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August 12, 2022

Semasaka - in traditional Burundian beliefs, the title of one of the sacred bulls. This title can be translated literally as Father Sorghum or Lord Sorghum. The animal considered semasaka was at the center of the courtly religious practice of bulls. It was also an indispensable element of the celebrations related to the sowing season. During these holidays, the Burundian monarch consumed a specially prepared porridge made of sorghum mixed with semasaki urine. The close ties between the animal and the monarchy were also evident during the coronation rituals. The king who was beginning to reign was riding a semasaka at that time. The role of this bull should also be analyzed in the broader context of traditional religious practices closely related to animals. One can mention here the cult of the sacred sheep rutenderi and mudende, the cult of the sacred goats rutagari and rusasu or the cult of the sacred kabwa dog. The last semasaka died in 1935, thus still during the Belgian colonial rule. The ruler of Burundi was then Mwambutsa IV. During the short reign of Ntare V (1966) attempts were made to select and appoint another semasaka. Before this could be done, however, the monarchy was abolished.

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Bibliography

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