Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Koumen: Second Clearing

Further on, there lived a shepherd standing on one foot and supported by a staff. This was the pastor of the black herd.[1] Rooted to the spot and with pounding heart, Silé was wondering to himself: “Who is this shepherd? What is this herd?”

Black Herd (vintage photo, scanned by vintagecowboy)
The moment this thought had arisen within himself, all the beasts stopped grazing. They turned towards Silé, then bellowed and vanished… just like the dusk vanishing at the coming of dawn.

Koumen turned at once towards Silé and said to him: “Greetings to you, Silé. Make yourself at home in my domain. You are welcome to partake in whatever pleases you: through the blessings of milk and butter.”

So saying, Koumen struck a cluster of vines that had the air of a closed gateway.[2]The branches twitched and opened. Instead of leading to a clearing or a thicket, Silé Saajo found himself in front of a pond and a watering hole.

Here, recounted Koumen, the genies who were pastors of Solomon, came to see their reflections in the tranquil waters of the pond and they washed themselves in the watering-hole.[3]Thus, they increased the power of their eyes. They readily came to see the future like an ordinary man sees his face in the mirror.

“O Silé! take some mud from the pond,” came the deceiving cry of a great frog, croaking:
faabuga! faafaabuga! Buga fundundur![4]

Fat chunk frog (Angela Rizza, ig: canvasbird)
“Silence, frog!” Koumen scolded. “Silé is not one who refuses water to thirsty travellers. He has found the beginning. He is going to the end. In front of Foroforondou, he will be a man. His voice will not tremble. He will know the true name of the cow.”

The frog enquired: “O traveller to Foroforondou!, what besides me have you seen out of the ordinary?”

Silé replied, “I have seen the herd that the shepherd with spindly legs and tanned complexion grazes. I have seen a snake which plays the flute before a dancing flame over an urn of water filled with a yellow-breasted canary.”

The frog resumed, “The snake with the flute is celebrating a master who does not indulge in wealth, nor in the possession of elemental forces. The creeper is held back by the force of fire and water, the one which threatens to burn it and the other which threatens to drown it. Go to the highly honoured Foroforondou and be her suckling. But do not speak again to anyone.”

Koumen commanded again, “Silence, frog!”

[1] The black bovine (waneor banel) is the symbol here of occult knowledge. Just as Silé Saajo has crossed the dark forests, he must pass through the space covered by the black herds. Once he has had the courage to do this, Koumen salutes him: Silé has just become a living being, a man with soul, he has become a “person”. He has passed his first initiation. Although identifying ideas in different wisdom traditions can lead to a mistaken understanding, the words of Jeanne de Salzmann in “First Initiation”, Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teaching, New York (1996) seem very fitting:
“The first requirement, the first condition, the first test for one who wishes to work on himself is to change his appreciation of himself. He must not imagine, not simply believe or think, but see things in himself which he has never seen before, see them actually. His appreciation will never be able to change as long as he sees nothing in himself. And in order to see, he must learn to see; this is the first initiation of man into self-knowledge.”
[2] This is a curtain formed of climbing foogi shrubs (Saba / Landolphia senegalensis). They represent patience, flowering one year and only bearing fruit the next, but also flexibility and suppleness for they embrace and wrap around other plants.
[3] One can look at one’s reflection in a watering hole (nawel) and one can bathe in a pond (nawre) — the pond is larger. To do the reverse by washing in the watering hole and looking at one’s reflection in the pond is to seek to realise the eternal.
[4] The frog here is trying to tempt Silé and distract him from the right path, but Silé does not listen to him and Koumen intervenes. The frog is the guardian of sanctuaries for initiation.

A. Hampâté Bâ & G. Dieterlen (1961)

Text in French: http://www.webpulaaku.net/defte/ahb/kumen/

Amadou Hampâté Bâ

English Translation:

First Clearing 

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