National Geographic : 2000 Dec
By Virginia Morell Photographs by Nevada Wier rom Mount Gishe's 10,433-foot summit, Marigeta Birhane Tsige, an elderly clergyman in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, looked down at what many Ethiopians consider the source of one of Africa's great rivers, the Blue Nile, its waters emerging from bubbling pools hidden behind a thicket of trees and shrubs in a close-cropped, alpine meadow. The spring of the Blue Nile, or Abay Wenz (meaning "great river") as it is called in Ethiopia, forms one of the holiest places in the country, the turbaned priest explained. And, indeed, around the edges of the spring were gathered numerous villagers, waiting to fill their containers-gourds, bottles, canteens, and plastic jerry cans-with holy water. "Yes, yes. They seek the power of the Abay," Marigeta (which means "holy instructor") Birhane said. In exchange for a promised future sacrifice of a sheep or young heifer, the spirit in the spring's waters might be enticed to cure a thousand ills, to bless a farmer with a bountiful crop, or to break an evil spell. The Blue Nile, he continued, may surface first here on the side of Gishe, but its true font, its absolute source, lies beneath the mountain.