Carpe Diem July/Aug 2000

July 5 The Tynwald

This democratic tradition precedes the U.S. Fourth of July by
nearly 700 years, going back to 1079, when King Godred Crovan of
the Isle of Man convened an open-air assembly of commoners and
nobility, the Tynwald, to discuss new laws for the kingdom. The
Tynwald still governs this land in the Irish Sea, making it the
oldest continuous parliamentary body in the world; each July 5,
legislators meet outdoors atop an ancient mound said to be built
out of soil from all across the island. In an era threatened by the
economic might of transglobal institutions, we might all invoke the
Tynwald spirit to assert that citizens, not corporate chiefs or the
World Trade Organization, should make the decisions that rule our
lives.

August Homowo

In their annual Homowo (‘hooting at hunger’) rituals, Ghana’s
Ga-speaking people commemorate a great famine that ended with an
extraordinarily bountiful harvest. Fishing boats head out to sea at
the start of the holiday season, reports Samuel Wiafe in The New
Internationalist
(April 1999); if they return with a poor
catch, Homowo is postponed or canceled. If the catch is good, the
season begins with a ban on drumming, dancing, nightclubs, and
burials, so the gods can attend to the harvest and other important
matters in quiet while mortals grieve lost loved ones, settle
quarrels, and find romantic partners. Two weeks later, 10 days of
communal feasts, sing-alongs, parades, and sports competitions
begin. The ban on drumming and dancing ends on the last day of the
festival, just in time for a noisy procession in which priests
offer protection against evil spirits by sprinkling people with
water as they march to the ocean for a ritual swim that washes away
the year’s misfortunes.

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