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Tiger bells, reactions and opinions

January 1997

We received two new reports, one of tiger bells in Nagaland, Assam and another report of tiger bells and the Mangyan in Mindoro, the Philippines.

December 1995

Paul Manansala has his own home page with lots of interesting information on the Philippines, such as Philippine pre-history, the rice terraces in North Luzon, etc. He made a link on his home page to the pages on the tiger bells.

January 1996

Yousef Lasi asks in what region of Pakistan tiger bells occur. He will try to find out if there is a link between the tiger bells and the Hazara, an ethnic group in Northwest Pakistan that arrived there in the 13th to 15th century, coming from Mongolia.

Sisial points out:
...the frequencies of these tiger bells does not come as such a shock to me. Years ago, I hypothesized the existence of a single cultural group spanning much of Europe and Asia. Linguistic and cultural similarities can be seen in several fragment groups still surviving on both continents. (...) I can still remember a few of these groups: Turkic Mongolian, Tungusic, Finnic, Hungarian. Traces also exist in Korea and throughout Indonesia...

February 1996

Lynx suggests: personal belief is that certain "Tribes" have certain "Totem" animals which are drawn to the community through the Shamans, or Medicine People.

Gerold Firl suggests:
Regarding the patchy distribution of the bells, you suggested that such data might be useful for tracing pattertns of ethnic history and migration. Let me remind you of an often-underestimated factor in cultural diversity: the need/desire of people to distinguish their group from neighboring groups. We see it very clearly within our own culture, as each subculture develops its' own identity- badges. Often they are relatively trivial: clothes, hairstyles, tattoos, speech patterns or dialects, for example. But this same human characteristic, when applied to traditional cultures, can have far-reaching, profound influence on cultural evolution. I would suggest that an understanding of the patchy distribution of tiger bells could best be understood, at least at the local level, with a style or fashion-based analysis.
That is, we don't wear tiger bells because they wear tiger bells.

My comment (in short): This does not answer the questions on the origin. Why would (in SE Mindanao) a Bagobo want to indicate that he feels related to e.g. a Mansaka and not to a Tagabili? Also, certain musical practices occur with the people with the tiger bell and not with others (e.g. the set of hanging gongs).

March 1996

Gerold Firl reacted:
That is interesting; the presence of tiger bells correlates with a particular type of gong playing. What other correlations can be found? How about dance styles? If tiger bells were used to accent a particular kind of dance, that may relate to larger patterns of religion and ritual.

Reacting on the age of the type A bells, about 700 years: It is quite possible that major movements of peoples has taken place within the last few centuries. I hadn't really thought about how old these bells are; if they have been in the possesion of the same people for 700 years, then they could provide a useful migration-tracer.

Joel Gazis Sax (BA Anthropology, Pomona College, Claremont California) referred to an article by Boas:
Boas had in his collection hundreds of ivory needlecases created by Eskimo craftspeople. These were not mass-produced, identical artifacts, but showed many different forms.

He writes:The conclusion which I draw from a comparison of the types of needlecases here represented is that the flanged needlecase represents an old conventional style, which is ever present in the mind of the Eskimo artist who sets about to carve a needlecase. The various parts of the flanged needlecase excite his imagination; and a geometrical element here or there is developed by him, in accordance with the general tendencies of Eskimo art, into the representations of whole animals or of parts of animals.... [If] we are to form an acceptable theory of the origin of decorative designs, it seems a safer method to form our judgement based on examples the history of which can be traced with a fair degree of certainty, rather than on speculations in regard to the origin of remote forms for the development of which no data are available. [Boas 1908]

In other words, culture plays a big role in how people are going to take a basic object such as a tigerbell and turn it into something else. Or to even decide to use it at all! (Suppose people think that tigers are evil -- would they want to have objects representing their fear around?) The best way to find out why people have or don't have tiger bells is simply to do a little good ethnography, as the original poster sought in the first place. This data will always beat out the unsound and usually untestable speculations of certain reductionists.

My comment: While the needle boxes were all unique products made by individuals, the tiger bells were most probably mass-produced by a small number of work shops in various places in East Asia. These work shops produced for certain ethnic groups which had a continuous demand for these bells because of religious or other reasons.

April 1996

Catherine Yronwode (Lucky W Amulets) wrote:
...this reminds me of the pellet bells used in Italy to guard livestock from the evil eye; see Elworthy's "The Evil Eye" for numerous examples...

This web site is (..) of great interest to anyone who studies folkloric magic, talismans, amulets, charms, etcetera.

July 1996

Enid Nelson (Uppsala University, Sweden) reacted:
I wondered if you had more information about the tiger bells that were used on cats among the Minangkabau -- I have an interest in cat and tiger beliefs in Sumatra, and found this use intriguing. Unfortunately I have no information about tiger bells among the Rejang of Bengkulu province (southwestern Sumatra) where I did my anthropological fieldwork, but I will keep my eyes open in the future.

August 1996

Vicky Quiritan wrote:
... by the way, I have seen these bells in Indonesia: on Bali (where I lived for one year) and in Jakarta...
Those are the updates so far. Keep in touch!

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Reports of tiger bells in various countries
Description of various types of tiger bells
Observations and tentative conclusions
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