Pigs, Priests and other Puzzles


Anthropologists and folklorists have described and, albeit to a lesser extent, analysed the occurrence of taboos in maritime communities. Following Malinowski’s anxiety-ritual proposition, the former stress personal risks and/or economic uncertainties involved in fishing as the cause of the observance of prohibitions. The author notices the omnipresence of distinct taboos in the fishing-villages of the North Atlantic fringe. Some of these are dealt with in detail. It is argued that these prohibitions are part and parcel of rites of territorial passage. The reason why particular creatures, objects, acts etcetera should be avoided is hardly ever scrutinized. Nevertheless, this is one of the more challenging problems on the subject of fishermen's taboos. In this paper some tentative explanations concerning this phenomenon are offered. Lastly, some attention is paid to the question of why taboos change or disappear over a span of time.

How to Cite

van Ginkel, R., (1987) “Pigs, Priests and other Puzzles”, Ethnologia Europaea 17(1), 57–68. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/ee.1371


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Rob van Ginkel (University of Amsterdam)



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