History of the Sacred Baobab Djidjack
In September 2000, I began the process of acquiring a piece of land housing the camp we wanted to create with the family. I met at that time an old man, retired from the Senegalese railways, Nicolas Backhoum who brought me help and advice.
I stopped my choice of the field with him, gave a name to the future camp "Maafir", which means "fight" in Serer, language of the dominant ethnic group of the region.
The choice of this name is to be taken in the direction of the initiatory path that represents the learning of the “lutte”, "the way to become a man"
It was at this time that I had the first contact with the world of Pangols or Spirits. In September, the nights are hot and humid. I was hosted at the camp of Sesène in Palmarin N'gallou.
Unable to sleep, I went for a walk at the edge of the water, around midnight, under a dreamy sky, filled with stars ...
Arriving at the level of the wreck of the freighter (which I had marked with a cross on the maps that I consulted in my kitchen of Yverdon in search of the "good" place ...) I heard distinctly that someone called me in a cavernous voice 3 or 4 times:Jean-Paul.....Jean-Paul....“
I scanned the night looking for where these calls came from and I did not find anything. I believed in a hallucination due to fatigue and heat. I went home. The next day, I had "erased" this experience from my memory. The heat was still difficult to live in the small huts of the camp, the evening around 11 pm I went on a walk along the beach.
The same scene was repeated. This time I was scared and came back to camp without "asking for my rest ..." Two days later, I explained to Nicolas my misadventure. His response left me speechless for a moment.
- "You know, we, when it happens to us, we do not turn our heads and we go straight ....
- What? But what does that mean?
After a hesitation, Nicolas answers me:
- You understand, the spirits, the Pangols, the night they go to bathe, to walk in family and you they do not know you, you disturb them. You scare them. So they scare you too.
-And what to do so that they know me and I do not frighten them anymore?
- If you want, we will make libations to my sacred tree so that my ancestors warn all the others that you come to Palmarin with all your family and that you are a good person.
And that's what we've done. I bought a bottle of Gin, Nicolas the millet and milk and I participated in the offerings and prayers to the sacred tree of Nicolas with my wife who had joined me.
It was the first time we attended a libation.
Nicolas explained to me that in the belief of the Serer, between the world of the dead and that of the living, there is not a strong separation, but it is possible to find bridges, doors and these are among others, the sacred trees that can fulfill this link function.
Back in Switzerland, in Yverdon, we stayed in close contact with Nicolas to whom we had left a laptop with the Telecom subscription.
The name Djidjack and the choice of the tree
It was during this period that Nicolas asked me to change the name of the camp. For him the term "Maafir" insisted too much on the fight side and the difficulties to acquire the field. Indeed, a part of the ground was disputed by another purchaser "Toubab" and it followed a fight with "the African things" between the two Serer intermediaries.
It was on the phone that Nicolas proposed me the name of "Djidjack" as the name of the camp.To my questions as to the meaning of this name, Nicholas replied that Djidjack was a famous man among the Serer whose name brought good luck. I was very sensitive to this argument of Nicolas and I accepted the change. But, full of my certainties of management at the time, I put the condition of obtaining a document of the descendants of the family authorizing me to use the name for commercial purposes.
Some time later, I received a handwritten document, signed by the family authorizing me to use the name "Djidjack Selbe Faye" for my camp.
Nicolas also let me know that I should do the libations with the family of Djidjack and bring a good bottle of wine, to thank them on my return to Senegal.
Which I accepted from my previous experience.
On November 1, 2001 we got off the plane and on the 13th of the same month the construction work started at Palmarin.
It was the following spring that we went to visit the Djidjack family, in the village of Djilor. At this first visit, we were very well received and we had more details about the person and legend of Djidjack.
He was a prince in the kingdom of Sine. He founded, with the help of two Palmarinese families, the village of Djilor 470 years ago. He took a wife at Palmarin. She was already married and was called "the best". He offered a lot for her and the husband gave her to Djidjack Selbe Faye ...
Djidjack, prince warrior was called by the king to fight his enemies. It is said that when Djidjack went to war, he left alone on his horse, extended his arms and every tree he crossed became a knight ...
He went to war and was victorious. But the king "forgot" the promised rewards in case of victory ...
The drought fell on the whole kingdom. The king's advisers asked him to call Djidjack back. From then the rain returned. The story says that Djidjack, in addition to his warrior skills, knew how to heal and retain the rain ...
At the end of his life, he who become a "Great Ancestor" tells his descendants: "Where you find my babouches and my chechia, it is from this place that I will be gone and you will not find my body. "
Additionally he said:
"This is where you will worship me"
He also said:
"If you precede my name with God's, I will answer your prayers, but you will never have to invoke my name to do evil ..."
The legend says that Djidjack never died.....
We were invited under the sacred tree of Djidjack and it was really at that moment that we became aware of the honor that was done to us.
It was a Saturday and we were invited, my wife, my daughter Mickaëla, Nicolas and myself to libations the next Monday morning. It was for us to bring the wine for the tree, the beer, the coke, the cola and sweets, for the old ones of the village who would be present.
What a surprise on Monday it is not the family, but two or two hundred and fifty people are present!
After a purification ceremony, we are invited under the tree.
I thought I was attending the libations as with Nicolas. But to my surprise the servant of the tree asking me to begin the prayer: "As you come for the first time, it is your turn to begin the prayer ..."
Intense moment of hesitation - I never addressed a prayer through a baobab to a "Grand Ancestor" and even less loudly in front of everyone - then I started, saying to myself that I was praying as if I were in a church ...
In my query to the tree, I asked, among other things:
"I am an old Toubab, I lived child in Senegal, I may die in Senegal, but help me Djidjack to have my sacred tree". I thought at that moment to my own ancestors ... The ceremony continued, others prayed, we offered wine, millet and milk. These libations were a moment extraordinary of life, full of warmth, respect and harmony.
We came out of the enclosure of the sacred tree very moved.
I had chartered a taxi so that the elders of the Djidjack family could come to see the camp that bears their name "Djidjack". They came in the afternoon.
With them, they brought sacred sand and calabash. And I understood that they had contacted the Spirit of Djidjack and that he had agreed to the consecration of a tree in the camp.
The elders transferred the Djilor mother tree to the Djidjack camp in Palmarin. Since then, it is every Monday that I serve the sacred tree of the camp and that I offer the red wine for the Pangol of blood that is Djidjack.
There are anecdotes around the tree, funny like the 4 x 4 which refuses to start and after several hours of unsuccessful efforts, on a smile of the Spirit agrees to start and more difficult with strong demonstrations when the family was threatened. The tree is protected and protects us. He is the symbol of the Spirit of the ancestor who vowed to protect all his!