Deep in the heart of the Ituri Forest, a tropical rainforest in the northeastern Congo, there lives a population of pygmies called the Mbuti.
The Mbuti are a peaceful people who live in small tribes as hunters and gatherers. They love the forest and have lived there since the dawn of civilization, before even the great pyramids graced the earth. Such an ancient people deserve no less a spirituality, so they call to the gods and goddesses of years past.
The forest is their Mother, their Father, their livelihood, and so it is to the forest that the Mbuti give praise. They revere the forest not only as a resource and beautiful wealth, but also as a spiritual guide. Mbuti tribes perform rituals, ceremonies, and acts of worship for their Mother, the forest. The most well-known of these ceremonies is the Molimo.
In The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo, Colin Turnbull interviewed an elder in the Mbuti tribe. He explained the Molimo.
Normally... all goes well in the world of the Mbuti. But occasionally, when they are asleep at night, things go wrong:
Army ants invade the camp; leopards may come in and steal a hunting dog or even a child. If we were awake these things would not happen. So when something big goes wrong, like illness or bad hunting or death, it must be because the forest is sleeping and not looking after its children. So what do we do? We wake it up. We wake it up by singing to it, and we do this because we want it to awaken happy. Then everything will be well and good again.
When the Mbuti need to give thanks to the Mother forest, or when there is a crisis or death among their tribe, they perform the Molimo to regain their balance and harmony with the forest. The ceremony can last from one day to an entire month in some cases.
On the first day of the Molimo, every member of the tribe gathers food and firewood for that evening. It's a time for the Mbuti to work together and solidify their personal bonds. That evening, the men build a fire around which they dance and sing while the women and children of the village stay in their huts.
When the singing and dancing, or the kumamolimo, has reached a climax, a band of younger men leaves the bonfire for the forest, where an intricate wooden horn, also called a Molimo, hangs from a tree. Before they carry the Molimo horn back to the fire, they let it drink from the river, breathe from the night air, and rest on the earth.
The second climax of music and dance draws the young men back to camp. From there, the kumamolimo continues well into the night. While the men sing and dance, the women and children remain in their huts, imagining that the sounds they hear are the great spirit of Mother forest.
Colin M. Turnbull, The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo, Simon & Schuster, 2000.
This writeup is entry as traditional garb for the Everything Noder Pageant 2003. On that note, I'd like to say that world peace is still my highest priority, if you don't count finding sensible pumps or some day doing the weather for Channel Four.