Talk:Mumbo jumbo (phrase)

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From "Life and Travels of Mungo Park in Central Africa.txt" (M. Park being a well known travellor) (this book is downloadable from http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/p ):

On the 7th I departed from Konjour, and slept at a village called Malla, (or Mallaing;) and on the 8th about noon I arrived at Kolor, a considerable town; near the entrance into which I observed, hanging upon a tree, a sort of masquerade habit, made of the bark of trees, which I was told on inquiry belonged to MUMBO JUMBO. This is a strange bugbear, common to all the Mandingo towns, and much employed by the Pagan natives in keeping their women in subjection; for as the Kafirs are not restricted in the number of their wives, every one marries as many as he can conveniently maintain; and as it frequently happens that the ladies disagree among themselves, family quarrels sometimes rise to such a height, that the authority of the husband can no longer preserve peace in his household. In such cases, the interposition of Mumbo Jumbo is called in, and is always decisive.

This strange minister of justice, (who is supposed to be either the husband himself, or some person instructed by him,) disguised in the dress that has been mentioned, and armed with the rod of public authority, announces his coming (whenever his services are required) by loud and dismal screams in the woods near the town. He begins the pantomime at the approach of night; and as soon as it is dark he enters the town, and proceeds to the Bentang, at which all the inhabitants immediately assemble.

It may easily be supposed that this exhibition is not much relished by the women; for, as the person in disguise is entirely unknown to them, every married female suspects that the visit may possibly be intended for herself; but they dare not refuse to appear when they are summoned; and the ceremony commences with songs and dances, which continue till midnight, about which time Mumbo fixes on the offender. This unfortunate victim being thereupon immediately seized, is stripped naked, tied to a post, and severely scourged, with Mumbo's rod, amidst the shouts and derision of the whole assembly; and it is remarkable, that the rest of the women are the loudest in their exclamations on this occasion against their unhappy sister. Daylight puts an end to this indecent and unmanly revel.


Park visited Senegambia in the last years of the eighteenth century, an earlier English traveler, Francis Moore wrote a similar account during his visit to the Gambia in 1730, in that it was a bugbear used to control women. He also mentioned that it was a sort of secret language only understood by men. [Francis Moore, Travels to the Inland Parts of Africa (London, 1738), p. 40]

This may also be related to "Mamma Jamboh" mentioned by the French traveler and contemporary of Part, Silvio Meinhard-Xavier de Golberry, Fragmens d'un voyage a Afrique, Paris 1802) vol. 1, p. 423.

I personally doubt the term descends from Kiswahili as stated in the article. The greeting in Swahili, is "Jambo" which is not that much like Swahili, and in proper, coastal Swahili it is "Hujambo". Mambo is not combined with it in greetings, although the term means "things, or matters". There was, however, relatively little connection to Swahili at the time the term appeared in English and I suspect its source to be Moore.

2007-02-8 Automated pywikipediabot message[edit]

--CopyToWiktionaryBot 07:41, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Mumbo Jumbo[edit]

"The term continues to be used derisively of Roman Catholicism."

Now THAT is mumbo jumbo or just liberal nonsense as I'd rather call it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.190.234.139 (talk) 07:27, 25 November 2008 (UTC)

Ya that seemed a little out of place and the citation didn't actually have anything to do with the Roman Catholic church so I changed it. --mroconnell (talk) 10:59, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

Origins & Early Usage[edit]

The phrase "and it hasn't shaken that off" does not read like an encyclopedic entry. It is too conversational. Please change. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.99.193.239 (talk) 15:21, 20 April 2010 (UTC)