Feeding and Devouring

The second aspect of the millet ritual made evident by the name of sutok sorani - alongside the association of the plants and the dry fields with children and the dead - is revealed in the contrast to the homology between the paddy rice and the bride and so points to the type of relationships involved and their valuation.

The plants of the dry fields are similar to children in the potential danger they face. Despite the contribution of the dead, the plants are susceptible to imponderable influences (rau, duma daini, nosto), and the produce of the dry fields is at risk of being devoured (kai debar) by these powers, as the idiom of destruction has it. In the reproduction of the dry fields, then, unpredictable influences play a large role, influences that are outside the realm of regular (soman), reciprocal exchange relationships and that take without giving.

The annual cycle opposes the sutok sorani of the dry fields to the bringing home of the bride in the context of the paddy rice harvest. Relatively threatened existence (one-sided taking) is contrasted to relatively secure existence (reciprocal giving). Sutok sorani is performed by the dissari, and demons receive sacrifices to placate their “gluttony,” but not tsoru. The milk relationships between af- fines, on the other hand - despite all conflicts and broken-off individual relationships - are balanced and a matter for the tsorubai, the Four Brothers, the Twelve Brothers, and the mother’s brother, who make the bridal couple complete persons by feeding them tsoru. The type of ritual actors involved in a wedding - ideally a necessary part of the marriage process - shows that the society as a whole perpetuates the lasting relationships of reproduction within the framework of the traditional order (niam). This valuation of the affinal type of relationship is articulated with reference to the rice paddies, which are a “place of water” (pani jaga) and, like the milk relationship, guarantee reproduction.

The homologies between different categories of fields and sutok sorani, on the one hand, and the bringing home of the bride, on the other, not only associate environmental categories with specific phases of the life cycle: the paddy rice is a bride, the plants of the dry fields are children. The analogy between these homologous pairs also reveals the general differentiation of relationship types, characterized in terms of various oppositions: reciprocal/one-sided or pre- dictable/unpredictable. The Gadaba distinguish relationships that are good and balanced (bol soman) from those that, as a matter of principle, bring misfortune (bipod, bada). These contrary modes of relationship are also expressed in ritual in the alimentary mode. Sharing tsoru at the “table of the agnates” and feeding tsoru among tsorubai or affines are expressions (as well as consequences and causes) of these positive relationships. One-sided consumption and devouring, in contrast, characterize negative relationships, such as those between demons and human beings, for example, and are not a basis for tsoru commensality.

 
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