Nuer sheep sacrifice

Photographer: Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard
Date of Photo: 1935 July
Continent: Africa
Geographical Area: East Africa
Country: South Sudan
Region/Place: Upper Nile; Sobat River; Yakwach
Cultural Group: Nuer Lou
Format: Print black & white
Size: 56 x 54 mm
Acquisition: Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard - Donated 1966


A man cuts the throat of a tethered sheep whilst another holds it leg, with other men looking on beyond. A large hammer lies discarded in the foreground after being used to knock in the tethering peg. Castrated sheep and goats were frequently used in sacrifice in place of oxen, with particular care taken to note the way the beast falls, since this may indicate the success or potential failure of the sacrificial purpose. Evans-Pritchard describes having witnessed a Lou sheep sacrifice at Yakwach for a girl possessed by a lion-spirit, a cow also being dedicated to the spirit to placate it.

Publications history

Contemporary Publication - Reproduced as Plate X (facing page 218) in E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Nuer Religion (Oxford University Press 1974 [1957]) with the caption 'Immolation' [Chris Morton 20/5/2004]

Research Notes

Image context - In E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Nuer Religion (Oxford University Press 1974 [1957]), page 65, he notes that 'While I was living in a cattle camp at the same village of Yakwac...a girl of the lineage was taken hold of by the lion-spirit and had hysterics. Her family sacrificed a sheep to the spirit and dedicated a cow to it, for the seizure was thought to have been due to their failure to dedicate a cow to it earlier; and the girl was restored to her normal self.' [Chris Morton 2/6/2004]