Upon entering Korè, before an initiate can be reborn, he must be sacrificed, much like an animal would be (by cutting his throat with a knife). The mock death that follows symbolizes an entombment, a return to the womb-fetal life and a return to a state analogous to animality. This all takes place in the sacred grove (the bush, uncultured space), where because of its solitude, the initiate experiences a sense of the temporary separation from physical life experienced at death. As he enters the space, he is beaten with thorn branches and burning torches. Symbolically, this bodily assault represents the struggle required to attain knowledge. Just as in the nkang’a rite of Ndembu girls, the elders treat the initiate as a passive entity, his body and sense of self are subject to the will of others. During this phase of initiation the novice is fed, bathed, must sleep on leaves and drink water as an animal would. He must lie at the foot of the world tree, the source of regeneration, which symbolically connects heaven to earth. The tree becomes the initiates new center. Elders cover the initiate with an immense animal hide sprinkled with an herb that makes him lethargic. This hide represents the placenta and is also used in Bamana burial. These skins serve as symbols of the sky or heaven, the abode of the Creator (but also of the womb).
Korè initiation, during the liminal phase, moves into a hut. Five ordeals mark this phase. The last phase, the rebirth stage, is structured like a Bamana outdooring (a birth rite) and occurs in the village. Though the two cultures are more than a thousand miles apart and one rite (n’kanga) for women and the other (korè) for men, note the striking similarities between the Bamana and the Ndembu initiations.
Although Bamana society is socially stratified, initiation into Korè is a requirement for all. Still, all will not attain the same level of advance- ment. Korè teaches the adept’s “marriage to God” (in the final stages of initiation) parallels human marriage; the relationship between the sun and the earth; and the relationship between the hoe and the earth. By linking spiritual aspirations to the cosmos (i.e., the sun and moon) and to cultural practices (such as farming), Korè serves to integrate the adept into daily existence. It produces men devoted to their culture and inspired to live fuller, more meaningful lives. Yet, while living in the everyday world of existence, the adept’s consciousness stays centered in the cosmic order. Thus, he refrains from the various emotional trivialities of daily life. The Bamana explain it as follows:
Silence defines the man of character, and is the attribute of the wise man; it is a type of wisdom. He who knows how to be silent, possesses true happiness, interior peace, and detachment.
Bamana elders are spiritually enlightened persons endowed with knowledge. They are the self-mastered people spoken of in Bamana proverbs. Once a person possesses the Word, his or her personal character changes. He becomes a person of silence, reserve, decisive and an exemplar of cool repose. In contrast is the person that is impulsive, confused, noisy and lacks self-mastery. High initiates speak seldom, and when they do, it is with authority. They embody the Word and are masters of speech. High initiates are also masters of their emotions and their bodies. Adepts usually observe a certain decorum, restraint, and order.