by Heathcote Williams
Could there be a chimpanzee religion?
Do chimpanzees worship a God?
Scientists in the Republic of Guinea
Have noticed something very odd.
The chimps are singling out hollow trees
And they carefully fill them with stones.
They make scratches on the trees’ surface
Then they bang on the wood with bones.
While they perform ritual dances during rainfall
It’s thought the trees act as a sacred shrine,
And slow motion displays in the face of bush fires
Seem like spells trying to slow down time.
These stones are assembled with reverence
By chimps making a special place,
In a glade made up of a cathedral of trees
And set aside for meditative peace.
The Modoc Indians would build stone piles
To bring them good luck when hunting.
The Celts built cairns to mark the end of life.
Can apes be involved in such thinking?
Maybe they’re stockpiling weapons
With which to stone any heretics –
For if primates have 98% of man’s genes
There’ll be one for religious intolerance.
But maybe they’re devising a new kind of God –
One at the heart of nature –
And maybe, endangered, they make offerings
In the hope of having a future.