Adjatay, of the Bwiti cult, was well known throughout the villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of sixteen he had brought honor to his village by killing Achi the cat with his bare hands. Achi, a black panther, the most elusive and strongest climber of all felines had terrorized the villagers with its uncommon hunger for human flesh. Adjatay, unusually tall and huge for his age, tracked the feline in the most hostile forest in the land and killed it.

In the traditional cults of the Bwiti; the individual is often submerged under the weight of his family. With the development of a trend of individualism, each man now wants to have his own ancestral relics and administer the rites of his cult apart from his brothers.  Adjatay is clearly cut out for great things. He is still young but he has won fame as the most notorious feline killer. Age is still respected among his people, but achievement is evermore revered. As the elders say, if a child washes his hands he can eat with kings.  It is now time for Adjatay to wash his hands through the initiatic rite of the Bwiti. Through dialogues with the ancestors, Adjatay will become Nganga, which means an initiated man. Adjatay will have developed a better understanding of himself and of the world with the aim to cure and guide others on the path of personal development.

The initiation:

In the heat of a December afternoon, in the heart of the Equatorial Forest, Adjatay’s village resounds with the call of drums. A towering figure covered with raffia palm leaves and topped with a finely carved wooden head is moving through the village. It is an embodied spirit. The rhythmic drums perpetually beat, and the flutes sing and the spectators hold their breath. The embodied spirit is surrounded by young men dressed in short loincloths, their bodies whitened with chalk. These men wield long switches witch keep the gathering crowed at a distance. The spirit sways with the music, and the men sing as they dash to and fro. After a while the spirit troupe disappears into the men’s meeting house. Once in the house, the novices ingest the Iboga plant which gives the young men visions and hallucinations allowing them to travel to the ancestors’ land. It is a rebirth initiation. Symbolically the young boys are killed and made born again. All through the day, performances such as these will continue: masquerades, singing, dancing, and every sort of festivity. It is a rite of passage celebrating the fact that a particular age set has officially gained recognition in the community as full adults.


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Author of 'Greener on the Other Side' - his fiction has also appeared in 'Pear Drop Journal'. He is at work on a novel that delves into the intricacies, and conundrums of the meaning of manhood in today's world.

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