Friday, May 18, 2012

The Gods Of Ɓǎkèɓiɖ́í

Ɓǎ "Father" at the  Ɓǎ kè dà  site
photo by Ken Vogel
The children of the village screamed in terror when they saw me.  It had been about 20 years since a kùìpúú (kwee-poo - white person) had entered this village and that was the first time many had seen someone so light skinned.  I was told that some of the children thought we were spirits as white chalk is sometimes painted on people around those parts when they transition through "Bush School".  During this time they are considered invisible, or dead to the world, or somehow in a different spiritual realm.  The secret societies that oversee these schools have 'eaten' the child and once school is over they are considered adults and ready for marriage.  Until they are finished with this school they are painted white.  Therefore we appeared to some to be walking ghosts.  No wonder they were terrified!

I was 12 when we entered this village called Ɓǎkèɓiɖ́í (Bawe kaye blee) in the Moweh region of Grand Bassa County (now River Cess).  On the trek I saw and heard a "wudu" bird that had been known to swoop down and carry small children (from what I was told) and in the village I touched electric jungle catfish.  I plan on sharing more about some of the strange creatures I've either seen or heard about in this mostly unexplored part of the world.  However, today I want to share a particular memory about this village that I'll just call Bahkebli in case your browser doesn't support my Bassa font.

 "Mother" at the  Ɓǎ kè dà  site
photo by Ken Vogel
The day after we arrived we were taken a mile or so outside of the village to their old sacred spot called Ɓǎ kè dà (Bawe Kaye Dawe; Father and mother (in-law)).  It consisted of two gigantic boulders that rose above the surrounding jungle.  In days past these boulders were worshiped as "Father" and "Mother" of the village.  In between the two boulders were many smaller rocks that were called their 'children".  There was also a flat rock area where they offered sacrifices.  Usually food and animals, but they spoke of people being tied there as well.  They didn't go into details and I'm not sure if it was a sort of fertility ritual between the Zo (priest) and a maiden of the village and/or if it included actual human sacrifice.  Whatever the case, these rituals where how they 'fed' their gods and kept them happy.  

Imagine that you were taking these pictures for a moment and then turned directly behind yourself 180 degrees.  There you would see a mountain rising above the Liberian rainforest.  I was told that if the proper sacrifice was not made or if someone tried to dishonor these gods (or their Zo) that they would be taken to this mountain.  There were caverns in this mountain and the offender would be forced to enter the caverns and face the power of these gods within.  The guide told me that people would get lost in those caves and go crazy.  I'm not sure how they knew that as I also got the impression that anyone who entered those caves would never be seen again.  Perhaps someone escaped at one point and was found insane?  

In the forefront is the chief of Doedehn - Old Man Droh - who led us to Bakebli
photo by Ken Vogel
Whatever the case, these memories left quite an impression on a 12 year old boy and I hope to someday go back and document and more fully verify these tales.  I have so many questions I would like to ask.   I wonder if the town still exists after the Civil War?  I wonder how the people are doing?  I remember they were happy to be out from under the fear of these hungry rock gods and the dread of those caverns of insanity that awaited any who offended their Zo. It was an amazing trek and one I will definitely never forget!

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