I heard more about the diamond dreams the next day from a younger miner walking the road with a shovel over his shoulder near the village of Katopka. His name was Narcise Blede, twenty-three years old, and he said the divinations that came to him the night weren't always from the ancestors. He had dreamed of having passionate sex with a rich white woman the night a big-carat discovery the year before.
"She came driving up to my house with a new car," he said. His friends next to him laughed, but he didn't appear to be joking as he told me the story through Alexie.
"It was a very good dream," he said. "I was screwing the spirit."
I asked what he had found recently and he gestured to a friend. The friend pulled out a small cardboard matchbox bearing the words Le Boxeur. Inside was a sickly yellow chip, a sad discovered half-carat.
"Diamonds are full of spirits," he said. "Very powerful. If the diamond is too big, people can go crazy and die."
Dreams and spirits. What was happening in the Central African Republic was the emergence of an entirely new folk religion. French corporations have dug the diamonds out of the sand here since the 1880s, but the large-scale recruitment of the countryside into mining didn't gear up until the Bokassa era, when a lust for imperial glitter became a presidential obsession. The president had died, but the mania hadn't. In just thirty years, diamonds had transformed the economy of the backcountry. But they had changed even more than the dreams of young men--they were changing the culture itself. The yellow rocks from the mantle had been almost unknown before, with no place in the ceremonial or religious heritage of the M'Baka, the Niam-Niam, the Baminga, the Mondjombo, or any of the tribes, and now a whole set of mythologies was laid onto their slippery surfaces.
Most of them revolved around the spirits of the dead.
-from The Heartless Stone by Tom Zoellner.