Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Supporting Cast

Today began fairly normally with me at the “fitters” with Michael having a service. I waited the 20 minutes and paid £3.20 which included the oil! I watched them, as they are not all trustworthy, and they did perform the necessary.

The rest of the morning was a real eye opener and took “headteacher support” to a new level for me. The support I received as a head was mostly professional but the occasional input of personal support was possibly the most valuable. I only support a few heads here as it is impossible to convince most people that you can help them for free……with pretty much anything!

So, when I received a call saying that a head was literally wrestling with a teacher who believed she was “possessed by spirits” and out of control, I wondered momentarily where this fitted into my placement profile. I wasn’t sure what support I could offer but I know how reassuring it can be just to have someone else there, so I went to the teacher’s house, or room. It seems a lot of people live in one room of a house. Their cooking, bathing and toilet is outside anyway.

The teacher was certainly in a poor mental state and seemed very distracted, wailing, beating her breast, not focused. At one point she took off into the “bush” running like a gazelle. The head managed to stop her and bring her back with the assistance of three healthy young men stripped to the waist who had been working in the field.

Thanks to some assistance from someone in a car, they repatriated the woman with her son in the next town. The rest of the story is second hand but amazing, just the same.

As I have said before, there is a lot of belief in the power of spirits. Local herbalists, fetish priests and others do a roaring trade in curing almost everything. This seems to fly in the face of the very strong Catholic and Muslim beliefs held by the vast majority of the population up here. I can’t quite reconcile the idea that you can attend Mass numerous times a week and profess to be a devout Christian, but then sit in somebody’s room whilst they plaster some concoction on parts of your body with a few chants and a wave. Evidently, that was what happened……..some ash on the temples and piece of string around her ankle and she was as right as rain almost instantly. Wow!! Cherry picking your religion is rife around these parts.

Anyway, everyone was back home by 2.30pm, carrying on a usual……..well everyone except the head, a true Christian, who did everything she could for her colleague as an excellent headteacher would and who came out of the experience very frazzled and confused about her part in this episode and what she would do the next time. There may very well be a next time. I have to say, having felt rather disturbed by the extreme behaviour I witnessed at the house this morning, it all seemed very odd. The power of the human body to heal itself is one thing but this was something else entirely. It could almost have been a little play acting, but I shall never know.

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