dafra sacrifice
(friday, may 7th)

Another excursion, and another witness to some of the current, virulent animism in africa. This time, we went to visit the "poisson sacré" (sacred fish) where kader would sacrifice two chickens to the spirits. 9kms by moped into the bush and more breathtaking burkina scenery. We had to go the last 2kms by foot, led by kader and his two oblivious chickens. I was skeptical -- assuming we were off on a tourist gimmick.


After winding our way through some ravines, and down some tricky narrow paths, we emerged into a strikingly beautiful grove with a deep pool at one end.

But it turned out to be a grove of death as we wound our way over the rocks and through the small collections of people. As I began to focus, I realized that the rocks were covered in feathers and blood. Where there were small pools of water, maggots swarmed. Fires burned and people tossed various carcasses around. Others stood guard over a pile of fresh entrails and a group of relatively older men sat smiling, chewing morsels of something and drinking millet beer.

It was another encounter with death as part of living, and I was uncomfortable. Not just because of the blood and body parts that I had to avoid (we were all barefoot at this stage) but also because I'm just not used to seeing throats slit and animals convulsing.



I was with two french from toulouse, and we felt very much out of place, but no one seemed to mind our presence. This was not a sacred place in the sense that I was accustomed (quiet deference and wood polishing) -- no this was business, the business of petitioning good fortune in life and getting results. Everyone was quite matter of fact, and all smiled and said hello, and went back to fingering entrails or something.


The idea behind it, is that you petition the spirit of Dafra for something. This can either be a cure for a sick relative or to find a good wife or to get a better job. You make the application and sacrifice a chicken or a goat. If your wish is granted, you have to return and do the same thing again in thanks.

When Kader arrived he paid this old man on the right to perform the sacrifice. He approached the fetid altar and held the chickens in the air, implored loudly to the spirit of dafra, then cut the chicken's throat.

The chicken floundered around for several minutes as it bled to death -- our particular chicken seemed to go on for quite a while and this was obviously to the delight of the animist, who excitedly pointed this out to kader and proclaimed the sacrifice a success.





After the sacrifice, Kader took the two chickens and burnt off their feathers in the fire, and plucked them clean. He handed them to the animist who then cut out the entrails.

All told, the sacrifice was a good success and Kader celebrated by drinking the millet beer we'd brought with us. We returned to Bobo for lunch and only just managed to find our appetites. This is Eric from toulouse.

The entrails were also an important part of the sacrifice, because that was what was fed to the sacred fish that lived in the pool at the end of the grove. At left, you can see Kader praying to the fish after throwing the entrails into the water. He was quite dissappointed because the fish had chosen not to appear that morning to anyone -- he wanted us to see because it was the size of a man and wore a special necklace. (Now my french couldn't be that bad could it??)