In this chapter I examine the relationships between four Bebelibe communities and their totem animals (crocodiles and pythons). All communities have myths about how the relationship between their founding ancestors and totem animals was established, and the ancestors’ decree that these animals should never be eaten or harmed in any way. I explicate what totemic relationships entail and the consequences of their abuse.
Furthermore, some people have a special relationship with their totem animals, as they share the same animating force. Accordingly, the animal and the person concerned are intertwined and die and reincarnate together. I propose that they have an “ani-mate” relationship, given that the two are simultaneously animated by the same force and could be considered mates as they are intimately bound together. Consequently, people consider killing and eating a totem animal as tantamount to murder and cannibalism.
I present three case studies where totem animals have been at the centre of a dispute; one that concerns which community has jurisdiction over the town of Cobly, and two where Christians have killed totem animals. I outline the repercussions and resulting ontological penumbras that people negotiate as they reflect about how they should relate to their totem animals.