Ethnic Origin

Origin of the Sande Society

In ages gone by there lived a woman called Sande who earned her living fishing. She was so successful that after some years there were no fish left in the rivers of that country. Hearing of a fine river in a nearby land she left her town and went there, and began to fish.

The Chief of that land warned her not to walk in a certain part of the river, but suspecting that this place held many fish she took her net and went there. She sand as she threw her net again and again, and snared many fish.

While wading in the water Sande noticed a hole in the bank, and putting her hand inside she found a cooking spoon and a stirring stick. She placed them in her net.

Putting her hand in the hole again she discovered a pot and a bowl, and then a bucket and a drinking cup… and then something cold and evil grasped her hand and began to drag her into the hole.

Sande cried out in a loud voice, and women in the nearby town ran to assist her. When they arrived half her body was already in the hole; they tied a rope about her waist and all began to pull. They pulled and pulled, and began to drag her out; and they dragged with her a terrible Thinwhich held tightly to her hand.

Brave women attacked the Thing, but it made fearful sounds and began to swallow the women one by one. The Zoe women of the town came with her magic and took the Thing to a sacred bush, and called it Ter-Fahr-La. Ter-Fahr-La became the women’s devil, and those who know where and what it was, and how best to control it, became a secret society.

Thus the Sande Society was organized, and named in honor of Sande who discovered Ter-Fahr-La; the ceremonies still performed within that sacred bush are known as Sande-Koo to this day.

This story is criticized by the Bureau of Folkways as being inaccurate and misleading, and the following comment is offered:

“Just as a Dazoe is head of the Poro, so a Zoe is head of a Sande bush; and thus it is obvious that if a Zoe woman lived in the town described, a Sande Society already existed there.

“Ter-Fahr-La’ means sour cane leaf, and is the symbol of certain cultural societies among people from the Western boundary to the St. John River: it is not, therefore, a woman’s devil.

It is possible that this story was told by a member of the Sande Society and was deliberately distorted to conceal certain secret facts which may not, for any reason whatsoever, be revealed to people who are not initiates of the Society.”