Our beliefs, customs, traditions and values aren’t always steeped in mindless superstition as we are made to believe. Our ancestors valued wisdom above everything else.
You likely heard the saying “kayba kumo buka kotto bore”; “kayba kumo mu sulu buu jaaro letti”. In a nutshell, do not attempt to prove the truthfulness or otherwise of an elder’s statement. We live in times when deception is rife, but in such a conservative society as it obtained, deception as we know it was nonexistent. Material gains (main reason for deception) were secondary to everything else; welfare and honor were placed above all else.
Psychologists today have proven that fear is the most powerful motivator of all motivators. You see, our elders knew that; ever wonder why so many of our taboos have bad omens associated with non-conformity to upholding them? Now I’m not saying definitively that this is true for all cases, but what if….
In a recent Facebook post I asked about clan-based taboos prevalent among the Mande people and the responses inclined towards proving my theory. In articles 37 – 39 of the Manding Charter clear stipulations were made as to the need for the preservation of nature. But the question arises; in such a society, devoid of any organized law enforcement apparatus how does one enforce the laws or ensure adherence to them?
That is where the fear factor comes in; “do this thing and that negative thing follows; try to prove it and worse happens” etc. What if in their drive to preserve the environment and the animal species within the elders designed a mechanism to enforce the law, ergo the taboos we hear of. For example, Janneh is a prominent name in Manding; they are not supposed to kill or eat the flesh of the monitor lizard (Kaanaa). Touray too was prominent in Manding; they cannot use the “faaraa” tree as firewood or that they should not fear the python therefore no cause to harm it; Sagnia/Sanyang cannot harm the crowned crane (kumaareh) or the Jawnehs are forbidden from killing snakes. All these clans are prominent Mande clans, what if after the promulgation of those laws the various clans were each assigned an aspect of the fauna or flora to look after and preserve for posterity?
In which case you cannot harm that particular animal or cut down that particular tree as a member of that clan. No one can do the same in the presence of any member of that clan lest their action brings some bad omen or misfortune to members of that clan? What if that was the reason the elders crafted an elaborate story as to what misfortune befell some far gone ancestor from that clan for harming the ‘clan animal’, or made up a very convincing folklore about how a certain animal saved an ancestor of a certain clan and averted certain death thereby resulting in the bond between that clan and that animal. A closer look at these taboos, especially regarding trees will show you that most of these trees are useful for medicinal purposes and more, almost always without fail.
Here we are today all concerned with environmental preservation and rolling back desertification, had we stuck to that traditions handed down to us would the story have been different? Did someone decide along the way to “kotto bore” the ancestors and with no immediate consequence told everybody else; “see, it was all just superstition.” Others followed suit, the seal was broken and the contents spilled. Today we are living the consequences of their defiance. Is it possible? is it plausible? Does it make sense?
That was my theory that motivated the previous post on the topic. What do you think? We have been entrusted with a lot, but we took them for granted and now we are lost in the wilderness. Remember those famous lines every male child born into tradition will chant at initiation…
“N’tolu see ta kulo kang kulo farabali koto naalu seeta kulo kang kulo kaanaa fara….” Well, we failed!