Dinka Snuff Horn
Horn & Leather.
6″ (15.2 cm).
Private Collection – Florida, USA.
Traditionally tobacco plays an important part in the lives of the tribal peoples. It is not only smoked, but is ground and mixed with some type of charcoal, such as burnt prickly pear leaves, to make snuff. In some areas it is still used mainly as snuff rather than for smoking. Most adult males smoke and/or use snuff, either snuffed up the nose or placed under the lip. In some groups the men are more inclined to smoke while the women are more inclined to take snuff. Among some tribes, tobacco is taboo to a woman until she is past child-bearing age, but she may take snuff, which is considered to be a remedy for headache, toothache and nosebleed.
Tobacco, especially in the form of snuff, is of special importance in dealings with the ancestral spirits who traditionally are responsible for the well-being, or misfortune, of their living kin. The ancestors are generally appealed to or appeased at ritual feasts, and ideally tobacco is a prerequisite of such a feast. The ancestors demand meat, sorghum beer and tobacco to keep them well-disposed towards the living.
Snuff may be left in a special place in the back of the hut for the ancestors to use its essence. It is later used by the living kin who say that the ancestors have left it for them after taking what they need.
Any snuff spilt is not picked up, but is left as an offering to the ancestors, as it is believed to have spilt because the ancestors wanted it. Snuff is also used to aid communication with the ancestors. Diviners especially use it to cleartheir heads in order to allow the ancestral spirits to enter and guide them in their divining.
Among some groups there is a special etiquette involved in giving and receiving snuff. There are special formulas for asking for s’nuff and polite ways of receiving it, as well as rules deciding who may give or receive it. No man may ask another man’s wife for snuff in case it contains magical charms that may harm him. For the same reason it is considered dangerousto accept snuff from a stranger.