The ABCs of ABC – E

E is for… Emela-ntouka

The Emela-ntouka is a big one-horned creature with a heavy crocodilian tail. It is also a surviving ceratopsian dinosaur because there’s no way sub-Saharan people could come up with it on their own.

16 Comments

  1. Alright, please don’t take this the wrong way, but isn’t it just as ethnocentric to assume that the people who talk about these beings are “making it up”? Either way, somebody’s beliefs are being seen as something that couldn’t possibly be true according to our Western viewpoint. Whether you think it’s a dinosaur or someone’s imagination, it’s still ignoring how there are people who say that they saw an Emela Ntouka and that’s what they truly believe they saw. I’m not trying to be an outright “social justice warrior” about it but you should be a little more careful. Some of the creatures you talk about are parts of people’s religions and should be treated with respect that is all too often not paid to indigenous religions.

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      • I get that you were being sarcastic. But what I’m contending is that saying that a given mythological creature was “made up” by a people as opposed to it being misidentified by an uneducated populace is just as bad as the viewpoint that you were critiquing on the grounds that both suggest that the people talking about the being in question are ignorant of how the world works (either they are too dumb to recognize an animal known to the more enlightened scientific community or that they are superstitious primitives). Both views stem from the same monotheistic secularism that Western culture tends to uphold. Now, granted, I’m not sure if anyone considers the Emela Ntouka to be a deity but there are some creatures talked about on this site that are in some respect. What I’m saying is that these deserve a bit more delicacy

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      • Honestly, I don’t think anything really needs to be “done”. I would say that it’s more of a matter of being cognizant of how things are talked about. It’s hard to do because it’s so ingrained in us to talk about things in a certain way. For instance, it took me a while to stop talking about deities in past tense (because the past tense suggests that the deities in question are “dead” as opposed to “living” religions). Now, that’s a personal one but it’s an example of how major cultural viewpoints influence tiny details

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    • How do you feel about people who disbelieve, or even outright speak out against, the religions and beliefs of their own culture? I know a few black metal bands by Iranians which outright sing about hatred toward Islam. And I know black metal bands started by people who were once Christians but have since abandoned their religion out of personal moral distaste. Likewise, there have existed ancient Romans, ancient Greeks, ancient Chinese, and other people who have questioned or spoken against the gods or religions of their times. Are these people wrong for treating their very own culture as misguided or wrong?

      I don’t disagree with you. I too believe myths and folklore and religions and spiritual teachings demand a certain amount of respect (though not blindly or 100%), and like you, I also don’t speak of old gods in past tense, partially because I see them as very real, and partially because some old gods ARE still worshiped today, like Quetzalcoatl. So I agree with your comment to an extent, and admire your desire to put things in perspective and force people to think more carefully.

      Nonetheless, I also can’t help but feel your comment is just a little bit naive. The fact of the matter is that all folklore is ultimately “made up” in a sense. When stories are passed down from generation to generation, the teller will either forget some details or purposely change them. And some Eskimo shamans partake in sleight of hand, like illusionists do, to accompany their ceremonies and create an atmosphere of magic or the divine. And some people outright lie, to entertain or to scare, and these lies become integrated into folk culture. That doesn’t mean their stories or ceremonies are false, but rather that they are very much created by people for specific functions.

      I don’t know the nature of this African beast, but I very much agree with the author that cryptozoologists are kinda arrogant and ignorant for assuming that African natives don’t have an active imagination. It’s as bad as ancient alien theorists claiming that ancient humans were too primitive to possibly build stone henge.

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      • I think there is a complex issue here. What exactly is reality when we base it on the accounts of others? The same things said about folklore could easily be applied (and often are) to historical accounts. Or even to just day-to-day accounts of what goes on in someone’s life. Did yesterday really happen as I recall it?

        I’ll however say that, in regards to people talking about their own cultures, I think there is a difference. In those cultures, there often already is a sort of respect for those culture’s beliefs. Questioning those beliefs from the inside does not damage those beliefs because the traditions of those beliefs are strong enough to accept criticism (and quite often, the critic even ends their critique with a reaffirmation of those beliefs because their goal was to just get us to think about our preconceived notions rather than to outright deny them). However, in environments such as the societies created by Post-Christian and Post-Islamic thinking, these institutions are either nearly completely destroyed with only tiny vestiges of their past or are severely weatherbeaten if not destroyed. Criticizing indigenous beliefs in this context is not healthy counterculture but is now just further exertion of the conquering overculture. To put it simply, it’s not edgy if everyone is already doing it. The actual “hipster” would be the person who is pious.

        In regards to your example from Inuit culture, I would just like to add that I totally understand where you are coming from and am personally a major supporter of the interpretation that sleight of hand in shamanic practices should not lead to the interpretation that shamans are charlatans. Theatre has always been used to heighten the sense of epiphany in mystic contexts and is perfectly reconcilable with the theology of the practioners (the theatre could be interpreted as being a physical counterpart to the spiritual working and shamanic ontologies tend to be more “in your face” anyways since their goal is direct contact with the divine).

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      • One thing I forgot to mention: from an anthropologically relativistic point of view, it would be more appropriate to say that a culture’s traditions are not merely made up but are created with cooperation from the spiritual world (“We do this because the Gods said so”). This is more respectful towards the people being studied and is more reflective of the major reasons why people do what they do in regards to religion. If I were to ask a Christian why Jesus is the Lamb if God, if I would be incredibly surprised if they started talking about the socio-economic climate in the Roman province of Judaea. Granted, that might be a bad example but I think you can see what I mean. However, this admittedly does come down to a certain bias of the person doing the study. I doubt that an atheist or Christian anthropologist would be keen on being that respectful to indigenous religions (hence why this particular science has the preferred methods of interpretation that it does).

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