Book Review: Excerpt from the Manuscript of the Book entitled ‘Last Look’

Posted: December 25, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Books, Junub Sudan, Reech Mayen

By Samuel Reech Mayen, Juba – South Sudan

kiir and garang

Commander John Garang and Commander Salva Kiir in Rumbek, during the war of liberation struggle

December 25, 2017 (SSB) — The autumn wind was blowing harshly from the North. The lips of the boys cracked deeply because of dryness. Dust from the dung ashes filled the air to an extent a short-sighted would not even see a sun. Their eyes voluntarily dripped with dirty tears. These were the climatic features of the sacrificial season. It was already time for sacrifice in Ngoth-goon totemic cattle camp.

Atem-yath, the totemic Puff Adder was widely worshipped by almost the whole section. This principal religious function was performed by slaughtering numerous oxen. For time immemorial, it had been an annual totemic feast. However, in the preceding past, the totemic festival had turned biennial purposely to make it more remarkable and less extravagant. That year was no different. The elders of Lian section met to listen to the clairvoyant advice on matters regarding this periodical ritual which appeased the deity to protect and provide good health to the people and their cattle.

The revered clairvoyant decreed the names of those who would contribute oxen for the sacrifice. Those who did not attend but ordered to contribute were informed. It was a religious decree which required compliance and anyone who declined could easily be a victim of selfishness.

However, as Jieng says ‘the peg of fastening a cow is curved at the top,’ a phrase which means a cow cannot willingly be given away, some people defied these divine orders. That year two men resisted.

One old man who had been baptized in a certain town called Juba in the year of a catastrophic dispersing flood popularly known as Paweer scorned the decree. After returning to the village where he could not attend church services, he privately maintained some Christian’s values. He refused to give an ox for sacrifice for he understood communal deities as idols.

The totemic Puff Adder of the cattle camp wanted him to contribute an ox for it was his turn and also to be cleansed for deviating from the communal deity. When he received the information, he laughed at people and warned them from touching his ox. He said he had been killing many Puff Adders but nothing happened to him. “If you touch any of my oxen with your salivating mouth, I will strangle that clairvoyant of yours and burn down that byre you call a totemic barn.” The defiant old man warned.

His cousin, Deng-gutdul’s grandfather offered his own ox instead and pleaded for his forgiveness from the clairvoyant. In spite his cousin apologies, almost everyone doubts whether he would see the next rain season.

As the day of the ceremonious sacrifice was approaching, a day before was for offering to God the Almighty. The section believed in God that was superior to the totemic Puff Adder and other totems. As a practice, the youth organized this sacrifice for the manner of acquiring an ox was harsh and violent. For Deng-gutdul, it was the first times to take part in this divine routine. He was briefly oriented by the informed youth that an ox white in colour would be grabbed without prior permission from the owner.

That morning the youth gathered at the periphery of the cattle camp. They sang as they ran majestically in a single line around the cattle camp well aware of where they were heading to. On reaching a definite point, they bent the line to the centre leading to certain Dut’s herd. They grabbed an ox-like a lion does to its prey.

In a very short time, they broke the peg, held the ox with all legs as they dragged it so fast on the ground. When Dut saw this, he landed on his club and charged like a snake trodden upon. Two guys amongst the team which carried the ox left it to be towed by the rest and took clubs too. They stood on his way. The sticks beatings ensued.

Meanwhile, the ox was swiftly yanked to Than-de-Nhialic, God’s balanite aegyptiaca tree, a shrine where sacrifices to God were offered. The youth were joined by boys. As the ox was lying in confusion with its feet tied, the mob jumped on it and kept jumping up and down till it was fully suffocated to death.

The scramble over the meat followed. The boys competed over the internal parts. They exerted their small energies to get intestines, kidneys, spleen, lung and liver. The youth and other elders struggled to get a share of the rest of the meat. It took very little time and the butchered ox was entirely torn into pieces.

When Dut who was still struggling inhaled the whiff of a roasted meat and saw vultures wrestling over the chyme, he realized he had been restrained from saving his dear ox. He returned to the circle of his herd of cattle and continued to rant at the youth for the rest of the day.

The following night, elders, women and children streamed into the cattle camp. Each clan youth, middle-aged and young women sang in groups. The women ululated deep into the night. Elders invocated and sang meaningful religious songs.

Early in the subsequent morning, cows were milked and all including calves, except the youngest ones, were untied and driven out of the cattle camp. The oxen to be sacrificed remained chained to their pegs. The rest of the pegs were pulled off from the ground to avoid injuries during the celebrations.

The celebrating mob specifically the youthful male folks moved out of the cattle camp just to Pakurum at the North-West. The energized crowd turned their faces back to the centre and stretched out with their clubs and spears like an infantry battalion besieging an enemy garrison. As if they were on athletic race, they ran back to the centre of the cattle camp in a deafening sound of stampeding.

Each clan rushed to the spots where their oxen had been tethered. They unchained the oxen and rushed them to Ayoh, the shrine of the huge cluster of balanite aegyptiaca trees. The poor oxen were tied around the trunk of one giant balanite aegyptiaca tree from the bottom upward in the order of arrivals. Without wasting time, each clan designated elder hurriedly thrust the sharp pointed end of the spear deep into the spots where the heads and the upper necks of the oxen met. In less than a blink of an eye, the oxen dropped dead rhythmically.

Afterward, the oxen were skinned and quartered. Several women had already come with ground dough and flour to supplement the feast. Despite how plenty the meat was, elderly male folks were the major consumers. The youth, women and boys could not eat in the shrine of balanite aegyptiaca trees. Youth were only given necks of the oxen. These were cooked and consumed separately. Women were only allowed to eat intestines and leftovers from the old male folks.

While the elders ate meat under the cluster of the shrine of balanite aegyptiaca trees, they sat in age-sets. As a principle, different age-sets would not share a meat. Each age-set had their specific meat from a certain part of a cow. They would place their formally designated cooked meat in their own hides and ate separately from the rest though close enough to converse.

Meanwhile, the youth would concentrate much on drama. During this event, they were joined by their contemporaries from the neighbouring sections. They danced at Pakurum. It was in this dance celebration that people began to notice Deng-gutdul extra-ordinary strength. In the clubs hitting, he split two clubs of his rivals and dislocated one youth at the right shoulder joint. When he jumped, he would fly as if he had wings. His voice was as good as his compacted muscles. His father, Thon was still young but decided to leave youth activities to his son.

In the meantime, boys were dawdling around the shrine of a cluster of balanite aegyptiaca trees. They employed their wits to beg for attention. They were silently persuading elders to invite them for the feast. Normally, a chunk of meat or two would be placed in a bar palm of an invited boy. He would thereafter retreat to share it with fellow boys who would be impatiently salivating.

Following this occasion, there is a tale of a small boy who had been baptized.  He refused to join his colleagues in the begging zone. His granduncle brought for him a fatty chunk of meat from the shrine of the cluster of balanite aegyptiaca trees.  When he presented to him the meat, the boy insisted that he would first seek permission from his elder brother whether he would eat the meat offered to idols or not.

As he turned to go for the consultation, a blessed or a cursed kite swiftly descended from nowhere and snatched the meat which was pierced with a tip of spear’s rod. The poor spear which had been thrust on the ground dropped into a burning heap of dry dung and began to burn. When the boy narrated the story that night, his siblings said it was not a real kite but an angel sent by Jesus Christ to protect him from temptation. But his fellow boys told him off for they construed it as a naivety of high degree.

Despite these minute controversies, the biennial sacred function ended cheerfully. As usual, the cattle camp was quickly evacuated in the following morning. The cattle were driven out of the totemic cattle camp as practice dictated it. The youth moved to various camps with their herds of cattle as they prepare for a long dry season.  Women, some kids and elders returned to the villages. Some few elders remained behind for some days just to clean the deserted cattle camp.

This is an excerpt from the author’s Book titled ‘Last Look’ which is not yet published (Note: People’s names use in this excerpt are fictitious). The author can be reached at: mayenreech@gmail.com  for comments.

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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    Book Review: Excerpt from the Manuscript of the Book entitled ‘Last Look’ | PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers.

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