An ethnic group in Senegal practices a seemingly unusual ritual to heal mental illness. Though they appear to be civilized — they drive cars, wear glasses, read and write — I can’t help but feel the entire community, not just the patients, are in need of serious help.
There is dancing in the streets, and those who have made “the spirits angry” are paraded before a curious crowd of passive onlookers. A large brown bull is wrestled unwillingly to the ground and hog-tied in the street. He is the conduit between human health and so-called sanity. Each mentally disturbed patient must sit on him and be covered in a white cloth representing a death shroud. A healing priestess chants prayers, encouraging the avenging spirits to pass from the patients into the bull — and then the innocent animal is killed so that he may take the evilness with him on his journey to the Spirit World.
The bull’s throat is slit with a large machete (it is a literal sawing into his jugular because his hide is so thick). He struggles, vainly, groans in agony, and is bled into a large bowl. He continues to groan and struggle for some time while the healer priestess takes no more than seven swallows of his blood.
The patients are then stripped naked and thoroughly doused in the bull’s “cleansing” blood. His intestines are cut and made into decorative belts worn during the remaining practice. But the animal abuse doesn’t end there.
Patients are then cleansed of bull blood by means of live roosters. The birds are repeatedly — and quite roughly — shoved head-first into large bowls of water and then raked over the humans, like living sponges. If they survive the ordeal, they are then cut and bled to death, each fully conscious, each pitifully crying, each innocent of their crimes.
The priestess is paid for her miracle cures and promises to return another day when a new group of patients are in need of rescue.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think they’re all just plain crazy. In this day and age, how does any culture get away with such rubbish? What kind of civilized… wait … of course… how could I forget?
The Senegal tribes are not really that primitive, are they? In so-called western civilization, we practice similar rituals — just as unusual, just as collectively acceptable. And just as crazy.
Ours come in the guise of medical advancement, and for the noblest of causes: the sacred preservation of human life. And we practice our rituals mainly behind closed doors, not in the streets for the public to see, and then, therefore, the majority to condemn or abolish, but far from public view and criticism. And we commit these practices against millions of helpless animals, not just a dozen hapless farm creatures who just happened to be wandering the neighborhood at the time the parade began.
We breed our animal conduits. We steal them off the streets and imprison them for life. We clone them, even, so they’ll respond accordingly. And then we electrocute them, starve them, shoot and cut them, set them on fire while they’re still alive, drown them in chemicals, burn out their eyes, separate their limbs from their bodies, graft their heads, make addicts out of them, subject them to fear and terror, heat and cold, pain and torment, deprive them of their most basic needs, force them to swallow this-that-and-the-other on our behalf, and just plain torture and kill them in every conceivable fashion devised by the sick, depraved industry known as modern, civilized medicine directed by so-called human beings in search of the sacredness of life.
If ever there were a case of making the spirits angry, this has got to be it.
Animals are — or, rather, their painful lives and torturous deaths are — conduits between human health and our so-called sanity. Not just on the streets in Senegal, but in the hidden, sterile laboratories of the supposedly most sane nation in the world.
Go ahead, tell me we’re not all mentally ill, but you’ll be hard-pressed to convince me. We strive to prolong and better human life at the expense of unfathomable animal suffering and death, for we are the pinnacle of all evolution. We are, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, “the best in all the jungle. We all say so and so it must be true.” What, I ask you, is sacred about such ill-gotten gains? How do they better us at all?
My friends, keep fighting this good fight. Our sanity has got to be out there somewhere — or what’s this war for?