The appearance of the new moon, specifically the first crescent moon,
changes throughout the year. As seen from the same place just above the
horizon on the first day of the month, the points of the first crescent
moon will be in different positions. As observed from earth these points
will appear to tilt throughout the year. In central Nigeria there is a
strong correlation observed between the tilt of the points on the crescent
moon and rainfall. As points tilt to the right, dramatic increases in
rain. As points tilt to the left, dramatic decreases in rainfall.
Rich in traditional ritual and ceremony priest like shamans decorate
with circular designs the chests of the Sons of the Moon in the
moon festival. During the times of harvest, July through September,
a community of tribes gather in the Bauche plateaus of Nigeria.
Amongst these tribes are the Ngas. Initially, a moon timing expert
tracks when the first crescent moon will appear by looking at
records kept by a series of knots on a piece of string. With their
calabash offerings in hand the Sons of the Moon hide on a high
ridge that over looks the village. These sons use oral gestures
to lure their prey. With the knowledge of ancient astronomy, one
of the chiefs spots the first crescent moon. In warring chant
the spears are fired at the rising new crescent moon. It is done.
They have shot the moon. All the tribes gather the next day to
hold a funeral for the old moon.
The Ngas base their calendar on the lunar cycle, counting 12 full
moons in a season. The 12th moon marks the end of the year. However, this
is 11 days short of a year, according to time based on the solar cycle.
This description is based on the annual moon festival held by the Ngas
that serves to reinforce the needed bonds between different tribes, much
like the Mursi calendar does. Approximately 155 miles west of the Borana
live the Mursi people. They use the term bergu for month. After the last
bergu there is a period of time called the gamwe. This period of time
lay outside of the calendar. So the Mursi reckon a gamwe in every bergu
cycle. This gamwe results in the described cultural expression.
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