Xooy, a divination ceremony among the Serer of Senegal 


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Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Direction Patrimoine Culturel (Sénégal), 2011

The Xooy divination ceremony is organized in village squares among the Serer community in west-central Senegal prior to the rainy season. During this long nocturnal gathering, master seers known as Saltigues each in turn step into a designated circle, where they deliver predictions before a rapturous audience accompanied by the rhythm of drums. The Xooy ceremony provides answers to key issues for the community such as the rains, plagues or illnesses, and remedies. The combination of the Saltigues’ vibrant clothing, songs and dances, proverbs and riddles creates a colourful ceremony, high on drama, as these officiating priests – masters of the art of communication – hold the audience in suspense until daybreak. The Xooy is a major event in the national cultural calendar and constitutes a privileged forum for the expression and presentation of Serer cultural heritage. The Saltigues are the living mediums of the Xooy and preserve and transmit the esoteric knowledge that is vital to the ceremony. They are also in charge of interceding between people, the Supreme Being, nature and genies, regulating society, and ensuring harmony between men, women and their environment. With their knowledge of plants, they also provide traditional therapies to alleviate suffering.