If I yam because we are, then sisi ni Wafreeka,

litanies of  survival & de legacies of our wahenga.

Na ni ukweli ,  #we are trayvon martin, alem dechassa & anna brown

#we are sakia gunn, david kato, & eudy simelane

….and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

Kama vile Adrienne Rich alisema

“Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.”

Na kwasababu ni muhimu kukumbuka, where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a womban who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powahs. A mwanamke with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs en tiaras of Spanish moss, this womban is a consort of de spirits. (ase)

[ntozake shange, sassafrass, cypress & indigo]

I give thanks for god/desse/s kama hawa, who know the truth, carry sage secrets of loving, en share their gifs abundantly. For sacred spaces like a righteously inspiring Sankofa night co-created by pan-Afreekan youth leaders from de Onyx Society & I Get Out 2.0  that sistas of dis collective organised in acknowledgement & celebration of black females .

I yam nourished,  mi cup overflowing wid healing upendo because we harvesting de wealth of our diversity en working on our unity so much mo.

…….so we continue speaking, remembering we were never meant to survive.

[asante sana Mama Audre Lorde, pamoja tunafika!]

[What makes West & Central Afrikan traditions so pan-Afreekan? feel moved to  repost hadithi like these kwasababu, there’s de immense value in harvesting our similarities as we acknowledge & honour those memories  in our ‘bones’]

….Dead chickens, dogs, en flowers serve as a reminder of an aspect of Cuban life that is inevitable even after death, one that has become even more necessary since de periodo especial  economico (special economic period): la necesidad de resolver, or the need to “resolve” tings. Although de dictionary definition of de word resolver is “to resolve”, in Cuba, survival means “resolving” tings in de broadest senseof de word. “Tengo que resolverme alimentos” means “I have to find a way to get myself some food,” to solve de omnipresent problem of food shortages…..

Resolver also implies relying on an informal network of people, both living en deceased, from all parts of one’s life; de more people one knows, de more likely one’s needs will be resuelto, resolved, efficiently. In its earthly context, resolver  means surviving “on top” of de frequent wreckage en ruin of everyday life in Cuba. In its spiritual context, resolver  means helping those who have passed on to the next world to rest peacefully, en persuading de dead to treat de living with care en respect rather than malice en envy. Because the muertos “gave birth” to de santos (los muertos parieron al santo), de wahenga (ancestors) must be consulted first not only in Santeria but other pan-Afrikan ceremonies.

In de context of dis re/post, practitioners of Santeria believe that de dead can influence de living en must be treated with respect, awe en kindness. All people carry a number of dead spirits with them, en these spirits can be beneficent, malicious, or any combination thereof. Through divination (usually with coconut shells or cowrie shells), a Santero can determine de nature, number, en occasionally de specific identities of the dead spirits who accompany his godchildren.

These spirit guides can also be summoned up by misas espirituales (spiritual masses), which are led by practiced morteras (literally, “deaders”; often women, those who can communicate easily with the dead)…..Although de dead are not considered as powerful as de orichas, they allow de divine potential of de

2009 - Tdot

orichas (orishas/orisas) to manifest itself, en they are believed to be capable of intervening in de lives of humans to effect certain acts of good or evil…..

Talking with the dead takes time and practice, say de elders, but once you talk with them, you can see them, too. They always see you.

…..RELIGIOUS TOURISM: SANTERIA PAYS

…Since the beginning of the periodo especial economico in 1990, daily life in Cuba has become a constant struggle because of de increasing shortages in food, gas, electricity, transportation, en all sorts of material goods. The periodo especial economico is de official euphemism for de severe economic tailspin caused by de economic en political withdrawal of de former Soviet Union, which had for decades subsidized Cuba’s purchase of Soviet gas, oil, en machine parts, en had been paying roughly 3 times the world market price for Cuba’s sugar in an attempt to prop up de island’s failing economy. A chance to resolver one’s own personal oricha (orisha) becomes more attractive in this atmosphere of increasing hardship.

The chance to resolver  one’s material problems is directly related to de swelling ranks of Santeros and Santeras in Cuba: de chance to make some fula (Cuban/Kikongo slang for hard currency). Cubans aren’t the only ones who are becoming initiated into Santeria in

@godown arts centre

Cuba. Foreigners from Spain, Mexico, France, Canada, de United States, en other countries in Europe & South America arrive in Havana every moon for de seven-day initiation ceremony.

Cuba is fast becoming a primary destination for “religious tourism,” as it is considered an authentic source for de practice of Santeria, Palo Monte, Arara, en Abakwa…

  foh more of  dis check

[Chapter 7 – RESOLVER AND RELIGIOUS TOURISM IN CUBA Page 204 – 5…212….219 in

Divine Utterances      The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeria by Katherine J. Hagedorn ]

Barua ya upendo [in sheng]: from the great gran pikin of Haki na Amani

If my brother or sista from Ghana dey suffer or celebrate, in de spirit of dis ting called ubuntu, [not only] leo we embrace ‘Ghana/ia-nities’, harvesting the legacies of our youth [movements] en elders, standing on de shoulders of our wahenga, calling wetu na wa West Afreeka, wale tunaowajua kama Kwame Nkrumah, Osei Tutu, Nana Yaa Asantewaa, na Gran nanny of de Maroons, wale wahenga sijui, na wale wanaotujua deeper than we know ourselves, infinitely grateful for your continued guidance and protection.

Mungu abariki Afreeka. From our shores to de diaspora of righteousness, pamoja tutafika!

Chale na kwasababu leo ni leo, asemaye kesho ni muongo, how do we honour & nurture our relationship with the struggle of working on our own unity first in, dis quest of, the liberation of all Afrikan peoples?

Leo, nawaita living mashujaa wa Ghana, precious metaphors of de most valuable resources we got – watu wetu!  [wa]Malaika kama Ama Ata Aidoo, Dzodzi Tsikata, na Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, Y’akoto & FOKN Bois, bless am!…. those with honourable, honourable, honourable upbringing, wale wanao spread upendo, hope & positivity in abundance, our healers, wakulima, babalawos, natural born witches & wizards, those among us who carry de sage secrets of loving kama……..

In de werds of Kenya’s national anthem……Natujenge taifa letu. Ee ndio wajibu wetu. Daktari, wakulima, walimu na waganga wastahili heshima [mi substitution]. Tuungane mikono. Pamoja Kazini. Kila sike tuwe na shukrani. Ase o……..

2 East Afrikan ‘back then’ & ‘now’ love hadithi

[This post is inspired by de Coalition of African Lesbians, Spectra speaks, Kampala, gauteng & tdot renaissance womyn, en mi ‘wives’. I’m deeply grateful to you dadas for speaking truth to powah! with y/our diasporic & native journeys, we are all Afrikans in such diverse ways. In dis spirit of ubuntu, like other idealist warrior womben, I reserve the right to display pride and passion about my cultural roots……]

Nothing helps the Bukusu to recognize the rhythm of words, the silence, and the aroma of the night, and elements like rocks, water and its weight of pebbles more than the oral literature that is composed every day around him, hir or her…..

I still remember 3 years ago, was living with a dada en daughta I love, respekt en admire so, working for Minority Women in Action [& de

Kenya Chapter of Moyo Wa Africa] from the hirstorical Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya [GALCK] centre wid mi ‘co-wife’, Pouline Kimani en an ever growing collective of volunteers for a hub of CBO’s & NGO’s focused on sexual minority & gender rights in mi home town no.1 (or 2 depending on where you look at it from)…….

Mi intention was to root mi community organising in the spaces between de catalyst of a regional QLGBT movement & healing work, while finishing school on de continent. Many tings changed, much that was expected, like state criminalization, backlash & security interventions, homo&transphobic assaults, rapes & murders & hate propaganda in ‘dominant’ religions again, campaigning against ‘witchhunts’, all in a day job with boundaries of service provider, consumer, comrade & funder blurred…but this story is not bout that, check #To David With Love: Call To Action…..

I hold de hope, inspirashun & positive transformations witnessing en working with mo Bredrin and sistas in solidarity close to mi moyo, across oceans and rivers in transformative social justice movements….memories of intimate food days & nights of music wid family….

The dominating physical presence in Bukusu oral literature include the Red Sea, the Sahara Desert, Lake Turkana, Mwiala wa Mango or Tororo Hills, Mount Elgon, Cherengany and Sang’alo hils, and Sirikwa, Lake Victoria and Nzoia River and its tributaries. The sacred palms which the Bukusu carried on their way from Misri, their colobus monkey skins, their ear rings, necklaces and skirts that they wore around their waists etc., speak volumes about their material culture items. The pastoral quality of their literature, their gentle love for the fields and the land they tilled for their food, with all its groves and hills, characterized the terrain that informs that literature.

Will this deep embracing love of the land and all that covers it, continue to be a distinctive feature of the Bukusu cultural expression in days to come?

still remember 2 years ago, holding on to curriculums for pan-afrikan arts & civic educashun & wellness programs. Holding to proposals and dreams of returning home, split between what had evolved into the most complex polygamous engagements I had experienced yet. Mi primary relationship with Kenya & Uganda for all its lifetime, is still long-distance, had grown to include other country codes, West Afrika & de Carribean are so much mo accessible from Kobe Island and Tdot was evolving into a sweeter kinda lova. Plans changed agin, I stayed, have stayed, growing deeper in love with Tdot, yet inevitably counting down, because if home is where the heart is, then it’s only a matter of how many years? before we back again, or, what is the betta way to get there?…….

Who are the Bukusu anyway? Why is the elephant such an important animal in their folklore? They joke and say: “The hyena follows the testicles of the elephant!

“The elephants sing songs and say they were once human beings” Khwaba abandu hilili.”

Babukusu respect their proverbs which oftentimes are pregnant with meaning. They respect the artist, the “the saint ” who uses his/her words effectively to teach and entertain. They recreate the past.

How can we use their vision to create the future?

still remember 1 year ago, observing weeks of reflection & cleansing. Deep in grieving rituals with comrades, spiritual & extended fam around de dunia for David Kato. observing moments of silence en secrecy…remembering we were never meant to survive en still speaking….

ultimately t/here, in the crux of cataclysms & houses being dismantled, wid revolushunary vijiji growing & independent consultancies being laboured on, was fundamentally brought agin to finding mi soul with the potent reminders of all the honourable walimu & warriors not only I’m blessed to be surrounded with, the wealth not only I’m privileged to be immersed in, en the core of malaikas who came into mi life over de years that have my cup overflowing with love & nourishment.

For this and so many mo positive transformashuns, I’m infinitely grateful, as we walk with the legacies of warriors on de infinite possibilities in speaking truth to powah! en spreading love, hope & positivity in abundance……

[<object width=”400″ height=”225″><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”movie” value=”http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=33166619&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=00adef&amp;fullscreen=1&amp;autoplay=0&amp;loop=0&#8243; /><embed src=”http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=33166619&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=00adef&amp;fullscreen=1&amp;autoplay=0&amp;loop=0&#8243; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”400″ height=”225″></embed></object><p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/33166619″>Call Me Kuchu Trailer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3684126″>Greg OToole</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>]

The Bukusu of East Africa are said to have travelled from Egypt and settled in what used to be called North Nyanza and Trans Nzoia Districts. They call themselves LIRANGO LIE NJOFU because of the battles they have weathered against Bamia, Barwa Bakinisu, and Babangereza’. These battles spread their settlement in Eyembe and Masindi Port and culminated in their last stand against the Imperial British Company in 1895.

They enjoy a virile cultural and political history which needs to be urgently recorded and stored in print and electronic vessels…

In the spirit of honouring our roots & de diversity in our unity, you cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen &women of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those mad folks. We must dare to invent the future.

[Thomas Sankara]

….I still remember the trees alongside River Sosio, the woodland around Mount Elgon caves,the forest that my father and I invaded ever so often to get the suitable sticks for weaving granaries when the harvest season was around the corner, How many sounds have I been separated from since….I moved home for the first time to come and study in Nairobi?

[excerpts in bold from Prof Chris L Wanjala, Director, Nakhatama Research and Literary Agency.]

for mo on de Grand Bukusu Oral Literature Public Discussion, check

http://ar-ar.facebook.com/WesternKenyaFiesta2012/posts/312025355515159 ]

give thanks for today, yesterday & tomorrow, for intimate/sacred spaces. For those among us who carry the sage secrets of loving that challenge & inspire me with their words & actions, en remind we to go back ever so often for what I/we forget that is necessary…. A certain amount of madness, en the roots of our tribes in conversation with each other.

I give thanks for today, yesterday en tomorrow, for doors closing balanced with others opening, blue-skying en cool wotas, nashukuru upendo na imani tunayo… nashukuru the continued guidance and protection of de ancestors of dis land, wale wahenga wangu ninaowajua, wale sijui, na wale wanaonijua deeper than ninayojijua….inifinitely grateful for de blessings of dis week, for dis counting down to de first anniversary of #To David With

Love, coming into an ‘epic’ year of mi twenties, and celebrations of Afrikan Heritage (or Black History) Moon, like Dinner, Performances & de first tambor for Ibeji at de Children’s Peace Theatre. Big tings’ a gwaan wid dis ting called ubuntu….

So, in the spirit of intimacy and de spaces between recovering from rituals en preparing for mo ceremonies, this hadithi kuhusu Toque de Santo is transcribed from Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeria, written by Katherine J. Hagedorn.

Dear Katherine, asante sana for sharing your re/learning. And deeply grateful to mi Tdot teachers for offering the kind of priceless educational programs not only I’ve been looking for, in grassroots universities, across borders. Asante Baba Gee & Baba Falo, Sista Leopard & Mama (wa) Amani Theatre, Prof Ausar & Papa John.  Na asante for (re)birthing dis post mi goddess mama No.3 –  Beth, who not only gifted me dis book we’re sharing with you, but co-creates en maintains sacred spaces with other honourable elders to remember the sage secrets of loving en continue fulfilling our highest destinies.

Asante akina baba, mama na watoto wa Afreeka. Nashukuru bredrin and sistren in solidarity….

[pamoja tukifafanua ukweli wa Anaa na]  TOQUE DE SANTO: Evoking the Orishas

A toque de santo (or tambor) is de main public religious performance of Santeria [en other traditions], de popular name of de [looked pon as] polytheistic religious tradishun that grew from Afrikan and European roots during the four long centuries of de slave trade in Cuba. Toque refers to de verb tocar (to play) en to de specific noun toque (rhythm), as well as to de general noun toque, meaning de event itself; santo refers to de deities
called santos (orichas or orisas) who are evoked by de toques. Although de performance of Santeria includes other ceremonies involving music en dance (such as festive bembes en guiro ensembles), toques de santo require the use of de sacred bata drums, en are thus considered de most divinely powerful of all de religious ceremonies of Santeria.

the warriors

The origins of de toque de santo lie in de Atlantic slave trade. Cuba imported de bulk of its slaves during the nineteenth century. Most of de Africans captured en sold into slavery who were landed in Cuba came from a curved corridor of present-day West Afrika stretching from Guinea down to Angola, en a significant plurality of these came from Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo, en Cameroon. These Afrikan regions share some formal characteristics in their monotheistic religious traditions, which, under, de chaotic en brutal conditions of slavery in Cuba, gradually developed by de end of de nineteenth century into what became known as Santeria.

One of de most powerful similarities among de many West Afrikan mono & polytheistic traditions thrown together in Cuba during de nineteenth century was the evocation of deities through de performance of specific praise songs, drum rhythms, en gestures. Toques de santo can be interpreted as a distillation of more than a century of diverse, divine per formative intent.

In present-day Cuban Santeria, toques de santo are ritual drummings, typically held as offerings to appease orichas or santos. These drumming ceremonies may also be offered to de santos to change de objective circumstances of one’s life…..

Although de deities of Santeria may communicate with humans through divination, prayers, en dreams, they relish de communicative powah afforded them through music en dance. Each santo or oricha “owns” certain melodic gestures, rhythms, dance movements, en praise songs, as well as specific colours, numbers, animals, foods, en natural phenomena. They respond readily to songs en dances that incorporate these associative representations-such as, in de case of de salt-wota deity Yemaya (whose name is said to mean “Mother of Fishes” in Cuban Lucumi), a dance that imitates de undulation of de waves, or a song that evokes de powah of de sea en its creatures. De main goal of these rhythms, songs, en dances is to summon (or goad) de santos to earth, so that de deities may soothe those who are grieving, heal those who are sick, rebuke those who have acted unwisely, bless those who appear to be deserving, en set de tone for de next few weeks or moons in de community.

For a toque de santo to be successful, however, each participant must know how to behave, how to engage correctly de divine potential of de ceremony. What are de “rules of engagement” at a toque de santo or tambor? How does one know when to dance (or sing, or become possessed) en how? Are there different ways of participating in Afro-Cuban religious en folkloric events, and, if so, how does one discriminate between them?….

De rules of engagement in religious and folkloric performances seem to shift in accordance with de goal or intent of de event, en with de expectations of de religious practitioners. In a toque de santo, for example, de aim of de ceremony is to summon one or more orichas to earth, so that de deities may address de needs of de community through specific blessings, healings, en advice. In this case, de “rules of engagement” for each participant in a religious event are determined by socioreligious desire en necessity.

In the events presented by de Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba, by contrast, de goal of a performance is primarily aesthetic excellence-de perfect (or near perfect) execution of dance steps, percussive rhythms, song phrases, en gestures of a toque de santo in accordance with norms established by “folkloric” schools of performance. In de CFNC, then, the “rules” of participating are determined by one’s ability to maintain a uniform standard of performance of specific rehearsed musical en physical gestures.

Yet the genres of “religious Afro-Cuban performance” en “’folkloric’ Afro-Cuban performance” inform each other, “use” each other, en at times even inhabit de same sphere of sacred intent (see de page on ‘a is for….’ de architecture of syncretism in santeria: remixed).

This sphere of sacred intent is most often constructed by resurrecting de memory of de sacred in both folkloric en religious performances. And in both types of performance, de memory of de sacred is translated through de body. De body is where “sacred” en

“secular” meet, where de boundaries are blurred, en it is this liminal space that is both powahful en disruptive because it calls into question de per formative categories implied by de terms “sacred” and “secular” en forces de participants to renegotiate their respective “rules of engagement.”….

SACRED KNOWLEDGE AND COMPETENT ENGAGEMENT

Protectors of (not only) Cuba’s Afrikan heritage and representatives of its future, ritual musicians hold de key to an analysis of the toque or tambor, and control de first stage of engagement….

TOQUE ETIQUETTE AND SACRED INTENT

Engaging appropriately in a toque de santo, then, requires de competent use of sacred knowledge…Toque etiquette varies widely from casa templo (house of worship) to casa templo, but what is much less variable is de philosophy that informs de rules of etiquette for each particular “house.” “Tradition” might vary from house to house on de same block, from city to city, en from country to country, but what keeps religious practice unified is de overriding theology that invents it, en de santo families that are cocreated en enlarged each time a new creyente is initiated into de religion…….

PERFORMING THE REGLA DE OCHA

In order to be a good drummer in the Conjunto Folklorico, according to Alberto, one must not only have de religion, one must respect its rules. When de author of the excerpts of dis book asked Alberto who decided de content of de Conjunto Folklorico’s performances, he responded that there were different departments that could influence de decision, such as research, management, percussion, chorus, dance, the board of directors—but that ultimately Rogelio Martinez Fure, the asesor or artistic advisor to de group, made de final decision. Immediately afterward, however, Alberto began talking about de new dancers (thos who had attended the aficionado schools) who did not appreciate the religious basis of the folkloric toques, and how these young people considered the Conjunto Folklorico’s performances to be art, without any religious aspect…..

Alberto sees his religion not only as someting beyond compromise, but also as a source of powah en authority in de aesthetic skirmishes that he en his colleagues may face on a daily basis. His religions informs en is inseparable from his work [as it is with not only me, but many others]. When Katherine Hagedorn asked Alberto about de connection between his religion en his work, however, he said there was none. “My job is over here [right hand], and mi religion is over here [left hand]. This [his job] has nothing to do with this [his religion]. We don’t tell de secrets of our religion in the Folklorico. That would be impossible-because then it wouldn’t be my job, it would be mi religion.”

Alberto sees himself, en creyente drummers in general, as true representatives of de religion. In this sense, he acts as a preserver of his religious tradition, although he claims that his work and religion are totally separate. He is an absentee guardian of the authenticity of de folkloric renditions of his religions, which is to say that he does not allow his religious persona to participate actively in de folkloric performances but de passive knowledge of what that religious persona would require during a religious ceremony is allowed to remain, and it safeguards de remnants of the performance’s spiritual dignity…..

The drummers in de Conjunto Folklorico are de main actors in de negotiation process between the sacred and secular aspects of performance…How  religion is “brought” to art seems to revolve around the paradoxical and elusive (yet not rhetorical) questions regarding the differences and separations between the two……

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi Njoo….

Sahani ya?

[C novim Godom! Jana, bringing in new years – russian orthodox style, we share(d) hadithi that we heard from our elders, captivating us till (someting like) jouvay morning. Spoiler alert: de beginning of dis story is in de previous post, leo ni leo is de end of dis firendege, de horse of power, and Princess Vasilissa hadithi.

Jana, De young archer brought Vasilissa back to de Tzar, en when she woke, she asked bout de her boat en de music, en looked pon de young archer…..]

De Tzar was angry with de Princess Vasilissa, but his anger was as useless as his joy.

“Why, Princess,” says he, “will you not marry me, en forget your blue sea en your silver boat?”

“In de middle of de deep blue sea lies a great stone,” says de Princess, “en under that mawe (stone) is hidden my wedding dress. If I cannot wear that dress I will marry nobody at all.”

Instantly de young Tzar turned to de young archer, who was waiting before de throne.

“Ride swiftly back,” says he, “to de land of Never, where de red sun rises in flame. There- do you hear wot de Princess says?- a great mawe lies in de middle of de sea. Ride swiftly. Bring back that dress, or, by my sword, your head shall no longer sit on your shoulders!”

De young archer wept bitter tears, en went out into de courtyard where de horse was waiting for him, champing its golden bit.

“There is no way of escaping death dis time,” he said

“Master, why do you weep?” asked de farasi of powah.

“The Tzar has ordered me to ride to de land of Never, to fetch de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa from de bottom of de deep blue sea. Besides, de dress is wanted for de Tzar’s wedding, en I love de Princess myself.”

“What did I tell you?” says de farasi of powah “I told you that there would be trouble if you picked up that golden feather from de benu’s burning breast. Well, do not be afraid. The trouble is not yet, de trouble is to come. Up! Into de saddle with you, en away for de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa!”

De young archer leaped into de saddle, en de farasi of powah, with his thundering hoofs, carried him swiftly through de green msitus en over de bare plains, till they came to de edge of de dunia, to de land of Never, where de red jua rises in flame from behind de deep blue sea. There they rested, at de very edge of de sea.

De young archer looked sadly over de wide wotas, but de farasi of powah tossed its mane en did not look at de sea, but on de shore. This way en that it looked, en saw at last a huge lobster moving slowly, sideways, along de golden sand.

Nearer en nearer came de lobster, en it was a giant among lobsters, en it moved slowly along the shore, while de farasi moved carefully en as if by accident, until it stood between de lobster en de sea. Then when de lobster came close by, de farasi of powah lifted an iron hoof en set it firmly on de lobster’s tail.

“You will be de death of me!” screamed de lobster-as well he might, with de heavy foot of de farasi of powah pressing his tail into de sand. “Let me live, en I will do whatever you ask of me.”

“Very well,” says farasi of powah, “we will let you live,” en he slowly lifted his foot. “But this is wot you shall do for us. In de middle of de blue sea lies a great stone, en under that mawe is hidden de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa. Bring it here.”

De lobster groaned with de pain in his tail. Then he cried out in a voice that could be heard all over de deep blue sea. And de sea was disturbed, en from all sides lobsters in thousands made their way to de bank. And de huge lobster that was de oldest of them all en de tzar of all de lobsters that live between de rising en de setting of de sun, gave them de order en sent them back into de sea. And de young archer sat on de farasi of powah en waited.

After a lil time de sea was disturbed again, en de lobsters in their thousands came to de shore, en with them they brought a golden casket in which was de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa. They had taken it from under de great mawe that lay in de middle of de sea.

De tzar of all de lobsters raised himself painfully on his bruised tail en gave de casket into de hands of de young archer, en instantly de farasi of powah turned himself about en galloped back to de palace of de Tzar, far, far away, at de other side of de green msitus en beyond de savannas.

De young archer went into de palace en gave de casket into de hands of de Princess, en looked at her with sadness in his eyes, en she looked at him with love. Then she went away into an inner chamber, en came back in her wedding dress, mo refreshing than spring itself. Great was de joy of Tzar. De wedding feast was made ready, en de bells rang, en de flags waved above de palace.

De Tzar held out his hand to de Princess, en looked at her with his old eyes. But she would not take his hand.

“No,” says she, “I will marry nobody until de man who brought me here has done penance with boiling wota.”

Instantly de Tzar turned to his servants en ordered them to make a great fiya, en to fill a great cauldron with maji en set it on de fiya and, when de maji should be at its hottest, to take de young archer en throw him into it, to do penance for having taken de Princess Vasilissa away from de land of Never.

There was no gratitude on de mind of that Tzar.

Swiftly de servants brought wood en made a mighty fiya, en on it they laid a huge cauldron of maji, en built de moto round de walls of de cauldron. De moto burned hot, en de maji steamed. De fiya burned hotter, en de maji bubbled en seethed. They made ready to take de young archer, to throw him into de cauldron.

“Oh, misery!” thought de young archer. “Why did I ever take de golden unyoya that had fallen from de firendege’s burning breast? Why did I not listen to de wise words of de farasi of powah?” And he remembered de farasi of powah, en he begged de Tzar:

“O lord Tzar, I do not complain. I shall presently die in de heat of de maji on fiya. Suffer me, before I die, once more to see my farasi.”

“Let him see his farasi,” says de Princess.

“Very well,” says de Tzar. “Say good-bye to your horse, for you will not ride him again. But let your farewells be short, for we are waiting.”

De young archer crossed de courtyard en came to de farasi of powah, who was scraping de ground with his iron hoofs.
“Farewell, my farasi of powah,” says de young archer. “I should have listened to your words of wisdom, for now de end is come, en we shall never more see de green miti pass above us en de ground disappear beneath us, as we race de wind between de dunia en de sky.”

“Why so?” says de farasi of powah.

“De tzar has ordered that I yam to be boiled to death-thrown into that cauldron that is seething on de great fiya.”

“Fear not,” says de farasi of powah, “for de Princess Vasilissa has made him do this, en de end of these tings is better than I thought. Go back, en when they are ready to throw you into de cauldron, do you run boldly en leap yourself into de boiling wota.”

De young archer went back across de courtyard, en de servants made ready to throw him into de cauldron.

“Are you sure that de maji is boiling?” says de Princess Vasilissa.

“It bubbles en seethes,” said de servants.

“Let me see for myself,” says de Princess, en she went to de moto en waved her hand above de cauldron. And some say there was someting in her hand, en some say there was not.

“It is boiling,” says she, en de servants laid hands on de young archer; but he threw them from him, en ran en leaped boldly before them all into de very middle of de cauldron.

Twice he sank below de surface, borne round with bubbles en foam of de boiling wota. Then he leaped from de cauldron en stood before de Tzar en de Princess. He had become so beautiful a youth that all who saw cried aloud in wonder.

“This is a miracle,” says de Tzar. And de Tzar looked at de beautiful young archer, en thought of himself- of his age, of his bent back, en his gray beard, en his toothless gums. “I too will become beautiful,” thinks he, en he rose from his throne en clambered into de cauldron, en was boiled to death in a moment.

And de end of de hadithi? They buried de Tzar, en made de young archer Tzar in his place. He married de Princess Vasilissa, en lived many years with her in love en good fellowship. And he built a golden stable for de farasi of powah, en neva forgot what he owed to him.

[multilayered readings of Black Russians in revised excerpts from p. 414-422, Best Loved Folktales of The World – selected  by Joanna Cole]

Hapo zamani za kale a strong en powerful Tzar ruled in a country far away. And among his servants was a young archer, en dis archer had a farasi – a horse of powah – such a farasi as belonged to de wonderfull men of long ago – a great farasi with a broad chest, eyes like fiya, en hoofs of iron. There are no such horses nowadays. They sleep with de strong wanaume who rode them, de bogatirs, until de time comes when Russia has need of them. Then de great horses will thunder up from under de ground, en de valiant wanaume leap from de graves in armor they have worn so long. The strong wanaume will sit those farasi-s of powah, en there will be swinging of clubs en thunder of hoofs, en de dunia will be swept clean from de enemies of God en de Tzar.

“So my gran-father used to say, en he was much older than I as I am older than you”, I give thanks for hekima na ustadi wa hadithi za great-dedushka in de spaces between celebrating community en radical healing rituals, “eto vot takyii ckazki moi dedushka ckazal, lil’ one(s) on bil ochin staryiii…za shto (so) he should know”

Well one day zamani za kale, in de green time of de mwaka, de young archer rode through de msitu on his farasi of powah. The miti were green, there were lil blue maua on de ground under de miti, de squirrels ran in de branches, en de sunguras in de undergrowth; but no ndeges sang. De young archer rode along de msitu path en listened for de singing of dege, but there was no singing. The msitu was silent, en de only noises in it were de scratching of four-footed animals, de dropping of fir cones, en de heavy stamping of de farasi of powah in de soft path.

“What has come to the ndeges?” said de young archer.

He had scarcely said this before he saw a big curving unyoya (feather) lying in de path before him. De unyoya was larger than a swan’s, larger than an eagle’s. It lay in de path, glittering like a flame; for de jua was on it, en it was a unyoya of pure gold. Then he knew why there was no singing in de msitu. For he knew that the fire bird (aka. Benu) had flown that way, and that de unyoya in de path before him was a unyoya from its burning breast.

De farasi of powah spoke en said:

“Leave de golden feather where it lies. If you take it you will be sorry for it, en know de meaning of fear.”

But de brave young archer sat on de farasi of powah en looked at de golden unyoya, en wondered whether to take it or not. He had no wish to learn what it was to be afraid, but he thought, “If I take it en bring it to de Tzar my master, he will be pleased; en he will not send me away with empty hands, for no tzar in de dunia akona unyoya kutoka the burning breast of de benu.”

And the more he thought, the more he wanted to carry de unyoya to de Tzar.  And in de end he did not listen to de words of de horse of powah. He leaped from de saddle, picked up de golden unyoya of de benu, mounted his horse again, en galloped back through de green forest till he came to the palace of the Tzar.

He went into de palace, en bowed before de Tzar en said:

“O Tzar, I have brought you a feather of de benu.”

De Tzar looked gladly at de unyoya, en then at de young archer.

“Thank you,” says he; “but if you have brought me de feather of de firebird, you will be able to bring me de bird itself. I should like to see it. A feather is not a fit gift to bring to de Tzar. Bring de bird itself, or, I swear by my sword, your head shall no longer sit between your shoulders!”

De young archer bowed his head en went out. Bitterly he wept, for he knew now what it was to be afraid. He went out into de courtyard, where de farasi of powah was waiting for him, tossing its head en stamping on de ground.

“Master,” says de horse of powah, “why do you weep?”

“De Tzar told me to bring him de benu, en no man on earth can do that,” says de young archer, en he bowed his head on his breast.

“I told you,” says de farasi of powah, “that if you took de unyoya you would learn de meaning of fear. Well, do not be frightened yet, en do not weep. De trouble is not now; de trouble lies before you. Go to de Tzar en ask him to have a hundred sacks of maize scattered over de open field, en let this be done at midnight.”

De young archer went back into de palace en begged de Tzar for this, en de Tzar ordered that at midnight a hundred sacks of maize should be scattered in de open field.

Next morning, at de first redness in de sky, de young archer rode out on de horse of powah, en came to de open field. De ground was scattered all over with maize. In de middle of de field stood a great oak with spreading boughs. De young archer leaped to de ground, took off de saddle, en let de horse of powah loose to wander as he pleased about de field. Then he climbed up into de oak en hid himself among de green boughs.

De sky grew red en gold, en de sun rose. Suddenly there was a noise in de msitu round de field. De trees shook en swayed, en almost fell. There was a mighty wind. De sea piled itself into waves with crests of foam, en de firebird came flying from de other side of de world. Huge en golden en flaming in de sun, it flew, dropped down with open wings into de field, en began to eat de maize.

De farasi of powah wandered in de field. This way he went, en that, but always he came a lil nearer to de benu. Nearer en nearer came de farasi, en then suddenly stepped on one of its spreading fiery mabawa en pressed it heavily to de ground. De dege struggled, flapping mightily with its fiery wings but it could not get away. The young archer slipped down from de tree, bound de benu with 3 strong ropes, swung it on his back, saddled de farasi, en rode to de palace of de Tzar.

De young archer stood before de Tzar, en his back was bent under de great weight of de benu, en de broad wings of de dege hung on either side of him like fiery shields, en there was a trail of golden feathers on de floor. De young archer swung de magic dege to de foot of de throne before de Tzar; en de Tzar was glad, because since de beginning of de dunia no tzar had seen de benu flung before him like a wild bata (duck) caught in a snare.

The Tzar looked at de benu en laughed with pride. Then he lifted his eyes en looked at de young archer, en says he:

“As you have known how to take de benu, you will know how to bring me my bride, for whom I have long been waiting. In de land of Never, on de very edge of de dunia, where de red sun rises in flame from  behind de sea, lives de Princess Vasilissa. I will marry none but her. Bring her to me, en I will reward you with silver en gold. But if you do not bring her, then, by my sword, your head will no longer sit between your shoulders!”

De young archer wept bitter tears, en went out into de courtyard where de farasi of powah was…..en like before  de farasi counselled him en said, “Do not weep-do not grieve. De trouble is not yet; de trouble is to come. Go to de Tzar en ask him for a silver tent with a golden roof, en for all de kinds of food en drink to take with us on de journey.”

De young archer went in en asked de Tzar for this, en the Tzar gave him a tent with silver hangings en a gold-embroidered roof, en every kind of rich wine en de tastiest of foods.

Then de young archer mounted de horse of powah en rode off to to de land of Never. On en on he rode, many days en nights, en came at last to de edge of de dunia, where de red sun rises in flame from  behind de deep blue sea.

On de shore of de sea de young archer reined in de farasi of powah, en de heavy hoofs of de farasi sank in de sand. He shaded his eyes en looked out over de blue maji, en there was de Princess Vasilissa in a lil silver boat, rowing with golden oars

The young archer rode back a lil way to where de sand ended en de green world began. There he loosed de farasi to wander where he pleased, en to feed on de green grass. There on de edge of de shore where de green grass ended en grew thin en de sand began, he set up de shining tent, with its silver hangings en its gold embroidered roof. In de tent he set out de tasty dishes en de rich flagons of wine which de Tzar had given him, en he sat himself down in de tent en began to regale himself, while he waited for de Princess Vasilissa.

Vasilissa dipped her golden oars in de blue maji, en de lil silver boat moved lightly throught de dancing waves. She sat in de lil boat en looked over de blue sea to de edge of de dunia, en there, between de golden sand en de green earth, she saw de tent standing, silver en gold in de sun. She dipped her oars, en came nearer to see it better. The nearer she came the fairer seemed de tent en at last she rowed to de shore en grounded her lil boat on de golden sand, en stepped out daintily en came up to de tent. She was a lil frightened, en now en again she stopped en looked back to where de silver boat lay on de sand with def blue sea beyond it. De young archer said not a word, but went on regaling himself on de pleasant dishes he had set out there in de tent.

At last de Princess Vasilissa came up to de tent en looked in.

De young archer rose en bowed before her. Says he:

“Good day to you, Princess! Be so kind as to come in en take bread en salt with me, en taste my foreign wines.”

And de Princess Vasilissa came into de tent en sat with de young archer, en ate sweetmeats with him, en drank his health in a goblet of de wine de Tzar had given him. Now dis wine was heavy, en de last drop from de goblet had no sooner trickled down her throat than her eyes closed against her will, once, twice, en again.

“Ah me!” says de Princess, “it is as if night itself had perched on mi eyelids, en yet is but noon.”

And de golden goblet dropped to de ground from her lil fingers, en she leaned back on a cushion en fell instantly asleep. If she had been beautiful before, she was lovelier still when she lay in that deep sleep in de shadow of de tent.

Quickly de young archer called to de farasi of powah. Lightly he lifted de Princess in his strong young arms. Swiftly he leaped with her into de saddle. Like a feather she lay in de hollow of his left arm, en slept while de iron hoofs of de great horse thundered over de ground

They came to de Tzar’s palace, en de young archer leaped from de farasi of powah en carried de Princess into de palace. Great was de joy of de Tzar; but it did not last for long.


“Go, sound de trumpets for our wedding,” he said to his servants, “let all de bells be rung.”

De bells rang out en de trumpet sounded, en at de noise of de horns en de ringing of de bells de Princess Vasilissa woke up en looked about her.

“What is de ringing of de bells,” says she, “en dis noise of trumpets? And where, oh, where is de blue sea, en my lil silver boat with its golden oars?” and de Princess put her hand to her eyes.

But de Princess turned her face away from de Tzar; en there was no wonder in that, for he was old, en his eyes were not kind.“The blue sea is far away, says de Tzar, “en for your silver boat I give you a golden throne. De trumpets sound for our wedding, en de bells are ringing for our joy.”

And she looked with love at de young archer; en there was no wonder in that either, for he was a young man fit to ride de farasi of powah….

to be continued….