In Sorcery’s Shadow [Songhay of Niger]


p. deities
38 [deities (spirits) :] "each spirit – all 150 of them – had a praise-poem". "The Tooru spirits controlled" meteorological phainomena : "thunder, lightning, the winds, and the formation of clouds."
39 "Dongo made a great rock in the sky. The rock is called Wanzam. Dongo’s magic protects a person from lightning. ... Dongo says that the sun is his shadow. Dongo also says his shadow covers the sun."
"Nya Beri ... "Great Mother." ... She is the mother of the spirits of the cold (Hargay), which cause miscarriages, stillbirths ... . ... Nya Beri is something of a giant ... . She can stare into the sun and see. She can look at the moon and see. In fresh milk, she can see the future. In blood, Nya Beris sees the past. ... Nya Beri inhabits the place of death. She is always in front of a person; she is always behind a person."
"mysterious parents give birth to Mantunga, to Banio, to Banio Cirey."
"Maaru {cf. [Maori god] /MARU-i-te-whare-aitu/}, deity of waterholes" : "Maaru’s work is ... Health".
41 "Moussa Nyoro ... steals a man’s body fiber, changing it into a black egg. ... If he should take a man’s head, the man’s head fibers will bubble like boiling water. {cf. foaming skull-pot in Codex Borgianus Mexicanus p. 29} If he stops in a man’s body, the man must not lift his ankle." {cf. anklets worn by the Marut gods?}

p. 40 sequence of sacred trees

Sah, Dugu {cf. /wagaDUGU/ the capital of Burkina Faso}, Wali belinga, Kasah Tobe, Nyama Nyama Koro {cf. [Akan god] /NYAMe/}, ["Harakoy Dikko, goddess of the Niger River",] Kogo {cf. /KOGi/ tribe in Nigeria}, Belinga, Kwomno Kosi, Sami, Wandu
"There is Wandu, it stands in pure white sand. {coconut-palm?} The sand has food and water. {coconut-nut & coconut-juice?} If the [un]initiated take from this Tooru sand, they will go mad. Those who know the Tooru will eat this special food and laugh."

pp. 54-55 initiation as sorko benya

p. procedure
54 for initiation of a sorko benya, praise-songs are sung "of Harakoy Dikko, the goddess of the Niger River, of Dongo, of Maalu {cf. [Hindu deities] /MAlimLUca/; [Homeric sacred plant] /MoLU/}, the deity of lightning, of Moussa Nyori, the hunter who controls the formation of the clouds, of Hausakoy, the d of iron, of Mahamane Surgu {cf. /SURGUt/ on river Ob; deity /SURGat/}, of Faran Baru Koda, the spirit child who controls the fate of millet fields." "He also sang of Nya Beri, the great mother, who engendered the spirits of the cold, the spirits of death." [these praise-songs are entrusted by the initiator (for delivery to heaven)] "to Ndebbi, the High God’s messenger, whose responsibility is to relay magical messages from human beings to the supreme deity."
54-5 procedure of eating initiatory food
54 The initiator ate "three small measures of the greenish paste".
55 "After six handfuls, my stomach distended. ... I struggled to finish the two handfuls of sorko food that remained". "When other sorko see you they will know you have eaten and that you are full. ... They may simply press their forefinger three times into your belly and say, ‘I am full and so are you.’ "

p. 56 distinguishing characteristics of tribesfolk

Bella their women are "dressed in coarse indigo dresses"; their men are "dressed in bright print robes and white or black turbans".
Kurtey "scarring both cheekbones with a small cross."
Wogo "lived on islands in the Niger."
Tuareg "Dressed in white robes and their famous indigo turbans"

p. 62 identification of sacred powders & resins

ngimgniti, siria, kobe, ceeyndi ("resin which produces an acrid smoke when burned." wata gaya gaya ("greenish powder.") kara tombo ("yellow powder", which "had the flavor of castor oil.") genji tombo ("green powder", which "tasted like dried bird-droppings.")


p. witchery
60 [legend of the origin of witch-women :] "a long time a go, there was a woman named howa, who founded a village of women. ... One day a handsome man came to the village when only Howa was there. She invited him into her hut and seduced him. The, when the man was asleep, Howa ... turned him into a sheep. {cf. [Sumerian myth] the transformation by In-anna of each of her first husbands into a beast.} The women returned and Howa killed the sheep and roasted it. The women ate."
64-5 how to detect witch-women
64 [how a sorko may recognize a witch-woman :] "When your eyes meet, a tear will roll out of her left eye."
65 "you will be able to smell them, ... Smell ... Witches".

pp. 66-67, 83-84 cowry-shell divination

p. effect of cowry shell
66 "Bamba is Ndebbi’s white pigeon. The base of Ndebbi’s Kokoro Bah tree. ... It rides on the head of evil genies. ... Ndebbi presented his bed to all of them. He released his bed and it floated to earth and remained there. {the consecrated host of the mass-transsubstantiation is designated "pigeon" by the Nas.uray; its aequivalent in the To^rah is <o^g (‘round loaf’), owner of a mighty bed still remaining (Dbari^m 3:11).} ... Ndebbi made a small
67 heavy rock. They will never see it. Their hands will never grasp it."
83 "He poured onto the sand eleven cowry shells."

pp. 69-71 incantations to cure illness by calling back the patient’s wandered double

p. incantation
69 the cure by incantation was on a Thursday, for "on Thursday ... the spirits are close to the social world."
in the incantation, the shaman "spoke to Ndebbi, the intermediary between human beings and Iri Koy, the High God of the Songhay cosmos. ... He spoke of the world of eternal war, the world of sorcery in which men have thirty points (crossroads) of misfortune.
70 "we must find the double before the witch transforms it into an animal and cuts its throat."
71 "There is a sound ... in the darkness, and the sound is directed toward a rock. And the rock directs the stream of sound toward the genitalia of an evil witch which is flying in the black night air. As the witch watches, its torch flashes on and off. But the stream of sound has now reached the witch, and ... the witch has lost control of itself, and is falling from flight. ... Incapacitated and confused, the witch will no longer know its frontside from its backside. Time will pass and the witch will remain immobilized in the same spot."

pp. 77-82 power of sohanci

p. sohanci
77 "the lands of the Zerma ... . There ... a man ... learned to be a sohanci."
"With his father’s magic, our ancestor Sonni Ali made himself impervious to spears and arrows. With the magic of his mother’s people, the Faru, Sonni Ali Ber learned how to fly. Like a vulture, ... Sonni Ali Ber soared high in the sky and traveled great distances. The Magic King passed this powerful knowledge to his son, Si Baru, who passed it on to his three sons".
80 "a true sohanci always brings back evidence of his rapid voyages." [the evidence may be a brass thumb-ring, taken at the moment of curing a distant patient by transvection in the subtle body]
82 [autobiographical account of initiation as sohanci :] "The drummers ... started their playing and I danced and danced and danced until I felt a tingling in my stomach. The tingling moved from my stomach into my throat. I saw a bright white light and the chain of power came out of my mouth. {a similar elongated extrusion of ectoplasm is experienced in the Australian aboriginal shamanic initiation and practice} ... The chain dangled from the end of my tongue. ... I began my test. I had to swallow the chain. I took it into my mouth until the last link disappeared. ... [He was told :] ‘Your chain ... will become a chain only when you dance for hours to the beat of the best drummers. When you die, you, too, must give to your most worthy son a chain of power."

possessing-spirits (able to possess a human medium)

p. spirit-possession
63 "the third finger of the left hand ... is the finger of power. ... when the spirit takes the body of a medium, its force enters the medium’s body through the third finger of the left hand."
96 [invocation to a family of possessing-spirits :] "Dugunda’s husband. Garo Garo’s husband. Zaaje. ... You are the father of Kangey.
[worn by woman possessed by the male possessing spirit Serci = Zaaje :] "a billowing white robe with gold embroidery around the neck ... a white turban ...
97 a string of silver worry beads."

p. 87 war

"the second text ..., Diggi, in which they say "bam, bam, bam," and "bum, bum, bum." It is this incantation in which war is discussed, in which people turn themselves into leaves, beetles, hard clay, and cow drippings." "bam, bam, bam, bum, bum, bum ... are the sounds that one makes when ... spoiled with the grief of betrayal [zamba]".

pp. 171-172 how to become a zima

p. zima
171 [autobiographical account :] Among the Korumba people, "The old sorcerer told me ... ‘When you see the termite hill, cut it away from the earth.’ I cut it away. The termite hill gave way to a large hole in the earth. I heard something coming up from under the earth. It was a python ... . ... I ... cut it into seven sections. ...
172 The old Borgu [tribe in northern Togo] man taught me ... to heal people of the village and bush [spirit] sicknesses. ...
[At] Sangara ... a zima ... man taught me about the Songhay spirits. ...
173 We can make a village disappear [become invisible to marauders] and we can make a man irresistible to his fellows [be appointed chief by them]."

Paul Stoller & Cheryl Olkes : In Sorcery’s Shadow. U of Chicago Pr, 1987.