Water and Culture
by Lori Duff, Grahipla, Côte d'Ivoire
Water is sacred in Côte d'Ivoire. Not only is it the basis of every ritual greeting, but ponds and streams in many villages are considered holy.
Part of my work as a water and sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer is to search in the fields for water sources that may be infested with Guinea worms, which cause a disease of the same name. As a result, I have come across many of these ponds. One day, as the local nurse and I were walking, we stumbled across a group of people "adoring" a sacred spring. They were sitting in a circle on the ground; a calabash of palm wine was in the center. They had killed a chicken and had scattered blood and feathers around the pond. They explained to us that there was a jinni, or spirit, that lived in the pond. Because of this, they asked that the pond not be disturbed while they performed their ritual.
We agreed to come back the next day to work, and then sat down with them to share a gourd of palm wine. As we drank, they told me of their hope that the jinni of the pond would help them.
Last year the villages of Goumere, in eastern Côte d'Ivoire, suffered a serious drought. As I was sleeping one night, I heard the beating of tom-toms outside my window. I went out to find the village fetisher (herbalist) dancing and chanting to the spirits for rain. Dressed entirely in white and balancing a bundle on top of her head, she swayed, leaped, and sang to the beat of drums. Someone told me they had sacrificed a white cow earlier as a gift to the spirits. It was an urgent matter. Without rain, the crops would die, and there would be nothing to eat in the year to come.
by Sarah McElroy, Kamalo, Côte d'Ivoire
If people visit you at your house, you offer them a cup of water and give them a place to sit down. Then, you ask about their family and about any news that they might have. Giving water is a sign of politeness. If you do not give water, it is rude.
by Amy Bailey, Grand-Bereby, Côte d'Ivoire
Although many nationalities are represented in Grand-Bereby, the city where I live, the principal ethnic group of the region is Kroumen. In a village just east of Grand-Bereby, called Clana, there is a small body of water that the Krou consider sacred. Although it's sacred, people are allowed to fish in it, which is surprising, since trees in sacred forests are not allowed to be cut down.