Each year, during the heavy rains, the 3,000 people of Saouie, 75 miles (124 kilometres) from the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, perform the Godogodody ceremony.
Each year, during the heavy rains, the 3,000 people of Saouie, 75 miles (124 kilometres) from the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, perform the Godogodody ceremony. The ceremony is believed by its participants to bestow the powers of healing upon "bonpwenai", chosen members of the tribe.
Performed by the people of the Abidjan tribe, the Godogodody starts at midnight when tracks leading to the village are closed in the belief that anyone entering Saouie after this time will bring sickness and death.
At first light, the villagers begin to roam the streets banging anything that will make a noise and shouting to frighten away evil spirits. They work themselves into a state of trance, rolling in the mud hitting each other, strutting frenetically up and down, dancing, singing-performing anything that will summon 'the power'.
The climax of the ceremony is when the few "bonpwenai" chosen by the spirits, demonstrate their new powers by inflicting knife wounds on themselves and then healing themselves by applying spittal and raw egg. The hen's egg is the symbol of the ceremony.
From the time that a "bonpwenai" receives the power, he or she may never again eat beef (though other meat is permitted) else be deprived of the power.
The scene is watched by the village witchdoctor, who occasionally deprives a "bonpwenai" of former years of his or her power by repeatedly filling his mouth with water from a gourd and spitting this over the unfortunate villager.
A "bonpwenai", it is said, can heal himself and anyone else providing that no-one has attempted to attend to the patient before, and further providing that, henceforth, the patient refrains from eating beef. (The significance of the banning of beef-eating is that the cow is held to be sacred among the tribes of southern Ivory Coast as it has the same gestation period as a human.) The original object of the Godogodody was to instill courage into warriors going into battle and dispel fear of injury.