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Itherther


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Africa

The primeval buffalo of Kabyl mythology. The Kabyls of Algeria preserve in their legends something of the ancient notions of the Berber peoples, who flourished in northern Africa before the Arab Conquest (643–700).

In the beginning there were on earth a buffalo, Itherther, and a female calf, Thamuatz. Both emerged from a dark place under the earth called Tlam, to which they did not wish to return. Achimi, their bull offspring, ran off and came to a village built by the first men. When the villagers tried to capture him, he hastened back to his parents. Meanwhile a wise ant explained to men about the young bull and also told Achimi about other animals. Although the ant suggested that it was better for an animal to serve man, who could drive off predators and offer plenty of food, the young bull did not choose to take this advice. Instead Achimi returned home, coupled with his mother and newly born sister, and exiled his father.

So it was that Itherther found himself wandering the mountains. He could not forget the cow Thamuatz. Every time he remembered her did his semen run into a natural bowl of rock. From this semen the sun engendered the game animals—the first were gazelles—and Itherther was a mother to them. All the wild animals of the world originated from the bowl, except the lion. The first lion, the Kabyls say, was a cannibalistic man.

Subjects: Religion.


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