Wednesday, April 13, 2005

faith stories: elka of the wai wai -part 2

(Part 2 of Chapter 8: "Into the Pit of My Stomach" from the book Christ’s Witchdoctor by Homer Dowdy © 1963).

[introduction] [part 1]

part 2 ...

No sooner had the horror of the multiple murders slipped a little from memory than the people were stirred by events that set God in direct opposition to the world of spirits. And the pit of Elka’s stomach was the place of battle.

Ekufa, a tiny baby, was brought by his parents to Elka for treatment. He suffered from convulsive fits. Achi had said that God and her medicine could cure them. But Elka’s ability to manipulate the spirits drew the parents to him.

"Will you blow on this little thing?" the father asked Elka, bringing his son into Elka’s house at Yaka Yaka. Elka sat in his hammock silent. Now and then he turned a parrot roasting on a spit over the fire. The father held the baby toward Elka as if to plead for his intervention.

"Why doesn’t your wife’s father blow on him?" Elka asked, referring to Chiriminoso, the child’s grandfather, who had once more come across the mountains.

"The old father of my wife cannot find a cure," said the young man. "He told us to take the boy to one who is more of a witchdoctor than he is."

"Why don’t you take him to Muyuwa," Elka asked. He did not want to accept responsibility for the child’s life. He gave no explanation for his reluctance; to himself he repeated the name, "Little Crab...Little Crab." Why couldn’t he forget the girl? Why couldn’t he think of all his successes?

He still could see no difference in her case from the others. He’d used those same songs to advantage before. New songs were not what he needed. Was his relationship to Kworokyam at fault? Or was it Kworokyam himself?
The sun was in the middle of the sky. Light streamed through the doorway into the dark house. Then without a warning, a cloud covered the sun. The shadow nearly blotted the youngster from Elka’s sight. Death was a shadow. It was moving in on this sad family. In pity for the young pair, he took the baby from the father’s arms.

"I will blow. Ask the men if they’d kind of like to help you build a shurifana."

He laid the baby in his hammock and bent over him to blow. He kept on blowing and sucking at the hurt. After the witchdoctor’s house was finished, he took the child there to continue working his charms. He blew and sang. With the coming of night he called all the spirits he knew to come. He especially appealed to his favorite pets, the wild pegs. Mafolio had said to work all night, and this he was doing. He went to the sky, not once but many times. He communed with the spirits on this high plane. The dawn came. Elka squeezed out through the leafy sides of the hut. He handed the hot, nearly lifeless package of bones and skin to the distraught parents.

He would blow again later in the day, he promised.

He did that day and the next and the next. Deep down in the pit of his stomach he knew it was no use. The child would not live. He knew because the smoke he had blown on the fevered brow did not stick as it did when Kworokyam was to grant relief. It left the child’s head the instant it touched his skin.

The boy died the morning after Elka’s third day of blowing. The mother wept; the father sat silent and staring; the villagers began their wailing. None was more disturbed then Elka.

Why don’t my charms work?

on to part 3 ...

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