Why Friday is a Holy Day to Certain Non-Muslims

In the town call Yandohun there lived a Chief called Yargai; and the people of Yandohun were heathens, while their neighbors were devout Muslims, known as Moli Men.

The Moli Men kept Friday as their holy day, and on this day they rested from their labors; but the heathens of Yandohun went about their affairs as usual. Now, the father of Chief Yargai had been a wise and worthy man who had ruled the town with justice and good sense; before he died he made his son guard the welfare of his people, and render aid to those who needed aid.But under the rule of Chief Yargai the prosperity and power of Yandohun declined: men gambled in the town, or slept, instead of tending crops; the rich grew lazy and the poor grew lean, and no one thought of helping the needy and infirm.

One day, which happened to be Friday, Chief Yargai sent his youngest son to bring palm wine from the forest, and when passing beneath a cottonwood tree the young lad heard a voice which said:

“O Tekawolo, hear us!”

Tekawolo looked up, and in the cottonwood tree he saw two snakes. He trembled with fear. We are the spirits of your father’s parents, and being displeased with the rule of our son we command you to bear him this message: “Tell him to remember the promises he made his father. Tell him to leave his idle ways, to govern the people, to plant new crops, and restore the honor and power of Yandohun. And tell him to fill the stomachs of the poor, and the aged, and the sick. Tell him to do these things or he will die.”

Tekawolo hurried off to Yandohun, his heart fluttering and his eyes big with fright. running through the gates of Yandohun he fell in the midst of a group of gamblers, who shouted in anger and pushed him away; but now Tekawolo’s spirit fell and so great was the fear inside him that his mouth was white and he dropped to the ground and groaned.

The gamblers called to his brother.

“O Boima! Bring kola nuts, for Tekawolo eats his tongue and is near to death!”

Boima brought two kola nuts. Tekawolo ate the two nuts and became calmer. Many people gather. When he could speak he told his remarkable tale to the assembled townsfolk, so that they too grew nervous, and then he reported to his father, Chief Yargai. The Chief was filled with the wonder of this day and set about restoring honor and prosperity to his lands and town: and since this singular day had chanced to be a Friday, it was decreed that Fridays would in future be observed as holy days.

This is why the heathens of Yandohun, to this time, work diligently for six days of the week, but rest on Fridays and give honor to their ancestral spirits.


How Time Began

This is an interesting myth illustrating the Bandi’s conception of Life and its social problems when the world was very young.

Ngala made the world and the moon and the sun. The sun shone all the time, so that there was no night, for Ngala considered that constant light would benefit men and beasts. For every man there was a woman, and all mankind was black. There were no white or brown or yellow people, there was only a single race of noble and pure-black men.

In those days men and animals were friends and wandered freely in the forests eating fruit and nuts and green things; caves and houses were not needed, for when a man or a beast was tired he lay down where he was to sleep. Men possessed no spears and animals had no claws, for no flesh was ever eaten.

Little children left their parents whenever they pleased and wandered for months and years in foreign places; and this was a sources of worry and grief to men and animals, for they loved their children well. Sometimes children wandered away and were never seen again; mothers and fathers wept in sorrow and invoked Ngala’s aid.

Ngala then withdrew the sun, and all the men and animals were alarmed. They could not understand what darkness was. Families grouped together in defense against unknown terrors, and children roaming far afield called pitifully for their parents.

After a time Ngala caused the sun to shine again, and everyone was happy; children returning home began to wander about again, so Ngala divided Time into nights and days to encourage the little ones to go back home and not stray too far from their parents.

In common protection against the night men and animals united in a single family clan and lived together under a giant cotton tree; they all lived there because there was no other shelter. They took good care of the tree for it was the only home they had: and all the animals and Man loved one another.

One day the son of Man discovered a piece of fire discarded by Lightning Bug, and he played with it. Being a normal child with mischief in his heart he waited until no one was watching, then carried fire to the foot of the cotton tree— and when animals and men saw and smelled the smoke the giant tree was already well alight.

A great cry of despair arose among the animals, and they stood about in fear, helplessly watching fire consume their home in a roaring, smoking blaze. After many hours the trees groaned, and cracked, and came crashing down to earth amid a shower of bright red sparks.

Men and animals fled in all direction.

“It is finished!” cried the animals. “We have been betrayed by Man. We had agreed to live in peace beneath the cotton tree: but it is not good to stay any longer with wicked man. There is war between us!”

Most of the animals fled far into the forests and made their homes in caves and thickets; men built houses, and a few brave or foolish animals decided to live with them — such as dogs, and goats and cows. They built houses of mud and thatch, and their group multiplied.

On the other side of a mountain, there was a certain pond which Ngala had used as a bowl for his colors then he painted animals. The remains of the colors had settled to the bottom of the pond, and the water looked clear and sweet.

A group of naughty children who had strayed far from their homes found the pond and joyfully ran to bathe: but their swimming and splashing stirred up Ngala’s colors, and the children were astonished to see their skins change color from lustrous black to white, and brown and yellow. In great alarm they rushed from the pond and washed themselves in a stream, but the colors were fixed and would not be washed off.

When the children went back home their people thought they were bewitched, and made them leave the group. The children traveled far away and made their homes in distant lands: and such was the beginning of the colored races of the world.


How the Gift of Wisdom Came to Men

In times gone by men on earth found life difficult to endure, for they had little knowledge and did not have the wisdom to acquire it. Therefore they sent a boy to God to ask for Wisdom. The boy humbled himself before mighty God and said:“O God, the hardships of mankind on earth are great, and getting greater. Pray grant me the gift of Wisdom, that I may carry it down to men, and life on earth will not be so difficult for us.”

God looked upon him kindly, and said:

“Come to me when I am asleep, and I will give you Wisdom.”

The boy went early next day, but God was already awake. He went again in the middle of the night, but it seemed that God had not yet gone to bed. The little boy went several more times, but always he found God awake. So the lad sat down and thought, and thought, then went back to God and said:

“How can I come to you when you are asleep? You are God, and you never sleep.”

God smiled.

“I see that you know the use of Wisdom,” he said. “Therefore I will give you some: Take palm nuts and cut them with a knife, and you will find oil inside. Build traps, thus and so, to snare fish in the rivers. Plant fields with seed, and use the crops as food in the Hungry Season . . .”

God gave much Wisdom to the boy, and thus to men; and then, wondering if he had given them too much, he added:

“Cut holes in the tops of certain palms, and drink the juice you find.”Thus men were given palm wine, which sometimes robs them of all the wisdom they possess.


Why the Sea is Salty

Two brothers called Guba and Koi lived in a place near the sea. Guba was a wealthy man but had no children; Koi was a poor carpenter who carved canoes, but although he lived on the edge of hunger he was blessed with many sons, and Guba was jealous of his fortune.

When Koi was carving a canoe one day his cutlass slipped and cut his leg. The wound was deep, and he was unable to work for many days; his family grew hungry, and he begged Guba for food. Guba gave him a little food, and then a little more, but finally he said:

“I am tired of giving food to beggars. Take this bowl of rice and go to the Devil with it!”

Koi carried the rice home, and told his wife that Guba had requested him to take it to the Devil. He set off on this far journey despite the wound in his leg, and after a time he met a small old man sitting on a rock. The old man asked Koi where he traveled to, and Koi replied that he was taking rice to the Devil.

“When you give him the rice, “ the old man said, “ask him for some of his dried nuts. Bring the nuts to me, and I will give you anything you like.”

Koi went to the Devil with the rice, and the Devil received him kindly. He gladly gave Koi some nuts, and as he was returning Koi gave them to the old man on the rock.

“What do you want in return?” the old man asked. “Wives? Slaves? Riches? Tell me.”

Koi had a wife and loved her, and had no desire for others. He wanted no slaves, for he could not feed them. Riches? He considered riches. He knew his wife had always wanted to have a grinder, so he asked for one and the old man gave it to him.

His family rejoiced when he went home. He told them of his adventures, and gave the grinder to his wife.

“O husband, you are a fool,” she said gently. “There were so many better things you might have asked for. A grinder . . . I wish it could grind out gold, or meat, or grain.”

“Perhaps it can,” said Koi. “No one has asked it.”He asked the grinder to grind gold, and gold poured forth in a shower on the ground. He asked for meat, and meat came forth. Grain, and cloth, fine things they scarcely dreamed of — it was a magic grinder which humble Koi had won, and thenceforth his wife was blessed with every comfort.

After a time he invited Guba to visit him; Guba came, and marveled to find that his brother now lived in a fine palace hung with cloths of gold and silver, paved with precious stones and abounding with slaves who carried gourds of wine and golden bowls filled with choicest fruits and meats. When he discovered the secret of Koi’s success he stole the magic grinder and took it to his own house. He happened to arrive there at a time when his wife was needing salt.

Guba commanded the grinder to grind salt, and salt poured forth upon the ground. He commanded the grinder to stop, but it would not, having doubtless realized that Guba was not its master. Salt piled on salt and filled the house, until in desperation Guba flung it in the sea; and there the grinder is today, grinding salt and filling the seas with brine.


Why Wasp Will Not Live on the Ground

A man who lived on the edge of a forest decided to break new ground and make a farm. His family helped him to clear land and plant yams. The rains came, the crop grew; but when the time for harvesting drew near the farmer resolved to take the whole crop for himself. He was a greedy man beyond the common greed of men.

He pretended to die, and in accordance with his dying wish his family buried him in a certain manner. He was placed in a hole in the center of the yam farm, together with a knife, a cooking pot, a gourd of palm oil and two stones for making fire.

As is customary in that place his wife stayed in her house for forty days and mourned him; no one went to the farm, and every night for forty nights the farmer came out of his grave, dug as many yams as he could eat, and cooked and ate them.

He must have been very fond of yams.

After forty days his wife came to the farm and was surprised to find that much of the crop had disappeared. She saw no tracks to mark the coming and going of any thief, and marveled that this thing could have happened; her brother promised he would watch by night. He hid at the edge of the farm at dusk, and after several hours he saw a figure moving about the field. He suspected someone was there, and drew close — and behold his brother-in-law, who had died, digging yams. He watched him build a fire and cook the yams, and then he crept quietly up behind him and seized him by the arm.

“Who is holding me on my own farm?” cried the farmer.

“You are dead,” the brother said. “And you have no right to steal food from the living, and must be punished. Or you are not dead, and therefore a liar as well as a thief, and must still be punished.”

He sounded the alarm, shouting in a loud voice, and everybody came. The farmer’s family came, and many neighbors, first to stare and then to scold and mock him: and he was mightily ashamed. He was so filled with shame he turned into a wasp by singing a song:

“Baba lade coyambo klubayo.”

“Greediness turns a man to a wasp.”

He is still a wasp, a greedy animal who builds a house of earth and stuffs it with more creatures than he can ever hope to eat. As he builds he sings his song,“Baba la e coyambo klubayo.”

And because of his shame he will never live on the ground.

Ethnic Origin

Why Grand Bassa Was Called Gbezohn

In times gone by in Bassa land the people of the interior used to walk down to the coast bearing kinjahs, or palm-leaf hamper, filled with the various inland produce they habitually traded for salt and articles of foreign manufacture.

At the appointed place of trade they would unload their kinjahs, and having sold the contents they would toss the empty hampers into a small stream which ran to the town.

The thousands of discarded hampers clogged the water, causing it to become stagnant and odorous, and thus this place earned the name Gbezohn. “Gbe” in Bassa means kinjah; and Gbezohn means a marshy, smelly place.

Another version offered by F. Harper holds an interesting story but appears erroneous!

There was a chief called Nendeh who lived in the hinterland, and he traded with the coastal Krus for salt. Among his subjects was a man whose name was Tetteh, and his wife was known as Ku-welee. Tetteh and Ku-welee stole a bag of salt from Chief Nendeh, and when this was discovered they were obliged to flee. Since they both loved salt they fled towards the coast. They traveled far, and one day Ku-welee said:

“I am weary, and with child. For many and many days we have been walking, and we are nowhere yet. The road we follow is too long; let us take another, shorter one.”

They traveled on another road, and in time they came to a pleasant place where a river called Jedani met the sea. They began to build their house beneath a cotton tree. During their first night there Ku-welee awake and said:

“I smell something strange. I think it is a ghost.”

Tetteh rose and looked about, and behind the cotton tree he saw a ghost of a mighty snake which people in that land called Gba.

“It is a Gba-zonh,” he told his wife, “and this place is his home.”Therefore the place was called Gba-zonh after the ghost of a snake, and grew to be the town which is Grand Bassa today.


Why Children Cry For Nothing

Two men lived in a far town; one of these was called Nothing, and his friend was known as Something. Nothing was a rich and generous man whom all the children of that town loved for his kindness, but he only had a single wife who bore no children.

Something, being poor, would often go to Nothing and beg for food, and he was always fed; but there came a time of such great hunger that not even Nothing with all his wealth could buy food. When Something went to beg from him he said:

“Forgive me, friend, for today I have no food. Come back some other time and I will help you.”

Something became angry, for anger easily grows in empty bellies and he was sure that Nothing had a hoard of food inside his house. One night he called and plunged a spear through Nothing’s heart, and ran away to hide.

Nothing’s wife found her husband lying dead with the blade of a spear in his heart, and she began to weep and wail. She had no one to help her mourn, no family at all, so she called in children from the town and they filled her house and cried and cried, for they had all loved Nothing.

They cried for Nothing and feared Something, and still do today.


The Ruler of the World

When Skygod created the world and the animals and men therein, a king was needed to rule mankind. The people went to Skygod and asked him to appoint a ruler, and in his wisdom Skygod, knowing the wickedness and jealousy of men, said:

“I will show you three kings, an you shall choose one of them.’
He showed them Sun, Darkness and Rain, and men elected the Sun. So the Sun became king of the world, an poured his heat upon the earth until the rivers steamed dry, the rocks cracked, the grasslands burned and the forest began to die, and men cowered in caves away from the might of their king. They prayed to Skygod, saying:

“O Skygod, let the Sun not be our king, for he is too powerful and too fierce. Let Darkness be our King.”

Darkness became king of the world; and with Darkness came the fears of the night, and murderers and rogues and evil beings swarmed about the earth causing such fear and misery that again the people cried to Skygod.

“O Skygod, let the reign of Darkness end, for we are oppressed by fearful terrors and demons of the night. We beg you, let rain be our king!”

When Rain was made king the world was washed with storms and showers until the rivers rose, swamps overflowed and dry land was flooded by the swollen sea. Mankind cried out in anguish, and yet again their pleas rose to the sky.

“O Skygod, remove this curse from us, for we are almost dead. We have had three kings, and each one would destroy us; therefore we have had enough of kings. Pray let the moon, the gentle moon be our queen.”

Moon became queen and ruler of the earth, and men rejoiced to see her drifting majestically through the sky by night — and, like any woman, always changing shape, flirting with the clouds, and each night an hour later than she was the night before.


Why Leopard is an Enemy of Deer

In other days Leopard and Deer were the best of friends and always lived together; when sorrows came they mourned together, and when happiness came they shared their joy. People warned Leopard that Deer would one day play him false, but Leopard never listened to such talk. One fine morning Deer said:

“Let’s go hunting and find a thing to eat.”

“Tomorrow,” said Leopard. “Today my bones are weary.”

“Tomorrow they may be dead,” said Deer. “Let us go today.”

Leopard finally agreed, but said:

“We should carry food with us, for we will be out all day.”
Deer, who ate far more often than Leopard, refused to give assistance in collecting food, so Leopard found six bananas and carried them with him, along with his gun. Deer carried nothing. They walked through the woods a long way without finding anything to hunt, and Deer said: “My belly is empty. Let us eat bananas.”

“No,” said Leopard. “Not yet. Wait until we are on our way home.”

Deer was obliged to agree, for the food was Leopard’s food. Sometime later Leopard saw a monkey in a tree, and said to Deer:

“Deer, there is a monkey in that tree. See if you can shoot him down.”

“I am too weak with hunger,” Deer complained. Leopard shot the monkey. The monkey fell in a fork of the tree and stayed there dead.

“See if you can get him, Deer,” asked Leopard.

“I have no strength,” Deer said, and sighed unhappily.

Leopard climbed the tree. He reached the monkey and was about to climb down when he saw Deer nosing the six bananas, as if he was in the mood to eat them. He began to climb down quickly. He slipped, and his back feet became entangled in some vines, so that he found himself hanging there helplessly, upside down.

“Deer,” he cried. “I beg you, climb up and cut me free!”“I am too weak with hunger,” Deer said again. Leopard could hear people working on a nearby farm.

“Then shout for people on the farm nearby to come, or I will die.”

“How can I shout when I am so hungry?” I have not eaten food all day. Particularly bananas.”

“Then eat two bananas, and then shout.”Deer ate two bananas, and shouted in such a small voice that a person four paces distant could scarcely have heard him. Leopard was now in great pain, and begged his friend to make a greater effort.

“Those two bananas hardly touched my throat,” said Deer. “I am still too weak.”

“Then eat two more, and shout for help.”

Deer ate tow more bananas, but his second shout was even weaker than the first.

“Have the bananas stolen your voice?” cried Leopard angrily.

“No, my friend, my voice is coming now. If I could have two more bananas my voice would be loud indeed.”

“Then eat the last two, and be quick before my legs are torn loose from my body.”

Deer ate the last two bananas, and then sat down and laughed and laughed at Leopard. Leopard did not know what to do. Deer looked up at him, still laughing, and said:

“If you can’t get down I shall leave you useless Leopard. Oh, how funny it is to see you hanging by two feet!”

Leopard became very angry. He struggled and struggled, and began to free himself. He said bitterly:

“When I get down I shall eat you, Deer. I will claw you to pieces, I swear.”

“When you get down,” Deer mocked him. But Leopard was pulling free of the vines, and when Deer saw this he grew alarmed and ran away. Leopard came down the tree and began to chase him.

Deer hid behind a tree, and Leopard did not see him. Leopard went home, but Deer remained in the forest, and since that time he has been obliged to run for his life whenever Leopard finds him.


Why Spiders are Found on the Ceiling

When Hungry Season came Spider and his wife grew very thin. One day as Spider was searching for food in the forest he came on a little stream, and here he met a man who said:

“If you whistle the song of the Pepper Bird three times I will supply you with all the food you want, and you can come her as often as you wish. But never eat the kernel of a palm nut here.”

Spider quickly whistled the Pepper Bird’s song three times, and all kinds of food appeared before him. He ate and ate till he could eat no more, then went home empty-handed and abused his wife because she had no food for him.

Spider went to the stream two or three times every day; he became fat, and his wife wondered why. She sought the advice of a Medicine Man, and the Medicine Man told her what she should do.

She boiled a piece of elephant skin, and when she gave it to her husband she said an elephant had been killed in a distant place. Greedy Spider ate the skin and hurried away to find the elephant, for elephant meat is good to eat and grows in large quantities. While he was away his wife went to the stream, on the Medicine Man’s advice, and whistled the song of the Pepper Bird three times. She filled her house with food, then broke the magic law by eating the kernel of a palm nut near the stream.

Spider searched for days and found no elephant, for the simple reason that there was no elephant to find, and half crazy with hunger he hurried to his home. When he came to the stream he whistled the song of the Pepper Bird three times, but nothing happened. He whistled more loudly. He whistled as loudly as he possible could, but the stream just sang its song and nothing happened.

Spider sadly went home and begged his wife for food; but as her children had died from hunger several days before she was feeling very angry with her husband. She beat him with a stick and he ran away. She told him never to come back. Early next morning Spider lay down outside the house, pretending to be dead. His wife found him, and thinking he was dead she buried him a little way from the kitchen. Spider lay in the ground until night fell, then climbed inside the kitchen and ate all the food he could.

He did this every night until his wife began to wonder who was stealing the food at night. She went to the Medicine Man, and on his advice she made a boy from beeswax and left him in the kitchen. Spider came again that night, and as he was eating he saw the boy.

“What are you doing in here?” he demanded. “Are you a thief?”

The wax boy did not answer, so Spider slapped his face. Spider’s hand stuck. He tried to get his hand free, but his other hand stuck too, and so did all his feet. He was still there in the morning when his wife came. She seized a stick and thrashed him until he bled, but finally he managed to struggle free of the wag and scurried up to wall of the hut to hide high in the ceiling.

And Spider is still there today, catching flies and insects, frightened to come down.


Why Bridges are Built in Secret

Long before white men were known in the land there lived a woman by the name of Sagba Massa. Sagba possessed a certain magic ring which she always wore on her hand; with this ring she could summon and control the power of spirits and forest evils, and her clan, when she ruled, prospered accordingly. Her lands yielded abundant crops, rain fell when rain was needed, and evil beings who walked in the night left her people alone.

The Chief of Sagba’s people, a wise old man called Mana Kpaka, sent messages through the land requiring lesser chiefs and clan leaders to assemble at his town for a conference concerning their welfare.

Sagba Massa set out on her journey to this town, and on the way she was obliged to cross the Yaajah River. While crossing in a canoe she saw a beautiful woman sitting on a rock, and wondered who she was. A moment later the woman disappeared, and Sagba, whose had was trailing lightly on the water, suddenly felt her magic ring drawn gently from her finger.

She cried out in alarm and peered down into the shining water, but saw nothing there. The beautiful woman who sat on the rock had been a river spirit, and doubtless it was she who had stolen the precious ring. Sagba made camp on the river bank and called up her best diviners to discover what she must do: the diviners read their sands and gave her their advice.

Three men were brought from distant places. One of them had power over water. The second had power over light and could see into the very hearts of mountains. The third had power over earth, and could crush the biggest rocks to powder in his hands. Sagba Massa paid them well and commanded them to find her ring.

The first man tipped the river on its side.

The second man saw the ring hidden within a rock which lay in the river bed.

The third man lifted the rock and broke it, and having found the ring he gave it back to Sagba. She went to the conference called by Mana Kpaka, and when returning she decided to build a bridge across the Yaajah River, a bridge which would nowhere touch the water.

With the aid of her ring a number of spirits were summoned, and they were told to build a bridge from bank to bank in such a way that men who crossed might be beyond the reach of mischievous river spirits. The spirits said they would work by night, but men must work by day. Trusted men were called upon to build the bridge by day; and the spirits threw building medicine on shore so that they would build well and make no error.

The spirits selected two large trees on opposite banks, and swung stout lines of cane and vines across the river from tree to tree; but they only worked by night when no one was about. The men used secret knots and the cunning of their medicine to weave a slender foot-walk between the hanging lines; they only worked by day, and no man who was not one of them was permitted to be there.

Thus the first suspension bridge was build, and now the manner of this work is a closely guarded secret handed on from father to son. The secret is only known to spirits and selected groups of men, and anyone else who tries to watch is killed.


Why Chickens Scratch

Yala the Lion was king of the animals in the time when all animals lived together in peace. During a time of great famine when everyone was starving, Yala decreed that the bodies of those who died should be cooked and eaten by the living, in order that the living might survive.

Grandmother Chicken was the first to die, and the chickens mourned her passing but looked forward to the feast. The body of Grandmother Chicken was cooked by the other animals, and since her body was so small a quantity of corn husks was added to the meat.

Believing that the chicken family might not care to see the meat of their ancestor on top of their food, the animals carefully covered the chickens’ share with a liberal pile of husks before giving it to them.

The chickens took their share, and wondered why their bowl was full of husks: they could see no meat. For a little time they pecked at the husks, pausing often to glance at the gravy and meat the animals had, and finally in disgust they gave their bowl to Jackal.

Jackal knew where the meat was: he scratched away the husks and ate the richer fare he found beneath, while the chickens watched amazed.

Ever since that day all chickens have taught their children to search beneath everything they eat, telling them that the best things of life are often well concealed.