Monday, July 17, 2006

What is the Canadian juju*?

*At this point, I don’t think I’ve written about juju yet. Juju is the Ghanaian (and maybe west African?) word for many superstitions/powers/magic associated loosely with traditional beliefs. Juju is both noun, verb and adjective – you can have juju, or magic powers – you can do juju, or influence something with your powers, or you can have juju shells, or juju beads etc., - items influenced by juju. It also includes communing with/invoking the ancestors, any and all big superstitions (when a baby is born, it can’t be “outed” from the house until 8 days.. or else bad things will happen), and the ceremonies of shamans, medicine men, witch doctors and fetish priests. It also includes ‘fetishes’ or ‘totems’ – items that are given magical significance or connections with spirits, people, and events. Juju is a vast subject that I never really explored before getting here, but it permeates MANY aspects of the culture and most people in this area anyway, believe in it to some extent. If I had internet, I’d google it, but most of my knowledge is conjectural from asking people questions.. Also, for the record, I don’t believe in juju in any form, at all. If there’s no scientific proof, for doesn’t hold. But I am interested in it from a cultural and sociological perspective..*

Its raining, but not the dazzling, beautiful, profound rain of afternoon thundershowers – no, that dull Vancouver rain (apologies to Vancouverites) that just drips all day.
My clothes that I hung up yesterday morning still haven’t dried, and are gross and damp. Of course, seeing as how I’m lazy and don’t wash my clothes often enough, I have nothing to wear, so I’m wearing the damp clothes from the line and am sitting by the charcoal fire.

Since it’s a Saturday, Megan, Krofiye, and Sadia are at home. Its also market day, and the guinea fowl seemed to have laid a bumper crop of eggs. So we’re crowded around the fire, careful to not let it burn us (when its damp, the charcoal starts spitting sparks), and eating eggs and bread and tea. Like a feast for the small girls, who are not usually allowed tea.

Mr. Joshua, the accountant at work, who also stays in my house (but who’s family – wife, and 2 children, stay in Tamale…so he just “rooms” at our house, doesn’t really consider it home..) has just come back from Tamale. We are (of course) talking about football that will start soon.

“So,” the eventual question everyone seems to ask here, “why doesn’t your country have a team?”. When they say ‘your country’ here, they mean Canada. When they say ‘your people’ they mean India. Well… to be honest I’ve never looked into it. I’m pretty sure Canada DOES have a football team, but that we don’t qualify into the big international matches. I explain, that we’re a hockey nation, and its only fairly recently (not like Italy or Spain who’ve been having World Cup winning teams since the 1930s) that we became, or tried to become, internationally competitive in football. That’s usually an acceptable answer for most Ghanaians (as in.. “Haha! So the westerners have a team, but it sucks! Haha! Ghana made it in!” – pretty funny, but Ghanaians are a very proud bunch).

But then, “How about your people? Why don’t they have a team?”. I have never known the answer to this question. India is a cricket nation, but by all means, they share a lot in common with other countries that have football teams. Australia, England, much of the Caribbean, South Africa, New Zealand – they all have cricket teams, but also football. In fact, football is even more popular there.. But for some reason, the Indian subcontinent, plus Pakistan and Sri Lanka never really caught the football fever… Maybe there’s some historical reason for this, but I don’t know about it. Even still, I think maybe India might have a team now, and is in the same boat as Canada where they are too new to really progress quickly into international ranks. Its also a case of numbers – when most of the children are interested in cricket, and everybody watches it, its hard to get them playing a different game.

I explain all this, while my family watches on, smirking. What, I ask, what is it? “Well, Apoorva – you see, India HAD a football team, in the olden days.” Okay… we did? I’m convinced we didn’t, but you know.. I’m only 19. I don’t know what happened 50 years ago first hand.. What about the Indian football team?
“They played Ghana in a match, and used juju! The Ghanaian keeper was seeing 8 footballs instead of one – they had lions on the field and snakes! Your people, they have powerful juju! So FIFA barred them from ever playing internationally!!”.
WHAT?!?! At first, I think they’re making fun of me. I’m pretty naïve so my family likes to invent things all the time and see if I’ll believe them. But then I realise, they’re dead serious. (And it’s a common belief, somehow! My boss mentions it at work the following Monday, and it’s a recurring comment whenever football is brought up, and India..). But seriously, WHAT?!?

I joke with them, while I’m testing the waters – ‘If the Ghanaian keeper was seeing 8 footballs, it means had been drinking too much Guinness!! Or maybe even smoking the Ganja!’ – my family laughs heartily. But then reiterates, Indians have powerful juju and I only don’t know about it because I live in Canada. I question them slowly… What is juju constituted by?

They mention, “Indians, they talk to the ancestors.”. After explaining that there are different kinds of Indians – Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, everything – I say, yes, some Hindus, they respect their ancestors and invoke them sometimes in special ceremonies. A-ha! “Its juju then! We were right!”. But wait - ! I explain again, carefully, that we don’t think the ancestors have powers – you can’t ask the ancestors to give you anything, or harm anyone, or bring about changes. You just honour them.. My family isn’t convinced.

“Every place has juju Apoorva, every place! Even Canada has juju, doesn’t it?” (At this point I’ve stopped arguing with them about Indian juju – there are points of time when you just can’t convince people. I’ve compromised – okay, maybe SOME Indians have juju and I don’t know about it..) But Canada? I say, no, there is NO Canadian juju. I’m quite sure of it, having lived there my whole life.

“We’ve seen it! On the tele, we’ve seen it. White men, who are ministers, they make girls who are witches speak in tongues! One girl even vomited snakes, because she was infected with a snake demon!”… At this point I’m thoroughly confused and disgusted at the television station for broadcasting such utter nonsense and at the stronghold that very creepy ultra evangelical “Christianity” (although in these churches, mentions of Christ are rare – its mostly sinning, demons, witches, and the devil taking a hold of you and removing the devil, etc.) has here..
Okay, I’ve never seen that juju, I mention. At this point, I’m rescued by a visit from a guy who works for a local NGO to talk about dry season gardening… I beg leave of the ‘thoroughly interesting’ discussion on juju, and break away!

But now I’m wondering, rather amusedly, what is the Canadian juju? Or rather, what could be seen, by people in different countries, as our juju? The only thing that currently comes to mind is the toonie that the Zamboni guy put under the ice at the 2002 Winter Olympics.. What superstitions or interesting (but rather unexplained) traditions can you think of that would constitute ‘Canadian juju’? I’m interested to hear!


At 2:07 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well we have a lot of superstitions like the black cats and ladders and all that stuff. Also, think about Halloween, it started because of "juju". The spirits are allowed to walk among the living for one night of the year, so people dress like them to blend in so they won't be attacked or something. Also there are lots of things like my granny makes us eat this wheat stuff every new years for good luck, and you are like blasphemous almost if you dont and will have a horrible year. The thing with our Canadian juju though, is that it is not very universal. Most of our superstitions came from the countries of our ancestors, and since it is such a multicultural society, there are so many different traditions practiced. I'm sure even in your family there is some sort of tradition to bring "good luck". I guess that all is a form of juju. Add to that tarot cards and ouija boards and all the occult mumbo jumbo. Canada is full of juju lol
I hope you have good juju :P

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