Amongst those of the Ghimbala of West Africa, the river genii are neither angels nor demons but – like them – have the capacity for good and evil. The priests of the genii, known as the gaw, sing their songs and lead their ceremonies, inviting the genii to enter their bodies so that they may speak with these spirits and learn what is hidden or ask that they intercede in complex matters. This is dangerous, for the genii have great power and can overwhelm those who lack the will to master them. Get too close and they may change the narrative of the world in unpredictable and destructive ways.

For stories are not only told, they listen and gather the memory of those with whom they are shared. Names, places and experiences may reappear but be utterly transformed, creating new stories carrying an essence of what it means to be these characters, while telling of lives and paths which may differ entirely.

This is the story that Goŋ, the greatest of the gaw, told me many years ago, and now I tell it to you.

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