You can see one in battle with your own eyes. And it was difficult to believe, even then. He dispatched his opponent with terrifying precision, assaulting his victim’s mind and body with elixirs and powders that evoked fires, explosions, and poisonous spirits. As if these assaults were not enough, the witch doctor also had at his command the ability to summon undead creatures from the netherworld to rend the flesh from his enemy’s body.
I came upon this rare display as I ventured deep into the interior of the dense Torajan jungles that cover the southern tip of the great eastern continent, in the vast area known as the Teganze, with the goal of seeking out the tribes that reside there. This area is extremely secluded, and heretofore unseen by foreign eyes. I was fortunate to befriend the witch doctor I saw in battle, and, through him, his tribe: the Tribe of the Five Hills.
Walks of life. For instance, the Tribe of the Five Hills frequently engages in tribal warfare with both the Clan of the Seven Stones and the Tribe of the Clouded Valley, but these are matters of ritual and not of conquest. I had heard tales that these wars are waged in order that the victors may replenish their supply of raw materials for the human sacrifices that their civilization revolves around, and when I timidly asked my hosts more about this topic, I must admit their laughter made me fear for my safety. However, through stumbled attempts at communication of such complex topics as what constitutes heroism and honor in their society, I gathered that only those taken in battle are considered worthy of the ritual sacrifice, much to my relief.
Upon further discussions with my hosts, I discovered that these tribes define themselves by their belief in the Mbwiru Eikura, which roughly translates to “The Unformed Land” (this is an imprecise translation, as this concept is completely foreign to our culture and language). This belief holds that the true, sacred reality is veiled behind the physical one we normally experience. Their vitally important public ceremonies are centered upon sacrifices to the life force that flows from their gods, who inhabit the Unformed Land, into this lesser physical realm.
The witch doctors are finely attuned to this Unformed Land and are able to train their minds to perceive this reality through a combination of rituals and the use of selected roots and herbs found in the jungles. They call the state in which they interact with this other world the Ghost Trance.
Alongside the primacy of the belief in the life force and the Unformed Land, the second most sacred belief of the tribes is their philosophy of self-sacrifice and non-individuality, of suppressing one’s self-interest for the good of the tribe. This idea, so foreign to our culture, struck me as something I wished to delve into much more deeply.