Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

Of Water and the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice Somé
dramatized by Shaun MacLoughlin

Part 4: The First Initiation, The Green Lady

PART 5: THE SECOND INITIATION, THE LIGHT HOLE

MALIDOMA: The elder spoke again.   He radiated dignity, pride and wisdom.
ELDER: Now you understand your body is a shell.   When you are encased in that shell there are only a limited number of things you can do.  You must get used to changing modes of awareness depending on what task you are asked to perform.  Remember the dream world is real.  It's more real than what you are observing now.  But because you will be there with a body, you will suffer.

Please be vigilant to be sure that you return.
MALIDOMA: Until now we had left our bodies behind.  The experiences we had so far undergone had been a preparation for taking our bodies with us on our next initiation.
ELDER: Now you will have to spend time with all of yourselves - body and soul - in the world below us.  There is nothing to fear.  You will pass through a light hole.
MALIDOMA:





ELDER:
Buffalo Skin
Buffalo Skin
The elders held up a buffalo skin with a gelatinous green material dripping out of it.  I began to understand that this was the light hole.

Today you will have to spend time with all of yourselves - earthly body and soul - in the world below us. You will stay in there long enough to remember where you have come from.

You will enter the light hole one by one. Each one of you will run until he gets close to the skin.  Then he must jump.  (HE LAUGHS).
MALIDOMA: He jumped and laughed.
ELDER: Keep your arms firmly against your body and your feet tightly together like a woman who knows decency.

Otherwise you will cut them off as you enter the light hole.
MALIDOMA: Suddenly things became clear to me.  The light hole was a gateway to an alternate world.  I began to understand that our body cells would be changed into a form of energy that is light.
ELDER: Once in the light hole do not let yourself fall indefinitely.  Or we shall lose you.  Instead notice the countless lines of coloured light.  You can see them if you open your eyes; but it takes an effort to open our eyes.  Grab them and hold onto them.  There is nothing to fear after that.  You will just float.
MALIDOMA: This time we were being sent somewhere wholesale: body and soul together with the possibility of never returning.  I remembered the horror stories my grandfather had told me of children who went to initiation and never came back.

CHANTING AND DRUMMING

Meanwhile the green liquid oozing out of the skin was increasing.    It turned to violet and danced like burning methane.  The light hole was circular with a diameter no bigger than a metre.

CHANTING AND DRUMMING STOP

I thought I glimpsed the sky through it.
ELDER: The gate is open.  I will test it by throwing a stone into it.  If it makes a flaming noise in its descent then we did a good job.  Otherwise it will just fall to the ground.
MALIDOMA: He threw the stone.

A FLAMING NOISE A LITTLE LIKE SUSTAINED THUNDER SLOWLY DISAPPEARING

Satisfied the elders ordered the first boy to jump.
ELDER: Jump!

BRIEF CHANTING AND DRUMMING
MALIDOMA: The boy ran the ten metres that separated him from the infernal circle, jumped high above the skin....

LOSE CHANTING AND DRUMMING

... and disappeared legs first, arms straight, right through the skin.

THUNDEROUS RUMBLING AND UNEARTHLY SCREAM

I thought I saw his body turn violet just before he disappeared.  The elders looked down as if looking for him.
ELDER: He must be there.
MALIDOMA: He walked round the circle a few times; then ordered the four elders holding the skin to pull.  The violet light stretched higher and higher, sticking to the skin until they made a tossing motion.  The light detached itself and rose about ten metres into the air.

CRASH OF BODY LANDING ON THE GROUND AND GRUNT FROM BOY, FOLLOWED BY BREATHING AND BEATING HIMSELF

It landed noisily on the ground and lo!  There was the boy.  Parts of his body still carried tongues of violet fire that he fought to remove.
ELDER: Go and eat now.
MALIDOMA: He walked away, happy that his ordeal was over.  The next boy was ordered to jump.  He did so.  This time he disappeared like a rock into a dark pond.

SUSTAINED RUMBLE OF THUNDER FOLLOWED BY FRENETIC DRUMMING

The officiating elder suddenly shouted
ELDER: Pull !!
MALIDOMA: This time the elders seemed to need more strength.

CEASE DRUMMING FOLLOWED BY A ROARING NOISE

This time the ball of light rolled onto the ground before the boy appeared.  He remained on the ground, motionless.  The elder ran to him and struck him with his wand.

HIDEOUS SCREAM

The poor lad seemed to be mortally wounded.  He was lying in a pool of greenish liquid.  There was nothing any of us could do for him.

The next five who jumped made it.  But then something even more terrible than the stricken boy happened.

After the sixth boy had jumped and it was time for him to return, the elders pulled on the skin and nothing happened.  This meant I had seen death - a bizarre death as there was nothing left behind to remind one of separation.

And now there was only one boy in front of me.  For the first time in my life I feared death.

It was vital to remain focussed, to repeat the prayer of the ancestors, and to approach calmly to the gateway to the other world.  The dream of my grandfather, the fight with the priest, the walk through the jungle, all reminded me it was imperative, I should complete this journey.

The boy in front of me was my dear friend Nyangoli.  I felt his survival would increase my chances.  He jumped and disappeared in a flash. Moments later - it seemed like an eternity - he was pulled out safe.  Unlike the other boys he did not scream.  His eyes met mine briefly.  It was a look that could move mountains.

DRUMMING

It was my turn.  I took a deep breath and dashed forward.  I could see the circle of light coming closer as if the gate were approaching me.   I jumped and dived in.

CUT DRUMMING. GENTLE ETHEREAL WHISTLING NOISE. ELECTRONIC MUSIC. (BASED ON SAMPLES FROM EARLIER INDIGENOUS MUSIC)

I was freezing cold, naked in an icy climate.  I was descending an immense distance at a tremendous speed.  I had to exercise enormous will power to open my eyes.  Slowly, like the dawn breaking, I began to see light rays of such intensity they made me think of the cosmos in expansion.  Everywhere around me there appeared to be continuous explosions taking place.  These soon transformed itself into countless colours, a symphony of luminescent wires, all in motion and breathing life.

I grabbed the closest one and my stop was sudden and noiseless.

CEASE MUSIC

In my hand I held a bundle of countless coloured fibres moving upwards within what looked like a tube of glass.  I then realised I could see neither my hands nor my body.  I brought my hand to my chest but searched in vain for a sense of touch.  Where then was my body?

I had the feeling I was caught in the middle of a vast intelligence, something that knew I was there and needed to do something to me.  I don't know how long I stayed there hanging in space, but I became conscious of a mountain several miles in front of me.  It reminded me of the pyramids of Egypt.  I found it immensely enticing.

"MUSIC SO ENTICING AND SWEET IT MADE ME WANT TO CRY"

High up on its slope something like a mirror or a door appeared and someone appeared to be standing on the other side looking at me or at something beyond me.  His enormous eyes contained red and green circles that rolled within their sockets and produced a strong magnetic force that drew me towards him.

CROSSFADE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC INTO WHISTLING WIND

I felt myself move fast and faster.  I realized I was going to crash into the mountain.   I closed my eyes.

A GREAT NOISE (ASK MALIDOMA ABOUT IT)

I felt an extremely painful burning sensation all over my body and released my hold on the bundle.

BUSH ATMOS, GRUNTING OF MALIDOMA, SLAPPING HIMSELF

I had arrived back at the initiation.  I rolled on the ground trying to extinguish the flames that were burning me.  Eventually I succeeded.  Very little time had passed.  The sun was still high in the sky.  Other boys, still waiting their turn to jump, regarded me enviously.  The elders were too busy to notice me.

Back at the camp I met Nyangoli. He had a dead monkey in one hand and dry wood in the other.
NYANGOLI: You want to help me?  We'll have a barbecue.  The sun isn't down, and we should have our first real meal before dark since we don't know what ordeals are ahead of us.
MALIDOMA: Where did you get the monkey?
NYANGOLI: There was a bunch of them up a tree in the middle of the river.  I knocked one down with a stick.  He couldn't swim.  I let him drown.  Nothing to it.
MALIDOMA: The monkey meat was tough but delicious.  It was the first good meal I had had for ages.

AFRICAN BUSH AT NIGHT

That night I dreamt that my father and I visited a diviner and afterwards on the way home on father's bicycle we met a fierce white bull with a black spot between its eyes that reared on its hind legs and spoke to me.
BULL: You.   You.   You.
MALIDOMA: Each you sent a spray of slimy saliva onto my face.  Until my father chased it with his machete and it disappeared into a bush.
FATHER: It was the diviner testing us.

BUSH ATMOS DAY
MALIDOMA: When I awoke, I felt certain the dream was a message from my father.  But what did it mean?

PART 6: THE THIRD INITIATION, THE LAND OF SHADOW

The dramatisation continues until, after his initiation, Malidoma is required by the Elders to bring the Dagara's ancient, healing wisdom to the West.

For more information please go to The Healing Wisdom of Africa, Malidoma Somé's Website. and to Drums of Change, Drums of Spirit for some inspiring you tubes.


I should like to thank John Minshall for introducing me to Of Water and the Spirit.


We recommend the following, which can ordered from Amazon.co.uk :

Home Page