Friday, June 4, 2010

Oh that? That's just a witch.

After a nice morning snoozing under a sun umbrella on N'Gor Island, followed by a very tasty lunch at an Italian restaurant, Kelly and I started to stroll back to the beach for the boat ride home. But our progress was halted by a strange sound.

"EEEEEeeeeeeee..... EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee..... EEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee....." came the sound. It was quite high-pitched and alarming and stopped us in our tracks.

A gentleman named Ben Moussa selling T-shirts nearby noticed our worried faces.

"Don't worry," he said. "That's just one of the women of the island who has fallen under a spell. It happens out here. She'll be fine soon."

I had to take a peek. She was in the kitchen of the Italian restaurant where we'd just eaten. She was flat on her belly and a man was holding her down. About five other men and women were milling about, watching her and chatting.

"EEEEEEeeeeeeeee," she said.

She didn't look upset or hurt or scared. She almost looked amused. So we left.

When we got home, Yvonne explained that the Lebou -- the tribe of fishermen that has for centuries populated the peninsula upon which Dakar was built -- often fall victim to the spirits of their ancestors. Apparently if they fail to pay respect to the dead and adhere to traditional values, they become haunted, and sometimes fall into bizarre trances. A good solution to a trance is to make a sacrifice.

"They will have to kill a cow," Yvonne said.

I asked a local if he believed that ancestors can really make women say "EEEEEEEeeeee".

"When you see it all around you since you were a child, you grow up believing it, yes. You can't help but believe it. The Lebou are people of the sea and there are many spirits," he said. "It is just normal."

It might also be a good excuse to have a nice steak?

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