The Member of Parliament for Wa Central Constituency Dr Rashid Hassan Pelpuo has released another portion of his book highlighting on the importance of Traditional power and it’s application as Landlords.
Friends i want to start sending you pieces of a book I’m about to publish. You can read the excepts and make your comments… This piece is about the Wala belief in Tengbani as a source of spiritual power.
Belief in Tengani or Tengbani
As I mentioned earlier, over time the Wala people now overwhelmingly believe in Allah whose attributes and worship were discussed. However many people still believe in Tengani or Tengbani. As a belief conception, Tengbani literary and spiritually means the earth crust. It is responsible for all life. It is from the earth that life emerges and from it humans derive their strength and means of livelihood. It is where humans live, cultivate crops and build their houses. According to the belief in Tengbani as the earth god, Tengbani controls rain and the fertility of the soil. To keep the god happy and appeased so that the people will continue to enjoy its support and protection the Tendamba worship the Tengbani on behalf of the Wala people by offering sacrifices to it on regular basis. The worship of Tengbani involves the offer of chickens and other life forms at designated shrines. The offer of life animals meant slaughtering them and pouring their blood on the shrine along with some incantations. In the event of failure to offer sacrifices, the Tengani could be angry and hold rains back and render the land infertile. The most visible shrine in Wa is the Jenjeng pond with its crocodiles representing the spirit of the god. Both the pond and the crocodiles were and are still revered by the people. In the past the Jenjeng pond provided water to the people all year round. It was always the last resort for drinking water when the people were faced with draught.
The power of Tengani is deeply felt in its ability to give rain as well as ensuring the fertility of the soil. As we grew up we saw how drought situations were tackled by the invocations to the god for “good” rains by the Tendamba priests from Sakpayiri (where the priests of the Earth god resides). The god would also use thunder for immediate retribution for offences committed, upon invocations by the priest of the earth-god. Situations existed when thunder killed people and the cause of death was diagnosed to be a retributive sanction by the god on account of certain acts of misconduct, like theft, or bearing false witness under the oath of the god. People were very likely to go to Sakpayiri to ask for the intervention of the god for theft cases and other such ills done to people where the perpetrator cannot be identified. Even today it is very common for people to swear by thunder if pressed to the wall on issues they claim ignorant about.
Besides, people often planted poles in their farms for example, with some broom sticks tied around a piece of spiral and pointed metal at the end of the pole indicating an invitation to the god to guard the farm and its products. In the event of theift of the farm produce the indication is that the god will use thunder and lightening to strike down any such intruder. During funerals of some important chiefs it is normal for high priests of the earth-god to be invited to plant a symbolic metallic thunder-bold as warning to evil peering people who may seek to use the occasion to poison innocent people either physically or spiritually. It is said that people who may attempt to cause evil this way would suffer a slow and painful death, which involves severe and unstoppable diarrhoea.
My father narrated to me how sometime in the 1920s Wa was inundated with the persistent draught resulting in widespread anxiety. Wa Naa Pelpuo III, his father, ordered both the traditional believers and the Muslims to pray for rain. The Tendamba, the worshipers of the the earth-god, under the leadership of the Widana, invited Wa Naa Pelpuo to the Jenjeng pond for the purpose of offering sacrifices to the god and ancestors and saying a prayer. Naa Pelpuo obliged and went to the Jenjeng pond located in the Wa town. The Widana, head priest of the earth-god, and other priests of the earth-god were present with the needed sacrifices. After some offer of sacrifices and some uncommon incantations the Widana went into the crocodile infested water, deep into it so that he was swallowed by the water. He stayed deep in the water for a while, unharmed by the crocodiles, which are the totem and spirit of the Tendamba, and reemerged and walked unto dry earth. In his hand he was holding an earthenware bowl with hot TZ or sawu (hard porridge made of millet and cassava flour) and pumpkin leave soup. This was a typical food course of the Wala. He presented the food to the Wa Naa as a gift from the god and a promise of good rains and abundant harvest. As they returned homewards, strong winds blew and clouds gathered. There was incessant crack of thunder followed by a heavy down pour of rain in torrents even before the chief ended his majestic walk back to his palace. As Chiefs don’t run in the Wala tradition, Na Pelpuo had to walk in the rain until he got to his palace.
The story is still told to show how the spirit of Wa was awoken by the Tendamba and how that solved one of the most devastating draught ever experienced by the Wala.