Cousin O

They have their own Twitter hashtag, a swelling celebrity bandwagon, and Michelle Obama on their side.  The colonial forces of Britain, the United States, France, Spain and Israel have deployed on their behalf.  Global emotional outrage has been mobilized, massed, and magnified by the world’s mighty media machine.  But somehow it may not be enough to bring back the Babes of Boko Haram.   Desperate times call forth desperate measures.  Time to invoke the mysterious power of African occult tradition:

Five hundred traditional hunters from three northeastern states, ranging in age from 18 to 80, have mustered in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, eager to use their skills and supernatural powers to find nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram.   Police have said that more than 300 girls and young women were kidnapped from a boarding school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 15 and driven into the nearby Sambisa National Game Reserve.   The extremists are believed to have camps in densely forested parts of the reserve.  Boko Haram recently destroyed the only bridge linking Borno state to neighboring Cameroon and Chad, where they have hideouts in mountain caves and another forested game reserve.

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Armed with homemade guns, poisoned spears and amulets, the hunters have been specially selected by their peers for their spiritual hunting skills and gathered in Maiduguri at the suggestion of a state legislator.  They rely on magic charms, amulets of herbs and other substances wrapped in leather pouches as well as cowrie shells, animal teeth and leather bracelets to protect them from bullets.

Officially, they’re not calling upon traditional deities for assistance:

A spokesman for the hunters stopped short of actually criticizing the Nigerian military. “We’re not saying we are better than the soldiers, but we know the bush better than the soldiers,” said Sarkin Baka. “We are seasoned hunters, the bush is our culture and we have the powers that defy guns and knives; we are real men of courage, we trust in Allah for protection; we are not afraid of Boko Haram,” said one elderly hunter, Baban Kano.

Since these guys are almost certainly Hausa tribesmen rather than Yoruba, nobody is going to be heard mentioning the name of Oxossi (or his northern equivalent).  But old gods don’t fade away just because mere humans cease to believe in them.  After all, what self-respecting god would have to rely on lowly humans for His actual existence?

Oxossi (O-SHOW-see) is the Yoruba god of the hunt and the forest.  His emblem is the bow and arrow.  He is associated with abundance of food and energy.  He is the patron of justice and the hunt, and a master of all air attacks: his name is invoked when devotees are looking for swift justice from above.   Oxossi is one of the three warrior [gods] referred to as the “Ebora” in the Yoruba religion.

The other two members of the Ebora warrior trinity are Ogun and Exu (aka Elegua).  Oxossi is associated with/invoked by the color green, trickster/messenger Exu/Elegua’s colors are red and black (or white and black), while blacksmith/warrior Ogun is associated with the red of fire and blood.

In Rio de Janeiro, Oxossi came to be syncretized with Saint Sebastian, but he is depicted as Saint George in the Bahia region of Brazil. In Cuba, Oxossi is identified with Saint Norbert.  He is the patron of those who work with animals, dogs in particular, and is often supplicated when an animal is mistreated.

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Curiously coincidential cross-cultural connection…

The etymological origin of the name Ebora is from the ancient Celtic word ebora/ebura, plural genitive of the word eburos (yew), a species of tree, so its name means “of the yew tree.”  At the time of the Roman Empire, the city of York in northern England was called Eboracum/Eburacum, named after the ancient Celtic place name Ebora Kon (Place of Yew Trees).

Those of  ‘yew’ familiar with the Anglo-Saxon folklore legend of Robin Hood will know that wood of the yew is the primary material used in construction of the hunter’s longbow.  …  Just sayin’.

Of course, as far as Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham were concerned, the band of merry men were just a gang of poachers illegally slaughtering herds of deer in the King’s game preserve.   So maybe Nigeria’s traditional hunters are tarred with the same backwoods brush in the eyes of official military forces.  All the same, it might be a good idea for everyone to remember Gary Cooper‘s role as Alvin York in the classic Hollywood film “Sergeant York.”  Hillbillies have always had a place on the battlefield, and this here Borno scenario is cryin’ out for a big-budget, fasttrack Nollywood film treatment.  Nome sane?

 

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