Pangool

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The pangool (sing. fangool) are Seereer saints and/or ancestral spirits. The veneration of the pangool is a fundamental principle in Seereer religion. They are the interceders between the living world and the Divine (Roog among the Seex, Koox among the Saafi).


From a Seereer historical perspective, the ancient lamans, the early founders of many Seereer villages and town, were believed to be accompanied by a group of pangool as they traveled in search of land to exploit. As a result of that relationship, the ancient lamans became guardians of Seereer religion and the pangool "cult" by creating shrines in their honour. 


The Seereer pangool are numerous, and each fangool has his or her own specific attribute, place of worship or veneration, and means by which he or she is venerated. The gender terms he / she are used here loosely. Although some pangool are early human ancestors, some are nonhumans (see types of pangool - below).

Etymology 

The etymology of fangool comes from the Seereer term "Fang Qool" which literally mean "the sacred serpent". The  plural of fangool is pangool. In Seereerfangool means serpent.

Terminology

  • Fangool (or fangol)  — an ancestral spirit or a saint. It is the singular of pangool.
  • Pangool (or pangol)    two or more ancestral spirits or saints. It is the plural of  fangool.
  • Pangool ke — means "the ancestors"
  • O Yaal Pangool (or yaal pangool) — means the "masters of the pangool cult", previously the role of the ancient Seereer lamans, now the role of the saltigue (the Seereer high priests and priestesses).

English

This article is part of the Seereer religion series. For other religious related articles, click on the category button below:

Please cite this work as:


The Seereer Resource Centre, "Pangool" (2013) [in] The Seereer Resource Centre, 

URL: hhttps://www.seereer.com/pangool

Types of Pangool

There are two types of Pangool:

  1. non-human pangool
  2. human pangool

Both types are revered, and deemed ancient and sacred. Non-human Pangool are deemed more ancient and include ancient sacred sites with vital spiritual energies. These types of pangool (non-humans) are the personification of natural forces. Human beings who have been good people by following the teachings of Seereer religion during their life time become pangool after their death. Human pangool transmit vital energies by interceding with the Divine. Not every death ancestor becomes elevated to a fangool status. In accordance with Seereer religious teachings, if they were not good people in their life time they would not be able to reach Jaaniiw (the sacred abode where good souls go) and therefore unholy to become pangool.

Categories

Each fangool can fall into any of the following categories:
  1. pangool who were known and revered in a particular region, such as the tombs of Seereer royalty;
  2. pangool who were  known and revered in a particular village or town, such as those of Seereer village or town founder;
  3. pangool who were  known, revered and venerated in a particular square such as the founder of the square;
  4. a fangool made known to an individual and thereby becoming the personal fangool of that individual. For example the fangool Ginaaru was the personal fangool of Maad a Sinig Maysa Wali Jaxateh Manneh (King of Siin 1350 - 1370);
  5. those pangool whose names are lost to history or did not disclose their identity, but were known for certain historical events. 

Attributes or nature

A fangool can be : a blood or red fangool; a milk fangool or a water fangool. Offerings to a particular fangool must be made in accordance with the attribute or nature of the fangool being venerated.

  1. A blood or red fangool is one who requires a blood sacrifice - the sacrifice of domesticated animals such as cattle (or alcohol).
  2. A milk fangool is one who requires the offering of milk.
  3. A water fangool is one who reside in water.
Blood is a sign of life In Seereer cosmogony.  Blood or red pangool fulfill a crucial role in modern and ancient Seereer society, and are regarded as the most ancient and powerful pangool. They are the most revered and feared. The fangool Ngolum Juuf is one of the better known blood pangool but there are many others - see the list of Seereer pangool. In some cases, the offering of alcohol is made rather than the sacrifice of domesticated animals. 

Unlike blood pangool, those pangool requiring milk offerings such as Moussa Saar and Njemeh of Languème and Njoxona tend to be more peaceful in nature. These types of pangool rejects anything anything that symbolizes violence or things that may evoke destruction or death, for example iron, weapons, gunpowder, blood even the colour red. Such pangool are usually the protectors of Seereer cities and villages, as well as protectors of the weak.

History

The Seereer people have a long history of venerating the pangool. Their history of pangool veneration is found within the hermeneutics of Seereer religion, oral tradition and archaeological discoveries in their territories. Prior to the widespread veneration of the pangool, the religious habit of the ancient Seereers included holding prayers at the beginning of the rainy season. The branches of the njambayargin tree (bauhinia rufescens) were fetched by these ancient people because they believed the tree to possess elements which boosted the growth of their crops and produce much fruit. Ritual prayers were made to the Seereer supreme deity Roog (or Koox), totally distinct from the prayers that would become afforded to other Seereer spiritual entities such as the Pangool. In Seereer cosmogony, trees play a vital role in the creation narrative, as they were the first things created on earth by the divine, followed by animals (non-humans). The exact date as to when the veneration of the Seereer pangool came into existence cannot be stated with any degree of accuracy. Henry Gravrand citing the work of archaeologists and prehistorians writes : 

"Since the publication of COSAAN [history], where I took as a starting point of Sereer history in Tekrur over 2000 years ago, I noted an important discovery. In the middle of the Sahara, in the Tassili rock carvings listed by Henri L'hote, appears the traces of the present Sereer Cossan [Serer history] or their ancestors, a period dating back to the third or fourth millennium. This engraving represents the Sereer initiation star, with two coiled snakes, symbols of the Pangool. [...] The rock where the star appears is the Sereer symbols of the Pangool which was probably a place of worship."

Laman Jeegaan Juuf, the medieval founder of Tukar probably around the 11th-century, is reported to have been accompanied by a group of pangool when he migrated from Lambaye accompanied by his brother Ndik following some disagreement with king of Lambaye (his relative ). After his migration, the laman  founded Tukar, which falls within the Seereer precolonial Kingdom of Siin, in present-day Senegal. As one of the Seereer holy sites, the fangool of of Tukar is has a huge devotees, with a huge turnout especially at the 'Raan festival which takes place one a year on the second Thursday after the appearance of the new moon in April. Laman Jeegaan Juuf's descendants play a prominent role in this religious affair.

Role in Seereer religion 

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What is their connection to the serpent?

The symbol of the pangool is the serpent which in Seereer religious symbolism is represented by two coiled snakes. (Gravrand, Pangool, p. 9)  Not only did the pangool take their name from the serpent, but there is a spiritual link between the pangool and the serpent. 


Those who adhere to the tenets of "a ƭat Roog" (Seereer religion) believe that, several ancestors were transformed into pythons at the very moment they 

became pangool. Thus the Seereer concept of  pangool is in perfect harmony with the serpent. (Gravrand, Pangool, p. 313). It is for this reason why it is against Seereer religion and culture to kill a snake. The concept of reincarnation  ciiɗ  in Seereer (Faye, "Mort et Naissance le monde Sereer", p. 910), is one of the fundamental beliefs in Seereer religion. When the dead leaves the physical world, their souls or "double" transforms into an animal, which usually is a snake, and more specifically, black snake. As such, it is taboo and against Seereer custom to kill a snake. Seereer religious teachings states that, the souls of the dead must make their way to Jaaniiw (the sacred abode where good souls go). (Gravrand, Cosaan: les origines (1983), p 33; Faye, p. 1725).


The actual process of transforming into a black snakes is one of the first phases of an effort to reach Jaaniiw. As they transform, they take shelter and protection in trees. In Seereer symbolism, a snake found hiding in a tree has two possible symbolic meanings. It could mean a person has died and his soul has reincarnated  or a person may die. If the later is true, then killing the snake would trigger the early death of the person. (Thiaw, "Mythe de la création du monde selon les sages sereer", p. 45−50, 59−61)

Bibliography

  1. Thiaw, Issa laye, "Mythe de la création du monde selon les sages sereer", p. 45−50, 59−61 [in] "Enracinement et Ouverture""Plaidoyer pour le dialogue interreligieux", Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (23 and 24 June 2009), Dakar. (Last retrieved : 26 August 2015)
  2. Gravrand, Henry, "La Civilisation Sereer" - "Pangool", vol. 2. Les Nouvelles Éditions Africaines du Sénégal (1990), p. 9, 313, ISBN 2-7236-1055-1 
  3. Gravrand, Henry, "La civilisation Sereer", "Cosaan : les origines", vol. 1, Nouvelles Éditions Africaines (1983), p. 33,, ISBN 2-7236-0877-8
  4. Faye, Louis Diène, "Mort et Naissance le monde Sereer", Les Nouvelles Éditions Africaines (1983), p. 9−10, 17−25,  ISBN 2-7236-0868-9