Sorcery and Tradition in the Village of Gumbo
In the vicinity of Kundiawa lies the quaint village of Gumbo, enveloped by a bamboo jungle and inhabited by the Kamunyombglo clan of the Narku tribe. Notably, the village is home to a sorcerer and his elderly father, dwelling in a discreetly constructed treehouse near the entrance.
Sorcery has deep roots in the Highland traditions of this region. Practitioners, often considered as playing a shamanistic role, possess magical powers and engage in rituals that can bring both harm and healing. The sorcerers of Gumbo, a young man in his early 30s and his elderly father, exemplify the cultural significance of this practice.
The sorcerer and his father, adorned in loincloths with long strings of green moss intertwined with their hair, claim an intimate connection with nature. The moss, they assert, grows into their flesh, symbolizing their profound relationship with the environment.
Despite the attempts of Christian missionaries to diminish reliance on sorcerers, these practitioners continue to hold sway in the community. Villagers seek their expertise to explain misfortunes, deaths, and other events, as well as to lift curses and spells. The sorcerer’s role, though banned from marriage or intimacy, is inherited through generations.
Traditional beliefs persist in the healing powers of sorcerers, especially when “bush doctors” fail to cure illnesses. Rituals involving plants, oils, smoke, and incantations are employed, and sorcerers can exorcise malevolent spirits.
Sorcerers also play a role in meting out justice. When theft occurs, they use black magic to identify the culprit and prescribe an appropriate punishment, such as a beating with poisonous leafy birch, causing severe rash and burning. In extreme cases, serious offenders may face lethal consequences, although the exact method remains undisclosed.
The sorcerer and his father lead a secluded existence, rarely leaving their treehouse. The father, having shot someone with his bow and arrow, finds himself virtually imprisoned, as his physical capabilities prevent him from descending to the ground.
With a diminishing supply of wild animals for sustenance, the sorcerer and his father rely on wild fruits and nuts for sustenance. Additionally, bush rats, insects, snakes, and small reptiles are caught and roasted in their treehouse. The tree-kangaroo, locally known as kaskas, is considered a delicacy and is consumed raw.
Despite their isolation, the sorcerer and his father had their first close encounter with a Westerner, expressing approval for the interaction. Whether casting spells or providing healing, their presence in the village reflects the enduring influence of sorcery in the face of changing times.