Sunday, October 08, 2006

New book: Les Messagers Divins

An interesting new book has been released edited by Pierre le Roux and Bernard Sellato. The articles are both in French and English.

Although the snake here is regarded as masculine and the bird as feminine, I believe that orignally this was not the case despite the apparent visual symbolism inherent in the species i.e. snake as male organ, and bird as female organ.

As outlined in this blog, the legendary histories suggest the real existence of bird and snake clans that at one point united and in the bilaterial kinship system the bird clan represented the male line, and the serpent clan, the female line.

Paul Kekai Manansala

Connaissances & Savoirs Publ. (Paris,, SevenOrients Publ. (Paris,, and the Institute for Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia (Paris and Bangkok, are pleased to inform you of the release of the book:

Aspects esthétiques et symboliques des oiseaux en Asie du Sud-Est

Bird Symbolism and Aesthetics in Southeast Asia
edited by Pierre LE ROUX and Bernard SELLATO

Preface by Jean LARIVIERE (Scientific Adviser of the Foundation Ushuaia-Nicolas Hulot pour la Nature et l'Homme, Vice-President of the French Section of the International Union for Nature Conservation).

Published with assistance from the Maison Asie-Pacifique (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université de Provence), in partnership with IRASEC (Institute for Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia).

Format / Size : 145 x 210 mm; 866 pages noir et blanc / B&W, 36 planches quadri./36 colour plates.

Prix de vente / Selling price : 35 euros - ISBN : 2-7539-0059-0

Available for sale from 29 September 2006

Further information can be obtained from the Sales Department of Editions Connaissances & Savoirs:

Abstract: Is there a special relationship in Southeast Asia between humans and birds? Indeed, birds play here an important role in cosmology, beliefs, social structure, funerals, and ritual technology, which cannot be dissociated from economic productions: agriculture, fishing, harvesting, hunting, handicraft and trade. The bird in Southeast Asia is to be understood first as part of an essential symbolic couple: the snake and the bird, which represent, respectively, masculinity, seniority, the underground and aquatic worlds, rainy seasons; and femininity, the sky, the dry season, and juniority, i.e., dependent people. In a region characterized by alternating monsoons and, often, by a cultural bi-polarity, most societies have elaborated a dualistic conception of the universe, and sometimes a ternary conception: two expressions of a same original godhead. A trinity made of two main elements (the elder and younger brothers) and a third one (the wife) dominates throughout almost all of Southeast Asia, where the opposition between elder and younger is general and relevant in most kinship and marriage systems. Here, perhaps more than elsewhere in the world, the social position of women is privileged, if not primordial. While the bird, very often, is a metaphor for a maiden, its taking flight is always assimilated to that of the soul of the dead, the beginning of a new life, and so, always, a symbol of hope.

Contributeurs / Contributors:

Contributions, en français ou en anglais de / A collection of contributions in French or in English by:

Lorraine V. Aragon (University of North Carolina, USA), Helga Blazy (Universität zu Köln, Germany/Allemagne), Pascale Bonnemère (CNRS, France), Peter Boomgaard (KITLV, The Netherlands/Pays-Bas), Jean Boulbet (EFEO, France), Josiane Cauquelin (LASEMA, France), Anne-May Chew (Université de La Sorbonne, France), Robert K. Dentan (State University of New York at Buffalo, USA), Gregory Forth (University of Alberta, Canada), Donald & Joan Gear (South Africa/Afrique du Sud), Itie van Hout (KIT Tropenmuseum, The Netherlands/Pays-Bas), Bernard Koechlin (CNRS, France), Corneille Jest (CNRS, France), Pierre Le Roux (IRSEA, France), Ghislaine Loyré de Hauteclocque (IRSEA, France), Guy Lubeigt (CNRS, France), Albert Marie Maurice (France), Nguyen Tung (CNRS, France), Bernard Pot (IRSEA, France), Oliver Raendchen (Humboldt Universität, Germany/Allemagne), Clifford Sather (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia), Jean-Christophe Simon (IRD, France), Vishvajit Pandya (Institute of Information and Communication Technology, India/Inde).

Southeast Asia is here understood as stretching from India to China, and south towards the Pacific. It thus includes not only Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, but also the Andaman Islands (India), Madagascar, Papua-New Guinea, Taiwan, and Nepal.