First School Day – fainting episode leads to ‘Incantations’
From David Stone
It was a week ago today, Monday October 12. The aforementioned event cannot be erased from my thoughts. After seeking perspective from close African colleagues, I now can speak of it with some sense of understanding.
It was a normal Monday. Ghana schools always start the week with all students assembling to sing, raise one another’s enthusiasm for the week, and hear announcements. Few announcements this day as few teachers, namely only three, including myself were in attendance. As the assistant headmaster announced that, once again Mr. Stone has returned to teach in the school, one girl fainted. Alas, it was not because I made such a hit that she was overwhelmed with emotion ….not the case. I am sure she probably was not even aware of the proceedings as I later find out from her friends she had been weak and sick that morning.
Now when one faints, I think , let’s carefully assess if she hit anything going down, conscious or unconscious .. that sort of thing. But here , medical attention takes a far back seat to spiritual incantations. One of the attending three teachers rushes to part the circle of friends surrounding the girl to appeal in prayer to Jesus Christ our Saviour to”Cast out the demons found in this child, Cast out all evil present in this poor child, renew her belief in Christ our God” The master was using gestures not unlike those I recall used by Oral Roberts back in the 60’s. “Rise child, Rise!” These incantations continued for about four minutes. I could see the girl was awake and lucid though obviously weak.
The master spoke louder in his appeal to the spirit world. He seemed very relieved and satisfied when she took his hand and returned to standing. At this point, I chime in, “Let’s get this girl to the clinic!”a short motor cycle ride away. Off she goes , three on a moto, a teacher, the ‘fainted one ‘ and her friend.
What just happened? Did it originate from Christianity, or is it more firmly based in pre-Christian Africa?
From what my two African friends say, it seems embedded in old belief, that when one falls, as in fainting, your ancestors are not pleased with something you have done. In pre-Christian life, the affected one one was often taken to the soothsayer to be given special herbs spread on the body, or vaporous herbs were burned close to the affected. (Worth noting some of these herbal practices actually did work to relief the problem in a medical way.) Once the Christians gained a following, there were not too keen on this practice , so they outlawed soothsaying wherever they were able. Being adaptive, the new Afro-Christians continued the practice but in the name of The Lord.
The episode was truly surreal for me. I’m not sure what the girl thought. One week later she is alert and fine and did not faint this day when I played ”When the Saints Go Marching In” on trombone. Oh my! A spiritual connection here? (tongue firmly planted in cheek)
I do want to add that , In all honesty, at least here in this community, the Catholic Church does far more good than the other. The Traditionalist and Christian denominations in general coexist quite nicely. One could sacrifice his small fowl on Saturday and attend Mass on Sunday. Additionally I recall Father Richard , the former Catholic Priest here, as being a guest speaker at the Muslim Ramadan event when we were her the first time in 2005.
Oh, yes. ….Teaching is going fine. The students are really enjoyable. It is fortuitous that we begin the required reading “Ancestral Sacrifices” in a few days.