Xooy, a divination ceremony among the Serer of Senegal 

Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Senegal



Xooy, a divination ceremony among the Serer of Senegal 

The Xooy divination ceremony is organized in village squares among the Serer community in west-central Senegal prior to the rainy season. During this long nocturnal gathering, master seers known as Saltigues each in turn step into a designated circle, where they deliver predictions before a rapturous audience accompanied by the rhythm of drums. The Xooy ceremony provides answers to key issues for the community such as the rains, plagues or illnesses, and remedies. The combination of the Saltigues’ vibrant clothing, songs and dances, proverbs and riddles creates a colourful ceremony, high on drama, as these officiating priests – masters of the art of communication – hold the audience in suspense until daybreak. The Xooy is a major event in the national cultural calendar and constitutes a privileged forum for the expression and presentation of Serer cultural heritage. The Saltigues are the living mediums of the Xooy and preserve and transmit the esoteric knowledge that is vital to the ceremony. They are also in charge of interceding between people, the Supreme Being, nature and genies, regulating society, and ensuring harmony between men, women and their environment. With their knowledge of plants, they also provide traditional therapies to alleviate suffering.


Decision 8.COM 8.25

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: The Xooy divination ceremony among the Serer serves as a forum of their cultural expressions including genealogies, proverbs, riddles, drum language, dances and songs; the diviners regulate society and establish a harmonious balance between humans and their environment;
  • R.2: Inscription of Xooy could enhance dialogue among communities, in particular among those that share similar practices, while demonstrating the relationship between humans and nature and the importance of this relationship to the continuity of the human species;
  • R.3: Safeguarding efforts of the communities and the State aim to preserve and revitalize Xooy and to disseminate, promote and raise awareness of its practice;
  • R.4: The association responsible for practicing the divination participated in the preparation of the nomination and provided its free, prior and informed consent;
  • R.5: Xooy was included in an inventory established on the basis of a survey conducted from 1970 to 1984, in another prepared in connection with a nomination to the programme of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and in an inventory of listed historical sites and monuments from 2006, updated in 2013.

Recalls the importance of using appropriate vocabulary and avoiding expressions taken from the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.



© October 2011 by DPC

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