The Segment-Dairy Lineage System of the Yort Nomads
by O. Leo Butterworth
Program in Margarinal Studies, University of Hameneggs
Journal of Anthropological Jargon
vol. 1 (1999)
Anthropologists working in the Middle East constantly churn out cases of studies on the so-called segment-dairy lineage system, one of the primary models of beastly genealogies (1). First described for newer African cattle by Evans-Poachéd (1940), this model has since been milked for all it is worth, although not everyone has kine words for it (see Ears 1967). In its raw, unsterilized form, the segment-dairy model deposits a principle of complementary opposition, although in some societies a small fee may be charged. It makes cents that a dairy herd can be divided into segments and further subdivided into gallons (2), half-gallons, quarts and pints (3). The model suggests that these segments can combine and separate to allow each cow to produce to her caring capacity with no need for bullship, divine or otherwordly wise, at higher levels. The appeal of this approach, making it the kind of theoretical premise that literally malts in your mouth, is that it is often herd in the virile context of eggnographic research. For those with an interpretive Guernseyian bent (Guernsey 1973), you might say the authenticity derives right from the cow's mouth.
As postmortem anthropologists have increasingly come to realize, the world is a microplasm of global dementions. Tranced nationals who only imagine their communities may find it difficult to relate to a bunch of backward and ignorant nomads who spend the bulk of their time talking about cows and going places simply because they are not somewhere else at the same time. Neighboring peoples refer to the Yort as yoyos, since they practice a type of up-and-down vertical nomadism that gets tiresome real fast. Most of the people I met were bozos, but I would never let my personal feelings influence my quest for authentically indigenous voice overs. The Yort, if you must know, spill out of greener pastures into a verdant plain known as Bilad Omalat. The place is bloody hot, so hot that if their religion allowed them to eat bacon you could fry it on their imported gruff goat-hair tents (4). If you want to know more about their geography, just type in Yort on Yahoo and will you ever be surprised.
In my field study (5) I was fortunate to live with the tribal chief, Sunni Sayyid Ab, whose officious biography has been written down by the eminent egghead E. Z. Over (1995). Although I was only able to skim the surface of Yort culture, I quickly discovered that they are not homogenized (as previously thought) but recognize major "eggnic boundaries" (Barf 1965) in their bovine lineages. The primary distinction is white vs. yellow, with the whites kept strictly separated from the yellows in ritual acts such as the meringe feast (6). Mixing of the lineages can occur when some of the more hard-boiled youth cook up a scheme to poach shells (a mean form of currency no longer current). While such raids are vigorously condemned in Yort culture, one side seldom beats another due to the remarkable plexibility of the traditional glass structure of the society.
The glass structure (7) of the Yort can be broken up rather panelessly into three main glasses: Cream of the Society (8), whole Milk Tribes and Skim Milk Pariahs. The Cream of the Society constipate a religious elite descended from an eponymous sacred cow named Al-Sey. They are to be distinguished from other glasses by the fact that they veil their heifers with thick cheesecloth and do not accept stud bulls from eggogamous clans. Certain holy cows, known as Cowhide skin chiefs (9), mediate disputes between rival bovine herds. They walk softly, carry a big stick and are forever shouting, "Where's the beef?" (10)
The Whole Milk Tribes consist of several groups, most notably the Curds and the Whey (see Tuffet 1896). As outline in figure 1, there are two main tribal affiliations, which I call mooities, within Yort culture. The Halib are considered cows of noble descent which have grazed on the land since time immemorial, which the Milch appear to have foreign ancestors, perhaps of Germanic or Airheadian origin (11). Both Halib and Milch figure prominently in the great migratory epic "1001 Wisconsin Nights," which recounts the legendary takeover of the Yort homeland from pagan folk who used to just sit around in the shade all day and drink bad American beer.
The holistic geneaology of the Yort Whole Milk Tribes has been scrambled over the years, but today two main cornfed-erations of the Ghee and Samn have solidified. It must be admitted, however, that their relationship is difficult to clarify and existing farm policy tends to favor the consumer. But regardless of which groups have blown a fuse or gone fision, the current mooitie bifartation of Ghee vs. Samn is a feta accomplis. When the daughters of the Whole Milk Tribes marry into the Cream of the Society, the resulting offspring are known as Half-and-Half and are on occasion whipped by other members of the two glasses (12). To complete the pitcher of Yort culture, the Skim Milk Pariahs perform menial tasks for the other segments of the dairy herds. In that they are poor and hungry they are often referred to as low-fat or two-percent (13) and are considered margarinal to the society as a hole (14).
At each segment of the tribal dairy there is a chief heifer (the local term is buggar), who carries the bell of authority. Both the Ghee and Samn have a chief buggar, each of whom is udderly adored by the cows that follow in line. Descent is, of course of intercourse, and is reckoned in the female line with little need of bullship in the regulation of milk production within the segments. Local legend would have it that bulls are not even needed for a heifer to become pregnant (15). As one informant put it, "We don't need some dumb ox lording it over us." In his classic expose of bovine sex, Mermaidissi (1976) took the bull by the horns and the result was not very pretty. I have argued elsewhere that the unpublished diaries of the Yort dairies represent a radical a-hypothetical feminist adaptation to the traditional down-trodding of domesticated cattle (Butterworth, in utero). So if you think I'm going to tell you what I wrote there, you're out of your mind. I desperately need those royalties, lousy as they are for any boring eggnography, especially with an outfit as greasy as Teflon State University Press. So don't just read the library copy, buy a copy for your bookshelf and give copies to your friends on the holidays.
The Yort have elaboratoried a cudmology of holy cows and sacred cows that closely parallels (16) the operation of dairy herds. Each segment not only has a chief buggar, but a special spirit jinn symbolized by a totemized (17) animal other than a cow. Among the jinn recognized as influencing the flow of milk are the following: Levi, an ass jinn who is somewhat tight and cheeky; Billy, a goat jinn who is always butting into where he does not belong; and Mr. Ed, a horse jinn who tends to talk to himself while other people are watching television. The most sacred of all these spirits is the extinct vir-jinn, the focus of a fertility cult now being made into a Fox situation comedy. I also uncovered that each jinn has an anti-jinn (18) who can be resorted to when healing rituals get out of laying on of hands.
It should be clear by now that my approach to the Yort follows that of Krocker and Yoko (1982), who define culture as a recipe and a set of standards for mooing, laying, milking, walking in cow lanes and creating packages to advertise for missing children. I realize that in this short space and given my lousy field data that my comments on the segment-dairy lineage system are of necessity watered down, but I have tried to spice them up simply because of my being there. If you think this analysis is a pile of crap, then you go out and waste the best part of your partying life in the middle of some if-there-were-a-god-it-would-be-forsaken nowhere with people who don't even get your jokes. At the risk of being branded a theoretical milksop, I have purposely eschewed the cuddley pet theories of the day. My sole aim, as my mentor Dorkheim might have said, is to separate fat from fantasy.
1 Some anthropologists (such as Footinmouth-Stillstuckthar 1996) have argued that all genealogies are beastly, but this author thinks the relationship is one of degree rather than kine.
2 Stuckup functionalists of the British school are a liter bit suspicious of this classificiation as being to eggnocentric.
3 Not to be confused with Guinness.
4 I tried this once, but it was hard to pick out the hairs. You are better off to just open a can of SPAM, the anthropologists best friend in the field. That's right. The can can be used to cut hides or store pollen samples. The SPAM itself has such a disgusting smell that it will keep bothersome children away and allow you to write up your fieldnotes in peace. It can also be rubbed in your hair to discourage lice and native barbers who somnambulate.
5 My dissedinterpretation fieldwork was supported by a generous grant from the P.U. Foundation in their "Global Bovine Studies" program.
6 The meringe feast comes in several flavors; the one I attended was a lemon. It is part of the pie-in-the-sky cosmology which evolved out of the rigors of nomadic dairy herding.
7 Some anthropologists find the concept of glass structure too transparent and would replace it with a no-deposit, no-return term such as carton.
8 The Cream of the Society are said to have originated in the north where the temperature is usually below freezing (Baskin and Robins 1983)
9 In fact they are not so much "chiefs" as they are smelly, since very few of them ever bother to wipe their behinds.
10 This is, of course, clearly a sexual allusion when spoken by Muslims, as noted long ago by Burpen (1872)
11 Using gutterchronology, Parson (1972) argued that the name "Milch" was the name for a technical heiffer in Althochdorks. Mead (1974), however, disputed this by stating that only the chief's daughters were technical heifers and everyone else made hay under the palms. Nowadays, however, we know that one man's Mead is no different than another man's Parson, so the argument is mutated.
12 Due to this overt racism, it is worthwhile asking if the dominating glass is half full of it or running on empty.
13 My informants said that they are called this because they are so lazy and only give about two percent effort in their work.
14 Based on 18 months fieldwork I am certainly in a position to verify that this place is a hole alright. I would not go back if you gave me a post-doctoral grant (well maybe for a MacArthur Grant, but not for some lousy NSF chickenfeed reimbursement). The other problem is that they are so religiously wholesome it drives me nuts.
15 Mall and Housekey (1928) reported that the Yort believe that you can pregnant without penetration. The purpose of the coitus is to create a space for the bologna spirit to enter in and produce a child. Right. If you buy this, I got a bridge for sale. It's bologna alright.
16 I learned this by drinking with friends in parallel bars.
17 But see Starr (1998) who argues that once an animal, even a freely elected one, has been totemized, that animal is no longer sacred and probably never was.
18 You might say the anti-jinn is a tonic.
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