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Fetish and superstition in Africa


The procession of Samale
Redmond O'Hanlon Writer
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The protective animal of this village – every village has a protective animal – is called Samale. Now, Samale is part man, part gorilla, part whatever. He has three claws on either hand, and he rips you down the back when you're a young man. They've all got, all these young guys... it's a leopard sect, in other words, but of course it's done by Doku with his machete. He's drugged them with this unbelievably powerful dope out in the jungle, and they're cut, and they join the sect. But Doku and his three apprentices, every other day... I think that's right. I may not be right. Certainly every week. Anyway, they surrounded the village and they look at their watches, except they haven't got any. So say it's three o'clock, whatever. And then they all roar together [roar], and it's scary. And everybody dashes into the hut, and so did we. And the deal is: if you look out through a crack in the hut wall and you see Samale processing, you're very unlikely to live out the week. But if you sit quietly and never even dream of trying to look, see what's happening, you'll be absolutely fine until the next procession of Samale. You'll have a wonderful time. And it seemed to me that that was dealing with, helping you to deal with this kind of life. And your soul... not that there is a soul, but your whole personality is sort of diffused into the forest and the surroundings, and you belong. It's the wonderful way that human beings and their imagination and their films can make you part of something vastly bigger than you are, and relieve your anxieties, at least until the next time Samale is coming past. I thought that must be it.

But meanwhile, of course, Larry, the great rationalist and New York scientist, is sitting there with his head in his hands, taking it all far too seriously. And saying to me, you're meant to talk, saying, 'Oh Jesus God, I haven't talked to anybody sensible since God was a boy.'

British author Redmond O’Hanlon writes about his journeys into some of the wildest places in the world. His travels have taken him into the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, he has faced some of the toughest tribes alive today, and has sailed in the hurricane season on a trawler in the North Atlantic. In all of this, he explores the extremes of human existence with passion, wit and erudition.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Babinga

Duration: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: July - September 2008

Date story went live: 01 November 2017