Is God a Goat?

Paul Lowinger

Goat curry was a traditional Jamaican meal, caloric, spicy, gray and tasty. I was a tourist in Negril on Jamaica's west coast at an outdoor cafe with wooden tables, a slow kitchen, and a waiter who spoke in the musical patois about the food and the ganja he sold. Peggae was on the sound system ard the barman with dreadlocks asked," Another Red Stripe? referrng to the island beer

I agreed to this offer and finally the coffee was served ending the feast. This was goat night at Red Ground although some had fish or chicken. High Helpful, the owner said, Very young goat is tender and I hope you loved it.' We agreed and a diner in a Hawaiian shirt burped appreciatively.

Later I was in my room at the Ocean Edge Lodge where I was staying with my farmily on a New Year's holiday, My room faced grove of oleanders and banana trees beyond which was the neighbor's yard, hidden by a green and brown natural wal1. A balcony with chairs and table outside my room rnade the warm air and the sounds of ocean and road more accessible.

After a night's sleep, I was awakenedd at five by a frightening dream of danger. I was driving my car at a high speed and the windshield was covered with snow. I was glad to escape from the death trap by waking and I was unable to return to sleep while pondering or maybe trying to forget the nightmare. I took refuge in activity so I started write an overdue report before I entered the day's beach bustle.

The quiet was that of dawn before even the birds are active so I went to the private balcony to read my notes. But now I heard a Jamaican voice close but where? The tone was pleading, 'Mr. Goat, I don't want to do thi,s I beg your pardon , Friend Goat."

The ambiguity of meaning contrasted with the passion of the rnan speaking and my attention was fixed on an event beyord the green curtain. There were more plaintive pleas, "Please forgive , Freddy goat My knife is sharp". The plea became whining, "Sava told me to tel1 Ihave to cook Yes, yes, Jesus too. Mama." .

"Is Sava the totemic name of the Goat God? Or a family diety? Is Freddy, the goat, the butcher or mama?" My evesdropping stirnulated thoughts about an AfroJamaican ritual sacrifice but I was frustrated by the lack of direct observation.

I heard more invocations and entreaties but the words were muffled and after several minutes, the voice was silent. "Is the ceremony over? Or is this just the routine slaughter of a goat for stew?" Musing,, I went about more mundane tasks and wondered what really heard

By noon, I was seated on a lawn chair on the grassy ledge which faced the ocean and i saw Kingsley, the manager whose family owned the Lodge. He was diminutive, muscular and energetic with a Canadian accent, "Lovely swimming day, the water's warm ."

'I heard the ritual of the goat next door through the trees, a sacrifice, I think. The man asked for the goat's forgiveness before the slaughter. What does this mean?" I tried to retell the incident.

He looked at me and then sighed. Nothing like that happens here. We don't worship the goat. Of course goat stew is good, don't you agree? I'm sure it is a misunderstanding. Let's have rum and coke."

The goat incident seemed closed until now. The tourists that I told about it liked the primitive ritual idea but more research is needed. Maybe I'll write the University of the West Indies in Kingston and then we'll see.