Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Koumen: Twelfth Clearing — Abode of the Sixth and Seventh Suns

Twelfth Clearing — Abode of the Sixth and Seventh Sun
—Table of Contents—

Silé, recalling what Koumen had told him about not obeying Foroforondou, replied to her, “I am not one who lets himself be guided by a woman, even if she is Foroforondou. I will only follow Koumen.”

Foroforondou bristled to no avail since Silé, encouraged by Koumen’s glances, resisted. Foroforondou then turned towards her husband and said to him, “Since you are taking care of him, the jujubes are in the wooden gourd. He is welcome to them.”

Koumen smiled and clapped his hands. He took a handful of jujubes and gave one to Silé.[1] He said to him, “Now that you have tasted the fruits of the jujube tree from our own home, you can have confidence in Foroforondou. She cannot and moreover she will not try any longer to deceive you. From now on, she desires nothing more than your happiness. She only serves jujubes to her friends.[2]
Eurika Urbonavičiūtė, Angel
Let us go to the central clearing. This last clearing is a vast circular arena in the middle of which grows an immense tree with dome-shaped canopy. It is surrounded by a large inhabited termite mound, a much smaller uninhabited, an uninhabited anthill, another anthill very densely inhabited, and a small pond. In the midst of this vast arena, a hermaphrodite cow with dappled coat, coloured with all the bovine colours, walks around majestically, sometimes lowing like a peaceful mother calling for her young, sometimes mooing as thunderously as a roaring lion.[3]
Eurika Urbonavičiūtė, Pasaulis (World)
When the bovine saw the three visitors approaching, it readied itself beneath the tree and prepared to charge. Foroforondou undid the braids in her hair. With her long voluminous tresses she covered almost the entire upper half of her body. She said, “I am she who is armed only with a milk whisk, who is clothed only in the tresses of her hair to cover her breasts and whose sexual parts are covered with leaves picked from the kelli, combi, nelɓi and delɓi. Greetings to the bull uniting the diversity of bovine species in one being. From here I can see your teats, not far from your rod, your virile member. Greetings to the bull uniting the diversity of bovine species in one being. When your head, which varies its shape according to your moods, is short, I crouch down. When it is long and narrow, I sit down. When it is strong and hooked, I stretch out on my back and say: butter and milk, butter and milk!”[4]

Having said these words, Foroforondou went over to the big termite mound and tore from it a clump of earth. She did the same from the little mound. She then took a handful of earth from the abandoned anthill, and one from the inhabited anthill. She kneaded all of these together with water taken from the pond.[5] Returning to her two companions who awaited her, Koumen impassive and almost inattentive, Silé intrigued and even intimidated, she handed the ball of earth to Silé and said, “Go and lay this under the tree and do not worry about the bull.”

Silé carried out what Foroforondou had ordered. He then saw the bull stop its stalking and come towards him with the loud cry of an animal who recognises its master.[6] At the same moment, a fadaletodde calf came out of the lake and leapt towards Silé.[7]

“The calf has come,” cried Koumen. “Silé is now a man renewed. He can receive the secrets of the ngaynirki. He was a slave of cattle, now the cattle will serve him. It only remains for him to know the secret name of the sacred cow.”

Foroforondou then asked Koumen, “Teach Silé the rites of the ngaynirki.”

Koumen guided Silé, “Go make a circuit around the tree, the pond, the termite mounds and the anthills, and after you will wash yourself in the pond, beginning by:
1)    the right side from head to toe,
2)    the left side from toe to head,
3)    the left side from head to toe,
4)    the right side from toe to head.”

Silé performed the circuit of the places indicated. He entered the pond where he washed himself according to the ritual that Koumen had instructed him.[8]When he wanted to leave, the pond was miraculously swallowed up and he found himself, without knowing how, on the back of the hermaphrodite cow whose coat was coloured with all the bovine colours.

[1] The jujube tree is a symbol of the summit of initiation into human knowledge, after which there is only divine knowledge. Its name (njaaɓi) means “the place where I put (the sole of) my foot”. The gourd in which the jujubes are served symbolises in Sudan the matrix of the world. The calabash out of which this vessel is carved involves the employment of the woodworker (labbo). 
[2] The offering of these fruits establishes Foroforondou’s acceptance of Silé as her guest and so she is duty-bound to honour and care for him. According to one Fulɓe proverb, even if a guest is unwelcome, “your guest is your god”.
[3] The “vast arena” is the universe, and primary turf. The hermaphrodite bovine is the “mother” of all creation.
[4] Foroforondou’s speech alludes to the incantations that the salitigi or master of the turf makes at sunrise and sunset. He leaves in the morning, circumambulating his hut, whose south-facing door is open to the left, that is to say facing east. He takes position in front of the turf’s entrance behind the hut, whose gateway is also open to the south. He examines the head of the first bovine that catches his eye and takes the corresponding posture. Then he makes a semi-circle with his right hand to bring out the sun while reciting the prayer for sunrise, preceded by “butter and milk”. In the evening, he follows the same ritual, but circumambulates his hut from the west and makes a semi-circle with his left hand while reciting the incantation for sunset.
[5] The ritual Foroforondou uses is one to cure an illness, enrich a poor person, free a slave or purify a defilement. One mixes what is full with what is empty and then adds water, mother of all life. It also represents the power to master, symbolising non-violent knowledge.
[6] The ball of mud tames the bull. The pastorate implies domestication, but not for selfish or personal ends.
[7] The release of the calf symbolizes the re-birth of the initiate and is a good omen. Had it not emerged, Silé would have had to begin his initiation again.
[8] Silé must wash himself twice in opposite directions. This echoes the symbolism of death and re-birth because the same ritual is performed by certain Fulɓe families to wash the deceased before burial. This lustration of the body marks the death of Silé’s old self, and the possibility of his spiritual re-birth. He is now worthy to mount the multi-coloured bovine from whom he will receive everything.

A. Hampâté Bâ & G. Dieterlen (1961)

English Translation:

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