The mythology of The Gambia: Part 1
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
This is a Platonic Dialogue of, and about Apodictic Truth preserved in the structure of The Gambia's spiritual development from immemorial antiquity.
It was laid, in prehistory; on the banks of the River Gambia and Bintang Bolong stream. The contribution of each ethnic group may be called "pattern of prestige" or the composite of what had emerged out of Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, European & Arabian interferences, and host-settlers.
We do not have any genuine record of a common stock of blue-blooded indigenous owner of the territory over which ?The Gambia? exercise jurisdiction; as a single entity. The social base is an esprit de corps within which each ethnic group identify itself for collective well-being without the force of law. Under these circumstances, it was common for the more privileged group to guard the exits, either figuratively or literally.
The Gambia is not a "melting pot" in which immigrants of various racial and cultural back-grounds are assimilated; but one, in which relationship disposed itself to cooperation for rationalized collective-interest. The shifts involving tribes was unknown in traditional rural life. Tribalism is the product of foreign impact in quest for political power and modernization.
Formerly, all ethnic groups were kin-based traditional-centered unit of social organization rooted in local legends, that trace their origin to the beginning of the world; or belonging to a population subdivision marked by some common features of family pride. Ethnically (speaking), the five nations (i.e. Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry) are the same peoples; wanting to hold their group identities, each cum lacte; as the Romans would say, "with the mother's milk".
To this end, it is felt that since the similitude of spontaneous harmony had been established in the Gambia, long before the European & Arabian interferences; we have to idealized and even romanticized what we know about the mythology of the Gambia, in our time; to preserve true continuity with the past, because some of our cultural values have been lost, and some have permeated modern religions, and some have been degenerated. Our approach is to use the inputs from our Griots & Oral Historians within communities, to restore lost pride, since no nation can managed sovereignty without the full, self-conscious understanding of her arts & culture; passed on cum lacte.
Unfortunately, our native dialects are not literary languages with ontological terminologies in tandem with scholasticism; nor does it systematized native logic, philosophy, and theology. However, for our purpose; the point of departure is that Sky-God created life in this world; prehistory is preserved in myths; and Albert Einstein's (1879-1955) theory would melt in the full blast of divine incandescence.
Thus, to understand the mythology of the Gambia is not to think in terms of the "excluded middle", because Sky- God is capable of being both personal & impersonal in Himself. This was the perspective of our ancient tradition that tells us that the gods, goddesses, and our cultural heroes are always with us; to complete the duration of cosmic cycle for the world to be re-created anew from the primordial waters of chaos, at the end of time; by Sky-God.
In this mythical perspective of primitive and archaic culture, Sky-God's intervention in our world is sacred history or a theophany willed out of chaos to transcend the profane world of demons and the powers of pestilence. The deeper significance of this sacred world of human habitation is that the threshold is guarded by gods, goddesses, and the spirits of our cultural heroes; after Sky-God withdrew from the world and become remote (dei otiosi). It is on this threshold that sacrifices from humans are received by the guardian divinities who facilitates communication with humans, and forbid entrance of evil spirits, demons, devils, witches; into "our world" of sacred space.
Thus, a theophany is the ritual construction of a sacred space to reproduce the work of the gods from the unknown and indeterminate space that surrounds us. In effect, Sky-God is fully monotheistic, and too self-sufficient to need any cult or temple or priest. For this reason, the creation story only exposed the intuitive and existential dimensions of prehistory, and the evolution of traditional cultures. Howbeit, the sacred had already manifested itself to our ancestors as something different from the profane. This implies that seekers of the truth must relie on apodictic truth instead of the history of ordinary time and the actual creation experienced out of chaos. The lack of the creation experienced was substituted by our ancestors with the memory of events as they found them.
This primitive means of memorizing events, marvels, prophecies, and folklores as they found them; was a way of thinking, because human beings have no words adequate and accurate enough to disclosed the reality of creation; and human mind has no right to know the actuality of the spirit of life. Our human sense receptors cannot process unalloyed reality, because it cannot be correlated to any psychophysical condition unless our wave lengths can achieved the condition of superhuman-consciousness and is free from the "knots of the heart" and the "identification of the flesh".
In this state and condition which humans cannot experienced anyway; the nature of Sky-God, human soul, and Divine spirits; will be the science of speculation, in words & ideas, to domesticate the moment set aside, to acquire orientation in the chaos of homogeneity of space, to "found the world" and to live in a human sense of Reality & Experience. Consequently, the ontology that we are dealing with: is the science of being or the branch of metaphysics dealing with the philosophical theory of reality, including consideration of the universal and the necessary characteristics of all existence. Hence, our focus is on the material object of ?all real being?, while the formal object (i.e. the viewpoint) is about "Being" under its most universal aspects.
Our ancestors used idols to invoked the "Real Being" of their gods, goddesses, and ancestral spirits; into existence out of a shattered universe consisting of an infinite number of neutral places. The idols' existence is independent of the actual person of the metaphysical "Reality" of an existible spiritual person that has cognitional existence in the mind of the human person that rightly knows the fundamental being with a metaphysical essence and its capability of existing in the physical order, prescinding from the object's "Actual" existence.
This was what Saint Thomas Aquinas (1224 & 1274) insinuated when he said that: "everything is an appearance of God, who in the appearance, is ever revealed and ever hidden". Our ancestors never used their idols to usurped the supremacy of Sky-God, because they knew that Sky-God's mode of being is infinite height in the celestial vault that is not immediately accessible to human beings endowed with understanding and will-power; with the substance of a person: physically defined "as a creature composed of body & soul"; and metaphysically defined "as a rational animal".
The "Being" of Sky-God is defined as the Ultimate Reality that is not contingent, because it is the "only one" produced by its causes as an actualized being. The idea is that: all other nature & persons are actuated by Sky-God's Divine power. Therefore, the person of Sky-God is no longer pure possibility; but the person that is completely perfect and self-sufficing. For this person, we are speaking of "one'' that is necessary (not contingent), uncaused (not caused), pure actuality (not effected existence). It must be noted that we do not positively exclude the differences in nature between the potential realities of gods, goddesses, demonic spirits and humans; because there is a being which can cause them to exist in space to be incorporated into their privileged places of unique quality.
Since "truth" is a transcendental attribute of "being" it is not confined to a particular category or classification of "being". The ontological truth has its ultimate foundation in the intellect of Sky-God. All things that we can conceived of, was created according to Sky-God's type-ideas; therefore, the parables, myths, symbols, images, and rituals of our ancestors, were the intensity of experiences associated with Sky-God's Divine Mind; that transcend the reach of words entirely.
However much, the fact may baffle human-mind, the reflected glory of Sky-God is open to the conscious, unconscious and subconscious living conditions of the human brain waves that had produced the seven wonders of the ancient world. We, in the Gambia, can find our ontological, logical, and moral truths; and put all the pieces of the puzzle that fit together; from our local Griots & Oral Historians, and then, process our mythology: intentionally, cognitionally, and sensibly; for those of us living today, and those who will live in an uncertain future.
Let us proposed at the outset that the term "Hierophany" is for the manifestation of the sacred in our places of Ancient Divinity & Objects of Traditional Deity. Our task must be, to make sense of these ancient art objects (Hierophanies) from the vantage point of our ancestors, with the addition of words of semantic sophistication; bearing in mind, that our words are the transliteration of oral vernacular idioms that barely survived into our time era, because of their intrinsic values to us; from the true boon-bringers of ancient cultures & traditions.
This brings us to the 'Efry M'Bye National Television Talk Show, in which Gambian Griots & Oral Historians were dialating about the "Lost Continent of Atlantis" and the concept (i.e. demanding perspective); that the Gambia is the "Center or Novel of the Earth". Their words tended to be veiled and cryptic, and open to interpretations. The ideas discussed were from racial memories that may be ridiculed if publicized as bibliography and subjected to lampooning. For Gambians, it was interesting because there is a wider angle of vision that unwittingly extrapolated the mystery of creation; the magnitude of cataclysmic events in the mid-Atlantic Ocean; and the realities of the Universe, man, and Sky-God.
The irony is the proverbial saying: "can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (St. John 1:46)". In this context, Ontological Truth was set in motion by Gambians; for Gambians, in the Gambia. We have reached the point of integrating psychic elements realized through sensation, perception and racial memories. The values of this "Talk Show" mentioned briefly, lies in its power to recall our minds from the octopus dominance of foreign indoctrination, to the thoughts of the heritage of a parcel of territory with about 11,300 sq. km., that so readily lends herself to the figurative language of "The Smiling Coast of Africa"; with the constellation and sign of the zodiac Virgo. If you don't believed this: Virgin Mary is usually preceded by "The": also "The Gambia".
Overtly, the Gambia is small in geographical range because of colonial history. It was the British who established their first settlement at fort James by Captain R. Holmes in the year 1665, but by the Treaty of Paris in 1814; the island of Goree was handed-over to Senegal, and the shape of the Gambia became one of serenity and grace with the "Star of The Sea". Philosophically, our indigenous settlers, at the time, did not know what was happening around them; and were apathetic with calmness and quiet courage.
Our local Griots & Oral Historians have inadvertently called attention to the Mother of the World by philosophic truths that are indirect or rational and direct or intuitive; with probability of meanings, directed at the Gambian mind-set. If we had listened attentively to their releases, we would have debated the issues through their subliminal minds and arrived at a conclusion that there were some survivors of the Great Flood and great cataclysmic events of prehistory, in the precincts of the Gambia's Atlantic coastlines; beginning from Banjul Island to Kartung Village Settlement. This would be the city cosmos context, in which the Gambia would be in middle of the "orbis terrarum" or the "Navel of the Earth'". If, the Gambia is the favourite epiphany of Sky-God, we cannot even consider writing that story here; but to say: that their veiled oral vernacular is meant to avoid ridicule from outsiders.
Those of us who have read the "Mahabharata" (i.e. sometimes called the Iliad of ancient India that is over eight times as long as Homer) translated into English prose by an Indian Scholar, P. Chandra Roy; and also the stately prophecy from Roman times, of the poet playwright Seneca:
* A single day will see the burial of all mankind,
* All that the long forbearance of fortune has produced,
* All that has been raised to eminence,
* All that is famous and all that is beautiful,
* Great thrones, great nations -
* All will descend into one abyss,
* All will be overthrown in one hour?..
will believe that our local Griots & Oral Historians are gifted with sources of reference that border on esoteric mysticism. True to their tradition, they have their own system of teaching and learning reinforced with inherited memory stream from past generations.
Little wonder, the memory of the ice Ages have been preserved by many tribes, and we now possess a much broader range of knowledge to know that the spherical shape of the Earth wobbles on its axis and spins like a giant top with icecaps that could melt and flood the world. The "Atlantis story cum legend", allegedly told by the Egyptian priests of Sais to Solon, the Athenium lawgiver, an ancestor of Plato; meant that; Atlantis was not "invented" by Plato, on the contrary, it was a shared memory by peoples and tribes on the littoral of both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The "Efry M'Bye Talk show Guests" only referred to the same myth retold in less details.
It would appear that the achievements of the ancients are considered along with myths and legends, but they have demonstrated a level of intelligence and technological skill that contemporary man has been loath to acknowledge. Careful checking of Gambia's myths, symbols, parables, and legends would clearly show that they are strong to stand on their own credible platform. We have cornered the perspective to discover the possible historical connections in the River Gambia and her North Bank & South Bank Savannah Land. If our local Griots & Oral Historians can talk about the submerged continent of Atlantis with so much confidence and originality for us to listened; who can predict how far back in time, the Gambia's folk tales can be pushed backward (i.e., if the enthralling theory of the 9000-year figure for the sinking of "Atlantis" before the time of Plato is to be believed).
The general view of ancient cultures without written script is that they have no history, but preliminary evidence to written script is said to have started about 35,000 years ago. Our prehistoric ancestors had used their symbols, scratch marks, counting stones, totem, coloured pebbles, leaves formation, stone circles at Wassu, palm thong designs etc., as methods of communication and record keeping notations; to be interpreted by the tribe or ethnic group and not to be translated for foreigners. We, in the Gambia, have not yet done any independent literary work on the Stone Circles at Wassu, to retain or rediscover and incorporate its values beyond what have been prepared for us by foreigners; but we have used foreign values to make them primitive and reduced our emotional responses relating to the branch of philosophy called Esthetics to near zero.
Even so, we now preferred to use a "second language" for administration, culture, and trade. Today, it goes without saying; that we cannot speak or write orthodox phonetic: Mandinka, Wollof, Fula, Jola, Serahuli, Serer, Tukulor, and Manjago; nor can we developed their vocabulary and standard College Dictionary. Thus, we have become one of many victims of the linguistic monument of the Tower of Babel, as a Nation State.
Ironically, our Griots & Oral Historian are telling us what we must do to survive. We have classical terrestrial knowledge with ancient and modern values that we can collate into a unified whole. This discourse is aimed at rediscovering the existential dimensions of our native archaic societies in the Gambia, because we have swallowed too many dogmas, whiles our intelligentsia have the processing options of computers in a multi-user environment. Our Nation's past; down through the ages, have been hidden from us by colonial history. Our profound unique cultural heritage can be documented. If we take the task seriously, we will not fail badly.
There is no denying that all ancient nations or tribes or ethnic groups of prehistory had their own versions of the Tower of Babel & Great Flood legends for cultural solidarity and a system of moral codes for governance that history ascribed as the age of 4004 B.C., Civilization. Unfortunately, beyond "4004 B.C"., date is referred to as prehistoric antiquity, because of the lack of recognized writers and commentators. We are saying in this write-up that history has no right to abolished the prehistory of the Gambia; since we have ownship rights over the uncatalogued remnants of our older culture of extreme antiquity.
Some nations and tribes have survived the ravages of the Tower of Babel with the legends assumed by their ancestors, whereas others; like us, in the Gambia; were losers that were absorbed by victors of warfare and ideology. Since legends were disseminated by victors in their own language scripts, we have the right not to treat their insular versions about our history with complete objectivity. Our Gambian Griots & Oral Historians have demonstrated that they have the urge to know; the urge to talk, and the urge to tell. Their vernacular is strong and pure.
They have the mental tools and local integrity required in the philosophic enterprise. If we can called them philosophers at all; it would seem that they are at the rung at which the teachers of philosophy can aim to lead others to the vantage point from where our original ancestors had their vision. Indeed, we have already started in a small way; by the series of articles that are being featured in the Daily Observer Newspaper of the Gambia, entitled: "Know Your Towns and Villages".
In retrospect, we have defined the geographical range of the Gambia (i.e. adulterated from "Gambra") with caution, because it is within the lost empires of Songhois, Mali, and Askia; that included the five countries in the subregion today. It is therefore wrong to suppose that our heritage could be limited to about half the size of the Kruger National Park (19, 0000 sq. km) in South Africa. What is perhaps most remarkable is that the Gambia has emerged from the erudition of Phoenicians & Carthaginians writers, Adventures, Explorers, and Colonial Administrators; as far back as 600 B.C., to become an "Improbable Nation" in 1965 AD.
One thing is certain: our History is traceable, but we have to illuminate all the dark and hidden places. From what we know from colonial history; the Portuguese have records about the Gambia: Tristan Nunez (1447); Alviso Cadamosto (1455); Diego Gomez (1460); and Diego Cam (1484).
The British can provide the "Master File Data": William Hawkins & The Trade Triangle (1562), Exploration of the River Gambia (1587 & 1588); Fort James (1661); Francis Moore (1735); Major Houghton (1790); Mongo Park (1795 & 1805). In 1816, Major Grant replaced Fort James for the new Capital of Bathurst now Banjul. The overridden fact was that the River Gambia is the key that fits the lock to open the door of past ages without vying with the Mediterranean Sea, Tigris & Euphrates Rivers, and also the Rivers Nile & Niger. We are inferring that countless numbers of seafaring Nations have sailed through the River Gambia before 600 B.C., since the Wassu Stone Circles date back to remote antiquity.
Who would deny that Sky-God made River Gambia beautiful & mythical; whereas, humans like to destroy good things intentionally to conceal on purpose? How is the Gambia connected to this rhetorical question? The recorded first visitors to write about the Gambia were the Phoenicians, who once lived in the coastal region between present day Lebanon and Israel. Ethnically, they belonged to the Canaanites branch of the Semitic people of the Eastern Mediterranean Coastland.
They founded the famous ancient city of Carthage which was destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. thus; the Maghrib countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia & Libya; were once involved in trading with, and through the River Gambia. The Phoenician & Carthaginian books in ancient Carthage were destroyed by the Roman Empire, who took advantage of the Carthaginian peace treaty; on drastically severe terms, to dominate mercantile trade with powerful mercantile fleet on the ocean side of Gibraltar; where Early Greek Records and the Bible (cf. 1-kings 10:22; Ezekiel 27:12; KJV = Tharshish or Tarshish) mentioned the location of Tartessos or Tarshish, and theories were projected that Tartessos itself was Atlantis. Phoenicians & Carthaginians were reputed to have visited Tartessos & Atlantis, according to the clues from Minoans & Greeks which cannot be easily dismissed. The Minoans were an advanced Bronze
Author: By S. J Quacoo (Snr.)