Having Carelessly Made Tracks For 'Gouti...

Patterned on a Warao magical song (hoa) for protection when confronting transformed agouti

You are coming towards us,
coming towards us,
coming towards us.

We are really here alone;
and you spirit of the night,
you, spirit of the darkness,
you are coming toward us,
coming toward us.

You do not know your name.
This is your name.
Yes, this is how you move.
This is your land, this is your name,
this is how you move, this is how you move.

Hear your name, Yes, this is your name -
A small agouti, a small agouti, a small agouti
Yes, this is your name, yes, your movement,
yes, this is your name

You do not know your food. There is your food.
Yes, we are not your food.
There is your food,
this is how you move, this is how you move.

You do not know our needs,
Yes, you come to bring us wants.
Yes, this is your game, this is your game, we are your game
Yes, your movement
Yes, this is how you kill us.

Go away from us, go away.
Go to where your house is in the earth, to your hole
Go to your thoughts, away from here, to your house,
and leave us, leave us, leave us
Take your thoughts with you and go away
Take your flesh with you and go away
Take your gifts with you and go away
Leave us,
go away.
Make your own path, go away, go away,
small agouti of the earth, small agouti.

Based on a Venezuelan Warao Magical Protection Power Song for Confronting Transformed Agouti by Jose Antonio Paez (Olsen Collection 74.7-1)
Source: Music of the Warao of Venezuela: song people of the rain forest/by Dale A. Olsen, University Press of Florida, 1996.



If you think about it many of us have protection songs. Maybe it is a mantra that you repeat quietly when faced by threatening circumstances, an invocation to some powerful force or deity, the prayer to St. Michael perhaps. Maybe you carry with you a talisman, something that you keep in a pocket or tie around your wrist or wear against, or paint on your skin - a symbol which has special significance or power as protection against evil.

The Warao, more commonly referred to as Warahoun in Trinidad, also have hoa songs to protect themselves from harmful entities. They believe that the most innocuous of creatures can be supernaturally transformed into spirit beings - hebutuma that prey on humans. The ethnomusicologist, Dale Olsen, conducted extensive research on these songs as sung by the Warao in Venezuela and transcribed and recorded many examples. Olsen suggests that the power in the songs might be the effect of reducing fear in the singer as he/she confronts this transformed entity. Another explanation which he proposes is that the power to inflict harm is removed from the entity once it has been properly named. You will notice how the singer cuts the entity down to size by repeating phrases like “this is your name” “this is how you move” you are just a “small agouti of the earth”, a small agouti, a small agouti” and persistently redirects the evil, “Go away from us”, leave us, leave us”, “go to your home.” There is nothing arbitrary about the structure of the song. The expert singer, with these carefully chosen words takes charge of the situation and deflects the evil. What I find most interesting about their song is the spirit of peace which emanates from it. Even though it is sung in a situation of confrontation, the gentleness of it probably has a calming, defusing effect on both the hebu and the human.

Trinbagonians are in need of hoas, hoas for protection, hoas for curing, but even more, the development of the ability to discern when evil is present and the wisdom to spot this evil even when it is masquerading as the familiar. The Laughing Gull believes that love is the greatest hoa of all, but it is a difficult hoa to learn and to sing if it has not surrounded a person from the womb. Sometimes it’s really hard to sing it when a heart is hard and bitter with rage or wounded pride. Sometimes it is hard to hear it when a hand is making a fist and praying for an excuse to smash anothers face. Sometimes it is impossible to even remember it when a heart is encountering the ugliest most unloveable hebu. When the devil is "shakin’ up he tail in your face", remember that it is your fear and confusion that nourishes it and makes it seem even more gigantic and powerful than it really is.

Remember the Warao and their hoa. Look the evil in the eye. Don’t hang your head, don’t be mesmerized by its gaze, don’t accept its gifts and do NOT give it gifts to try to placate it. Take a deep breath and try to see it for what it is. Try to name the evil. Tell it that its place and its values are not with you and your kind. Tell it gently but firmly to go away. Tell it to return to its home. Warn your friends and like-minded souls if it stubbornly refuses to budge. Hebutuma are not comfortable in the face of an army. Stand together and sing with love and confidence your hoas again and again until the spirits of darkness begin to think twice about strutting around our islands.

Gifts that destroy are usually very shiny and very bright…coins, beads, glittering buildings, bullets, gold, knives, mirrors, aluminium smelters, fancy rims, guns, bright white cocaine…in one word - bling. These trinkets attract and distract and blind. First Nations people especially, should know about the dangers of shiny bits. But unless our “benefactors” are shoving these gifts down our protesting throats, let us be honest enough to admit that more often than not, it is completely up to us whether we accept or refuse these things. If we look around at all the ‘gouti overrunning this place, we must be courageous enough to first accept responsibility for having knowingly or unwittingly cleared many of their tracks.

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!