Epics come from the other side of life

Huevo Tierra


The nvet songs we sing [those that are within the epics] are composed by people. For example, if something happens to you, good or bad, you can compose a song that tells about that. Epics are not made up or composed. Epics come from the other side of life [that is, from the world of the dead]. Only a mbom nvet, an old mbom nvet like myself, can bring epics from the other side of life. And the little singers, the small fry, take advantage of this and tell the epics that others like myself bring from the other side of life. That is, the things that have happened, those haven’t yet happened and those that have already happened. But I don’t perform all my epics. I perform something, something, something. Because if I unfolded a big epic here, before dawn we would all be tied [as imprisoned criminals]. That’s why I play good and smooth epics.

From an nvet epic song by Eyí Moan Ndong, in Ramón Sales Encinas, Eyom Ndong, el buscaproblemas y Mondú Messeng: epopeyas de Eyí Moan Ndong, Barcelona: CEIBA, 2007, p. 118
Illustration inspired by traditional folk motifs

The tree that tells stories.


On the Lower Klamath is a very old, immense tree, which has given an account of the first world and people. This tree itself is one of the first people metamorphosed; no one knows what its age is. Sorcerers go to it yearly, hold converse, put questions, receive answers. Each year a small stone is added to a pile in which there are thousands of pebbles, apparently. This pile stands near the tree; no one is permitted to count the stones in it. The pile is sacred; once a stone is placed with the others, it must stay there forever.

This sacred tree has told tales of the first world, –the tales known to the Weitspekan [Yurok] Indians and revered by them.

Jeremiah Curtin, Creation Myths of Primitive America, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000 [1898], p. xxx.
Illustration inspired on a South African contemporary textile.