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When The Sky Was Near And Low

As we are about to turn the page of Easter month, I wanted to wish a happy belated Easter to all the Pantanî fans as well as the fans of Pantanî on Facebook! But I wondered: how do we spend Easter in our regions? As I was sitting outside, meditating on this special Easter day, which we call Good Friday, I noticed this 71 years old Wapishana woman who appeared unoccupied and I decided to question her about Easter. She had spent part of her life in the South Rupununi before moving to the North. She told me how she and other people spent Good Friday in years gone by…

Grace

“In my early years we, Wapishanas in the South, believed in many things, such as Good Friday. This special day was very important and highly respected by our fore parents. Their experience was that many things would happen to people who were being disobedient on this day. It was said that things happened according to what we believed since the sky was very near and low, meaning when the earth had just been created by the Almighty. In these days, there was not much religious activity. People believed what they were experiencing and, most of all, we knew that the son of the Almighty had died for us and so he should be honoured on that day.

According to our beliefs, really scary things could happen if we did not respect certain interdictions. For instance, people would be untenanted the entire Good Friday. Cooking was not allowed so the food had to be prepared the day before and could not include any kind of meat. For drinking, water also had to be fetched the day before and people used to fill buckets or containers. More oddly, no showering was allowed for the entire day either. It was said that disobeying these beliefs would bear serious consequences. If you took a shower, you would be turned into a fish that swam in the water. If you drank Good Friday’s water it would turn into blood. Similarly, we did not handle cutlasses, knives, or any other sharp equipment otherwise it would cause danger. Fruits were not eaten for it would turn you into animals, like the monkey, who eat fruits. These things, we used to obey them in my early days and since the world was very young, the old people would say.

This is the truth, because I experienced several stories… One year, on Good Friday, my uncle and some men decided to go to work and disobey the words of our fore parents. And so they went, in the jungle, and it happened that they decided to take a day of rest to go fishing and have a feast. They fished and started cooking by the fireside. At first, it was fine. The fish was boiling in the pot and the men were getting ready to eat. But after a few minutes, my uncle went to check the pot and discovered something odd: there was no more fish in the pot and everything had disappeared! It was also said that one Makushi tribe did not believe in this and, one day, a group of people went to the river to wash and bathe despite the interdiction. Immediately after, they all changed into fish and disappeared. They never returned.

Another year it was me who disobeyed. On the day of Good Friday, my stepson visited me home and I had in my house some parakari. I knew it was not allowed but I still did it! I strained the parakari and offered him some. Immediately after, when he was about to consume it, blood dripped into the bowl of parakari. He became very scared but I wasn’t because I had done it to prove him!

Hence all these things happened…

Today I am still living and it does not happen anymore. I remember my great, great grandparents telling me that it would change as the sky went higher, meaning as years would pass after the creation. So today we have a lot of religious preaching going on and we continue to obey but with spiritual prayers rather than through specific interdictions.”

Photo: Claudia Nuzzo