Ethnic Origin

Origin of the Sande Society

In ages gone by there lived a woman called Sande who earned her living fishing. She was so successful that after some years there were no fish left in the rivers of that country. Hearing of a fine river in a nearby land she left her town and went there, and began to fish.

The Chief of that land warned her not to walk in a certain part of the river, but suspecting that this place held many fish she took her net and went there. She sand as she threw her net again and again, and snared many fish.

While wading in the water Sande noticed a hole in the bank, and putting her hand inside she found a cooking spoon and a stirring stick. She placed them in her net.

Putting her hand in the hole again she discovered a pot and a bowl, and then a bucket and a drinking cup… and then something cold and evil grasped her hand and began to drag her into the hole.

Sande cried out in a loud voice, and women in the nearby town ran to assist her. When they arrived half her body was already in the hole; they tied a rope about her waist and all began to pull. They pulled and pulled, and began to drag her out; and they dragged with her a terrible Thinwhich held tightly to her hand.

Brave women attacked the Thing, but it made fearful sounds and began to swallow the women one by one. The Zoe women of the town came with her magic and took the Thing to a sacred bush, and called it Ter-Fahr-La. Ter-Fahr-La became the women’s devil, and those who know where and what it was, and how best to control it, became a secret society.

Thus the Sande Society was organized, and named in honor of Sande who discovered Ter-Fahr-La; the ceremonies still performed within that sacred bush are known as Sande-Koo to this day.

This story is criticized by the Bureau of Folkways as being inaccurate and misleading, and the following comment is offered:

“Just as a Dazoe is head of the Poro, so a Zoe is head of a Sande bush; and thus it is obvious that if a Zoe woman lived in the town described, a Sande Society already existed there.

“Ter-Fahr-La’ means sour cane leaf, and is the symbol of certain cultural societies among people from the Western boundary to the St. John River: it is not, therefore, a woman’s devil.

It is possible that this story was told by a member of the Sande Society and was deliberately distorted to conceal certain secret facts which may not, for any reason whatsoever, be revealed to people who are not initiates of the Society.”

Ethnic Origin

How Spirit Societies Began

A man was walking through a forest when he came upon a deserted village, and since he was far from home and night was falling, he decided to sleep in one of the village houses. He entered the largest house and climbed into the loft, between the ceiling and the roof.
While the man was asleep the moon arose and a Gofe came into the house. A Gofe is an evil spirit belonging to a dead man.

Soon after a second Gofe came, then a third and fourth, until Gofes were arriving thick and fast from every direction: for this house was their meeting place. that was why all the villagers had run away.

The noise of the Gofes talking woke the man, and when he realized he was in a spirit-house he began to fear for his life. More and more Gofes came, crowding in through doors and windows until they filled house, then they began climbing into the loft, and the terrified man had to scramble up under the roof and hang from one of the topmost beams.

Gofes overflowed the house, sat on the roof, and swarmed up nearby trees. They had their medicine pouch in the room below and began to dance around it, singing an awful spirit-song. Then they began discussing the best way to avoid Waras and Softlys.

Wara is a small animal which lives in hollow logs and makes scary noises in the night. No one has ever seen one or know exactly what it is, but they devour evil spirits.

A softly is an animal like a lemur, about the size of a kitten but with strong hands which can seize and strangle even the biggest spirits; these are the two animals which evil spirits fear. But they are particularly afraid of the Wara’s call.

The man hanging from the roof realized this, and began to see a way in which he might escape. He carefully cleared his throat, and above the noise which the Gofes were making he shouted:

“Oooo–Wara, Wara, Wara!”

Which is the noise which Waras make. One of the spirits below said:

“I thought I heard the call of something.”

“What kind of something?” asked a fellow-spirit. The first one shuddered and looked over his shoulder.

“It was the call of a … of a Wara!”

The spirits who heard this turned pale. Gofes. can.

“You’re lying. It cannot be true. Please don’t say such awful things in here.

“Then let’s listen,” said the first Gofe. they all listened, and in the middle of the silence the man gave a fearful cry which filled the house:

“Oooo–Wara, Wara, Wara!”

“A Wara!” cried the Gofes. “A Wara is upon us!”

Gofes leapt down from the left, slithered from the roof, fell from trees and threatened to burst the sides of the room below. They poured from doors and windows like beans from the mouth of a bag. Each of them wanted to escape first: and when outside they rapidly disappeared.

But in their hurry they left their precious medicine bag behind; the man found it, and in the morning he took it to his home. He built a strong fence about his house to keep out evil strangers and invited the members of his clan to come and use the medicine.

That was how secret Spirit Societies began among men.


A Riddle of Two Women

Two rich women who lived in the same town fell in live with a poor man who lived in the forest.

The first woman built him a fine house and garden, and put cattle and goats in the nearby fields, and sent a messenger to bring him in.

The second woman into the forest to find the poor man; she gave him rich food and wine, and brought him back to town.

Which of these two rich women deserved to have the man?


Leopard and Black Deer

While playing in the forest Black Deer met Leopard, and finding it too late to run she begged for mercy.

“Quickly tell me three true things foremost in your mind,” said Leopard, “and I will let you go.”

Deer thought: “This is the first,” he said. “If I return home and tell my friends I met you, they will call me a liar.”

“Excellent,” Leopard declared. “Go on.”

“The second is that if I say you asked me riddles, they will laugh at me.”

“True enough.”

“The third is that you are not hungry anyway.”

Leopard nodded in agreement, and yawned. “True, Black deer, quite true. If I had been hungry I would have eaten you by now. You are free to go and be laughed at, and called a liar.”


How Quilla Humbled a Crocodile

In some unknown city by a river — the name was forgotten long ago — the people were so rich and lazy they spent all their time at gambling. They gambled day and night, and even animals and spirits came to join them.

A farmer whose name was Quilla came down the river in his canoe seeking land to farm; he brought his wife and baby girl with him. He built a house on the edge of the city and made his farm on the far side of the river. He also made a second canoe and taught his wife to paddle, so that she could bring him his midday food.
Quilla was a good and honest farmer.

One day a crocodile seized the woman and her child as she was crossing the river with Quilla’s noonday meal, and carried them under water.

Quilla meal time came and passed, and he grew weary and impatient; but at length he decided his wife must be sick, and he continued working until dusk.

When he went home he found the second canoe was missing, and so was his wife and child. He became alarmed. He searched for his wife in the city, he cried her name in the forest; he ran to and fro in the darkness, and his heart was heavy inside him when he found no trace of either his wife or child. He wandered along the river bank and came to a place where he saw a curious thing.

He saw a crocodile undress and hang its skin upon a tree; and as the crocodile-man set off towards the city to gamble it sang a little song:

“Crocodiles are clever; Especially under water;Weaker beasts can neverCatch a woman and her daughter.”

Quilla immediately became suspicious. He stole the skin and hid it in his house, then went into the city and sat down beside the crocodile-man to gamble. The crocodile-man called himself Namol.

Namol threw the gamble three times in the air, and each time it fell to the floor he said:

“I win, as I won a man’s wife and daughter today.”

“What do you mean?” Quilla inquired.

“I mean what I said. Let us play.”

Quilla threw the gamble into the air three times, and each time it fell to the floor he said:

“I win, as I won a crocodile’s skin tonight.”

Namol became excited.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing special, let us play.”

But Namol hurried off to see if his skin was safe, and when he found it gone he returned to Quilla’s side and asked:

“What do you know of my skin?”

“What do you know of my wife and child?” Quilla asked, tossing the gamble again. And he sang a song:

“A crocodile is somewhat vileTo steal a woman and her child.I know well that such a sinMay cost that crocodile his skin.”

Namol burst into tears and at one offered to bring back Quilla’s wife and daughter. When he did this, Quilla gave him back his skin: and since then the crocodile has never taken anyone without first paying for him.

Or so people say.


How Three Men Saved a Woman From Lausing

Three men fell in love with a beautiful maiden. Each man wanted to marry her, but since all of them were poor her father said:

“I shall not give my only daughter to a poor man. Go then, and return with riches; do not return without them.”

The three men went away to a distant land and worked for a powerful Chief. The Chief was pleased with their work and when they wished to leave he gave them riches, and to each he presented a special gift.

To the first man he gave a magic mirror. By looking into the mirror one could see things happening in distant places.

To the second man he gave a magic canoe which would travel swiftly through the air to any place one wished to reach.

The third man received a magic spear which, on command, would leap to the heart of any evil creatures.

Now the beauty of this maiden which the three men sought was known far and wide, and the Lausing, or Forest Thing, decided he himself would have this girl. So from a serpent he changed himself into a handsome man, and coming to her father with many splendid gifts he asked, and was granted permission to wed the daughter.
The wedding was arranged.

When the first man looked into his magic mirror he saw the Lausing, the dread and Evil Forest Thing, was on the point of marrying the lovely maiden. He told his two companions. With the second man’s magic canoe the three of them were rapidly borne over forests and rivers to the wedding place.

When they arrived the third man commanded his magic spear to leap at the heart of the Lausing. The Lausing fell dead beside the girl, and as he fell he changed back into an ugly black and yellow serpent.

The beautiful girl was saved, and in gratitude her father agreed that she should instantly marry one of the three young men. But which one them deserved her most?


How Spider’s Waist Became So Thin

Two neighboring villages planned to hold feasts on the same day. Nan-sii, the greedy Spider, wished to attend each feast, but did not know which one would start first.

So he tied a rope around his waist and gave the free end to the chief of the first village, saying:

“When your feast is about to commence, pull this rope.”

He tied a second rope about his waist, and the free end he gave to the chief of the second village, likewise telling him to pull the rope when his feast was about to begin.

Nan-sii then waited at a point halfway between the two villages; but the two feasts began at the same time, so that one chief pulled against the other chief. The ropes became tighter and tighter and

Nan-sii’s waist became smaller and smaller. He never did get to either of those feasts, and his waist has been narrow and squeezed in ever since.