Thursday, October 30, 2008

CSI: Jungle

The Ye'kwana people are very superstitious, as are many tribal people. The stories are their way to explain the unknown. Some of the beliefs are expected and one can understand why the have the belief. Other's are not so easily comprehended and one has to wait until it makes sense to you, or someone in the tribe can reveal it to you in a way that a western mind can grasp. Whichever comes first.

One thing that seems universal among the tribes, is that death is never from a natural cause. Whether the death is of a new born or elder, the death was inevitably caused by witchcraft. You can explain that the baby died from dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea and they will believe you. They also will set out to discover WHO caused the curse of sickness to be placed upon the child, or the elder, or the healthy young man who dies from malaria complications. Someone sent a curse.

And that is when things get interesting! There are so many ways to go about discovering the murderer. Many tests to run, much evidence to study. Many, many hours of discussions around the evening fires. Eventually, it will be discovered.

We once lost a man to yellow fever. He had been very healthy until his bout with the fever. He died one night, quite suddenly. The family was devastated and it was all complicated by the fact that he was from another village. A village where there was a very powerful witch doctor related to the man. This could not be good.

The witch doctor decided there was only one way to determine the killer. The dead man's finger was cut off of the corpse and placed in a kettle of water hung over the cooking fire. A representative of each clan was called to sit in a circle around the fire. As the water began to boil, the severed finger of the dead man began to spin and tumble. This was watched very closely and with baited breath!

Finally, the water boiled off and the finger came to rest on the bottom of the pot. NOW one could clearly see who was guilty for cursing the dead man by sending the yellow fever, for the finger was pointing to the guilty party! Not the actual person, but a member of the clan. NOW the witch doctor would know which village to seek for revenge, which family was the perpetrator. He would be very busy!

The representative of the clan was not guilty as she had married into our clan many years before and could not have been involved, but she was shamed!

The next day the shortwave radio crackled with the news of the results of the finger test. Many denials, many threats, but everyone felt so much better knowing that the yellow fever was sent as a curse and unless they had an enemy, they could relax about becoming sick.

The clan that had been blamed was angered greatly by this accusation, so they requested another test. This required a family member to travel to their village to be present. Interestingly enough, I heard that this test revealed the same guilty party! So another test was to be done. This process could go on for years much as our court system allows for appeals.

Eventually, the family of the dead one will lose interest in the pursuit, send a few hexes out to pay back the murderers, and move on. The anger of the accused will slowly die down, and they will move on. It is all part of the way they deal with their grief. They need to be able to transfer their emotions to another subject in order to get through their days. If it were a Sanema, it would be a very different story as this could be traced back for generations! The family might decide to wait another generation or two before seeking revenge. But rest assured, revenge would be sought!

I witnessed many interesting procedures used in the jungle to determine the guilty parties. I should probably offer my services to the police as an expert to advise the investigators! I have observed how to examine the placenta to determine the biological father of a new born, what is used in a 'love potion', how to curse someone just by using their foot print, and other handy information.

I was even trusted with the evidence and was once asked to freeze the finger of a dead man so that his family could walk over from their village for the boiling finger test...

So, did I, or didn't I ?????


Brenda said...

I have to know. . . did you freeze the finger???

A friend of mine worked in a tribe where, after a man died, they would put all the women in a circle, cut off a chickens head an watch the chicken run around. The woman who was nearest the chicken when it fell over, was the one responsible for the mans death. It could never be a man responsible, only a woman.

redneck preacher said...

Another chapter in your book. Keep good records.

I admit to being a student at the School of Missionary Trivia. Professor Jungle Mom presiding. I have learned of dirt floors, malarial complications, canoe trip spats, rain producing children, rain stopping machetes, under the toenail insects, worm dinner, window TV for villagers, outhouse adventures, the importance of a pot on the trail, wonderful un-met dark skinned Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and so much more.

Get going on the book in your spare time. You do have spare time, right?


MightyMom said...

oooooops no, sorry, that's not the sausage for tonight's meal,.....that's some guy's finger.

Oh don't worry, I'm just holding onto it for his family...they're walking over from timbuktu and will be picking it up in a month or so......

Here's the sausage!

Oh THAT? well, those aren't carrots...they're frozen worms...............................................................................

The Hermit said...

Like the Hatfields and the McCoys. But they virtually wiped each other out.

Starla said...

Interesting!!! Did you freeze the finger. I hope not, ewww!!!

Thursday's Child said...

I'm thinking you did. I think you'd be game. :D

Kath said...

Am waiting to you what you did! Where my parents lived in Africa as missionaries, the people had a similar belief system. The "guilty" party would be "discovered" by the village witch doctor "sniffing" everyone. Even people who had been Christians for years were fearful.

Mustang said...

No, please tell me you didn't.

This reminds me of a friend of mine, who at the time was serving as an advisor in Vietnam. After a successful operation, the officers of the Vietnamese battalion had a dinner celebration. The Vietnamese commanding officer wanted to honor my friend, so he offered him the eye of a water buffalo as a peculiar delicacy.

Had my friend declined to eat the eye out of hand, it would have been insulting. So he instead declined to eat it based on "religious" prohibitions, which were totally acceptable to his hosts.

Did he fib? Yes. Did he have to eat the eye? No.

Kepler said...

JM, you should write a book

Pat said...

You may have frozen it, but not for their purpose, but for an illustration for a Bible lesson!!

Thanks for another Indian story!!

ABNPOPPA said...

Reading your blog and stories are so much better than watching TV. This story is more believable than what on the show CSI.

Keep 'um coming, I hooked!


grammy said...

Very interesting. My neighbor once asked me to take care of her cat while she was on vacation. It was very old and dear to her. She asked me to FREEZE it if it died while she was gone so she could bury it. I was very thankful it did not die while she was gone. lol I agree that you should write a book.

Tori said...

I'm beating on a finger Popsicle too!

Your stories are always so interesting and many times totally gross! °Ü°

FJ said...

Sounds a lot like our justice system. There's very little real "justice" in it, but it keeps the victims from exacting their own revenge Hatfield/McCoy style.

Sounds like the Sanema are much more "primitive"... as they still practice the "old ways" (lex talionis)... like the Greeks before the advent of Orestes and the Euryines being transformed into the Eumenides

Rebecca said...

I should not have read that last bit during breakfast. It's not sitting well.