Sunday, 13 November 2016

Koumen: Third Clearing

An invisible voice spoke from the second clearing, “Greetings dear Master on your return. Greetings to you who lights the way so that others may become enlightened too and know the hidden meaning of cattle hides. Greetings to Koumen. Greetings to the one who accompanies Koumen if he knows how to keep to the discipline.

The snake, is it subjugated? The frog, is it tamed? This way is the third clearing and we are its guardians.

John William Waterhouse, Decameron
Silé! There are numerous kinds of knowledge and various magic rites, the perishable in the occult worlds and the lasting in the “river of life” (maayo guurndam). If you are a shepherd, pass. If you are a warrior, whom are you defending?”

Koumen replied, “Silé is a singing shepherd. He would like to be a man of knowledge. He will not expose his hairy chest except to defend the cow, the woman and the orphan. His heart is pure, his hands are clean. He has learnt by heart the magic rites:
tukusum! mukusum! y a fuufay![1]

Satisfied by Koumen’s answer, the spirits spoke again to Silé: “Silé! Go into the valley, go to Foroforondou. Stay silent as a statue letting nothing lift the tongue from your palate before the appearance of the first sun.

In our rapture, we are spirits nourished on milk, bodies anointed with butter. 

We shall stay now in the second clearing, but our thoughts go with you on your journey. Greetings to Koumen. Greetings to the one who accompanies Koumen if he knows how to keep to the discipline.
Christina Rossetti, Remember
Koumen introduced himself in the third clearing, “I am Koumen with the fabulous beard. I am equipped with creamy words for fine spirits and delicate souls. I am equipped with a club for dense souls and impenetrable hearts. I am carrying against brutes a cutting instrument and a magic powder which burns like fire. I cast spells by means of an ostrich egg, the last from a brood which refused to hatch.[2]I speak to animals. The roots of plants tell me their secrets. The murmuring of springs, the swaying of leaves in the branches, the trails of the shooting star all confide in me their secrets. Even the dove which coos, I hear what she says. And the bull which bellows, I understand his voice and I do not mistake his far-sighted warning. While the eyes may look, it is the soul that sees. I lead Silé to the river of life where he will fish for a magnificent amber destined for souls without blemish: for the woman who is true and for the man who defends rightful ownership. Greetings…”

The spirits were full of questions: “Will Silé break the customs? Has he experienced the sound of the seven-holed flute? Has he witnessed the croakings of the frog of blessings?”

Koumen interjected: “Silé is a poet. His words shall be sung. He will impart what needs to be imparted. He will create new paths. He will discover new pastures. He will free himself from his enemies whose look is haughty and whose speech is malevolent. He shall follow me to the peaks. He shall not make fun of my stature. He shall address Foroforondou. And he shall be answered.”

[1] This invocation means: “Be repelled, you who stifle (us). Be pushed away, you who oppress (us). Go back to the farthest reaches (or to the infinite) and be without merit.” It is addressed to any agents of evil who work in the shadows.
[2] The last egg of an ostrich’s clutch is used to make charms for conserving within the family temporal powers (political and secular powers to be distinguished from spiritual and pastoral activities), as well as fortune and glory. The egg must not have hatched and is used without breaking it. But there must be only one. There is a relationship between the ostrich egg and the hexagram (faddunde ndaw), faddaade meaning to protect, ndaw meaning ostrich and that which the ostrich needs to protect is the eggs she has laid. When a band of men or a herd of cattle stop, the head of the convoy draws, on horseback or on foot, a hexagram on the ground within which to set up camp. The ostrich is said to do the same: she dances tracing a broad hexagram on the ground before laying. This figure has a rich symbolism representing the universe, its cardinal directions, the zenith and the nadir, as well as time and its divisions (seven days a week, twelve months a year).

A. Hampâté Bâ & G. Dieterlen (1961)

Text in French:

Amadou Hampâté Bâ

English Translation:
First Clearing 

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