Ritual by Malidoma Patrice Some

Ritual by Malidoma Patrice Some

Author:Malidoma Patrice Some
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2011-01-03T16:00:00+00:00

Models of Ritual and Constraints of the Modern World

During the months of July, August and September while mist still hung in the morning air, a different kind of “ritual” took place at Grandfather’s door. A line of people would show up waiting to receive grain, usually millet, that Grandfather would give out freely. It was Grandfather’s daily task to distribute food to all these needy people.

“Grandfather, why do these people have no food? Why do we have so much?” Grandfather graciously took a measure of millet from the woman whose job it was to measure the correct amount and proudly gave it to whoever was waiting next in line. He waited until the receiver was out of earshot.

“Brother Malidoma, we listen with the spirit realm. At night I look into my bowl of sky water [rainwater that has been collected before it ever touches the ground] while everyone else sleeps. If any animal harms or ravages our millet or nut crops I warn it away by shooting my upside-down arrow. If it persists, then I send another arrow to stop it from ever harming our crops again.” I had heard about the secret of the upside-down arrow before. Grandfather was well known for having this power, especially during the war against the white man that was never won. He commanded great respect with this power.

As another person in need approached, I whispered, “Why don’t these people shoot the upside-down arrow themselves?” The upside-down arrow was a kind of supernatural arrow that certain boburo (shaman-priests) could send to kill man or beast. It was kept secret except to those who were worthy of its knowledge.

Grandfather graciously extended another measure of millet. “Because they do not yet have ears that hear, nor eyes that see what cannot be seen and cannot be heard.”

“Oh,” I said rather matter-of-factly, not having the slightest idea what Grandfather meant.

At about noon when the sun was hot and Grandfather was tired of his duty, he would wake me.

“Brother Malidoma, my legs can’t hold you any longer. Please allow them rest.” I would wake up, half dazed with sleep and wonder what had happened.

The rite of charity being over, Grandfather would bring out food, and we would eat together. Grandfather was very frugal. Food was not to be taken unless one was hungry. If Grandfather saw any of the children eating unnecessarily he would bluster, “When you come of age, you will find initiation a bitter experience. Do not let the desires of physical satisfaction temper your warriorship. Remember, our ancestors are spirits. They feed their minds, and that is why they can do things beyond our comprehension.”

Food was given a strange priority in the Birifor house. One ate only when absolutely necessary. Grandfather felt the same way about sleep. “Sleep is tribute too often paid to the body. The body is but a garment we give far too much attention to. Leave your body alone and it will align itself to the needs of the spirit that you are.


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