Thursday, April 3, 2014

Calabash Child and a Celebration of the Griot

In Africa the preferred container for all sorts of purposes—music, magic, healing, sustenance, ritual, ceremony and fulfillment is the calabash.  As herbalists, we celebrate the magic held within the calabash but we also realize that this earth wisdom should be available to all—this is the lesson of orisha Osayin and the calabash.  With no choice left Osayin’s calabash of herbal information, recipes, rituals and ceremonies for health and spiritual well-being, is now open to all.  If you dare to look deep within the calabash, who knows what might be waiting inside? 


Calabash Child


One Igbo folk story from Nigeria shows us that there are truly surprising things held within the calabash plant.  A royal couple is unable to have children.  They have a sincere desire for a child; their heart goes out to this wish each day.  Meanwhile, their farms are doing exceedingly well and are about ready for the harvest.  The King’s wife goes out to the fields to marvel at the huge leaves and flowers of her plants.  She notices something moving beneath a particularly promising calabash plant.  Low and behold, it is a child--a beautiful little girl.  This girl does not have a human mother or father.  She is born from within a calabash.  When the King’s Wife calls her Calabash Child she rolls into a ball and becomes a calabash once more.  Excited by the possibility of having a child of her own, Calabash Child or not, the King’s Wife gives her a name to represent her extraordinary origins, Ifeyinwa (nothing like a child) and brings her home.  The King gives the girl a pet name of his own, Onunaeliaku (born to consume wealth).  He and his wife lavish the girl with love, attention and gifts.  Soon enough she becomes spoiled and is not nice to anyone.  Naturally everyone wants to call her Calabash Child but she is proud and haughty, especially after being adopted by royalty.  She forbids anyone to call her Calabash Child.  One day, when the King and his wife are away on a trip the servants dare to call the girl “Calabash Child.”  They know she does not like it but her poor behavior toward the workers makes them eager for revenge.  They irritate her to no end by reminding her that she comes from within the calabash plant.  The girl tells her parents and this causes the harshest punishment of all to be dispensed on all participants in the taunting—death.  With the offering of human blood spilled on Mother Earth on her behalf, Calabash Child becomes a girl made of flesh and blood.[1]



This was inspired by my work, "A Healing Grove"


[1] Inspired by Buchi Offodile in The Orphan Girl and other Stories: West African Folk Tales, (Brooklyn, NY: Interlink Books, 2001), 157-161.

2 comments:

  1. Amazing post! I love folk lore and learning new things about other cultures. I didn't know about the calabash and found the story behind it truly fascinating!

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  2. Chrys, thank you so much! The calabash, as it is viewed and used in West Africa, is truly fascinating and inspirational for the ingenuity of its cultural applications as well.

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