Wolof, but it is Serer in origin. They were members of the Royal Family and were eligible to succeed after the death of Kings. The "Buur Kevel" or "Buur Geweel" (the Head Griot of the King). This person was also a rather important figure in the Royal Court as well as in wars. Not only did he kept the history and genealogy of the royal dynasty, he was also the advisor to the King. The "Buur Kevel(s)" or "Buur Geweel(s)" were very wealthy and powerful. They had the power to destroy a royal dynasty if they chose to do so. Their other role included accompanying kings to battles; advising kings when and how to launch a war against another kingdom; what the King should eat; how to walk; what to wear; whom to give audience to; whom to employ and whom to sack etc.
All the kings that ruled Serer Kingdoms had Serer surnames, with the exception of the Mboge and Faal paternal dynasties whose reigns are very recent and they did not provide many kings.
Serer Old lady. Courtesy .linkupafrica.
Each Serer family has a totem ("Taana"). Totems are prohibitions as well as guardians. They can be animals, plants etc. For example the totem of the Joof family is the antelope. Any brutality against this animal by the Joof family is prohibited.
The African warthog. The totem and symbol of the Faye family is the African warthog, symbolizing courage and leadership in Serer mythology.
This respect gives the Joof family holy protection. The totem of the Njie family is the lion; the totem of the Sène family is the hare and for the Sarr family is the giraffe and the camel.
The totem and symbol of the Joof family is the antelope, symbolizing grace, royalty, wisdom, hard work and protection in Serer mythology.
Serer religious beliefs encompass ancient chants and poems, veneration of and offerings to deities as well as spirits (pangool), astronomy, initiation rites, medicine, cosmology and the history of the Serer people. The Serer people have a religion or Fat Roog ("the way of the Divine"). In Serer religion, Monday is the day of rest. Cultural activities such as Njom or "Laamb" (Senegalese wrestling), weddings etc. are also prohibited on Thursday
The Serer people believe in a supreme deity called Roog (or Rog) and sometimes referred to as Roog Sene ("Roog The Immensity" or "The Merciful God"). Serer tradition deals with various dimensions of life, death, space and time, ancestral spirit communications and cosmology. There are also other lesser gods, goddesses and supernatural spirits or genie (pangool or nguus) such as the fangool Mendiss (or Mindis), a female protector of Fatick Region and the arm of the sea that bears her name; the god Tiurakh (var : Thiorak or Tulrakh) – god of wealth, and the god Takhar (var : Taahkarr) – god of justice or vengeance. Roog is the creator deity and is neither the devil nor a genie, but the lord of the creature.
Roog is the very embodiment of both male and female to whom offerings are made at the foot of trees, such as the sacred baobab tree, the sea, the river such as the sacred River Sine, in people's own homes or community shrine etc. Roog Sene is unreachable perhaps to a lesser extent by the Serer high priests and priestesses (Saltigue), who have been initiated and possess the knowledge and power to organise their thoughts into a single cohesive unit. However, Roog is always in watch of its children and always available to them.
In Serer, Roog Sene is the lifeblood to which the incorruptible and sanctified soul returns to eternal peace after they depart the living world. Roog Sene sees, knows and hears everything, but does not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the living world. Instead, lesser gods and goddesses act as Roog's assistants in the physical world. Individuals have the free will to either live a good and spiritually fulfilled life in accordance with Serer religious doctrines or waver from such doctrines by living an unsanctified lifestyle in the physical world. Those who live their lives contrary to the teachings will be rightfully in the afterlife.
Ancestral spirits and saints
For the ordinary Serers, they addressed their prayers to the pangool (the Serer ancestral spirits and saints) as they are the intermediaries between the living world and the divine. An orthodox Serer must remain faithful to the ancestral spirits as the soul is sanctified as a result of the ancestors' intercession between the living world and the divine. The pangool have both a historical significance as well as a religious one. They are connected to the history of the Serer by virtue of the fact that, the pangool is associated with the founding of Serer villages and towns as a group of pangool would accompany village founders called "lamane" (or laman - who were their ancient kings) as they make their journey looking for land to exploit. Without them, the lamane exploits would not have been possible. In the religious sense, these ancient lamanes created shrines to these pangool, thereby becoming the priests and custodians of the shrine. As such, "they became the intermediaries among the land, the people and the pangool".
Whenever any member of the lamanic lineage dies, the whole Serer community celebrates in honour of the exemplary lives they had lived on earth in accordance with the teachings of the Serer religion. Serer prayers are addressed to the pangool who act as intercessors between the living world and the divine. In addressing their prayers to the pangool, the Serers chant ancient songs and offer sacrifices such as bull, sheep, goat, chicken or harvested crops.
Image depicting Serer cosmogony. A representation of the universe. The tree worlds : the invisible world, the terrestrial world and the nocturnal world
One of the most important cosmological stars of the Serer people is called Yoonir. The "Star of Yoonir" is part of the Serer cosmos. It is very important and sacred and just one of many religious symbols in Serer religion and cosmology. It is the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. With an ancient heritage of farming, "Yoonir" is very important and sacred in Serer religion, because it announces the beginning of flooding and enables Serer farmers to start planting seeds. The Dogon people of Mali call it "Sigui", whilst in Serer it is called "Yoonir" - represented in the form of the "Pangool" (interceders with Roog - the Supreme Deity) and "Man". It is before this event where the Serer High Priests and Priestesses known as Saltigue gather at the "Xoy" annual Divination Ceremony where they predict the course of the winter months among other things relevant to the lives of the Serer people. The Pangool (singular : Fangool) are ancestral spirits (also ancient Serer Saints in Serer religion) represented by snakes.
Yoonir, symbol of the Universe, a Star with five points, outlined diagonals: Pentagram.
The peak of the Star (top point) represents the Supreme Deity (Roog). The other four points represent the cardinal points of the Universe. The crossing of the lines ("bottom left" and "top right" and "top left and bottom right") pinpoints the axis of the Universe, that all energies pass. The top point is "the point of departure and conclusion, the origin and the end". Among the Serers who cannot read or write the Latin alphabet, it is very common for them to sign official documents with the Star of Yoonir, as the Star also represents "good fortune and destiny"
Religious devotion and martyrdom
While most Serers converted to Islam and Christianity (specifically Roman Catholic), their conversion was after colonization. They and the Jola people were the last to convert to these religions. Most of the Serer converts to Islam were through conversion by choice, not because of defeat in war i.e. Islamic jihadism. Many still follow the Serer religion especially in the ancient Kingdom of Sine. Senegal and the Gambia being predominantly Muslim countries, most Muslims see the Serers as stubborn for refusing to abandon their religion in favour of Islam.
The Serers have also battled many prominent African Islamic jihadists over the centuries. Some of those like Maba Diakhou Bâ is considered a national hero and given a saint like status by Senegambian Muslims. He himself was killed in battle fighting against the Serer King of Sine - Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof on 18 July 1867 at The Battle of Fandane-Thiouthioune commonly known as The Battle of Somb.
At the surprised attacks of Naodorou, Kaymor and Ngaye, where the Serers were defeated, they killed themselves rather than be conquered by the Muslim forces. In these 19th-century Islamic Marabout wars, many of the Serers villagers committed matyrdom, including jumping to their deaths at the Well of Tahompa. In Serer religion, suicide is only permitted if it satisfies the Serer principle of Jom (also spelt "Joom" which literally means "honour" in the Serer language) - a code of beliefs and values that govern Serer lives.
The secret order of the Saltigue
Both men and women can be initiated into the secret order of the Saltigue. In accordance with Serer religious doctrines, for one to become a Spiritual Elder (Saltigue), one must be initiated which is somewhat reserved for a small number of insiders, particularly in the mysteries of the universe and the unseen world. The Xoy (or Khoy) ceremony is a religious event and a special event in the Serer religious calendar. It is the time when the initiated Saltigue (Serer High Priests and Priestesses) comes together to literally predict the future in front of the community. These diviners and healers deliver sermons at the Xoy Ceremony which relates to the future weather, politics, economics, and so on. It is a very special event which brings together thousands of people to Holy Sine from all over the world. Ultra orthodox Serers and Serers who "syncretise" (converts to Islam or Christianity and who mix their newly found religion with the old Serer religion) as well as non-Serers such as the Lebou people (who are a distinct group but still revere the ancient religious practices of their Serer ancestors) among others gather at Sine for this ancient ceremony. Serers who live in the West sometimes spend months planning for the pilgrimage. The event goes on for several days where the Saltigue take centre stage and predict the future. The ceremony usually begins in the first week of June at Fatick.
Serer traditional priest (Saltigue)
Holy ceremonies and festivals
The serer has various religious ceremonies and festivals such as Xoy (variation : Khoy), Jobai, Randou Rande, Mindisse, Mbosseh, Mboudaye, Tobaski, Gamo (var : Gamou), Tourou Peithie, Daqaar mboob, Raan Festival, Ndut...etc
The Serers are one of very few communities in Senegambia apart from the Jolas who actually have a name for god[s] which is not borrowed from Arabic but indigenous to their language. Tobaski (var : Tabaski) was an ancient Serer hunting festival; Gamo was an ancient Serer divination festival; Korite [from the Serer word kor was a male initiation rite; Weri Kor was the season (or month) Serer males went through their initiation rites. Gamo (comes from the old Serer word Gamahou, variation : Gamohou). "Eid al kabir" or "eidul adha" (which are Arabic) are different from Serer Tobaski, but the Senegambian Muslims loaned Tobaski from Serer religion to describe "Eid al Kabir". Gamo also derives from Serer religion.The Arabic word for it is "Mawlid" or "Mawlid an-Nabi" (which celebrates the birth of Muhammad). Weri Kor (the month of fasting, "Ramadan" in Arabic) and Koriteh or Korité ("Aïd-el-fitr" in Arabic which celebrates the end of the month of fasting) also comes from the Serer language.
The Raan festival of Tukar takes place in the old village of Tukar founded by Lamane Jegan Joof (or Lamane Djigan Diouf in French speaking Senegal) around the 11th century. It is headed by his descendants (the Lamanic lineage). The Raan occurs every year on the second Thursday after the appearance of the new moon in April. On the morning of Raan, the Lamane would prepare offerings of millet, sour milk and sugar. After sunrise, the Lamane makes a visit to the sacred pond – the shrine of Saint Luguuñ Joof who guided Lamane Jegan Joof after he migrated from Lambaye (north of Sine). The Lamane would make an offering to Saint Luguuñ and spends the early morning in ritual prayer and meditation. After that, he makes a tour of Tukar and perform ritual offerings of milk, millet and wine as well as small animals at key shrines, trees, and sacred locations. The people make their way to the compound of the chief Saltigue (the Serer high priests and priestess – who are the "hereditary rain priests selected from the Lamane's lineage for their oracular talent").
Ndut initiation rite
The Ndut is a rite of passage as well as a religious education commanded by Serer religion that every Serer (an ethnic group found in Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania) must go through once in their live time. The Serer people being an ethnoreligious group, the Ndut initiation rite is also linked to Serer culture. From the moment a Serer child is born, education plays a pivotal role throughout their life cycle. The ndut is one of these phases of their life cycle. In Serer society, education last a lifetime and starts from infancy to old age.
The name Ndut comes from the language of the Ndut people, a sub-group of the Serer people. In a religious sense, it means nest. It is a place of sanctuary, and the place where Serer boys lodge in preparation for their circumcision. These boys are called njuli (initiates). The word njuli comes from the Serer word juul (variations : juu) which means a little boy's penis. Because of its religious connotations, the word has been borrowed by the Wolof to designate a Muslim person (juulit)
There are two main types of Ndut initiation rites. The first concerns the circumcision for Serer boys whilst the second concerns the intiation of Serer girls. Serer religion and culture forbids the circumcision of Serer girls (Female genital mutilation). Only Serer boys are circumcised. Serer girls receive their initiation through njam or ndom (the tatooing of the gums). Preparation for the initiation starts early in childhood. In many cases, boys are circumcised when they reach 13 years old. However it is not uncommon for some to be circumcised when they are 19 to 26 years old. Likewise, Serer girls receive their initiation when they are 11 to 18 years.
The purpose of this initiation is to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. It is also to teach young Serers how to be good, brave and honourable citizens. In Serer society, a Serer man who has not undergone the Ndut iniation rite is not deemed to be man. It is also taboo for a Serer woman to marry a Serer man who has not been circumcised. In a religious and hygienic point of view, an uncircumcised penis is deemed uncleanly and impure. Likewise, in old Serer culture, a Serer woman who has not undergone the njam was not deemed to be a real woman. Though prejudice against Serer women who have not undergone the njam is less prevalent nowadays due to modernity, prejudice against Serer men who have not undergone circumcision still prevails in Serer culture.
The preparation for the Ndut takes several years, and involves the participation of the whole family and lineages (both maternal and paternal) as well as the community. It is a long process where physical, sychological, spiritual and economic factors all come into play, in preparation for the child before the actual act of circumcision (for boys) or njam (for girls). The entire family play a vital role in preparing the child for this journey.
Before a Serer boy is circumcised, he must make a public pronouncements called "Kan boppam" in Serer. This public pronouncements is made in the form of a poem ("ciid" in Serer language) or song. One of these chants is given below:
"Duma daw Saala Saala maa ko dige" (I will not avoid the knife because I requested it)
In the initiation of both Serer boys and girls, Serer women play an important role. Although women are forbidden to participate in the actual act of circumcision or to enter the Ndut (the nest sanctuary), the boy's female family play an important role before and after the act of circumcision. They are part of the family unit that helps the child to prepare for the circumcision. It is not only the male relatives who helps the child, but the whole family. The child's paternal aunt (his father's sister) would give a bracelet (usually silver) to the child to be worn on his left arm as a sign of good luck. In most cases, it is the father who give the child this bracelet as protection. Just after the circumcision, the boy's mother would sometimes even breast feed the child for the last time. This breast feeding act is symbolic of rebirth after death, and requires "the ingestion of lifegiving nourishment from the mother". Thus the woman is seen as a giver of life and the protection of life. The importance of women is best preserved in the Serer mythology of Mama ("the grandmother" in Serer language) :
"Mama swallows those who have undergone initiation and then spits them out again. She is an invisible spirit for the initiates (in her presence, the initiates must lower their heads and close their eyes). Mama appears as soon as the circumcised men have began to chant, with all their strength, the songs which are dedicated to her."
The structure of a Serer girl's initiation is somewhat similar to the structure of a Serer boy's initiation. For a Serer girl, the njam surgery is performed by an elderly woman with her helpers. These elderly women have undergone the surgery themselves. One of the head of these women is called the njamkat. She is the one who will perform the operation (tattoo of the gums). The circumcision of Serer boys is also performed in a structured situation. It involves the circumciser and his helpers as well as a person who supervises the operation. This supervisor is the master of the circumcision ("kumax" in Serer). He is the eldest male in the community and must possess all the qualities of a good kumax, which include : generosity, supportive and patience. All the men involved in the rite of passage must have undergone the operation themselves. A boy and his age group are usually circumcised together, under the guidance of the selbe (the person who accompanies the children to be circumcised). They form a pact of brotherhood.
The building where the circumcision takes place is called the ndut (nest). It is a temporary hut far away from the town or village. It is temporary because the hut must be set on fire just after the initiation. The burning of the ndut is symbolic. It represents that the sanctuary the initiates have been living in for the past three months, shut off from the outside world was only a dream, an artificial place that does not exist in real life. However, they can refer back to the dream and use what they have learned from the dream when faced with the dangers of real life. It is also taboo for a child to attend the same ndut where his father has received his circumcision. Upon arrival in this sacred place, the boys chant the names of the Pangool (singular : Fangol, Serer saints and ancestral spirits) :
"Fadid, Fango, Invey ngara, Fadid, Fangol Invey ngara" (come here, Fangol we arrived. Come here, Fangol).
Reciting this verse acknowledges the ancestors who have long departed, and are called upon to come near and protect the children from any bad spirit or evil that may befall the ndut especially at night
The ndut is also a place for education. In classical ndut teachings, initiates get to learn about themselves, team work, how to be upstanding citizens, history of the Serer people, the supernatural world, Serer creation myth, the cosmos, mysteries of the universe and the formation of the stars etc. Every morning, a dream interpretation exercise takes place. These exercise guide the children as to how to analysis each other's dreams as well as their own, and helps them develop their skills of clairvoyancy. It is also a place where they receive their sex education, especially among the older members of the initiates. These young men are told not to engage in sexual activities with women until their operation has healed. The ceremony of washing is also emphasised. This helps in the healing process. The first ceremony of washing takes place near the ndut. Washing symbolizes purification.
Children compose songs, sing and dance together. This exercise helps them to forget the actual circumcision pending. It also develops their artistic and team working skills. Friendships and brotherhood are formed which last a lifetime. Most of these songs are religious in nature. It is from these religious songs that the njuup tradition derives from (a conservartive Serer music, and the progenitor of mbalax)
After years of preparation, comes the actual act of circumcision for boys or njam for girls. This is where they test their honour according to the Serer principle of Jom - a code of beliefs and values that govern Serer lives. Jom in Serer means honour. The child must show no signs of anxiousness or fright. They must show bravery from start to finish, and must not twitch or cry during the operation. If the child shows signs of nervousness or fright just before the operation, the operation will not go ahead. It means that the child's family have not prepared the child sufficiently for this operation. The parents are judged according to the child's behaviour. In these circumstances, the kumax or njamkat will ask the family to take the child and reassure him or her then bring them back later. If the child has been reassured by the family then brought back later for the operation but they are still anxious, then the operation is cancelled. Serer religion dictates that, in circumstances like these, the child should not be humiliated. Instead, they should be encouraged and supported with words of praise and better prepared for the operation next time. In spite of these religious commandments, the Serer people being governed by the code of Jom, it was not uncommon for some Serer parents and family members to commit suicide because of what they viewed as humiliation or dishonour of the family name. Suicide is only permitted if it satisfies the Jom principle (see Serer religion).
If the boy shows no sign of anxiety, he is encouraged to open the tissue covering the head of the penis. In Serer, this is called "war o sumtax" (to kill the foreskin). The word "war" (as in War Jabi) means to kill in Serer. The boy to be circumcised would seat on a mortar with his legs opened. He must muster the courage to do this on his own and should not be forced. The mortar symbolises the feminine world, and after the boy has been circumcised, he must never sit on a mortar again. Before the circumciser starts the operation, he ask the boy for forgiveness. He would utter the word waasanaam (please forgive me), and the boy would usually answer waasanaaong (I forgive you). This is a symbolic gesture of respect, communion and spirituality. It shows that the circumciser is well aware of the pain he is about to inflict, as he has undergone the operation himself and any mistake may result in death and tars his professional reputation forever.
The blade is sterilized before the actual circumcision in order to avoid infection. After the foreskin has been removed, a special kind of powder is applied on the penis to avoid infection and help in the healing process.
After several weeks, usually three months, the initiates finish their rite of passage and go home. The ndut is set a blaze. Children receive presents from family members. In pre-colonial times, the boys would perform a dance in front of the Serer kings and the rest of the royal family who would in turn give them presents for their courage
Games (Wrestling "Njom")
Senegalese wrestling called "Laamb" or Njom in Serer originated from the Serer Kingdom of Sine. It was a preparatory exercise for war among the warrior classes. That style of wrestling (a brutal and violent form) is totally different from the sport wrestling enjoyed by all Senegambian ethnic groups today, nevertheless the ancient rituals are still visible in the sport version
Serer wrestling. Rituals and regalia based on Serer tradition.
. Among the Serers, wrestling is classified into different techniques and each technique takes several years to master. Children start young trying to master the basics before moving on to the more advance techniques like the "mbapatte", which is one of the oldest techniques and totally different from modern wrestling. Yékini (real name: "Yakhya Diop"), who is a professional wrestler in Senegal is one of the top wrestlers proficient in the "mbapatte" technique. Lamba and sabar (musical instruments) are used as music accompaniments in wrestling matches as well as in circumcision dances and royal festivals. Serer wrestling crosses ethnic boundaries and is a favourite pastime for Senegalese and Gambians alike.
Serer wrestling (Njom)
According to Ali Colleen Neff "The Serer people are known especially for their rich knowledge of vocal and rhythmic practices that infuse their everyday language with complex overlapping cadences and their ritual with intense collaborative layerings of voice and rhythm."
Serer woman performing Sabar dance. Courtesy http://gewel.files.wordpress.com/
The Sabar (drum) tradition associated with the Wolof people originated from the Serer Kingdom of Sine and spread to the Kingdom of Saloum.
Kid dancing to Sabar sounds. Courtesy http://gewel.files.wordpress.com/
The Wolof people who migrated to Serer Saloum picked it up from there and spread it to Wolof Kingdoms. Each motif has a purpose and is used for different occasions. Individual motifs represent the history and genealogy of a particular family and are used during weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals etc.
Sabar dance. Courtesy http://gewel.files.wordpress.com/
The Njuup (progenitor of Mbalax) and Tassu traditions (also Tassou) (progenitor of rap music) both originated from the Serer people. The Tassu was used when chanting ancient religious verses. The people would sing then interweave it with a Tassu.
The Junjung : the Serer war drum of Sine (19th century)
The late Serer Diva Yandé Codou Sène who was the griot of the late and former president of Senegal (Leopold Sedar Senghor) was proficient in the "Tassu". She was the best Tassukat (one who Tassu) of her generation. Originally religious in nature, the griots of Senegambia regardless of ethnic group or religion picked it up from Serer religious practices and still use it in different occasions e.g. marriages, naming ceremonies or when they are just singing the praises of their patrons. Most Senegalese and Gambian artists use it in their songs even the younger generation like "Baay Bia". The Senegalese music legend Youssou N'Dour who is also a Serer, uses "Tassu" in many of his songs.
Serer drummers from the village of Keur . By Tostan
The Serer traditional attire is called Serr. It is normally woven by Serer men and believed to bring good luck among those who wear it. The Serer people have religious attire, while Christians may wear a cross on their necks, the Serers use something belonging to their ancestor, such as the hair of an ancestor or an ancestor’s treasured belonging, which they turn into juju and wear either on their person or visibly on their necks.
Medicine, harvest and offerings
The Serers also have an ancient knowledge of herbalism which is passed down and takes years to acquire. The Senegalese government has set a school and centre to preserve this ancient knowledge and teach it to the young. The CEMETRA (Centre Expérimental de Médecine Traditionnelle de Fatick) Membership alone consist of at least 550 professional Serer healers in the Serer region of Sine-Saloum.
Several traditional practices linked with land and agricultural activities are known, two examples are described below:
Prediction ceremonies organized by the Saltige, who are considered to be the custodians of indigenous knowledge. Such meetings are aimed at providing information and warning people about what will happen in the village during the next rainy season.
Preparation of sowings, a ceremony called Daqaar mboob aimed at ensuring good millet or groundnut production. For this purpose, every grower has to obtain something called Xos, further to a competitive ceremony consisting of hunting, racing, etc
Serer people with herbs holding their children. Courtesy .linkupafrica.
Murder:In the past, where someone kills another person, the victim’s family have the right to either forgive or seek vengeance. Again, the murderer and his family will gather at a local centre headed by the Chief or the palace headed by the King. Before this judgement, the murderer's family will cook some food (millet) to be shared among the community and the victim’s family. The victim’s family will nominate a strong man armed with a spear with a piece of cooked lamb or beef at the end of it. This assassin taking his instruction from the victim’s family will run towards the murderer who has now got his mouth open waiting for his judgement. If the assassin killed the murderer with his spear, then that is the end of it, the victim’s family have made their judgment. After that, the food that had been cooked would not be eaten and everyone would disperse. From that day on, the families are strangers to each other. If on the other hand the assassin ran and gently feed the murderer with the piece of meat sticking at his spear, then that signals that the victim’s family have forgiven the murderer. In that case, the community would enjoy the meal and the two families would be sealed as one and sometimes even marry off their children to each other.
Adultery:Adultery is dealt with by the Serer jurisprudence of MBAAX DAK A TIIT (the rule of compensation). If a married woman had engaged in adultery with another man, both adulterers would be humiliated in different ways. The wronged male spouse (the husband) would have taken the undergarment of the other male and hang it out on his house to show that the male lover has broken custom by committing adultery with his wife. He would become the most hated person in Serer society. Everyone would sneer at him; no family would want to marry into his family and he would be ex-communicated. This was and is seen as the most humiliating experience for any male adulterer. The Serers being governed by the codes of honour called Gorie and Jom, many men have been known to take their own lives because they couldn’t bear the humiliation anymore. As for the cheating wife, her undergarment would not be displayed as the male adulterer, because in Serer culture women are held in high esteem and given respect. However, she would also be humiliated but in a different form. When women marry, they plait their hair in a particular style. Only married women can have that style. This is a symbol of their status. They become the best and most honourable among women. By committing adultery, her female relatives would unplait her hair. Again, this is so humiliating and degrading for a married woman that many women have been known to commit suicide rather than face the shame. The wronged man can forgive both his wife and his wife’s lover if he chooses to do so. The adulterers and their respective families must gather at the king, chief or elder’s compound to formally seek forgiveness. This will be in front of the community because the rules that govern society have been broken. It is up to the wronged spouse to forgive. The doctrine extends to both married men and women. Protection is given to the wronged spouse regardless of his or her gender.
Premarital relationship: Where a young man and a woman found engaged in premarital relationships, both were exiled to avoid bringing shame to the family, even if pregnancy resulted from that courtship.
Death and Afterlife
In Serer when a person dies there is no heaven or hell for them. The immortality of the soul and reincarnation (ciiɗ in Serer) is a strongly held belief in Serer religion. The pangool are canonised[where?] as holy saints, and will be called upon and venerated, and have the power to intercede between the living and the divine. Acceptance by the ancestors who have long departed and the ability to intercede with the divine is as close to heaven after one passes over. Rejection by the ancestors and becoming a lost and wandering soul is as close to hell in Serer Religion.
Painting of Serer final resting place with Serer grave diggers. The top points are directed towards the gods. (1821)
Mummification and Cult of the Upright Stones
The dead, especially those from the upper echelons of society were mummified in order to prepare them for the afterlife (Jaaniiw). They were accompanied by grave goods including gold, silver, metal, their armour and other personal objects. Mummification is less common now especially post independent Senegal. The dead were buried in a pyramid shaped tomb. The Serer griots play a vital and religious role on the death of a Serer King. On the death of a Serer king, the Fara Lamb Sine (the chief griot in the Serer Kingdom of Sine) would bury his treasured drum (the junjung) with the king. His other drums would be played for the last time before their burial in the ground facing the east. The griots then chant ancient songs marked by sadness and praise for the departed king. The last time this ceremony occurred was on 8 March 1969 following the death of the last king of Sine – Maad a Sinig Mahecor Joof (Serer: Maye Koor Juuf)
Wassu Stone Cirles, Senegal
The cult of the Upright Stone, such as the Senegambian stone circles, which were probably built by predecessors of the Serer, were also a place of worship. Late rite megaliths were carved planted and directed towards the sky.
Fatou Diome is a Serer tribe woman and Senegalese writer, known for her bestselling novel The Belly of the Atlantic, published in 2001. Her work explores immigrant life in France, and the relationship between France and Africa. Fatou Diome currently lives in Strasbourg, France.
Serer Creation Story
Serer Creation story based on a sacred text posits that, the Universe and everything in it were created by Roog (or Koox among the Cangin), and the creation of Planet Earth was a result of a swamp which the first tree grew within. The first three worlds created through a mythical egg and under the principles of chaos were: the waters of the underworld, the air including the higher world and earth. These three were the first primordial worlds created by the supreme being through thought, speech and action. Planet Earth was not created until long after the creation of these worlds. The contentious points are, which of the main sacred trees in Serer society (below) grew not just first, but also within the primordial swamp on Earth:
1. Saas (var: Sas) - Acacia albida
2. Nquƭ (var: Ngud or NGu) - Guiera senegalensis
3. Somb - Prosopis africana a species of Prosopis
4. Nqual (var: Ngaulor NGawal) - Mitragyna inermis part of Rubiaceae family of the genus Mitragyna
5. Mbos - Gardenia ternifolia
The importance of these trees are crucial to the formation of Earth, at least in the Serer worldview and their genesis are addressed in their relevant sections. Being the first tree does not necessarily equate to being the first living thing on Earth. In the creation myth, animals such as the jackal, hyena, the serpent and ostrich figure prominently in the competing creation narrative. In some narratives, trees and animals merge in order to justify their legitimacy. These mythical animals may be seen as sacred and totems, in the Serer totemic and sentient worldly-view of animals and nature in general. The significance of trees in the Serer creation myth does not mean the dwelling place of the supreme deity, neither do they mean the dwelling place of the devil. They are dwelling places for the sanctified ancestral spirits (Pangool). The cult of the tree is symbolic in Serer religion. The feminine world also played a crucial role in the creation process of the Universe and the first-humans. This is linked to the Serer philosophy of beauty and Serer-numbers found in Serer religious symbolism, with number 3 symbolizing the feminine world, number 4 the masculine world and number 7 (3 + 4) representing balance and perfection, something the Serers try to achieve in their daily lives and the environment they find themselves in.
Before the existence of the Universe, Roog existed by itself. There was nothing but silence and darkness. The Serer notion of balance and perfection illustrates the creation of the higher spiritual order and corresponds to the motif of chaos. Its creation was the union of male and female principles, with Roog, the supreme transcendental principle entity, becoming the embodiment of an androgynous Godfather and Godmother. However, it is from the female component of the supreme being: "Noo tiig tew" ("out of a female womb" - ex utero), that the divine brought forth the ancestors of modern humans, with a female, being the first to be created. There was a mythical speech − the first word[s] uttered by the supreme being. All the competing versions attest to that. This myth is the general consensus and represents the absolute truth in Serer primordial time. A major competing myth, also based on chaos, postulates that, there was originally a series of explosions. However, it agrees pretty much with the accepted view that trees and animals were the first to be created. Explosion first arose in the vegetable kingdom and the first tree Somb, according to this myth, bursted, which the seeds of all the plant species in the world sprang out (from its trunk) covering Planet Earth with life. In all versions, Roog appears as both the creator and demiurge.
Serer woman carrying firewood Sine-Saloum, Senegal. © Joe Lasky Photography
Creation of the Universe
A nax and A leep
The Serers relates the creation myth and the role of speech in the formation of the Universe. Two Serer terms expresses the mythical creation word: "A nax" and "A leep". The former is a short narrative for a shorth myth or proverbial expression and is equivalent to a verb. The later (A leep) is more advance and details the mythical creation word and the creation itself, introducing the myth with the phrase: "Naaga reetu reet" (so it was in the beginning), before narrating the event. From a global perspective, the two roughly corresponds to verb and logos, especially when communicating fundamental religious education relating to the supreme deity and the creation of the Universe. They form the structure and sources under which the creation narrative is based. "A leep", the logos, is fixed.
The creation of the Universe is based on several parts (see below):
1. the structure which sets the basis of the narrative and the significance of the mythical word cited
by the supreme being (see above);
2. the creation process based on Serer-numbers;
3. the genesis of the Universe;
4. the prologue of the primordial myth based on three key elements: water, air and earth;
5. the primordial ocean and the formation of Planet Earth;
6. the rotational motion around the axis of the world, the creation of trees and plant life;
7. the creation of animals;
8. the creation of humans and the first male and female couple whose children and descendants went on to populate the world;
9. the crisis that befell Planet Earth and the separation of man and animal, and why the dog became man's friend;
10. intervention of Roog and the process of divine intervention in the various stages of the creation and after the initial disorder;
11. Serer representation of the Universe – the three worlds: the invisible world from above, the diurnal terrestrial world and the nocturnal world.
Process of the creation (Serer-number 3)
The source of the Universe is attributed to the feminine and maternal nature of Roog. In Serer symbolism, the number 3 is attributed to the feminine world. This number is the ingredient of the creation process. There were three essential elements, three parts of the cosmos and three worlds. This tripple rhythm of Roog and the cosmos is also found in women as the Serer myth relates it:
"Roog a binda adna noo tiig tew (Roog has created the world of its feminine nature)."
The phrase "Tiig Tew" is attributed to the feminine body of motherhood and is equivalent to the general saying of Mother Earth. The phrase "No tiig tew" translates to "out of a female womb" - ex utero. The language here is symbolic. The Serer religion and oral tradition confers to Roog some rather realistic aspects of the initial creation. There were three phases in the gestation of the creatures within the devine being:
1. by thought - within the living divine egg, Roog developed the forms and beings to create. It laid the foundations and signs for things to come.
2. by word - Roog started the gestation period and provided everything by word for the smooth realization of its plan.
3. by action - through its maternal nature, Roog opened-up and projected the embryo and placenta in a similar fashion as in childbirth.
Roog did not create, nor did it engender all beings of all kinds. It simply created the archetypes, not the prototype of each species, but seven archetypes namely :' the three essential elements (air, earth and water) and the top four seeds (the first tree, first animal and the first human couple - female, then male.
Genesis of the Universe (mythical words)
The genesis of the Universe is found in "A nax" and "A leep". Which posits that: "In the beginning, there was nothing but darkness and silence until the pre-existent being, Roog, began the genesis of the world" [the Universe]. The Serer oral tradition does not speak of Roog's gestation, probably due to cultural taboo, but only when the mythical word was uttered and what was uttered by the supreme being, which is found in A nax. According to A nax, the first mythical words spoken by Roog were:
“ WATER! AIR! EARTH! ”
A leep details the scene of the primordial time in the following terms:
"A leep à joon maaga
a roxondox o maaga,
a gad'wa roog,
a saay'a lang ke."
Which translates to:
The Words leap into space,
He carried the sea on his head,
the firmament on his shoulders,
the earth in his hands.
The mythical words established the three worlds (water, air and earth) based on the prologue of the Serer genesis provided by A nax. In A leep, it gives the order in which they were created and elaborated on it. A leep posits that, with the words of Roog, the three worlds (the Universe) began to take shape. The first to be created was the deep sea waters (waters of the underworld); the second was air including the high heavens (Kuul na, in Serer) such as the sun, the moon and the stars; and third was earth. However, the Earth was not one of the first primordial worlds to be formed. It will take a long time before the waters and the Earth were separated.
First swamp and creation of Earth (Nqaul)
The creation of Planet Earth is based on the myth of Nqaul (a type of tree - mitragyna inermis). In this myth, the formation of the Earth was started by a swamp. Swamps are integral to Serer culture and traditions and have parallels with this Nqaul. The foundation of Serer villages, towns, homes, etc., in many cases, began with a swamp, even today. Nqaul is also significant in the history of the Serers. At a time when rainfall were plentiful, during the rainy season, the founders of ancient Serer villages and towns were often surprise when the first rainfalls brought flooding (see Saltigue). Calibrated archaeological dating have shown that, many of the places they had chosen to settle next to were shoals. Serer tradition states, on one occasion, the flooding caused severe damage resulting in many people losing their homes, crops and food they had farmed. After the damage, the people who escaped returned to assess the damage and commiserated each other. They recalled an ancient myth − the myth of Nqaul:
"Ko adoox a adax Nqaul" (You start like the beginning of Nqaul).
This phrase evokes the primordial swamp and the Nqaul tree which grew within the original swamp. This tradition is still retained by the Serers as the saying is so widespread in Serer country. It is a different kind of tree to Saas (acacia albida). Whilst some Serer sources postulates that the Saas was the first tree on Earth, the Serer oral tradition states that the Saas was not Nqual (the original tree in the swamp). Instead, Saas is attributed to one of the sacred trees useful for overall-bodily health. Another sacred tree − the Nquƭ, is also thought to have been the first tree. However, the general consensus is that the Nquƭ which has the properties to cure snakebite grew on the river bank whilst Nqual grew inside the primordial swamp.
Rotational movement around the axis of the world
Further information: Serer religion#Serer cosmology
According to the Serer narrative, this initial islet was not static, but animated by a whirl around the axis of the world. The Serers were able to symbolize the Earth's axis and the whirl in a geometrical diagram. In Serer cosmology, the diagram depicts two crossed lines representing the rotational motion and the intersection points representing the axis of the world. One of the lines depicts the axis running from east to west, the other from north to south. Simultaneously, they are the Empyrean Heaven where the supreme deity is said to have given way to the first elements. In the myth, Roog is portrayed as the mythical deity who somehow "turned its self on". As the deity rotate in space, its rapid motions expanded with the primordial world it had first created. Roog's motion also affected the axis of the cosmos. The vital energies it had emitted, rotated in a spiral motion thereby creating the celestial objects.
Since the time of the ancient Serer Lamanes, the Serer people have represented the axis of the world in the form of a stele, symbolizing the steles of Roog. In the Serer home, sometimes in the courtyard, they represent the most sacred place of the house servicing as the centre of gravity of divine energies and one of the poles of the coronation. In the home, these steles are made of wooden slabs, forming a sacred wood. Sometimes they are raised steles supported by three rods and sometimes they are just green trees. There symbolism can be celestial or terrestrial depending on the arrangement of rods that surround them. If there are twelve rods arranged in a circle, they symbolize the celestial world, four rods forming a square symbolizes the earthly world. They are always built based on the tenets of Serer symbolism, and form the family shrine devoted to the supreme being.
Creation of trees and vegetation
The creation of the first trees and vegetation are preserved in the Serer oral tradition. The Serer religion offer guidance based on the primordial seed. This has been a matter of interpretation, and such, there are competing versions as to which trees were first created and the order in which they appeared. In Serer society, trees are viewed as sacred entities and some trees are afforded higher religious status depending on the Pangool (the ancient Serer saints and ancestral spirits represented by snakes) affiliated with them, their medicinal and spiritual value to Serer life, etc. Some Serer families are also associated with certain Pangool (singular: Fangool). The Serer priestly class (the Saltigues), guardians of Serer religion, sciences and ethics, still cannot agree on which tree was first created on Earth nor the order in which the first trees appeared.
Nqaul: Known by various name, its current scientific name is Mitragyna inermis and is part of Rubiaceae family of the Genus Mitragyna (2012). The barks, leaves and roots of the tree are used in many parts of West Africa for human and veterinary medicine. Found in Senegal to the Congo mainly in frequently flooded river banks and flood plains.
These differences are probably due to the vast areas the proto-Serers once inhabited. At present, the Nqaul (proper: NGawul, var: Ngaul or - mitragyna inermis) and Nquƭ tree represents the orthodox and prevailing Serer view, hence in the myth of Earth's creation, a planet which was supposed to have come about as a result of a primordial a swamp, the Nqaul tree grew within the swamp whilst the Nquƭ grew on the river bank thereby making them the first trees on Earth according to the Serer creation mythology, with Nqaul taking precedence as it grew within the primordial swamp. In the creation myth, Saas is afforded high spiritual and medicinal status as one of the ancient trees, and form part of Serer representation of the Universe. However, it was not the original tree, and it was the tree that fell in "disgrace" after it tried to "abuse its powers".
Apart from being the first tree and linked to Earth's creation, many of the original narratives of Nqaul has been lost to history. In Serer country, it is used both as a medicinal and veterinary plant for curing various ailments. The leaves are used against fever, hypertension and to stimulate the intestine; bark decoction for diuretic and to stimulates the intestines against hypertension and fever, etc. The barks are also applied to wounds in order to improve the healing process.
The Nquƭ tree (proper: NGuƭ, variation: Ngud - guiera senegalensis) is highly prized for its medicinal properties and is used for curing different kinds of illnesses, wounds and snakebites. Traditional Serer healers specializing in snakebites often use the dried powder in their therapies.
In the Serer narrative, the roots of the tree were believed to move in the underworld for survival. After the initial trees were created, then came other trees. These new trees would send their roots to the closest Nquƭ in order to feed from it before starting their overwintering. After waiting out the winter months, the nourishment they had received from the Nquƭ prior to their overwintering increased their trunk growth. At that time, trees moved and talked. They were migratory trees. They sank deep into the underworld during the day and reappeared at night. The tree is seen as the "tree of luck and good health". In the village of Lang o Maak (now part of present-day Senegal), the tree is venerated: xu'doox o'baal (big guiera senegalensis tree in the shape of a pot). At the time of the ancients, the tree appeared one night and everyone saw it. Someone tried to cut it down and he ended up dead.
The Serers believed that, all trees are like human beings and animals out of the same divine placenta and share the same fate and destiny.
playing djembe drum, Sine-Saloum
The Saas tree (in Serer and some Cangin languages, var: Sas) is the acacia albida tree.
Serer advocates for Saas postulates that, the Saas is the tree of life, and therefore, the origin of life on Earth. Others reject that view, and posits that Saas was not the tree that grew within the primordial swamp and therefore, not the original tree. However, Saas is afforded religious and medicinal status useful for overall bodily health and is viewed as one of the ancient trees but not the original tree. Like the Nqual tree, many of the original narratives have been lost to history. In these contrasting views, some scholars of Serer tradition on the origins of life postulates that, the Saas narrative seems to fit the wider West African creation myth in terms of behaviour and judgement, and any scholar of Serer mythology on the origins of life cannot overlook the importance of Saas'.
In this myth, the transcendence is reported to have infused with the acacia seed vital for energy, and the Saas played a pivotal role in the transmission of life. It is believed that, the Saas was once a living tree. The narrative went on to say that, women who wanted to give birth went to it because it was considered to be a lucky tree in the wider Serer mythology and legend. Newborns were also presented to the Saas in order to bring good luck, long life, good health and prosperity to the child’s life. In similarity, if an animal went near Saas it was destined to live a long life. According to the myth, the Saas loved human beings and perhaps too much. It would sometimes lower its thorny ends so people can give it a hug. Anyone who saw that immediately knew the Saas wanted their company. It did not move until sunset. It healed the wounded by its barks being rubbed on the bleeding wound. The Saas eventually became exhausting for people when it started to abuse its supernatural powers. It is generally viewed as the tree that fell in disgrace. The ancients called it by the name Nyas, a name which has two meanings: scar or clot. The Myth of Saas still retains a certain degree of importance especially when it concerns the need for vital energy such as: during growth, at the time of marriage, in sickness and after death. It is also viewed by many as the fertility tree. In the Serer representation of the Universe, the Myth of Saas forms part of the geometric diagram.
The Saas is believed to possess fertilizing qualities which is concentrated in its green branches and moisture. These fertilizing components may only be abstracted by the use of its own symbol, communicated through prayer. At the birth of a child, a branch of Saas was deposited at the top of an enclosure where the child and his/her mother remains in seclusion for eight days (the Bat ceremony). The ritual was to ward of evil spirits and as such, a small Saas from a crossroad was chosen. The ritual demands the branch to be placed at the top of the enclosure when the child is asleep, whilst the person performing the ritual cite the appropriate prayers. A small stick of Saas is also worn on the waist by young boys and girls in order to preserve their future fertility. At weddings, a stick of the plant is deposited under the bed of the newlywed in order to improve the fertility of the couple.
Actress Awa Sene Sarr is from Serer tribe
Saas also played a major role in ancient Serer funerals. As well as accompanying the dead with grave goods, a stick of Saas was placed inside the tomb of a dead Serer. The purpose of this ritual was to help the dead move on to Jaaniiw (the abode of souls). If this ritual was not performed, the souls of the dead are believed to remain in the living world to the dismay of the living. A stick of Saas (with the Serer-viaticum) in their tomb helps them in their journey to the next life. When Serer men finish off burying the dead, they used to wash their hands in a calabash placed at the entrance of the house. This calabash contained branches of Saas soaked in water. Unlike the trees of the savannah that lose their leaves during the dry season, the Saas is green throughout the dry and rainy seasons. In effect, the Saas was and still is considered by the Serers as a tree of life.
The Saas tree has an economic value to the Serers. Its dual economic role benefits both the agricultural and pastoral Serers. A Saas tree in a field of millets increases millet production. The leafs fertilizes the soil, the branches and fruit act as a sort of meadow which saves air thereby preventing Serer herds from starvation. There is also a relationship between Saas density per hectare and the demographic pressure per hectare. An abundant Saas allows crop rotation and intensive farming such as the triangular Diohine-Ngayokhem-Ñakhar (parts of Serer country). In spite of the allegations levied against it by the ancients, many Serers still believe Saas to be the tree of life, the sacred and the transcendence.
Based on the myth of Mbos (gardenia ternifolia), the mbos was the first tree created by the supreme being. However, it grew and kept growing until it reached the supreme being. The creator deity got angry with it, cut off its head and said: "Tree of mbos, return to Earth". Shamed by the words of the deity, the mbos tree quickly returned to earth with its branches intertwined so that no one can climb it or pass under its shadow. When Roog created the ancestors of modern humans (maak - the great or elder), these ancient beings according to the myth hid under the mbos tree. After the creation of these beings, Roog created the dong (the younger). These new beings, wondered the earth trying to find the maak, whom they found hidden under the mbos tree. From that day on, the mbos tree became much in demand for making protective charms. In Serer symbolism, the mbos is the symbol of protection. Mbos means miscarriages, as in the song chanted at night by the initiates in Ndut classical teachings: Wagoxaam Mbos (I locked myself in the Mbos), a song with hidden meaning.
The baobab tree (mbudaay-baak) also holds great religious significance among the Serers and in Serer religion. Like most revered trees in Serer mythology, before this tree can be cut (which is very rare), it is customary to cite the incarnation prayer (jat, muslaay, leemaay) to the axe before cutting the tree down. In the myth, the baobab is seen as a "migratory tree" and thus linked to the first trees on Earth. It can also be an alter and in certain circumstances, a sacred burial place.
Main articles: Serer ancient history, Mummification and the Cult of Upright Stones, and Somb
After the ancients lost confidence in the Saas, the Somb tree (prosopis africana a species of prosopis) was adopted. The Somb is one of the largest and most mysterious trees found in Serer country. Its wood is very hard and resistant to rot. It is harder than cailcedrat and Okoumé. It is the same wood found in the Serer tumuli that are still intact for over a thousand years. The pegs lining the burial chamber of the Serer notables mummified and interned in their tombs have not been not eaten away by termites and are still intact in spite of the passage of time. In 1976-8, Descamp and his team carried out an archaeological excavation of these ancient sites. Gold, silver, armour (a golden pectoral in particular), metal and other grave goods were found in these burial chambers. The town Somb, in present-day Senegal, took its name from this tree. The Somb tree is the symbol of immortality in Serer religious symbolism. The Somb is viewed as the Tree of Life by most Serers who adhere to the tenets of Serer religion. That is the orthodox view. In the creation myth, it is the only tree that provides a strong challenge to the Nqual tree. While Nqual was the first three on Earth since it grew within the primordial swamp, the Somb tree, is the seed that produced it and all the plant species that populated the world.
The creation of Somb by the supreme being is found within the hermeneutics of Serer religion and traditions. By thought, Roog first plotted the shapes of all the trees or plant species yet to come. Through the mythical words, Roog fashioned its placenta on the primordial seed − the seed of the Somb tree. Within this seed, Roog placed all the plant species including their reproductive energies − male and female. Through its feminine principle, Roog opened up and "projected the germ of Somb" which became the bearer of all the plant species found on earth and the underworld. The Somb seed penetrated the earth, the placenta of Roog where it took root and grew. Growing from this placenta, it kept all the plant species within its trunk. When it became a big tree, its trunk swelled diminutively and opened up as if by caesarean section or explosion. From this event, it opened up all the plant species found on Earth, and the rotational movement of the Universe scattered them all over the world. Thus, the vegetable seeds fashioned in the divine egg and deposited in the Somb, brought forth by Roog, were projected into space at the time of the explosion of Somb. This is how the Earth began to be covered with grass, plants and trees. Thus the vegetable seeds were modeled within the supreme being (Roog) and its outputs ex utero. The primordial mythical tree − Somb, was the vector and transmitter of these seeds, carrying their own principles of reproduction. Fertalized by these germs of life, the wetland was carpeted with vegetation and the first forests came into being.
Creation of animals (Ɓoxo-koƥ)
There are two main varying versions regarding the creation of the first animals (non-humans). In both versions, the jackal is believed to be the first animal on Earth, and in accordance with the prevailing Serer view. Though there are differences in the interpretation, they converge on certain points in the wider understanding of the jackal's significance in Serer mythology. In one aspect, the jackal can be viewed as an Earth-diver sent to Earth by Roog, in another, as a fallen prophet for disobeying the laws of the divine. In one narrative, the myth does not mention it by name, but only allude to it or when it does, the negative connotations are made obscure, because of its former closeness to the divine before it was disgraced for disobeying the laws of Roog from whose womb it grew out of.
The creation of the original animals comes from the myth of Ɓoxo-koƥ (var: "o ɓoox o koƥ" or "boxo-kob") which translates to: the dog of the forest (the jackal).
In the first narrative, the creation was marked by the emergence of the acacia and the jackal. The following narrative provide further information on the behaviour of the jackal though obsecurely:
"The [jackal], was the first on Earth.
And it will be the last.
Roog sent his messenger to Earth.
To which it will bring all mankind.
The messenger went around the Earth.
It came back saying":
"Nothing is there.
Only the [jackal] remains."
The narrative provides a second indication of the behavior of the jackal during the crisis of the first creatures created by Roog. As one of the first animals on Earth that sprang out of first divine placenta, it desicicated the subsequent placenta from which the next phase of Roog's creation where to sprang out of. The text is deliberately obscure. Respect for the supreme being and all the entities incurred in the genesis of the Universe is key in Serer religion and tradition as well as the jackal myth which was close to Roog before being transformed into the dog of the forest (or pale fox according to some). This is why it is not named, but only by allusion. The jackal was the first intelligent creature on earth, before the arrival of humans. It is believed that will still remain on earth after human beings have returned to the divine. The Serers believe that, not only does it know in advance who will die, but it traces the tracks in advance of those who will go to funerals. The movements of the jackal are carefully observed, because the animal is viewed as a seer who came from the transcendence and maintains links with it. Although believed to be rejected in the bush by other animals and deprived of its original intelligence, it is still respected because it dared to resist the supreme being who still keeps it alive.
Issa Laye Thiaw's "myth de la creation de sereers" provides a further account on the jackal. In this myth, it is named and damned but the narrative is still obscure:
According to the legend of Ɓoxo-koƥ (dog of the forest or "wild dog" (figuritively) - jackal), the jackal was the first living thing created by the supreme deity Roog. The jackal circled the world in a day and two of its hands were transformed into paws. The supreme being gave it the ngud tree (guiera senegalensis) and thus ngud became the first tree and the second thing created by Roog. After the creation of ngud, the nalafun tree (combretum paniculatum) was created to whom the deity told: "Go and keep the ngud tree company, it is lonely". During the life cycle of the nalafun, the tree grow so tall that it headed towards the sky. The supreme being considered that an affront and gave it a sharp flick on the head (mak in Serer) and told it: "You are rude. Go! Turn around and go back to where you've just came from". After that event, the nalafun never grew tall as it once did and was always bent.
"The smallest animals were those who resisted Roog."
Another narrative indicates that, all animals (non-humans) were created by some form of world parent, except the jackal. In this myth, Roog went through a period of gestation. By thought, Roog planned this new creation, the animal world. By the mythical words, Roog realized the divine placenta and the internal gestation of the animal embryo called Mbocor. Roog then placed in the embryo of this animal, which was the largest of the creation, which included the eggs or seeds of all animals to come, including their organisms and reproductive energies. After the gestation period, Roog projected the embryo of the Mbocor on Earth, which carried all the animals species on Earth. The embryo of Mbocor acclimatized to the earth, feeding on grass and water. It grew rapidly reaching a considerable proportion, as it carried within it the germs of animal life. At the final stages of the gestation of the eggs and embryos that were within it, the animal ripped apart and released all the species within it. The female animals were created first, some spreading on land, in water, the mythical sea, etc. After delivering these animals, the Mbocor died, but animal life which came from the creator deity, spread through the world.
Although Mbocor was sacrificed in order to bring animal life on Earth, the narrative is imprecise on the identity of this animal. Some postulates that it was probably the largest animal in Africa, perhaps a pachyderm such as: hippopotamus, rhinoceros, elephant, etc. The word Mbocor means "The Mother" (or "Mother" in old Serer) − mother of all animals except the jackal. It is also probable that Mbocor is the same as Ɓoxo-koƥ (the dog of the forest − "jackal"). However, at present, nobody knows what kind of animal Mbocor was. In any case, the Ɓoxo-koƥ (i.e. the jackal) is believed by most Serers who adhere to the tenets of Serer religion to be the first living thing that the deity Roog (or Koox) put on Earth.
The tree and the serpent
See also: States headed by ancient Serer Lamanes, Lamane, and Pangool
The serpent is linked to Serer cosmology and mythology. The serpent itself is the symbol of the Pangool (ancient Serer saints or ancestral spirits). Fangool, the singular of Pangool means serpent in Serer language. The Yaal Pangool are the masters of the cult. In Serer mythology, there is a relationship between trees and the serpent. In the Serer religion, the reincarnation of souls is a strongly held belief. When the dead leave the world of the living, their souls or "double" transforms into an animal, usually a snake, hence why it is taboo in Serer culture to kill snakes. The Serer religion posits that, the souls of the dead must make their way to Jaaniiw (the abode of good souls). The transformation into snakes (usually a black snake) is one of the first phases of their effort to reach Jaaniiw. As they transform themselves into snakes, they hide in trees. A snake hiding in a tree has two main symbolic meanings. It can either mean that a person has died and his soul has reincarnated (ciiɗ in Serer language) or a person may die. If the later is the case, then killing a snake would trigger their early death.
The ngaan mbul tree (celtis integrifolia) or a mboy xa nafad in particular, holds great significance in this reincarnation process. This tree supports the dual serpent-man, beneath which is a big hole where the undead take residence
Like the serpent and other animals, the cayman and the manatee also holds significance in Serer mythology. The cayman is the guardian of the secrets of the past whilst the mantee holds the secrets of the future.
Origin of the stars (Serer numbers)
The Serer account regarding origins of the stars is found in Serer cosmology, especially the Star of "Yoonir" (in Serer and Cangin) more commonly known as the Star of Sirius, Serer-numbers and symbolism. Yoonir (Sirius) is the Serer representation of the Universe and the transcendence. Its five branches symbolize humans on Earth, standing up with their heads held high, their hands raised, which symbolizes work and prayer. The star is spread across the heavens and on Earth figuratively, symbolizing the sign of the supreme deity (Roog or Koox) and the image of man. In Serer-numbers, three important numbers came into play at the time of the initial creation: number 3, number 4 and number 7. Number 3 represents the feminine world as well as the divine; number 4 represents the masculine world as well as humans, and number 7 represents the divine in human beings, which is the perfect number and represents balance or harmony. Number 3 evokes the celestial world and is represented by a circle. As in the Serer home, the twelve rods arranged in a circle around the stele of Roog symbolizes the space enveloped by the powers of the divine. Number 3 is thus the symbolic number of Roog whilst number 4 evokes the human and terrestrial world (the visible world). This Earthly world is represented by two crossed lines facing the four cardinal points. In addition to Serer culture, it is for this religious reason why Serer women are allowed to participate in all religious, political and royal institutions, because they share the same number with the divine who created the Universe through its feminine principle. For the Serer men, their number is 4. Fixed to the four cardinal points of the Earth, they were the "Masters of the Earth" (the Lamanic class).
The origins of the stars offers a somewhat contradictory account, and is linked to a pact between the ostrich and the divine. According to the myth, the ostrich stood on a sandy valley looking around the wooded savannah that stretched around her. Feeling that the time had come to perform the immemorial gesture of its kind, it was immobilized due to the threats posed to its offspring. Each time it had managed to hide its eggs from other animals but on this occasion, a deer was determined to have its offspring. Feeling powerless against the beast before her, the ostrich asked for Roog's protection and the supreme deity intervened by creating the stars, which inspired her to take her first stroke. Inspired by the powers of the deity, the ostrich drew five trails on the ground representing the stars of the heavens. The ostrich then invaded this space and deposited her eggs inside the star, covering them with sand. After that act, it cited the following prayer, placing herself and her offspring under the protection of the divine:
In Serer In English
"Xu xabatna, ba mup! "Who opens his mouth will close it again!
Xu retna, ba gar! Who closes his mouth will open it more!
Xu garna, ba ret! Who comes, he will not return!
Xu nutna ba ga! Who goes, he will return again!
Xu ga'na, ba nut! Who closes his eyes, that means more!
Adna, kitim kiris! Who sees, his eyes will be closed forever!
Mending meles! Earth! Engulfed them in the dark!
Wegoram a nun a Roog, Without issue and without remission!
Wagerna Roog, ba waag na mi tig!" I enclose you, in the name of Roog!
They are powerless against Roog!
Nothing can be against me"
The other animals were unable to act against the offspring of the ostrich enclosed by the star thanks to Roog, who offered them total protection. Powerful predators also came to devour the eggs but they could not cross the lines engraved on the sand. The myth went on to say that a black shepherd witnessed the hatching eggs. After the departure of the ostrich with her offspring, he came to the scene and discovered the star engraved on the spot where the eggs hatched. He understood that the star protected the eggs of the ostrich with the assistance of the supreme deity. It is for this reason Serer mums evoke the ostrich in their prayers for the protection of their children on their departure to another country.
Apart from evoking the ostrich, the myth plays a significant role in the adoption of the new religious symbol (the star) and its transmission to humankind. It is above all "the beginning of the eggs" of the ostrich. The Star Yoonir is a religious symbol in the Serer religion. Its five branches are marked and observed in the classical Ndut teachings. It is a Serer star and the symbol of the Serer people of Sine. It has religious, medicinal and nationalistic connotations among the Serers.
brahima Moctar Sarr is a Serer and Mauritanian journalist and politician. Running as an independent, he placed fifth in the March 2007 presidential election, and he has been the President of the Alliance for Justice and Democracy/Movement for Renewal (AJD/MR) since August 2007.
The Sun (Gulooxar)
Guloxaar is a psalm devoted to the Sun-god as the ancestors of the Serer people used to worship the Sun – many still do (see also Serer ancient history). The word Guloxaar in simple Serer means the Sun. In a religious sense, it means "one who is bound to come". The Sun itself being a star, it is attached to the Serer creation myth. The oldest and most secret prayer is devoted to the Sun (excerpt):
In Serer In English
Wataa dun! You rise in the light!
Mudaa dun! You set in the light!
Dun a jof! In your light, everything is right!
In Serer In English
Gulooxar! Gulooxar! You! Who is never late!
Tu! Dunare! Dunare! You! Illuminate, illuminate!
We dun! Thou, light!
Mee dun! Me in your light!
Kuu waagoonga gullin, That which can delay thee,
Fat a waag na mi tig! take power over me!
Ndaa kuu Waageeroonga gulin But what can not delay thee,
Baa waag na mi tig! has no power over me!
T hese secret prayers are only revealed to young Serers on their journey to another country. It is only recited in the morning and at night, at sunrise and sunset. The second verse is a prayer of adoration. Beyond the star is the master of the Solar System who is evoked. The supreme being is represented by the Sun. The Sun's bright light is just the epiphany of its being. The prayer has mystical connotations.
First rain (Ngam)
The myth of Ngam ("Ngam jam, o yas jam") narrates the first time rain (the essence of life) appeared on planet earth. This narrative describes the event in a chaotic manner.According to this myth, the first event was the opening of the heavens by Roog. When the heavens were opened, the sky threatened with heavy and shadowy clouds. Tornado occurring in a straight line, swept through everything in its path, bearing thunder in the clouds. Bright lightning rendered the darkness, and the waters of the heavens first littered by the wind, splashed in every direction, before turning into regular, refreshing and nourishing showers.
The proverb Ngam jam, o yas jam (rain in peace! Sow in peace) is the first word Serer farmers utter during the first rain. It is also the way the Serers wish each other happy New Year. As well as an expression, it also a religious prayer. The first rain of the season is a pact between the transcendent power and humanity. It is a sign of life which continues to be transmitted by this tutelary power, which has long respected the pact. Custom dictates that, the first three steps on the damp earth of the first rain to be made barefooted in order to connect with mother nature. The father or the mother of the family would be given a calabash of the water of the first rain, for the whole family to drink. This water is holy and is viewed as sacred which would protect them from all misfortunes that may occur during the rainy season. Under the Saas tree, containers were placed under it to collect the water that touches the tree. This water was used for bathing as a sign of protection.
Creation of human beings
First human couple
Before humans existed, there were three stages in the creation of the Universe and each of these steps followed a consistent order. The first phase was the first three elements: air, earth and water. The mythical words of Roog found in A nax, led to the formation of the heavens, earth and the sea. The second phase of the creation was the primordial trees (i.e. Somb, Nqaul, Nquƭ, etc.,). The third phase was the creation of the animal world: the jackal and "Mbocor" (which means "The Mother") - mother of all animals except the jackal. In each of these phases, and before the creation of the first human couple, the supreme deity did not directly create each species, but only the primogenitors who then went on to populate the world with all the species of plant and animal life. The same was the case at the creation of the first humans. By thought, the supreme deity planned for the creation of human beings (a female and a male). By words, Roog went through a gestation phase which signalled the gestation of man and woman, paired within the divine placenta. Through its maternal nature, Roog projected a female and male human being as in childbirth. The first human was a female, named YAAB. The second human was a male named YOP (var: YOB).
YAAB and YOP were the first humans that walked the Earth according to the narrative. The ancient and sacred village of Yaabo-Yabo (var: Yaboyabo or YABO-YABO, in present-day Senegal) also derives its name from this couple.
Serer elderly woman
Ark of Yaabo-Yabo
The ark of Yaabo-Yabo is believed to be an ancient relic. It is said that the first humans on Earth (YAAB and YOP - female and male respective) boarded this ark when they left the Empyrean Heaven after their creation by the supreme deity (Roog). This relic is believed to be under the guardianship of Yaabo-Yabo, one of the sacred villages in Serer religion. However, it is one of the sacred Serer relics which holds great religious significance.
The relic exist to the present which is well respected. Most Serer houses have in their possession ancient relics from the past including furniture which are jealousy guarded. Some are religious while others are secular. The ark of Yaabo-Yabo is in wood, believed to be made from the Somb tree. In the Serer pre-colonial Kingdom of Sine, it is called MAAK (var: Maak), except in Diohine (a former territory of Sine in Serer country) where it is called Badir. Guarded by the elders, it is shaped like a bench. It is believed that, when YAAB and YOP were born to Roog in its Empyrean Heaven, they were deposited in an ark and carried down to Earth. YAAB was the first to arrive as she was the first born then followed by YOP. When they arrived on Earth, the original twins made contact with Mother Earth who would nourish them.
The legend of Unan and Ngoor probably dates back to the Iron Age, with Unan being the woman and Ngoor the man. Although not the first human couple that the supreme deity Roog (or Koox) had created, like the legend of Jambooñ and Agaire (see the Point of Sangomar), they form a fundamental part of Serer mythology. The legend agress pretty much with the general consensus that a female was created first then a male. But in this narrative, it attempts to place Unan and Ngoor as the first human couple.
"The first human being created by Roog was a woman.
She lived naked, where Roog had placed her.
She slept on the ground at night,
bitten by the fleas of the earth.
She could not sleep.
Roog moved her to another place.
At that time, she was alone.
A man finds her and asks: "What do you eat? From the earth?
What do you drink? Water?"
The woman responded: "I do not know what I eat :because I'm not hungry.
I do not have water to drink."
He asks her name. She say: "Unan."
She leaves him to live elsewhere.
The man followed her for several years [winter years].
She gave the name Ngoor to the man,
for the man is he who comes to the woman for company.
A blacksmith found Unan and Ngoor.
He said to them: "I can make iron, so you can work" [the earth].
They forged a hoe and a machete.
The Pangool came and spoiled the work.
The blacksmith made them protective talismans"
The talismans were to protect them from the supernatural being that had entered their realm.
The name Unan means one who pile millet, figuratively, "the norisher". Ngoor (or Ngor) is a name for a virile man. These names denote the function of the woman and the man but they are not their real names. The narrative evokes the first humans created by Roog with a female being the first, and the trials they had faced. It also evokes the name of Roog, regarded as the Omnipotence, whom through his paternal nature, acted as a good father and moved the woman to a more comfortable place when she complained about her discomfort. It shows that he is always available to his children. The appearance of the man initially surprised the woman, whom she named Ngoor (virile), yet, they later became companions and procreated.
Crisis and reorganization of the Universe
Originally, all the animals on Earth lived together with human beings and trees in harmony. However, this peaceful habitation of the Earth came to an abrupt end when one of the lions impregnated a girl causing her to give birth to a monkey, a half man-half beast. The male society of this distant past were furious and summoned all the animals to a hearing in order to determine the culprit. The lion fearing for the punishment that it may receive from these men, refused to identify itself as the one responsible for the act until a dog pointed it out as the culprit. A war broke out between the human population, the non-human animals and the trees. The humans were victorious and drove the animals in the bush except the dog who became man's companion. However, the crisis did not end there, as this narrative from A leep shows:
"A conflict broke out between all beings.
Trees, animals and men were killing each other.
Roog intervened and punished them all.
He reduced the size of men, who were originally giants.
He paralyzed and rendered the trees dumb and blind.
But he did not render them deaf.
That is why the trees no longer see, no longer move, no longer speak, but they hear.
Roog rendered the animals mad.
The smallest resisted Roog.
But man’s spirit was the cleverest.
Through his spirit, he dominated all these beings."
The narrative reflects human hostility towards animals especially the lion, "the savage beast". The original cause of the war also identifies the monkey, whose predecessors in that ancient past is believed to be closer to humans, like all animals and plant, from the same divine placenta."
It also represents a microcosm of the slaughtering of animals by humans, accompanied by their dogs in their hunting camps subsequent to the initial creation. Not only did men hunted animals, but trees cut down those closest to them and animals killed each other, as found in the myth of the hyena and the talking tree. This disorder led to Roog's direct intervention and its reoganisation of the Universe which the narrative says would have repercussions for Planet Earth.
Roog's reorganisation of the Universe
After the initial crisis on Planet Earth where humans, animals and plants fought against each other, Roog intervened and punished them all. The tradition states that, Roog was the father and mother of its creation who initially afforded some freedom to its first creation. However, after the first disorder, Roog organised the world on new foundations. That reorganisation was not a second creation but it would have profound effects on the Universe and particularly on Earth. Roog manifested its powers and will continue to manifest it. Serer phrases such as "Roog alone is king" and "We all come from the hand of Roog" are examples of conscience decision of divine intervention in the events of life, as in the destiny of nations and human kind. Roog will be present in the activities of humans and the cosmos. Though the trees were the hardest hit by their immobility, trees were afforded special status, such as the tree of life, ability to heal, homes to certain spiritual entities and ability to hear humans beings even the Pangool. They are the object of respect in Serer society. Deforestation in Serer country is almost unheard of.
Animals were also severely affected by Roog's judgement. Although rendered wild and "mad", they still retain their instinct, though their relations with humans would be changed forever. Some became human pets others retained their freedom away from human habitation. Despite this separation, animals are respected and would form part of Serer temism.
Humans were the least affected. The only thing they have lost was their original size and duration of life. Along with being giants, the first humans were believed to have had larger eyes and bigger bones than the present. Roog did not touch the human spirit. Instead, it allowed them to develop their minds and put their own branding on Earth.
Representation of the Universe
In Serer cosmogony, the Universe is represented schematically. There were three worlds: the invisible world from above; the diurnal terrestrial world and the nocturnal world. A geometric representation of these three worlds form the Serer star. The invisible world from above is the source of energies and life. The diurnal Earthly world (e.g. the sun) is divided into two strands: the Saas tree symbolizing the tree of life and human beings assisted by the nocturnal world (the Pangool). The nocturnal world depicts the role of the moon, the Pangool (ancient Serer saints and ancestral spirits), Ciid (proper, var: Ciiƭ or Cyid, the disembodied souls in search of re-hominisation or reincarnation) and "Jaaniiw" or "Honolu" (the sacred abode of the departed souls). After a sacrifice of domestic animals and/or offering of millet to the Pangool and ancestors, vital energies are returned.
The invisible world from above
The invisible world represents the vital energies which originates from the transcendent powers of Roog, which spreads worldwide. The supreme being is the source of all life in the cosmos as well as human beings. In the world of Roog, certain entities and elevated humans are afforded sacredness and called upon to live with Roog. They form the demi-goods, saints and ancestral spirits (Pangool), etc
The diurnal terrestrial world
The diurnal terrestrial world is represented around a network of topical or utopian transcendence. Topically, it is centred around the sacred, people or accessible places. Utopianly, it resides in the imagination. There are two types of people on Earth: visible human beings and the invisble, living far away from human beings with their own paths and dwelling place. These invisible people, reside in the subterranean world.
The nocturnal world (Jaaniiw)
Jaaniiw is the abode where the souls of the dead go. Their star is not the sun (the star which illuminates the diurnal world), but the moon which illuminates the activities of the night and beings of the night. Flying from Jaaniiw to Ciid, their aim is to return to earth for a new course of human evolution.
"As today a Moslem Head of state will consult the "sacred wood", and offer in sacrifice an ox or a bull, I have seen a Christian woman, a practicing medical doctor, consult the sereer "Pangol" [the snakes of the sacred wood]. In truth, everywhere in Black Africa, the "revealed religions" are rooted in the animism which still inspires poets and artists, I am well placed to know it and to say it [...]" Léopold Sédar Senghor.
Influence in Senegambian culture
Just as the Serer religion has influenced the religious beliefs of Senegambia, Serer mythology has also influenced Senegambian culture. Some of the most revered art in Senegambia, particularly in Senegal where the Serers make up the third largest ethnic group are based on Serer mythology, legends and culture. Some of these include the works of Safi Faye (i.e. Mossane and Kaddu Beykat), works of first president of Senegal the late Léopold Sédar Senghor ("Chants pour Signare", a poem inspired by the legend of Jambooñ and Agaire at the Point of Sangomar, "Chants d'ombre" and "Aux tirailleurs Sénégalais morts pour la France"). The Sangomar legend also inspired president Senghor to name the Senegalese presidential plane purchased in 1978 after Sangomar. Other works influenced by Serer mythlogy, lengend and culture include: Fama Diagne Sène's "Mbilem ou le baobab du lion" (a controversial play which alienated the Serer priestly class - the Saltigues), Yandé Codou, la griotte de Senghor by Yandé Codou Sène, Papa Amadou Fall and Cheikhou Coulibaly's Yatal Gueew (widening the circle) for the 2001 Senegalese election campaingne, the mbalax which originated from the Serer njuup tradition, popularised by Youssou N'Dour and other Senegalese artists (see Ndut initiation rite), etc. From a global perspective, they include the work of Catherine Clément, Steve Cox and Ros Schwartz's - Theo's Odyssey.
Joof (Diouf) Family
Joof (English spelling in the Gambia) or Diouf (French spelling in Senegal and Mauritania) is a surname typically Serer. This surname is also spelt Juuf or Juf (in the Serer language). They are the same people. The differences in spelling is due to the fact that, Senegal was colonized by France, while the Gambia was colonized by Britain. Although spelt differently, they are pronounced the same way. The totem and symbol of the Joof family is the antelope, the symbol of grace, royalty, wisdom, hard work and protection in Serer mythology. The name of their clan is "Njoofene" variations: "Njuufeen" or "Njufeen" (in Serer).
Members of this family had ruled over many of the pre-colonial kingdoms of Senegambia, including the Kingdom of Sine, the Kingdom of Saloum and the Kingdom of Baol. The royal princesses (Lingeers) from the Joof family were also given in marriage to the pre-colonial kings and princes of Senegambia. Some of these included the kings of Jolof, kings of Waalo, kings of Cayor and Baol (after 1549 following the Battle of Danki). From these marriages, they provided many heirs to the thrones of these kingdoms. Although usually associated with Serer royalty, the Joof family also figure prominently in Serer religious affairs.
History of the Joof family
The Wagadou Period
The Joof family is one of the old families of Senegambia. Serer oral tradition speaks of a noble called Lamane Jegan Joof, owner of a large herd of livestock and estate who was also a farmer. He migrated from Lambaye following an argument with his relative, the king of Lambaye. The dispute concerned the governance of Lambaye and over-taxation of his herd which he considered unjust. As such, he decided to head south and founded Tukar with his younger brother Ndik Joof. The tradition then went on to say that, he had a son called Sosseh Joof (Socé Diouf) who was the heir of Tukar. Some scholars have proposed that, Tukar (and many of its surrounding villages such as Njujuf, Sob, etc., which were founded by Lamane Jegan Joof making them part of his estate and colony) now a rather large village in present-day Senegal, is an ancient village and well before the Guelowar period (1335 following the alleged Battle of Troubang, many variations in spelling, including Turubang) and placed the foundation of these villages in the 11th century, if not earlier. There was in fact no "Battle of Troubang". In reporting this tradition, Henry Gravrand did not notice that this is actually a description of the 1867 (or 1865) Battle of Kansala.The Joof family had ruled Tukar for many centuries, inherited from their ancestor Lamane Jegan Joof through the Serer Lamanic custom, a rather strict custom of Serer land law and inheritance. In 2004, Lamane Njaga Dibor Ndoffene Joof (Lamane Diaga Dibor Ndofene Diouf) was the last lamane of Tukar.
In the early history of the Ghana Empire to its end, the royal princesses of the Empire married into the Serer aristocratic families, some of these included Joof family. These royal princesses belonged to the maternal clan Wagadou (Bagadou in Serer language). With the Joof paternal clan, they ruled the Kingdom of Baol and provided many kings from the patrilineage Joof (the Joof paternal dynasty of Baol). Some of these kings include Boureh Joof (Bouré Diouf), Guidiane Joof (Guidiane Diouf), Ma Joof, Jinak Dialane [probably Gnilane] Joof, Maguinak Joof, etc. These kings preceded the Guelowar period by at least two or three centuries and long before the Fall paternal dynasty of Baol and Cayor who inherited the throne around 1549 after the Battle of Danki. The general consensus is that, after the demise of the Joof paternal and Wagadou maternal dynasties of Baol with other Serer paternal dynasties who jointly ruled Baol, the Fall paternal dynasty succeeded them, hence the first Damels and Teignes (titles of the kings of Cayor and Baol, respectively) from the Fall patrilineage were of Wagadou maternal descent. They simply married into the old royal family and succeeded to the throne.
The Guelowar Period
The Guelowar period starts from 1350 during the reign of the first Guelowar king of Sine - Maad a Sinig Maysa Wali and ends in 1969 after the death of the last king of Sine and Saloum (Maad a Sinig Mahecor Joof and Maad Saloum Fode N'Gouye Joof respectively).
Maysa Wali and his family (the maternal clan Guelowar) fled Kaabu in 1335 after the Battle of Troubang. They were defeated by the Ñaanco maternal dynasty of Kaabu (their extended relatives) and were granted asylum in the Kingdom of Sine by a Serer noble Council called The Great Council of Lamanes. Having served as legal advisor to this noble Council for 15 years, Maysa Wali managed to win the confidence and trust of the Council and the common people. He was nominated and elected by the Council and the people as king of Sine. He was the first Guelowar king of Sine. He gave his sisters in marriage to the Serer nobility which sealed the union between Serer and Guelowar. It was the offsprings of these marriages between the old Serer paternal noble clans and the Guelowar maternal clan of Kaabu that ruled the kingdom of Sine and later Saloum. In this Guelowar period, the Joof family (one of the oldest Serer paternal noble clans) provided many kings in the Kingdoms of Sine and Saloum (the Joof paternal dynasty of Sine and Saloum). The Joof family also founded three royal houses as follows (in the order of foundation):
The Royal House of Boureh Gnilane Joof (also known as Keur Bouré Gnilane)
The Royal House of Jogo Siga Joof (also known as Keur Diogo Siga)
Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Fa Ndeb Joof, from The Royal House of Boureh Gnilane Joof, King of Sine from c. 1898 to 1924.
The Royal House of Semou Njekeh Joof (also known as Keur Semou Djiké or Keur Semou Ndiké)
They all trace their descent to Maad Ndaah Njemeh Joof (also known as Bour Ndaah Ndiémé Diouf or Ndaah Njeeme Juuf) - the king of Laah (or Laa) in Baol, around the 13th century. Maad Ndaah Njemeh Joof was the father of Maad Niokhobai Joof (also king of Laa) who was the father of the Great Maad Patar Kolleh Joof (also: Bour or Buur Patar Kholé Diouf or Bour Patar Kholleh Diouf) - the conqueror of Baol. Maad Patar Kolleh Joof was the first of the Joof family to marry a Guelowar (Maad a Sinig Maysa Wali's niece). From that marriage he had Maad a Sinig Niokhobai Mane Nyan Joof (Niokhobaye Mane Niane Diouf) and Maad a Sinig Gejopal Mane Nyan Joof (Guédiopal Niane Mane Diouf), who were the first kings of Sine during the Guelowar period from the patrilineage Joof. Their brother Jaraff Boureh Gnilane Joof (Diaraf Bouré Gnilane Diouf) was not a king of Sine, but a Jaraff (equivalent of Prime Minister), who gave his name to the first Royal House of the Joof Dynasty (in the Guelowar period) and it is from that "The Royal House of Boureh Gnilane Joof" derived from, which provided several kings in Sine and Saloum. The Joof Dynasty that succeeded to the throne of Saloum came from Sine.
Historic battles involving this family
This table lists some of the historic battles of Senegambia involving the kings or princes belonging to this family :
|Name of the battle||Member of the clan||Opponent||Reason for the battle||Victor|
|The Battle of Nganiane||Maad Patar Kholleh Joof (The Conqueror)||Teigne of Baol (King of Baol)||Empire building||Maad Patar Kholleh Joof|
|The Battle of Diakhao||Maad a Sinig Jogo Gnilane Joof||Mamadou Koungo (ofKoungheul)||Religion||Maad a Sinig Jogo Gnilane Joof|
|The Battle of Mbellondiaré||Maad a Sinig Amakodou Samba Joof (assisting theDamel of Cayor)||Teigne of Baol||Dynastic war between the Damel of Cayor (king of Cayor) and Teigne of Baol||Maad a Sinig Amakodou Samba Joof and the Damel of Cayor|
|The Battle of Sanghaie||Maad a Sinig Amakodou Samba Joof||Teigne of Baol||Empire building||Maad a Sinig Amakodou Samba Joof|
|The Battle of Gagnane||Maad a Sinig Jogoy Gnilane Joof||Damel-Teigne Lat Soukabe Ngoneh Jaay Fall||Empire building||Damel-Teigne Lat Soukabe Ngoneh Jaay Fall|
|The Battle of Ndoffène||The Sandigue Ndiob Niokhobai Joof (Thewarlord)||Maad a Sinig Njaak Faye||The Sandigue Ndiob Niokhobai Joof was fighting for the succession of his young son Maad a Sinig Ama Joof Gnilane Faye Joof||The Sandigue Ndiob Niokhobai Joof|
|The Battle of Tioupane||The Sandigue Ndiob Niokhobai Joof||Maad a Sinig Ama Kumba Mbodj and his younger brother Barka Mbodj||The Sandigue Ndiob Niokhobai Joof was fighting for the succession of his young son Maad a Sinig Ama Joof Gnilane Faye Joof||The Sandigue Ndiob Niokhobai Joof|
|The Battle of Logandème||Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof||Louis Faidherbe (French governor of Senegal)|
|Resistance against French colonialism||France|
|The Surprise of Mbin o Ngor|
(This was not an open battle but a surprise attack, also known asMbeetan Keur Ngor).
|Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof||Maba Diakhou Bâ,|
Damel-Teigne Lat Jor Ngoneh Latir Jobe
and their Marabout armies
|Religion, vendetta and empire building||Indecisive. The marabout army withdrew when reinforcement finally arrived, but caused severe damage before retreating.|
|The Battle of Fandane-Thiouthioune(also known as The Battle of Somb)||Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof||Maba Diakhou Bâ,|
Damel-Teigne Lat Jor Ngoneh Latir Jobe
and their Marabout armies
|Religion, vendetta and empire building||Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof|
A short genealogy showing the descendants of Maad Ndaah Njemeh Joof.
Descendants of Maad Ndaah Njemeh Joof
Maad Ndaah Njemeh Joof (king of Laa, Baol, c. 1290) │ Maad Niokhobai Joof (king of Laa, Baol) │ __________________________________________│ │ Maad Patar Kholleh Joof (The Conqueror) = ? = Lingeer Mane Nyan (king of Laa (Baol) and Teigne of Baol) │ (1) │ (daughter of Sine o Mev Manneh (Guelowar) │ │ (2) │ │_____________________________________________ │ │ Jaraff Boureh Gnilane Joof │ (Jaraff and prince of Sine) │ │ _________________________________________________________________________│ │ ┌───────────┴────────────────────────────────────────┐ │ │ │ Maad a Sinig Niokhobai Mane Nyan Joof │ Lingeer (king of Sine) │ Siga Pal Mane Nyan Joof │ Maad a Sinig Gejopal Mane Nyan Joof (king of Sine)
Status in Serer religion
The Joof family figure prominently in Serer religion. Many of the Serer Pangool (saints and ancestral spirits) came from this family. Though associated with Serer royalty, this family's involvement in Serer religious affairs are found within the hermeneutics of Serer religion and traditions. Some of the sacred Serer sites regularly venerated were founded or headed by this family which underpins their involvement in the Pangool cult. Some of these venerated sites includes Tagdiam, residence of Maad Semou Njekeh Joof who is associated with the cult of Tagdiam; and Tukar, founded by Lamane Jegan Joof. In the Serer religious calendar, the Raan festival which takes place once a year after the new moon is held in Tukar.
Personalities with the surname Joof, Diouf, Juuf or Juf
The surname Joof, Diouf, Juuf or Juf is carried by several personalities, some of which include:
Kingdom of Baol
Lamane Jegan Joof, founder of Tukar in the medieval era (11th century)
Maad Ndaah Njemeh Joof, king of Laa (Baol; c. 1290)
Maad Patar Kholleh Joof (The Conqueror), king of Laa (Baol) and Teigne of Baol (c. 14th century)
Kingdom of Sine
Kingdom of Saloum
Maad Saloum Semou Jimit Joof, king of Saloum (reigned 1898-1924)
Maad Saloum Ndeneh Jogop Joof, king of Saloum (reigned 1901–11)
Maad Saloum Semou N'Gouye Joof, king of Saloum (reigned 1911–13)
Maat Saloum Gori Joof, king of Saloum (reigned 1913–19)
Maad Saloum Mahawa Choro Joof, king of Saloum (reigned 1919–35)
Maad Saloum Fode N'Gouye Joof, king of Saloum (reigned 1935–69)
Kingdom of Jolof
Lingeer Penda Kumba Ngouille Joof, queen consort and queen mother of Jolof (wife of Bour ba Jolof Bakan Tam Boury Nabou Njie, king of Jolof, 1768–69)
Kingdom of Cayor
Manguinak Joof, appointed Ber Jak of Cayor (equivalent of Prime Minister) by his first cousin Damel Amari Ngoneh Sobell Fall after he assisted him defeat the king of Jolof at the Battle of Danki (1549).
Royal houses (Guelowar period)
The Royal House of Boureh Gnilane Joof, the first royal house founded by the Joof family during the Guelowar period. Founded by Jaraff Boureh Gnilane Joof in the 14th century.
The Royal House of Jogo Siga Joof, the second royal house founded by the Joof family. Founded by Maad a Sinig Jogo Gnilane Joof c. 16th century. Unlike the other two royal houses, this royal house did not provide many kings.
The Royal House of Semou Njekeh Joof, the third and last royal house founded by the Joof family. This royal house was founded by Maad Semou Njekeh Joof in the 18th century.
Ismaïla Diouf, professor of mathematics at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar, Sénégal)
Mamadou Diouf, Senegalese historian, professor at the University of Michigan
Arona N'doffène Diouf, professor at the University of North Carolina
Sylviane Diouf, historian and author
Cheikh Diouf, historian and essayist
Marcel Mahawa Diouf, a Senegalese historian, theologian and author on Serer religion, traditions and history.
Babacar Sédikh Diouf, a Senegalese historian and author on Serer history
Abdou Diouf. The second president of Senegal and Secretary General of Francophonie.
Ngalandou Diouf (1875–1941), Senegalese politician of the colonial era and parliamentarian of the French Chamber of Deputies
Coumba Ndoffène Diouf, Senegalese politician who held several cabinet posts. Former Foreign Minister of Senegal, Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs.
George St. Clair Joof (1907–1955), Gambian politician and barrister
Lucretia St. Clair Joof (1913–1982), Gambian politician and the first woman in the House of Representatives (the Gambia)
Diaraf Diouf (1925–2006), Senegalese politician and engineer, who held several ministeral posts before and after Senegal's independence.
Jacques Diouf, Senegalese politician Director-General of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Madior Diouf (born 1939) Senegalese politician and professor of literature at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop. Member and leader of the National Democratic Rally.
Mame Birame Souleymane Diouf (also Mame Biram Souleyman Diouf), Senegalese politician, economist and Deputy Mayor of Sokone (Senegal).
Ibra Diouf, member of The Pan-African Parliament
Jacques Diouf, Serer man and Senegalese politician Director-General of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Some of these legal professionals have ventured into politics but they are more known for their legal than for their political occupation :
Alhaji Bai Modi Joof (1933–1993) (Alhaji B.M. Joof), Gambian barrister, legal adviser to the Gambia Press Union and defender of free speech. Commonly known as Lawyer Joof (not to be confused with the younger Joseph Henry Joof, who is also known as Lawyer Joof), younger brother of Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof.
Joseph Henry Joof (born 1960), Gambian barrister, attorney general and politician.
Professor Boucar Diouf, member of the International Society of Nephrology, member of the African board of the Commission for the Global Advancement of Nephrology (COMGAN), member of the African Associations of Nephrology, President and founder-member of the Senegalese Society of Nephrology (SESONEPH)
Robert Diouf, professional Senegalese wrestler and former champion.
El-Hadji Diouf (born: 1981), Senegalese footballer, winner of many cups as well as the BBC African Footballer of the Year: (2002) playing for NPower Championship side Leeds United.
Dame Diouf, former professional footballer and elder brother of El-Hadji Diouf
Pa Malick Joof (born 1985), Gambian, professional footballer, former team member of SV Wilhelmshaven
Mamadou Diouf, professional footballer and member of the Football Club de Metz
El Hadji Diouf (footballer born 1988) (not be confused with the other El-Hadji Diouf) also a professional footballer
Mamadou Diouf, professional basketball player and a member of the Senegalese basketball team
Pape Diouf (proper: Mababa Diouf (born 1951), former journalist and president of Olympique de Marseille (2005–2009)
Serer man, Pape Diouf
Mame Biram Diouf, Senegalese footballer and player for the German club Hannover 96 as well as the Senegalese team.
Mame Tacko Diouf (born 1976), Senegalese 400 metres hurdler.
Mame Diodio Diouf (born 1984) Senegalese women's basketball player.
Serer native El-Hadji Diouf (born: 1981), Senegalese footballer, winner of many cups as well as the BBC African Footballer of the Year: (2002) playing for NPower Championship side Leeds United.
Music and entertainment
Boucar Diouf, Senegalese humorist
Élage Diouf, musician, percussionist and composer, naitive of Dakar, member of The Diouf brothers (Les frères Diouf) a Senegalese band.
Pape Abdou Karim Diouf, brother of Élage Diouf and band member of The Diouf brothers
Mouss Diouf (born 1964), actor
Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof pictured as a Scout Master in the colonial era. Gambian nationalist and opponent of the British administration in colonial times.
Hella Joof, actress and director (of Gambian descent).
Mamadou Diouf, former vet now musician and song-writer
Mouss Diouf, celebrated Senegalese actor
The definition of art is very broad. This section list the names of visual artists (in its narrowest definition) who share this surname :
Cheikh Diouf, professional artist. His work is primarily based on African art, winner of many awards
Business and commerce
Abdoulie Joof, a Gambian tycoon, commonly known as Lie Joof, implicated in several controversies including the financing of a coup d'etat to overthrow president Yahya Jammeh.
The following list gives the names of personalities with this surname who are experts in a variety of professions, and are equally known for each of these professions. Their professional life is so wide and varied that they can not be easily described by a single category :
Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof (1924–2011), a Gambian Statesman, author, historian, politician, trade unionist, nationalist, broadcaster, etc.
The Diouf brothers (Les frères Diouf), music band from Senegal. The band consists of Élage Diouf (El Haji Fall Diouf) and Pape Abdou Karim Diouf