Ursi's Eso Garden
Your Competent Esoteric Guide
Sunday, 24. June 2007
Tribe: The Babongo People
The Babongo of Gabon used to be known, derogatively, as pygmies. They're still treated as second-class citizens by their neighbours. But their expertise and knowledge of the forests is unique and their use of Iboga, a powerful hallucinogenic which lies at the heart of Babongo culture, makes them famous throughout Gabon.
The Babongo believe they were the first people on earth. They share the forest with the Macoi, ambivalent spirit figures at once malevolent and benign. Drumming calls them from the forest, and they must be appeased at every turn - there's a ritual for every action, and countless forms of ceremony.
When a person dies, for instance, the Babongo believe their spirit will linger in the village and cause harm. The village must be cleansed through drumming, dancing and ritual. The women wash the body indoors and wrap it in a cloth. Then the men carry it to the graveyard in the forest for burial. The women paint their faces white with kaolin to symbolise purification, and dance and sing to put the dead person's spirit to rest. After three days and three nights of mourning, the funeral is declared over.
More to the fascinating episode from the series 'Tribe' @ BBC
Go tribal with former Royal Marines officer and expedition leader Bruce Parry as he becomes a guest of the Babongo people. On Bruce's visit: he is initiated into the Bwiti religion by ingesting the sometimes fatal drug, Iboga.
The Babongo people have no formal system of government or chiefs, and traditionally, each small group within the tribe had rights to the territory where they lived and hunted. They know the forest intimately, and are expert trackers - they can find a bee hive by following the flight path of a single bee. The countries they live in give them no legal right over their territory, and their way of life is in danger because of deforestation.
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