By Suntou Touray
As it happens, many people accuse the Owl (Kikiyan) of being a witch. These accusations puzzled and troubled the Owl so much so that it took matters in its own hand to clear its cherished and reputable good name.
The Owl is depicted as wise, night traveller, quiet, aloof and majestic. Are those the main reasons for the blatant character assassinations? It wonders.
In contrast people fear anything that comes alive at night. And witchcraft and those accused of it tend to involve the power to see things when all is asleep.
The lingering question that comes to ones mind is: does a human being have the ability to be anything else? Can they take strange forms and fly like a bird? Huh!!
The Owl trusts the Pigeon (Pura) as a friendly and approachable that’s always around whenever the need arises. Concerned Owl enquired from the good friend as to whether the accusations people make are valid or remotely become a pressing issue.
The Owl asked, “Mr Pigeon, people accused me of being a witch, and I know it is not true, but what do you think?”
The Pigeon looked around and retorted: “well, are you facing me or is your back towards me?”
The Owl said, “I am facing you”. The Pigeon then responded with what has become a mega surprise for the Owl. “Well, the people are correct that you are a witch,” the Pigeon said.
The Owl couldn’t understand and started complaining. “I am harmless, wise and wonder why people associate me with wickedness and make me bloodthirsty?”
Yet the Pigeon, like other accusers, base their suspicions on the strangeness of the Owl: the wide eye, creepy looks and its loner mannerism.
This is in line with the age-old belief that those accused of being witches are usually ugly looking grandmas who are very poor and lacking extended family support. The old grannies with perturbing eyes and slight facial hair have automatically admitted into the witch category.
Lesson: Avoid suspicions and fear base on accusations without proof or substance.
The Owl is unfairly maligned!! Your Honour Judge Suntou Touray:
I attach a photo (taken from a saved video of my THREE owls in 2008). The evidence from my video is that owls are proud and friendly creatures. Of course, as is well known, they are very intelligent and therefore WISELY suspicious of humans – as we should all be!!!
Apparently, according to a story, my owls may have saved me (from Sidi Bayo’s friend’s thugs) just before I left The Gambia. The weekend before I left, I went to Kanilai to shake hands and make peace with Yaya Jammeh (that is the photo where “Dr” Jungo Bah is standing next to me). I understand that this did not go down well with Sidi Bayo’s friend and thugs were sent to visit me. The story goes that when the thugs came in the middle of the night, my owls were chirping away and making loud “frightening” noises up in their home in my mango tree. That I hear scared the thugs away and may have saved me from a gruesome fate!
I got the owls as babies from a Gambian Hotelier who did not want them in his hotel grounds. I built them the nice home you see in the photo up in the mango tree and they lived there until they grew big and strong enough to fly away – though they kept coming back to visit and occasionally have something to eat (they would even take the small meat pieces from my hand!). Their home was always open, so sometimes they would surprise me by waiting until I returned before flying away after a visit.
I rest my case on behalf of the owl’s reputation Your Honour, but here is a clincher is you are still not convinced.
Neighbour: “Fire, Fire, Help, Get the Bucket!!”
Doctor Owl: “Let me see what the Constitution says first”.
PS: My In-Law, that was Daily Observer’s Dr. Owl being cheeky!
Hi Dida, actually the Owls habits may also contribute. What food do they eat. the judgement people have on creatures depends on what they eat, their overall habits. As far as i know, Owls make strange sounds also. It use to terrify people, due to the distance between the sounds and the invisibility involves. Whilst humans as night travellers is an ancient legend.
And the owl innocently get caught up with such superstition. Human transformation into night bird, a hyena, a lion are common age old believes that are vanishing., In saloum, Niumi, Kiang, Kajor, Jarra, those humanly powers are something else. In Foni, one man man exemplify it all, Dr AJJ, he can be anything.
I guess we can enjoy the stories. Thanks for sharing your Owl story. I am wondering, you may not have got wind of the local perspectives on Owls. Strangers Hey, Luntango man durin naa kulo lon (strangers don’t tend to know the secrets of host). Thanks
The Owl will remain a mystical bird Suntou. And the attempt to simplify the myth and belief in witchcraft will linger. These are widely held beliefs. Good try.
Suntou, I spent HOURS discussing local superstition with Gambians who believe in them! They swear to powers of marabouts who can kill! “Don’t be silly, it is poisoning!” I will say and the discussion, which no one wins continues into the night. Of course I knew about the owl superstition but still kept them as pets. The creepy one was a discussion about snakes with my maid. A couple of days later I came home late at night and she was sitting at the boys vous infront of my house – with a dead snake in the sand!