Diaries from an intrepid filmmaker (9)

Recipe for talking to the dead

We got up really early this morning to try and catch up with those 'initiated' guys I talked about. I'm really puzzled: why would someone give up his village, wife and children to wonder about for months or years? 

It is so hard to interview through translators. Our fixer/translator speaks very basic Portuguese which means exploring any abstract thought a challenge. And yet here we are, trying to find out about spirits, death and religious ceremonies with a complex set of rules and signs.

I can't say I'm anywhere near to understanding our 'initiated', but at least I was able to ask about the toys they carry around their neck. Those teddy bears are their spokespeople to the spirits. It is reassuring to know that teddy bears and spirits go hand in hand!

Teddy bear becomes spirit spokesperson

Later on we went to talk to a spiritual facilitator communicating with the dead. One of the guys in the village wanted his father's spirit to come home. When someone dies, a chicken gets sacrificed in order to decide whether he gets buried at home (if he was good) or in the forest (if he was bad). But somehow the wondering spirit needs to be lured back home through a special ceremony. Women do not appear to be so demanding, they just get buried in the forest, and their spirits just wonder off without creating any trouble. So we filmed another ceremony:

  • Number of trees sacrificed: 0 – but a few branches were pulled!
  • Number of eggs broken: 1
  • Number of packets of tobacco: 6
  • Number of gallons of aguardiente and palm wine: a lot
  • Number of chickens sacrificed: 0
  • Number of kilos of rice: 10

Talking to the dead

If you want a detailed recipe on how to prepare a concoction to attract the spirit of a father, you will have to watch the film – but I can tell you that it is pretty basic: you mash up a few leaves with a tiny bit of aguardiente, you throw a raw egg into the mix, stick it in a cup and – voilà – talk to it twice a day.

And then you toast to it with palm wine and aguardiente until it is all gone. Very quickly many neighbours, men and women just happen to drop by...