One is considered a griot when one knows the Five Poetries and are able to recite them without error, while also having the ability to add new verses to the songs and create new songs without practice.
HistoryThe term griot is a fairly new term referring to the profession. Back to the time of the Orishas, they were known as as djali During those times, griots were a hereditary rank that served high-ranking warrior-kings or emperors, called jatigi. A jatigi and their djali were inseparable and were never seen in public or on the battlefield without the other. The First Griot is believed to have reinstated the profession and was the first to "pave" the Road of Scholars and brought back the profession of the griot. It is debated on if he learned his skill from Nofdeti, a Sphinx or the Orishas. The First Griot became famous across all of Exum due to his knowledge of the histories. The reigning Emperor, Kasaye asked him to write a song in honor of his father, the Unifier. The song became known as the Song of Kings, and has since been added to with a verse detailing the accounts of every emperor since.
The Death of the First Griot and the SchizmOn his deathbed the first griot taught his four children different parts of the First Song, thinking that it would keep them together, but taught them all the Song of Kings. They later went on to create more songs calling them the five poetries. As they entered old age, they soon argued over who should become griots. His two eldest sons, one who was now holding the position of the Emperor's Griot, thought that only those who come from the bloodline of the first griot should be able to learn the songs. His two daughters and youngest son thought that anyone who put forth the effort should be able to learn the songs and all of their history. The latter, being outnumbered, disappeared under the cover of night and taking with them their parts of the First Song with them. Those left sat under the learning tree and taught their acolytes the Five Poetries and the parts of the First Song that they knew.
The War of Western IdeasExum becoming known for their goods and weapons soon began a trade partnership with its neighbor to the west, the Matronate and building a port in the Lands of the Western Pillar, Exum saw a large amount of Matronate peoples coming over to there lands and setting roots, they brought their ways, their religion and their beliefs over with them. Along with that, they also brought their hate for all things that were not built by man itself. They saw the songs of the griots as unnatural believing that they were given by the Sphinxes, a creation of the Faeroahs. Shortly after this, Griots and their families were being snatched out of their homes in broad daylight and killed. The Western Pillar himself, couldn't put an end to it and it fell to the Emperor and his Imperial Ten Thousand to end it. The Emperor sent a missive to the Matriarch of the Matronate stating that they will no longer allow any Matronate goods to enter Exum and Exum will cease all shipping good into the Matronate, if they continued to send Matronate Priest and agents of discontent into Exum. Since then, there have been no problems in the Western Pillar but tensions remain high between the Matronate and Exum. During that time, Griots and Witching Doctor's bodies were interned in trees instead of the ground, as those that persecuted them stated that it would pollute the earth. During the current time it is seen as a honor by those on the Road of Scholars to be buried in such a way as it pays homage to those that walked the Road before them.
To become a griot one must first learn The Five Poetries:
- The Song of Kings
- The Song of Tribes
- The Song of Wars
- The Song of Learning
- The Song of the Dishonored
Payment & Reimbursement
Some griots have returned to the tradition of the old djalis and the chiefs of some tribes look at having a family djali as a sign of status. A djali's knowledge, among certain tribes, are looked at as authoritive, even by clan chiefs. Jetigi's who employ djalis have to provide amenities or even housing and land to them, who in turn should not hesitate if their jetigi ask for their help. Those griots who are not connected to a family usually do work for money and are used to settle local disputes as well as negotiating dowries among the common people of the country. There have been few instances where a chief has reached out to a griot to avoid something being added to the songs. This usually comes with a large price.