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Mike Maddock, General Manager
2006-06-23 / Travel

Slave Trade Expedition to Africa

Part 9: The Queen's Soothsayer

The year 1833 was a tragic year for the Lightbourns of Farenya. Capt. Stiles Lightbourn (husband of Queen Niara Bely) was lost at sea on his way to his brother Samuel's funeral in Savannah. Two other slave traders on the Rio Pongo died, also: British John Ormond and American Paul Faber, close friends of the Lightbourns.

Queen Niara Bely sought to boost her control of trade on the river in several ways. She married her long time bookkeeper, Sekou Amadou Soumah, and turned day-to-day operations of the factory over to him and her son, Stiles Jr. This enabled her to concentrate on high level deal-making. She then successfully married off her two daughters to English traders who set up shop at Farenya. This helped keep the British Navy at bay.

Without her husband's Anglo-American instincts to direct her, Niara Bely turned to her African roots for guidance. The Soothsayer, Balankone, who had helped the Lightbourns control their slaves through incantations and drugs became her spiritual leader. The magic of this man is still today a part of the oral legend of Niara Bely.

A brave man of the village shows us the She-Devil's Cave.A brave man of the village shows us the She-Devil's Cave. In January 2006, our expedition team was fortunate to be taken to a few of Balankone's magic sites.

She-Devil's (Mawondy) Cave : A 20- minute walk from the village is a small cave in a long escarpment. Tall grass covers the three-by-12 foot entrance. It is impossible to see into the cave.

Elders of the village told us Mawondy is a lady, living not dead. In the old days, Niara Bely would visit Mawondy's Cave twice a week, Thursday and Sunday, and place inside four cola nuts, seven eggs, and a loaf of white bread. Mawondy would appear to Niara Bely and advise her on business affairs.

Now, Mawondy comes to the cave only on Mondays. If anyone sees her, it is a sign that someone in the village will die.

It takes great courage to go into the cave even if you are leaving cola nuts, eggs, and bread. While the crowd of people following us crouched in fear a short distance away, a brave elder ventured close enough to the cave to clear some of the grass away from the entrance. No one saw Mawondy, no one died.

Soon after this picture was taken an army of Killer Bees swarmed out of the War-Devil's Cave and attacked us.Soon after this picture was taken an army of Killer Bees swarmed out of the War-Devil's Cave and attacked us. War-Devil's Cave : Several miles away from the village over difficult volcanic terrain is a large, flat field surrounded by stone outcroppings. In the northern wall is a slit cave two feet high and eight feet long. This is the home of Niara Bely's War-Devil.

The War-Devil is a huge snake with shiny lights along its body. During her confrontations with other slave traders, tribal warriors, and the British Navy, Queen Niara Bely would go to the War-Devil's Cave secretly to prepare herself for war. The War-Devil would give her information on when and how to go to war. Then, she would send for her army and give them their marching orders.

As Dr. Ken Kelly and I climbed up to the cave to investigate the War-Devil, a swarm of African Killer Bees attacked. Our entire entourage fled helter skelter. The bees chased us across the field and up the far wall, hitting us in the back, head, and legs. Ken was the only one who got stung, however.

Underneath this stone with the imprint of five fingers is the head of Mustafa's horse.Underneath this stone with the imprint of five fingers is the head of Mustafa's horse. After a quick recovery, Ken mounted one of Niara Bely's magic stone horses for a great photo-op.

Horse Head Stone : Coming back to the village we came across a mysterious stone in the path. Queen Niara Bely's chief horseman, Moustafa, had a majestic white horse he rode into battle. Because of the horse's courage, Moustafa was never defeated. When the horse died, Moustafa cut off his animal's head and buried it in the path. Knowing the love Mustafa had for his horse, his father, Alfa, grabbed a huge stone and slammed it down on the buried head. The imprint of Alfa's fingers were burned into the stone. Sure enough, there they were...all five fingers.

Dr. Ken Kelly rides one of Niara Bely's magic stone horses. Dr. Ken Kelly rides one of Niara Bely's magic stone horses. The Magic Gun : Balankone advised Niara Bely to catch a monkey, skin it before it urinated on itself, cut off its tail, and put the skin under her sleeping mat. As a result, Niara Bely dreamed plans for a magic gun which she had her blacksmith build. When the gun was fired into the air, her enemies fled. With the exception of two times the village was burned by the British Navy, Niara Bely's magic gun worked quite well.

(Next week: The Secret Grottos)

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