TALKING TO THE ELDERS

The hut wasn’t very big, about the size of moderate living room. The fire gave off puffs of smoke that created a light haze that made breathing a little difficult. We all sat in a circle to the side of the fire. The Liboni continued to look me over with a very critical, discerning eye. After a few moments he reached over and unhooked what looked like a bull’s horn from a center pole that was holding up the hut.
Cradling the horn in his lap, he closed his eyes and began rocking back and forth while chanting. David leaned over to me and said, “He is talking to the Elders.” I just sat back and watched this amazing ritual unfold in front of me. After a minute or two he opened his eyes. Holding the horn over his head, he spat into the air, then from the open end of the horn spilled out a number of small rocks onto a straw mat in front of him. Very methodically, he began to move the rocks into little piles of three or four, while mumbling to himself. I sat totally transfixed, mesmerized by his every movement. Finally, he seemed to have all the rocks in their proper position. Looking over, he began talking to David. I could feel my stomach tightening up as it was obvious he was talking about me. Soon the old man fell silent. David looked over at me and smiled. I took a deep breath and relaxed as he began to translate the Liboni’s message. “The Elders have brought you here to help your tribe. Your heart and mind are in the right place. Do you have any questions for the elders?” I was in total shock, I just wasn’t ready for all that was happening in front of me. I stammered for a few moments trying to think…I mean, what are you supposed to ask a Masai witch doctor?
My mind raced; I didn’t want to embarrass myself. With my mouth dry, I finally whispered, “Who are the Elders?” David didn’t need to ask the Liboni my question. “They are Masai who have died,” he quickly answered, “but have left their wisdom in the stones for the Liboni to receive guidance from them.” My mind raced once again. I needed to get some guidance about the book, but in this totally primitive environment, I wasn’t sure the Liboni would even know what a book was. Smiling a tentative smile, I said to David. “Please thank the Liboni for me and let him know I don’t have any specific questions, but I am open to any wisdom he could give me.” David smiled at this response and translated it to the old man. The old man listened, then threw the stones once again. Moving them about, he then sat with his eyes closed as if he were listening to someone and then began nodding his head. Turning to David, he began to speak. After a moment David turned and translated the Liboni’s message to me. “The Elders stated that your journey will be successful, they will watch over you during your travels and will keep you safe.”
The Liboni smiled at me and got up. David stated it was time to go, so I nodded my thanks to the Liboni and we left. As I got into the car, my mind was totally blown. I had come to Tanzania to research the book, and find some interesting subplots, but this meeting was just beyond amazing. Immediately, I knew the Liboni and his stones were going to have to play a major part in the book. This meeting had been too good to be true, and all the way back to the outpost I began to plan how this huge new puzzle piece would fit into the story.

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