North-Western Province where I was stationed for Peace Corps during my first two years was rich in cultural traditions and beliefs. It’s not that Southern Province (where I’m now placed) isn’t, but it doesn’t seem as rich. North-Western had all sorts of strange beliefs and ideas – some ridiculous and some just fun. I miss that a lot, because you never knew if one day would be a regular, normal day or if someone would be accused of being a witch and dragged to the chief's court for trial. Strangely, that was enjoyable and interesting to me.
The story had everything a good story about magic should have: angry white people, black people pouring alcohol on the ground for their dead relatives and the ever abounding spirits, and a good strong tree.
|Mochipapa Agricultural Research Station is home to one of Southern Province's most magical features: the mochipapa tree.|
For years before white farmers came to the area the locals would worship at this particular tree. They would pray to their gods or spirits, pour the locally brewed beer (more like moonshine) onto the ground for their dead relatives and to appease the previously mentioned spirits and gods, while always paying homage to the tree that reportedly held such magical power.
Well, the white farmers (no doubt of the racist variety) came to the area. The white farmers bought the land and began clearing it for farms. In one area stood this mochipapa tree that the locals revered so heavily. The farmer wanted it and all of the other trees around it to be cleared and cleaned. The farm hands began chopping away all of the trees. Eventually they came to the magical mochipapa tree. And into it they drove their axes. The farm hands cut the tree down, called it a day and went home. When they awoke the next morning, standing just as strong as the day before and years before that stood the mochipapa tree.
The white farmer was none to happy (because he believed the farm hands had been lying about cutting it down in the first place), so he demanded them to cut it down again. They did so and for the next few days the tree continued coming back - like nothing had happened.
Finally, the white farmer was so enraged that he took the ax to the tree himself . As soon as he struck the tree he keeled over - - dead! The mochipapa had killed the mean old farmer.
Later, when his wife heard the tale she marched out, ax in hand, and tried clearing the tree herself. Same end result: a dead person. The tree was never cleared and there it has stood ever since.
|The magical tree is in there somewhere, I promise you. It's behind the red flowers near the lower third of the photo.|
Most stories contend that if you take a photograph of the tree and have it developed it will show the scene as the photographer saw it, minus the tree. Somehow the tree magically dissolves from the picture.
|I added some arrows using Microsoft Paint (this took me entirely too long to do), so that you can see the trunk and one of the mystical tree's main branches.|