Mumbo-Jumbo

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Mumbo-Jumbo

A term used to denote an object of senseless veneration, or a meaningless ceremony designed to overpower impressionable people. It has often been used by individuals as a pejorative label to express their strong personal belief about the occult.

Mumbo-Jumbo dates back to the early eighteenth century, when it was reported as an image used by the Mundingo tribe in Gambia, Africa, to keep women in subjection. If the men had a dispute with the women, the "Mumbo-Jumbo" image was brought to adjudicate. This image was eight or nine feet high, made from the bark of trees, with straw on the head, and dressed in a long frock coat. A man of the tribe would be hidden under the coat, and would always give a judgment in favor of the men. The women would usually run away when he was brought to them, although he had power to make them come forward or sing and dance for his pleasure.

A secret society amongst the men maintained the tradition of the Mumbo-Jumbo, and its members were sworn to secrecy. No boy under sixteen was allowed to join.

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mum·bo-jum·bo / ˈməmbō ˈjəmbō/ (also mum·bo· jum·bo) • n. inf. language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment: a maze of legal mumbo jumbo.

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mumbo-jumbo language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment. This sense dates from the late 19th century, and derives from the mid 18th-century form Mumbo Jumbo, name of a supposed African idol.

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mumbo-jumbo grotesque idol said to have been worshipped by African negroes; (transf.) object of unintelligent veneration. XVIII. of unkn. orig.