Animal societies predate the colonial period and were gathered to fight the encroachment of European colonialism.
By Ahati Kilindi Iyi
The leopard and lion societies of Africa (as well as other animal societies) are steeped in mystery and are jealously guarded by the secret society systems. The secret societies are the custodians of the martial sciences. They hold the power within the culture to protect the greater society and to train the young boy in the art of responsibility.
Human leopards are those men who through initiations are brought into the realm of animal powers. The sacred stories, dances, ritual exercises and spiritual medicines blend together to bring the human into the realm of animal consciousness.
These animal societies predate the colonial period butt were gathered to fight the encroachment of European colonialism. This was a time of persecution and unfounded accusations by various European governors of cannibalism and murder. It is not uncommon for freedom fighters throughout the world to be smeared by governmental powers, and so it was with the animal societies.
Becoming The Animal
These men of power actually became the animal. They lived in the body of a leopard, lion or baboon. They abided by a strict code of secrecy and under penalty of death, would not reveal the secrets of the brotherhood which involved secret signs and passwords, ritual symbology and special languages.. One could speak to another leopard brother and convey messages and still have another meaning to the ears of those who were not a part of the secret society.
This language that was inside the greater society-yet seperate-involved animal calls, ritual urination and a host of other physical standards which served to bind the group.
Sacred clothing was sometimes used along with traditional weapons, such as claws and special knives. These items would be used to eliminate certain people who were opposed to the society as a whole.
The human leopard would be so animal –like that it was very hard to distinguish its work from that of an actual leopard. When someone of the leopard society was sent on a mission, they would leave tracks and wounds appearing to be the result of leopard claws and teeth. Animal attributes were used in every day life to help bind the greater society to its subunits.
In the bush, sacred space was designed for ritual communalism and meetings for the society’s business. Training consisted of dances passed down from generation to generation, which came from the first ancestors of the clans. Conversations and communions of the actual leopards and herbal preparations.
The animal societies of Africa played a great role in its history. The power of these societies is most often overlooked but their power is immense, existing to this very day. These societies continue to secure the traditions of the animal clan ancestors.
The lion societies are identified with solar and kingly power. The mane of the male lion is symbolic of the sun’s corona, an outgrowth of its inner fire.
The lion is revered for its way of life because lions live in a society.. Lions live in large family groups in which the female is the principle hunter and the male is the ever-present guardian of the group. All members are responsible for the protection of the young.The lion skin can only be worn by the most powerful warriors who have proven themselves in battle. Lions and leopards represented as fully zoomorphic and anthropomorphic deities such as Mahes, Apedmak and Sekmet, who were all warriors.
Reverence to the ancient warrior gods by the priesthood eventually developed into the lion societies of East and West Africa. The knowledge of the animal systems came from the deities themselves through the spiritual systems. Warriors of extraordinary martial skill empowered by the deity would perform miraculous feats of strength and endurance.
Dramas of an initiatory nature were performed only in the proper season to harmonize with the universal forces. The main emphasis is not on developing techniques, but the principles upon which those techniques are founded. Also developed was a fighting conscious within the nature of man through divine principles.
Man’s nature is departmentalized into constituent parts:Ara (physical body); Ojiji (shadow); lye (mental body,mind)); Oka (heart, heart soul); and Emi (spirit, spiritual body, spiritual soul). These aspects of the nature of man blend together and merge with the animal souls to develop the lion and leopard fighting systems.. Warriors at a very young age were blessed and sanctified to the clan animal. The warrior was taught the sacred dances , music and songs to evoke the sate of consciousness of the great elder (the first lion or leopard from which the group identifies).
The body’s organs are the divine receptors for the animal souls. The Emi. Activated by the will, enabled the warrior to transform or shapeshift into the clan animal. These principles are part of the ancient and contemporary African animal fighting societies. The Ta-merrian Institute seeks the preservation of these societies for their divine knowledge.
Animal systems practiced at the Ta-merrian Institute that reflect many of the principles held sacred in the warrior societies are;
The Lion-its regal appearance and ferocious style is the solar fighting system. The lion’s mane unites the symbols of sun fire (solar head and heart) and of air through the strong respiratory chest of the lion that fires the fighting emotions.
The Snake–Consisting of a vertebral column coated with skin, it is a column so supple that it can take almost any position of the risen body of the cobra.
The Phoenix–The solar bird is reborn from its own ashes; symbolic of rebirth. It is sometimes identified with various types of animals in ancient times, mostly the cranes.
The Ape-A large monkey with elongated muzzle. Ferocious fighter noted for its mane. Its cries at dawn and dusk have given it an important symbolic role.
The Crocodile-Low threshing movements, the terror in water transmuting the elements of water and air, adjusting different levels of evolution.
The Panther-Symbolic of strength and power. Many tribes in Africa still wear the ritual panther skin to bring strength to the wearer.
The Bull- The animal type for generating force to completely dominate an opponent.
The human leopards and the lions who walk like man reveal the ancient powers of man. Those powers can still be called upon by the African warriors of today to oppose injustice.They can also be called upon to preserve more complete way of like and the principles modern man has forsaken. Inclusion of ancient principles into today’s society may recapture an elusive manhood and bring us back to a former greatness which is needed, sadly missed and hopefully can be recaptured.
Tchaka Training the Zulus
Laamb – Senegalese Traditional Wrestling
Dambe at the Argungu
Ag’ya, Martinique’s Combat Dance, 1936