Here we are all lined up, men in front and women behind. The village chief is offering a sacrificial chicken and gin to the male rock spirit or ‘genie’ as it’s referred to in French, or ‘Diandia-Yassoa’ for the Baoulé tribe. Pouring gin onto the forest floor with one hand, in between sips, and holding the sacrificial chicken upside down in the other, he speaks to the rock spirit for several minutes. We were assured it would be a bloodless sacrifice, though many in our group seemed to be more concerned about the gin sacrifice than the chicken sacrifice!
Our ‘Overlanding West Africa’ group is at Ahouakro, Ivory Coast, about 145km from Abidjan. Ahouakro is a prehistoric archaeological park that’s on the tentative list for UNESCO. It comprises about 120 hectares of forest complete with sacred rocks, some covered in vines. In the morning, we went to the local village to get the village chief and others to help with the sacrifice and then headed out to the sacred site. We crawled under elephant rock though it looked more like a whale than an elephant.
Crawling under elephant rock
There were many other squeeze-throughs and caves we contorted our bodies to get through. It wasn’t too surprising that our guide told us their grandparents would hide out here during times of conflict.
But before we could see the male rock spirit we had to make the sacrifice.
So here we are listening to the libations, although we can’t understand a word.
We later found out the blessing involved wishing our group well on our travels and wishing our families good health and safety. Furthermore, females are forbidden to visit the male rock spirit when it’s that time of the month so he also covered that off with the spirit in advance as he was unaware of our cycles.
At the end of the offering, the chicken is thrown onto the ground where it remains wide-eyed for several minutes.
This is a good sign and means we are allowed to visit the male rock spirit. If the chicken had gotten up straight away and run off it would mean the spirit had not accepted it and we would need to come back another day with another offering. Much to our relief the chicken gets up but after a suitable interval. It seems to be the only one around so perhaps they haven’t had any other visitors in a while.
At the end of the ceremony, the men are invited to drink some of the gin. And by the time we visit the male rock spirit, the bottle has been emptied.
We are told the male rock spirit often leaves his rock to visit the female rock spirit and some avid believers purport to have seen the spirit in some kind of metaphysical form when he does so. As for the female rock spirit, often the entire rock is said to disappear when visitors come.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the elusive female rock spirit but we did see the quite phallic male rock spirit protruding into the sky. We left grateful in the knowledge that our chicken and gin offering had been duly accepted and that the remainder of our travels would be protected by their spirits.