Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spirits send bees to kill attacking Muslims

Are there other cultures have stories of animals attacking enemies?
During my first trip to Iwol village in 2000, the tribal historian chronicled, from his memory since nothing was written, the first families, crop failures, founding of the neighboring village and the time when the spirits sent bees to kill attacking gun-toting Muslims. Yes, bees repelled a Muslim attack.

On my return trip in 2003, I asked chief Jean Babtiste Keita, who was not present at the historian’s recount, about the killer bees. The chief’s story matched exactly the version I heard three years earlier.

Chief Keita: “The war started when the Muslim marabou Afajel, Aijdelo (please forgive my attempt at phonetic spelling), an Islamic scholar who lived in Guinea, came here in order to convert the Bediks into Islam. But the Bediks didn’t want to be converted.

“It was horrible. The Muslims killed a lot among the Bediks. And those who escaped hid in the rocks. They could only get out during the night to fetch some water to drink and to pound their yams against the rocks. The situation was difficult.

“Then the Bediks begged their spirits to help. They even offered to their spirits eighteen young boys. But the spirits did not kill those eighteen boys.

“The spirits then brought bees into the center of the village–a lot of bees. When the Muslim soldiers came, the bees started fighting in favor of the Bediks. And whoever was stung by a bee, died. Even the marabou himself, the leader of the Muslims, was bitten by three bees. While he succeeded in getting back home, he died three days later.

“And that is finally how the Bediks won the war.”

Chief Keita showed me the tree where the bees live and explained that the bees look like ordinary bees.

There was a more recent bee attack.

“In 1998,” continues the Chief, “a group of Spanish tourists came here. But they started doing their setting up camp without asking any permission. And they went straight to the place where the bees are kept and settled there. They started taking photos, doing as they liked.

“All of a sudden the bees started attacking them. They couldn’t run away. The bees were all around. The Spanish were bitten, bitten everywhere. They were all red.

“But the traditional chief knew that they didn’t do this on purpose. Maybe they didn’t know. He came with sacred water. He poured a little bit on the bees to stop them. In that second they stopped.”

Village Historian and Chief Keita, each interviewed on two separate trips
Iwol Village, Bedik Tribe

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