burkina fasoSat, February 17, 2007 - 3:29 PM
burkina faso has to have been one of the most incredible travel experiences of my life. arriving in bobo-dioulasso i quickly made my way through would be guides that stood left right and centre to assist me in my travels.... i finally found one that left me to myself, didn't try to engage me too much so i could take the time to write and helped me to maintain my sense of personal security... for a time...
burkina faso seemed immediately different to me due to the lessening of organized religion.... the quickly dying traditonal animist faith... the mosque and cathedral were ever present however the appearance of pigs by the road side led me to believe... we weren't in kansas anymore....
bobo was lovely and less obtrusive than my experience of most west african cities.... other than the main marche, a simple non sufficed for the most part.... refreshing...
the doula spoken in bobo is similar to the bambara of mali. my lessons continue to serve me well. it was explained to me that french is to bambara as quebecois french is to doula...
children are incredible everywhere... i taught clapping games, tic tactoe, duck duck goose (gio gio bah) and cuddled with more babies than you can imagine... on buses... it is almost required as there are really no seats for the little ones and the mamas are often laden down with many. at MS's compound, i asked where the babies were and before i snuggled two little african beauties, i was presented with a mangled white barbie.... haha... good one.
my favorite part of bobo was the opportunity to visit "the bambou" wherein live music played every night. there were 8 men onstage the night i was there.... 6 of them playing an instrument constructed of a squash (calabash) and two dancing. one man sauntered up to the lead singer.... jaquie as he is infamously called and touched the ground before him.... this is customary and the touches escalate to the instrument and eventually to the man himself...
i thought it was great because the man approached him in a squatted walk. ... briiliant i thought as i am often subjected to incredible party tricks... i soon recognized that this man continued to squat.... the entire time.... i soon realized that this man was with an entire group of squatters... and those using crutches and those walking on their hands in flip flops....
imagine my shock and embarassment when i realized that these men weren't doing party tricks and that in fact they were a group of polio victims.....
how incredible to see a group of people, dancing in a circle in tribal form with able bodied people with more gusto and zest for life than i have ever seen.... i had to hide the tears of amazement, chagrin and honour as too much emotion is unheard of and misunderstood.
i left bobo soon after, headed for dano; with hopes of reconnecting with my guide further south and headed for dano where i would soon meet with my mentor and friend Malidoma Some.
Malidoma is quite well known in his homeland and also in the US/Canada as a very powerful shaman. my journies with him and an entourage of germans, africans and americans are something i will never ever forget....
i stayed with him in his compound.... a place i had only ever read about and came to know the rituals, sacrifices and divinations of the dagara tribe of burkina faso.... the things i saw and experienced there are without words.... a deepening and a widening of the spirit that will stay with me forever....
i had the opportunity to be introduced to things very few white people ever experience. i am still incorporating my experiences into the tangible.... village rituals, powerful didvinations by god-like albino shaman, animal sacrifices at dawn.... things that effectively alter your very dna.... amazing....
i had the opportunity to do some very basic first aid on some very needy people.... situations in which children could have easily lost an arm or worse.... in a place where the people i was with were seeking "healing".... actual healing was needed and being overlooked right in front of their eyes....
eating meat became an entirely different experience aswell.... most of the animal that i consumed either came to me after a ritual sacrifice or just after ordering it and the cook chasing it around the yard.... i still haven't incorporated it all.
i left malidoma's compound with the hopes of discovering animism further south in gaoa, where the lobi people reside.... the sad realities of a white woman travelling alone became overwhelming.... boundaries needed to be strongly established and the journey needed to be halted.... i am eagerly awaitinjg the opportunity to return, next time beside my man who can stand guard against those unfortunate realities.... as a white woman, you are not only seen as a walking atm machine, but as a target.... a sex symbol.... there is no understanding as to why you would be travelling alone unless you were "available".... i was caught in a situation wherein i could not do the work i was interested in doing and to which my guide also fell into the realities of his culture.... i had to make a decision.... venture further down the rabbit hole into a situation where perhaps a succession of nos may not suffice or come back another time protected by the arms of another.... i chose the path of less resistance and & am very glad i did...
i quickly found myself back with malidoma and crew... less in numbers and continuing on a shaman safari.... exactly where i was supposed to be.... ancestral technicians, marabous, cowrie shell diviners.... village rituals.... awe inspiring...
my interest in developing a documentary still exist but based on my experiences in dogon country (next email) my views on the delicacy of the culture and the fear of exploitation have increased.... how do you represent a culture and inspire people to live from their hearts and indigeous souls without pulverizing the society with which you are working... tourism is a detriment and a benefit.... how do you proceed?
i hope you are all well and i look forward to connecting when i am home. i am forever changed but more the same than ever.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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wow! tell us more about the rites and visions!
what are animal sacrifices at dawn like?
what is the relation between Dagara and Dogon shamanism?
Its says on the website:
"Dagara people’s main job is to look the dead in the face, to treat their bodies not as remains but as temples of grace and beauty continuing from this world to the other. . . . There are many souls in the west who are waiting to be assisted in their journey to the spirit world. This series of rituals, based on Dagara tradition, is designed to help them make that transition. . . The Dagara believe that the deceased can become powerful allies once they are fully "at home" in the ancestral realm."
Is that part of what you've been witnessing and experiencing?
Blessings on your journeys, M
So excited for you on your adventure.... I know that you're soaking up all that juicy colourful vibrancy and filling your soul. So looking forward to sitting with you and basking in your glow upon your return....
Would love to see a picture of you!!
You are writing in colour!
dagara and dogon responsethe rites and visions question is an interesting one... it's been more of a sense of individual people entering as archetypes to teach the lessons of the path.... tangiability....
visions have come in the night.... dreams of such messages and power as i have never experienced.
the dagara and dogon tribes are so unbelievably different. i will wrtie further about the dogons in my next blog but on the whole their cosmogony is based more on a connection with the sky and heavens and the dagara and lobi people with the ancestors.
the veil is thin with the dagara and all life is in maintenance with the relationship with the ancestors. before you consume any alcohol... drank tons of chapallo... there is always a drop to the ground for the ancestors. there are shrines, rituals, sacrifices for the ancestors. most often when all is not well with the village or individuals, all is not well with the ancestors.
i was awoken in what seemed the middle of the night to report to the roof for a ritual.
dawn and dusk is fleeting here and watching the sunrise and set is one of my daily activities... like nothing i have ever seen. the sun burning over the dessert on the playa but x 100000....
i suddenly found myself on a roof of the Some's old compound, wiping the sleep from my eyes and standing with some of the most powerful diviners, shaman and fetichers (they work entities, kontombles, little people...)...
they kept looking at things in the horizon, on the ground... things i could only feel and not see in my unintiated state. the first ritual was for protection: a white chicken, a red rooster and my buddy the sheep that had been tied up and i had been petting the night before. there were alot of dagaran words, tapping on the ground etc.... the thing i couldn't help but notice was a lack of preciousness. ritual is and sacrifice is a part of everyday life. like cooking and walking... it is what is and has been forever.
the incrdible part of it all was the divinations that came out of the sacrifices.... their trails in the sand, how their blood spilled... one chicken took a really long time to die.... this seemed pretty significant.
witnessing this was incredible as far as the line between life and death.... how thin it is.
people may think that animal sacrifice is barbaric.... sacrifice in general makes alot of sense to me now. it also gets consumed afterwards. its just like killing your roast chicken but with much deeper meaning and consequence.
the next sacrifice and ritual happened on the ground for other purposes...
then i learned how to skin a sheep and helped the women pluck the chicken and cut them up for lunch.
all in a dagaran day.