Coping With Fleas While Writing At Night

Coping With the Fleas While Writing at Night. I normally write at night, from about 8:00 p.m. to midnight. A charcoal stove warms the area where I sit at my makeshift particle board desk with my pressure lantern giving adequate light as I type on my German Olympia portable typewriter. It is a quiet time with Pat and the kids asleep. But the big problem I have is with the fleas. They come out at night from wherever they hide. They like blood and hop onto my legs and bite and drink my blood. This leaves an itching sore that, when scratched, burns. In the beginning of our life in our Manze house the fleas were tiny, like the size of a large period on a page. But as time went on they got bigger and bigger; fat black shiny defiant things. At first, when I spied one that hopped on the desk I would hit it with a hammer, most often missing since they are very fast and hop out of the way. Then I would pinch them off my leg and squeeze until they were a bit stunned and let them fall on the desk and hit them with a hammer and they would stand up on two legs and put their thumbs in their ears and waggle their fingers in defiance at me (just kidding, but that’s how I felt about them).
Then I happened upon a brilliant idea. The roof of my pressure lantern got red hot after awhile. So, I could then pick one off my leg, squeeze it, and drop it onto the roof of my lantern. Instantly, my blood would boil inside and they would explode. I finally knew how to take revenge! It saved me from going insane every night I wrote up my notes on half sheets of paper. Years later, in the Amazon, I met Indians who, while lying in their hammocks would groom each other’s hair, usually a wife with her husband, and when they would find a bug within, they would bite it and say that they are taking revenge!

Visiting The Hermits In Their Cave

Visiting the Hermits in Their Cave. The caves, situated high in the escarpment, were small and warm inside. I entered one with a couple of hermits seated within. They are professed to be celibate. As I conversed with them about their hermit life I began to feel bites on my legs. The place was infested with fleas! They bite to get at one’s blood. I asked them how they can tolerate the fleas. They said that the fleas were “sent by God” and that the fleas drank the blood of their desire for women. I could not stay there very long because the fleas were having a feast on me. I proceeded down the escarpment to a little village where I had coffee and conversed with some young women in their house. I told them about my visit with the hermits and how they maintained their celibacy. They chuckled and sort of soft-punched each other in acknowledgment of some mutual confidential knowledge. I teased out the secret with them in a joking way. It seems that a favorite sport of these women is to seduce the hermits when they come to beg for their daily food. The women are quite successful at this art—and I can see why! Climbing back up to the hermit caves I told them about what the women had revealed to me. They did not deny it. But they said that it makes them only more fervent in their prayers when they have violated their pledge of celibacy. We had a good time talking about it as I confirmed my own experience of these beautiful and seductive women.

Sounds of Women At The Spring

Sounds of Women at the Spring. In the late afternoon B. and I went to the spring for a walk to see what we could see and to see if Bilet’u needed help with our laundry. We listened to the sounds of the activity of the spring, outpouring of water from the spring pipes, the clacking of gourd cups against heavy clay inseras being filled with water, the slaushing of water in the insera and the creak of the ropes and straps that go around the women’s shoulders to heft their load; and the women’s conversational comments as they take their water. Girls as young as 8 y.o. came this afternoon, already accepting their sex-role as predetermined, which, for them, it was. I felt the sounds were good and to put them on tape may be an idea worth trying.

Zar Spirit Belief

Learning of the Zar Spirit Belief. The best part of the day came around 6:00 p.m. when Bilet’u invited the neighbors for t’irt’ib (coffee clatch). Pat was pissed off because it was so near dinnertime. Almaz and Kəbəbəsh told us a great deal about the local beliefs in zar; especially the female zars, čelley. The zar spirit system appears to mirror their social structure rather than the Monophysite Christian ideology of this area, the great tradition of which the people, including the priests, know little. At first Almaz denied zar belief, but then it all came out when we began to tell about it ourselves. There was some obvious uneasiness about admitting to the belief. And Bilet’u resented it when B. recalled that one of the arch zar’s names was “Gallaborder”, because she is from the Galla cum Oromo tribe and was a little ashamed of the belief system. She didn’t want her tribe associated with it. The most interesting thing learned was that they call the čelley “protector of the family” and it is a female zar. Female zar are for females and male zar are for males. The implication is that the male does not figure symbolically as a family solidarity factor—it shows symbolically that the women are the keystone of the family. At least, I have a new hypothesis to explore. Some months later, after reviewing a voluminous amount of zar data, I came to realize the zar spirit belief system had its place in the total religious system of these people, symbolizing the jealous father figure who exacts tribute in return for his protection, and who competes with the other spirit figures for a place in the minds of these highland Amhara people.

“Surgery” On A Man’s Infected Leg

Operating on a Man’s Infected Leg. This afternoon an older man, maybe around 45 came to the house. His leg was wrapped in dirty rags and he was hobbling in pain. I asked him why he had come to visit. He told us that last week (that could’ve been longer) he was walking through the countryside to visit a relative and a man he believed to have the evil eye crossed his path. Soon afterward he tripped on a branch and fell onto a sharp stone and cut his leg deeply. He went to a traditional doctor who put herbs on it and wrapped it in these rags. The pain got worse and he became very afraid. That’s when he heard about the ferenji and sought ferenji medicine. I asked him if I could take a look at his leg and he said, “Of course! Please see what you can find!” I carefully unwrapped the rags which were stinking of infection. I have never seen anything like it before. The vertical gash in his leg, around the tibia, was bone deep and there was dead flesh around the infection with pus suppurating around the wound. Red lines were radiating from the wound that I recognized as septicemia, blood poisoning, and gangrene. I was shocked at the sight and wondered what I could do with this. I came to the decision that I had to dress it as best I could. I took out the Exacto knife from my medicine kit (I had no scalpel) and disinfected it with alcohol. I then warned him it could cause pain but to let me treat this wound. He complied. I then proceeded to cut the dead flesh away, leaving only what I guessed was healthy tissue. I then warned him that I had to bathe the wound in the alcohol and that it would hurt. He sat there wordless and still as I poured the alcohol over the wound and swabbed the leg area. I had no sutures at the time (and besides, I don’t know if I would be able to do that kind of work) but I then closed the wound as best I could with butterfly bandages. I then bandaged his leg liberally with gauze and tape. I had him swallow several antibiotic tablets (oxytetracycline). He was quiet, so I asked him if he found the procedure painful. He said he thought he’d go through the roof, but he is gwobaz, (brave, courageous, enduring as a warrior) and proved himself so.
I told him he should visit me in a week and let me see how he was doing. In his gratitude he fell to the floor and tried to kiss my feet as I grabbed him under the chin, saying “tew, tew” (“leave it, leave it”) as he grabbed my knees and offered to be my servant to serve me. I suggested he return willing to teach me about his country. The following week he returned and I saw his wound was healing and the infection was not apparent. He told me stories and sang me songs of the warrior and taught me well.

Warrior Ideology From A Soldier’s Pamphlet

The Warrior Ideology. The man who helped us kill and butcher the sheep belongs to the territorial army (like National Guard) and has a little book certifying him. It tells him to be brave, kill the enemy, do not fear death; that Amhara can shoot from the lowland that kills in the highland; that the Amhara bullet never finds itself in the dirt; to keep your eye sharp, your sights straight; it is good to kill your enemy, fear him not! The inside front cover of his little booklet was a picture of a traditional warrior with spear, shield, and lion mane helmet. On the outside cover was a picture of His Imperial Majesty glaring at you.

Blood On The Threshold and Some Sociality

Blood Spilled on the Students’ Threshhold. We slaughtered our sheep today. Beydamariam and a neighbor he’s befriending helped, while I took photos of the procedure. Some blood was spilled on the student’s doorstep while butchering it and they got upset. They felt the Devil would come in the night, lap the blood-droppings, and that as a result some misfortune would befall them. B. consoled them; told them not to believe such things because they were educated. B. apologized for the mistake. But, to me, it was another example of the fear that the peasantry live with. There is the sense of powerlessness, fear of forces beyond their control, like severe rains and floods that could threaten their crops, hail storms that could strip their crops and cause famine for the season, locust invasions that could eat their season’s food sources, political “big men” and their armed “assistants” who take money from them as “taxes,” disease that can take their children, untimely death of a parent or relative that one relies on, an animal attack from a wild dog or hyena, an accident like a fall or a cut that can have serious consequences. These fears are then symbolically and emotionally expressed in various beliefs such as the evil eye, zar spirit, or ch’iraq—little gremlin monsters that hide under rocks or in the bottoms of pools and streams that attack passersby causing accidents or sickness.
Then, a man came by, a tailor, who had just spent all his money on əreqe and was “potted to the gills,” like, quite inebriated . We called him over and he complained that he had no money, and was down on his luck. From his dark skin we could tell he was from a south western tribe, probably a manumitted slave, and couldn’t speak much Amharic, but when B. showed him he could speak some of this man’s native language, he wept and tried to kiss B’s feet. He managed to get as far as his knees and, as custom dictates, B. pulled his head up repeatedly.The other man was still here and we all considered it quite funny; even the drunken tailor was laughing through his tears. Then we told him to go and when he ignored the command the other man pulled up a large stalk of sama (stinging nettles that blisters for  hours) and made a threatening gesture, as if to push it down his throat. The old man staggered away.
Afterwards we threw meat into the compound and I snapped telephotos of the hawks swooping down and carrying it off. I also got a shot of a black and white qora (pied crow). Then B. suggested putting meat on a string and the hawk would grab it, but it couldn’t hang onto it. Later we let the hawk have it. He now sits on a branch of our tree watching us–a potential friend. He calls to us now and then.

Making A Blanket

Making a Banna. My neighbor, Almaz, described to me how one creates a banna (blanket:—loosely translated from the Amharic): “You decide what color your blanket will be. It could be black, white, brown, or light brown, or a patchwork of different colors. You gather your sheep together of the chosen colors. Then you cut the hair from the sheep. It may take many sheep of each color! It’s good to let the older children do this. The younger children can clean (card) the hair to get out the dirt and bugs. The woman will take this and spin it into yarn. This may take days and days. Older women who have much time are good for this work. She will have to make many skeins (balls) of yarn for a blanket. When she has many balls of the chosen color, or of different colors, she must take it to a weaver. The weaver may be one of the Falasha people—we’re careful and polite when we visit one of these people! But Qes (priest) Geremu also weaves, but he is not from a weaving tradition so he is not of ayn og! (evil eye). A price for the work is then negotiated and settled upon. The weaver will determine if he has enough sheep’s hair and then will proceed. It will take many days to weave this blanket! When the blanket is large enough he will tie fringes on both ends. Then it will be done!

Warnings of Outlaws

Warnings of Shiftas in the Night. This evening I talked with the “downstairs” students (the space under our second floor). Some of what they said was revealing. First, they spoke of the shiftas, outlaws, that lurk in the countryside; how they drink too much and “their minds change” and they go out and find someone alone and “hit” him for his money and goods–usually by shooting him first and then searching the body for goods, like money or guns. They warned me to be careful. The idea passed thru my mind, after ten minutes of shifta talk, that maybe they were trying to scare me away; on the coaxing of someone else or on their own initiative. But it just as well could’ve been a warning about these kinds of dangers as they themselves felt. I assured them that we would take care when walking about in the countryside.

The Falasha Blacksmith

Meeting the Falasha Blacksmith. We also visited the blacksmith, an outcaste who has become adept in answering peasants insults. He is known as Falasha, a people who became landless in the 13th century, after the mighty Hebraic Queen Yudit, who dominated the Christians, was vanquished by the Christian Amhara. Falasha people, better known today as Bete Yisroel (House of Israel) are believed to have the evil eye, bestowed by the Devil who gave them the skill of working with metal and clay and cloth, and in return for these skills, demands a human sacrifice every year at the full moon. At that time the buda (evil eye person) will role in the hearth ashes and turn into a hyena, roaming the countryside for a victim to “eat.” When I intimated that I learned that people believed him to have the evil eye, he flew into a rage and demanded to know how I heard this. I pleaded that I didn’t believe it but the peasantry do. He calmed down, continuing to push his finger into a wet sand mold to pour in lead, making bullets. The test for the proper size bullet is to drop it down the barrel and if it goes all the way through it’s good.

Mission Statement

The Pacific Polynesian Anthropology Project is a study of sacred sites and shamanic cosmology that will contribute to our knowledge of indigenous wisdom and offer us a path to greater sustainability—of individual health, integrated community, and a viable planet.

Our Western civilization, as we know it today, is relatively young compared to civilizations in the world that have a sustained history of thousands of years: the Aborigines of Australia, the indigenous African tribes, Polynesians migrating across the open ocean via canoe; and our New World tribes whose traditions reach back 20,000 years. These ancient traditions have survived, for better or worse, until recent times, without the influence of contemporary politics, industrialization, commercial materialism, modern warfare, or even modern medicine. What can we learn from these cultures? Can we understand their reverence for the environment, their maintenance of a simple society, their connection to the spiritual world or perhaps even their indigenous approach to health and illness?

As a psychological anthropologist I’ve worked in the early ‘60’s with the Rastafarians of Jamaica; in the late ‘60’s and mid-‘90’s with both highland and urban Ethiopians; in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s with American communities. I also worked with healers in the Western Ghats of India and the Mayans of Belize. I continue to write on the traditions of Ethiopia.

So, this is an important juncture for me, entering a new field, a culture with which I am relatively unfamiliar—Hawaiian spirituality, shamanism, and indigenous cosmology, reaching back tens of thousands of years, prior to the habitation of these magnificent islands.

It is a calling to study, experience, and share the wisdom of the ancient tradition. The profession of the shaman is one of the oldest known to humankind. The other is the role and profession of the midwife. Both of these occupations fill a vital need in human communities from the very origin of our species. The attraction for me is the ancient ideas, values, cosmologies, and practices that allowed for human survival and development. What we see today in the world does not bode well for human growth and development and planetary health and sustenance. My general mission is to learn about and share the indigenous wisdom of humanity, and to live by and teach those principles that allow our survival, sustenance, and psycho-cultural evolution.

The shamanic journey enters the world of nonordinary reality. Through the discipline of meditation and the ritual technology of the drum and rattle, one can enter into a world, a parallel universe, of Spirit, many spirits of whom are there to help, guide, and heal those living on the plane of ordinary reality. Quantum physics has alluded to parallel universes, the “multiverse”, and psychics, like animal communicators, claim they have access to the “axiotonal” lines of the universe, what quantum physicists call “the grid”, through which lines of energy, lines of intelligence, travel since before the beginning of time.

I want to contribute to what my colleague and shamanic teacher, Hank Wesselman, has called the “Transformational Community” which I see as a positive force in our cultural evolution. Our original way of life was an egalitarian, small scale hunting and gathering society. However, our social and technological evolution has resulted in societies of great complexity—for better and for worse.

The transformational community encourages life-affirming values; healing, on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels of human functioning. It accomplishes this by fostering a sense of social justice, with deep concerns about quality of life; concerns about the well-being of our children and those with relatively little power; concerns with values that put the quality of human relationships as a high priority over values of profit and material gain; building values of social and religious tolerance and spiritual freedom, along with personal individualism and a real sense of the meaning of community. This brings us into a close and intimate relationship with nature, with Gaia, the natural forces over which we have only illusory control.