Thursday, December 20, 2007

Transnational Divination

The other day I was sitting with my teacher when he received a call on his cell phone.  It was a Malian living in Spain.  he had called for a consultation as he was unsure of his future economic security.  Shortly after the call the sister of the man in Spain arrived and took a seat in the corner of the room.  Upon her arrival my teacher began to consult the "sands" and found that the man in Spain had bad luck on his horizon.  So much bad luck that he prepared a "prescription" to counter the negative energies that surrounded the man.  He explained that the "prescription" was a special transliteration of the "sands" and was written in his own blood.  To formalize the "prescription" and direct its power, my teacher scribed the name of the man in need as well as his address and a few familial relations.  He then prepared the sacrifices that were required to ensure that the bad luck was dispelled.  The offerings included a large chicken egg, a white dove, a white guinea fowl, a terrapin turtle, the "prescription," nine white kola nuts, and a packet of milk.  Once these offering were ready, my teacher asked for my assistance in holding the live animals in place over the "sands".  I knelt for about twenty minutes holding the dove and terrapin while my teacher held the guinea fowl and recited the incantations to call the benevolent spirits to hear his plea.  He took each offering in turn and presented it to the spirits, holding it forth over the "sands".  Once all had been presented, he took the guinea fowl and sacrificed it, cutting its throat and letting the blood drizzle over his "fetishes" in the corner.  I use the term "fetish" as that is what my teacher calls his power objects.  He then prepared the offerings to be given to the woman sitting in the corner (sister to the man in Spain).  These preparations included marking the terrapin with symbols of prosperity and packaging up the items.  My teacher then gave specific instructions on what she was to do with the offerings.  The terrapin was to be eaten, while the guinea fowl was to be given away to a person in need.  I never caught what was to happen to the dove or the other offerings.    What is particularly interesting about this scene is the linkages between "tradition" and modernity.  At the same time there is an intersection between local and global as well as the use of local fauna to meet a extra local need.

Photos: top to bottom; "prescriptions" and notebook of transliterated "sands";  scribing the egg with symbols, in background are the "sands", guinea fowl, kola nuts, and milk packet; sacrificing the guinea fowl and "feeding" the fetishes; scribing the terrapin with symbols.

No comments: