May 20, 2014

16th Century Timbuktu

Nicholas Belton 
/ via npr
Am currently reading a little bit more about the history of Africa--a continent I know very little of, though my mother was born there.

Here's an interesting excerpt I just read from a letter written by Askia Muhammad al-Turi about the customs in his Songhai Empire (which don't quite jibe with him), in which he asks for help in fixing the "problems" he observed:

Among the people, there are some who claim knowledge of the supernatural through sand divining and the like, or through the disposition of the stars ... [while] some assert that they can write (talismans) to bring good fortune ... or to ward off bad fortune .... Some defraud in weights and measures...
One of their evil practices is the free mixing of men and women in the markets and streets and the failure of women to veil themselves ... [while] among the people of Jenne it is an established custom for a girl not to cover any part of her body as long as she remains a virgin ... and all the most beautiful girls walk about naked among people ...
So give us legal ruling concerning these people and their ilk, and may God Most High reward you.

(From The African Past, transl. by J.O. Hunwick)

Sand divining - a Dogon shaman "calling" a fox.
National Geographic

I don't know about you, but the historian and the fantasist in me are now itching to write a story that takes place in this setting... I love it that the cousins Gareth and Gauvain come from here--it's no wonder they're so great at EM!

The Heritage of World Civilizations

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