National Geographic : 1965 Jan
men and animals, control the elements, and govern the harvest. These spirits must be cul tivated and placated through sacrifices. The sorcerer, who possesses high status and great influence, deals directly with the spirits. To appease them, the montagnard may progres sively offer a chicken, then a pig, finally a buffalo. Sometimes these sacrifices deplete the entire livestock population of a village. So, in his difficulty, Y Jhon had turned naturally to the spirits. If he became allied to both Captain (illespie and Captain Truong, he could not move against them, kill them, or harm them; at the same time, they would pro tect him. A simple solution for a simple man. At a time like this, I thought, a lesser man than Gillespie would not have realized the necessity of, or taken the time for, the cere mony. Gillespie's understanding may have been the decisive factor in keeping control of V Jhon and the camp. While V Jhon summoned the sorcerer, a patrol returned to camp. Sgt. Ronald W\ingo, soaked to the skin from the all-night rain that continued only as a gray drizzle, reported to Gillespie. Wingo, who had been out for 72 hours and had marched more than 40 miles, looked dead tired. But he found no rest. (il lespie ordered him to the motor pool to disable all vehicles. If they left camp, the monta gnards would have to walk. My admiration for Gillespie and his Special Forces unit increased. All 12 were profession al American soldiers, superbly trained and superbly disciplined. In a crisis, Gillespie moved-moved quick ly and decisively to cover every possible eventuality . .. yet he could put his arm on the shoulder of his good friend V Jhon, in sympathy with his dilemma. I went back to the mess hall. The radio crackled out another message concerning American hostages in two of the rebelling camps. Sergeant Bleacher scribbled the words as they came in. "Are you in the same boat with Bon Sar Pa and Bu Prang [both Special Forces camps]?" Sergeant Bleacher answered, "Negative, negative, all's well. Out." American Dons Loincloth for Ceremony V Jhon arrived with ceremonial garb for both Captain Gillespie and Captain Truong. To me, the situation was fantastic. Here we were caught in the middle of a rebellion in a camp) with 700 tough soldiers-all potential enemies. In one corner of the hall, a sergeant connected a storage battery to two wires that would blow five tons of ammunition, and maybe us, to kingdom come; in another cor ner his captain donned an embroidered loin cloth, readying himself for a spirit sacrifice. The scene was grimly ludicrous. Shortly after 10 a.m. we walked to the ceremonial hut. Huge brass gongs announced the arrival of the sorcerer, a sunken-faced man with watery eves. A delegation of camp and village dignitaries faced a row of seven jars, each brimful of fermented rice mash and water-a potent concoction. Food offerings lay beside the jars: one p)i and a chicken as an offering for Gillespie; a chicken each for Y Jhon, Captain Truong, and the sorcerer. Chanting, the sorcerer com municated with the spirits. After each com munication the participants sipped rice beer. The climax of the ceremony came when the sorcerer, after one particularly long draught of brew, crouched alongside Captain Gillespie and fastened a brass ring to his right wrist. This-joining a twin ring from the previous ritual that had united Gillespie and V Jhon would give notice to the spirits that a suitable offering had been made.