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Once I sat with my grandmother who is the only one of her generation remaining in the entire extended family. I was curious about the mystery of our family symbol, the fly whisk. On its account, people have been able to do great exploits. In our culture, men are held as superior and so decision making and dispute settling is among their responsibilities (K’Aoko n.d.). Ages ago, there arose a fight between two clans over a land dispute. The fighting was so intense, the destruction massive and the number of lives lost was countless. The elderly, women and children stayed behind while the young men went out into the battlefield.
It came to a point where one of the patriarchs of my family, a very elderly man, was fed up with what was going. In the same way men his age carried around walking sticks, he had a fly whisk that he never let out of his sight that apparently was inherent in his family. He, Sir Chinp’yong was asked to be taken to the battlefield to offer insight to the warriors from his clan. People were reluctant to take him there fearing for his life.
After much deliberation, he was carried to the battlefield where he faced the two clans. He did not even need to speak a word. Just a wave of the fly whisk and their opponents from the other clan scattered and rose against each other slaying each other’s heads. A war that had been on for over three weeks was over at the wave of a mere wooden stick with an end traditionally made from the tail of a Yak.
There were praises on end for the noble action of Sir Chinp’yong that went on for days and days. Word went round that Sir Chinp’yong’s fly whisk possessed some mystical powers (Faure). Any mention of it and it was related to authority and supremacy. Years later, he passed away but not before he had left his most valuable possession in the care of his first born son.
Sejong, Sir Chinp’yong’s eldest son is remembered as the greatest warrior of his time. Every time he went to war, he would always carry the whisk along with him as his good luck charm. True to this, he never lost in any battlefield except for the one time he left it home confirming to the powers it held. He was placed by the people of his clan in leadership and portrayed leadership skills that had never been witnessed before.
Since then, the whisk has been inherent and all who are placed in its possession always rise up the ladder in whatever area they are placed. They always find themselves in influential positions in the spheres of designation. The whisk has however been modified and recreated so as to preserve it and keep it looking anew as it is placed in high esteem. No one is allowed to lay their hands on it unless it was rightfully passed down to you.
Normally, the fly whisk serves to swap away disturbing flies (Hossu). The whip handle is used for opening gates. Some communities used the tool as a prop to enhance their dances. In this case, their soloist waved it along as they swung their hips to the dances. In some cultures, it served as a tool in the circumcision process. The functions the fly whisk served are endless and in some cases insignificant unlike in my family.
In our culture however, it has been adopted as regalia to signify the anointed ones (Padma). They serve as more of status symbols other than household tools used for an insignificant job. They were part of a leader or chief's regalia, a sign of power and authority that would accompany the leader during most of his official duties.
This family archetype I came to realize bears a lot of meaning and carries a lot of symbolism with it. It stands for the swishing away of wrong thoughts and ideas which are continuously disturbing the normal human being. The assumption is that everyone holds the capacity and potential to become a leader in whatever it is they engage in. The hindrance or rather the obstacle to this illusion is that misleading thoughts derail us from our destinies.
For those who feel their area of calling is to serve as God’s representatives, they carry the fly whisks around to flick away the mosquitoes around him and the "spiritual mosquitoes" in the minds of their disciples. This is an attribute of the Songting’s family. The fly whisk does not necessarily have to be physical. The person involved does not even have to hold it with his hands everywhere he goes to avoid suspicion. It can just be painted on the body.
Most people are ignorant of the role of our family archetype and assume its purpose to be to keep the air around clean. This is because the region we live around is really hot with a lot of flies in summer. It was the sign of a high priest to carry a beautiful big fly whisk to protect his own body. He could once in a while whack a sleepy student with it too.
In the real sense, the people in its possession are more often than not in authority or positions of leadership. They therefore use it symbolically to ward off any maleficent which might cause unrest to his people. The fly-whisk is used to represent the symbolic "sweeping" of ignorance and mental afflictions in the minds of his subjects.
The fly whisk is crucial to powerful individuals in my culture as a symbol of their authority, dignity, and respect. This has changed over time and the symbolism enhanced when activated substances are embedded in the handle of the whisk. This symbol has served to place a lot of people in our lineage on the map and shall be so for ages to come.