December 2011


Where are the diasporic en indigenus perspectives that honour Nana Buruku?

Kuna story najua, it’s about de earth en how it floats in space on de back of a kobe…en everytime someone tells de hadithi it changes, leo ni ya healing rituals kama ya kijiji yangu na ya Baba Malidoma Some na vijiji yake.

Hii hadithi imetoka The Healing Wisdom ya Africa…..

[Chapter 9] PREPARING FOR RITUAL
…One of de most striking tings that I have observed in conducting en participating in rituals with people in de West is de overwhelming baggage of assumptions that stand in de way of their involvement with ritual. Among these problems are de need for predictability en control en a fear of wot is actually going to happen. Reverence and trust that there is protecshun in de sacred space en an open mind willing to embrace all possibilities for healing are necessary before any ritual begins.

Almost everyone who has been involved in ritual with me agrees that ritual is like a journey. Before you begin, you own de journey; once de ritual begins, de journey owns you. My sense is that at de core of de problem for many Westerners is de desire to be in control, which is antithetical to ritual. To surrender de sense of control can be, for some, terrifying.

RITUAL FROM BELOW

…..Ever since Christianity unearthed de gods en goddesses’ en sent them far away above de clouds, many people in de West have been left standing on de ground feeling abandoned, staring longingly at de sky wondering when God will come. In contrast, indigenus people see de divine as arising from below. Indeed, de wahenga, who dwell under de earth en form a vast pool of energy, allow us to walk upon them. Thus de divine is right under our feet en directly connected to us through earth.

This perception calls for a significantly different attitude that encourages spontaneity en trust of one’s instincts, because it sees redemption en healing as rising like heat from de divine below. Ritual kwa hivyo follows an ascending principle, presuming that healing rises from under de earth en overtakes us.

In this context, spontaneity, improvisation, en even eccentricity are recognized as symptomatic of divine presence. No one can predict how an individual in whom Spirit has entered would behave, because no one really knows de behavioural psychology of Spirit. Kwa hivyo to expect attitudes en behaviour patterns similar to that which we are familiar is misleading….

Put simply, rituals are not, and cannot be, done mechanically. They require a level of involvement that is conscious en dynamic. It is de active participation of de people gathered that makes a ritual work. In part this means that one can’t approach ritual in an experimental or exploratory manner, for it may backfiya on you. It also means that it is betta not to do ritual at all than to do it badly. A bad ritual is one that resists the arrival of Spirit. It is one in which participants allow their own desires en preconceptions to compete with Spirit, particularly after inviting Spirits to come.

RITUALS AND SURRENDER

Participants need to understand that success in a ritual is proportional to de level of surrender that one can achieve. Because ritual is about change,  its success depends on how much change, en what change, if any, we are willing to invite. Modern culture is a culture of control. You are expected to be on top of tings, to take control en to show your command of IT. De result is often disastrous to de psyche. On de one hand, people show admirable dexterity in appearing cool. On de other hand, behind de sturdy look of a person perfectly in charge is often a soul adrift in a jungle of confusion en despair. A soul in despair is a soul denying access to de Spirit. A soul that dances with Spirit is a soul that has displaced ego en, in de interest of healing, has surrendered consciousness to Spirit.

Surrender is a difficult ting to achieve; it’s almost impossible to do it with words en discourse. The more de discussion about how to do ritual emphasizes surrender en letting go, de more conscious en unconscious resistance one generates. I have seen cases in which it took three days of painful en frustrating work to prepare people to truly attempt a ritual. This preparatory stage is most challenging because it opens potent issues of self-identity, integrity, protectiveness, en control.

As people begin to understand what ritual is, they realise their own ego has no place in it, that sacred space contains a tremendous amount of vulnerability. Then they begin to fear becoming lost in something that does not guarantee safety and security.


De latent mistrust of one another that exists among people does not help. In fact it makes people become more acutely aware of what de other may do to them if they lower their shield in de interest of healing en de other does not. In many ritual situations in de West, people have just met en have only had a few hours or days to get acquainted. De connecshun that develops in a few hours or a few days often does not go as deep as required to warrant de kind of trust that can carry people into a ritual space en promote healing.

But once inside a ritual, de ego is so vehemently challenged that it eventually collapses, leaving a person momentarily free to respond to Spirit spontaneously……Ase.

Advertisements

There’s a story I know bout Kwanzaa, en how it floats in history on the back of Maulana Karenga, standing on de shoulders of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Marcus Garvey, Sojourner Truth en their mamas. Na kuna hadithi nyingine najua kuhusu mama wa Kwanzaa, na leo hii tasfiri ni ya NIA.

Hadithi? Hadithi? Giza ya? (reposts from) The Healing Wisdom of Afrika

CREATION NA ELEMENTS TANO

For the Dagara, cosmology begins with de hadithi of creashun. In de beginning, there was no earth as we know it. In its place was a burning planet, a ball of fiya combusting at high speed. Kwa hivyo, moto is de first element of de Dagara wheel. Moto is present in everyting, en everyting needs moto. It was not until dis moving en burning sphere encountered a huge body of wota that tings began to change. Maji became de second element in de cosmological wheel. De shock resulting from de collision of moto na maji not only slowed de combustion process, but also chased moto into de underworld, leaving de surface as a hot steamy place, fertile for de breeding of all kinds of life forms. This surface, hospitable to life, is what is known as dunia/earth, which constitutes the third elemental principle of de Dagara cosmological wheel. The various hard components of de earth provide structure en connecshun en are known as mineral or mawe (stone), the fourth element in de cosmological wheel.

Meanwhile, a steam of great density formed de atmosphere around de dunia. (These images translate imperfectly into Western terms; think of them as poetic rather than scientific descriptions.) As de steam expanded, its pressure began to subside. The reduction of atmospheric pressure was conducive to de birth of maisha, en thus de fifth element, vegetative nature, came into being.

Maisha, as not only Dagara people but many others say, began underwota. Thus, every living form on de dunia got its maisha signature in de wotas en continues to live intimately with maji. It is as if de original encounter between moto na maji established de conditions for maisha by producing a nurturing environment.

Earth came to life as a result of de marriage between those two primal elements, en in turn Dunia brought forth mo maisha, which she continues to sustain.

[The idea that we all came from maji is important because it implies that maji ni maisha, a concept we will return to from Jan 20 -27 with students of Baba Malidoma Some na #To David With Love.]

As de pressure of de steam produced by de encounter of maji na moto continued to subside, beings that were conceived in maji looking like worms moved to dry land en continued to evolve. When de atmospheric pressure at last stabilised, de diversification of maisha slowed to an almost imperceptible state. Today, for instance, amphibious animals like crocodiles, sea lions, and seals are said to be beings that didn’t complete their journey out of maji. Their development was suspended when de atmospheric pressure stopped where it is today. On de other hand, beings who came out of de maji earlier evolved into higher-dimensional spheres, allowing them to move back en forth in time en space. They embody our future. Birds are considered among de most ancient animals because they moved kwanza from de maji to de land, then continued to evolve to flight. Some elders say that, if tings had continued to change, ndege

would have made it to other dimensions.

One might ask where this primal maji came from. De elders, from their spiritual understanding, would say that it came from de Other World en spilled into de dunia at a moment when de veil between de two worlds was thinned – the moment when de original Earth flew too close to de Other World. One might say that some kind of distortion occurred as de cool liquid Other World en de hot burning Dunia passed too closely by each other. De distorted space sucked maji out of de moist Other World en threw itself onto Dunia.

From this perspective, maji is de presence of de Other World on our planet. The element moto is the doorway to de wahenga, lakini maji is de doorway to de Other World, de kind of world that is referred to as de  world of de kontomble en de other nonancestral spirits.

This is why shamans can walk into de Other World through de waterways. Infact there are countless places in maji where these same veils still  remain active. These veils are umbilical cords, de gateways linking our world to others.

The connecshun to de ancestral world that is found in de element moto is different from de connecshun with other beings en other intelligences. De Spirits call de kontombli en de spirits of de wahenga do not live in de same place, they don’t share de same geography, yet they can communicate with each other……

One might wonder how other worlds to which our world is linked were created. Indeed, de Dagara cosmology does not limit itself to this earth world but touches on others. This is because our world belongs to a family of worlds without which it seems it cannot sustain itself. These Other Worlds were created in ways opposite to the way ours was created.

In de creashun hadithi, they came into being when their vast cool maji were hit by moto……….apparently, if de pressure of de atmosphere of our world had continued to evolve, it would have been easier for humans to journey into these worlds en back.

Therefore spirituality-our efforts to enhance en advance our contact with de world of Spirit – is seen from an indigenus perspective as de continuation of human evolushun……..

THE FIVE ELEMENTS AND RITUAL

Ritual is for de purpose of restoring balance, de essence of health, to individual en community. It serves no purpose to know de origin or functional meaning of these cosmological elements if de ultimate reason is unconnected to ritual. To de extent that ritual is born out of de understanding of de cosmological wheel, de elements are its molecular tools whose proportion to one another must be monitored en restored when needed. The procedure for dis is ritual.

Fiya rituals rekindle de connecshun to de ancestral moto en de moto within vision. Wota rituals cleanse en reconcile, restoring peace. Earth rituals ground en comfort, bringing a sense of nyumbani en belonging. Mineral rituals restore memory en light up a sense of knowing. Nature rituals restore de natural self en open us to de magic en wonder around us.

When a group of people gathers to conduct a ritual, in an indigenus context, people who embody each of de elements become de gatekeepers for dat particular element in de ritual en for de part of de ritual pertaining to that element.

As we’ve seen from posts of moons ago, a gatekeeper is a healer who by his or her nature is able to bridge this world of Spirit to be brought into de physical world. The gatekeepers of each element are those people whose genius, whose essential character, embodies de zawadis of that element. By virtue of de fact that you carry a certain zawadi, you are given a special relationship with de element from which that zawadi originated, en in this sense, you are a gatekeeper. You stand between de rest of community en that portion of the natural world that corresponds to your element en all that is represents symbolically…

Swagger

A person’s zawadis, when they emerge, make de carrier of de zawadi a servant to a particular gate, en because they are servant to that particular gate, we call them gatekeepers. Though every person embodies one element in particular, all elements must be present in each person.

Not only de Dagara people have developed this notion of gate keeping, of overseeing something vital to de healthy functioning of de community, in order to satisfy people’s innate desire to serve. By serving de gateway to an elemental aspect of de natural world, a person allows de qualities en resources that element represents to be brought to the community, giving de community wot it needs to blossom fully…….ase

Kuna hadithi najua bout Kwanzaa, a pan-Afreekan narrative that not only I but many others have been rediscovering with our healing rituals. Jana iliulizwa, where is umoja? na leo hadi kifo, ninajichagulia kusoma na upendo with akina baba na mama wa Afrika kama Sobonfu Some na Malidoma Patrice Some, hii hadithi imetoka kitabu yake…..

The Elements of Ritual

Ritual is the most ancient way of binding a community together in a close relationship with Spirit. It is a way of communicating with forms of consciousness en beings from countless dunias ( worlds). It has been one of the most practical en efficient ways to stimulate de safe healing required by both de individual and de community. Ritual has always been de way of maisha of de spiritual person because it is a tool to maintain de delicate balance between body en soul. In a tribal community, healing of de kijiji happens in ritual.

WHAT IS RITUAL?

Every time a gathering of people, under de protection of Spirit, triggers a body of emotional energy aimed at bringing them very tightly together, a ritual of one type or another is in effect. In this kind of gathering people primarily use nonverbal means of interacting with one another, thereby stimulating the life of de psyche…..

There are two parts to ritual. One part is planned: people prepare de space for de ritual en think through de general choreography of de process. The other part of de ritual cannot be planned because it is the part that Spirit is in charge of. The unplanned part of ritual is a spontaneous, almost unpredictable interaction with an energy source. It is a response to a call from a nonhuman source to commune with a larger horizon. It is like a journey. Before you get started, you own de journey. After you start, the journey owns you (en it ain’t over till it’s over).

Certain events move us irresistibly toward ritualised behaviours, for example de loss of a loved one, a major accident, de witnessing of a violent death, or a natural disaster. When such an event happens, no observer can predict people’s actions or logically explain what goes on, because the people affected by de event act without conscious control. Any emotional frenzy, to de extent that it is orchestrated by Spirit, has something ritualistic about it….

It is important to recognise what ritual is not. It is not repetitive or compulsive behaviour, like having a coffee or a cigarette in the morning. Nor is it an everyday formality, like greeting another person with a handshake, hug, or kiss. In day-to-day life, when you go to a public place of business, you are expected to stand in line if you find that others have preceded you to de same place. Ritual is just de opposite. It is gathering with others in order to feel Spirit’s call, to express spontaneously en publicly whatever emotion needs to be expressed, to create, in concert with others, an unrehearsed en deeply moving response to Spirit, en to feel de presence of de community, including the ancestors, throughout the experience.

People’s psyches are very drawn to ritual because it’s a place of high ecstasy. What happens in ritual is not unlike, what happens to people who ingest drugs. Ritual is a place of safe ecstasy, but with no undesirable side effects. This is one of de reasons why indigenous people love ritual. They spend the majority of their time planning for ritual, doing it, en recovering from it.

It is important to distinguish between ritual and ceremony……from an indigenous point of view, ceremonies are events that are reproducible, predictable, and controllable, while rituals call for spontaneous feeling and trust in de outcome…it is a time of unplanned, unforeseeable, yet orderly disorder. By contrast, in ceremony there is a potential for boredom because de participants pretty much know what’s going to happen, in ritual the soul en de human spirit get permission to express themselves.

What to Westerners are rituals appear to indigenous people as instead ceremonies. Among the most visible expressions are de varieties of church practices, from Mass to processional celebrations…The problem with these ceremonies is that over time they begin to lose their attraction, since they happen in de same way year after year. They do not have the essential ingredient, spontaneity, which to indigenous people speaks of Spirit.

Ofcourse, de same words said in de same way over time do help many people in de West feel connected to Spirit because the very repetition reminds people of de thousands who have gone before who said de same words en so must have gone through a similar experience. But the presence of Spirit is marked in African vijiji in just the opposite way – by releasing emotion spontaneously rather than by providing a container for emotion through familiar words.

When most Westerners think of ritual they are more likely to connect it with words such as empty, old-fashioned, irrelevant, and boring than with words such as transforming, essential, challenging or healing. Ritual continues to engage the passion and commitment of indigenous people because it stimulates their creativity and their emotions. Most of all, they continue to do ritual because afterward they feel changed.

Doing ritual heals people, reconnecting them to the ancestors en to their own deepest purpose. Because ritual is so deeply connected to our human nature, anytime it is missing there will be a lack of transformation and healing. If a culture does not draw from ritual, its members will do something else to fill de gap because they have to heal. In the absence of ritual, Westerners turn instead to therapists, self-help groups, or, at a more destructive end of de spectrum, to alcohol and drugs.

Ritual is a dance with spirit, the soul’s way of interacting with the Other world, the human psyche’s opportunity to develop relationship with the symbols of this world en the spirits of de other.

SYMBOLS: THE DOORWAY TO RITUAL

Symbols are the doorway to ritual. Just as our bodies can’t survive without nourishment, our psyches can’t sustain themselves without symbolism…

The symbolic and the spiritual are not far apart. In fact, in Dagara, there is no word that directly translated as symbol. There is no word for symbol other than the word Spirit, because there is an assumed indivisible connecshun between Spirit and symbol. Beings that live in other dimensions are so intimately linked to us that they are referred to by name. They are no considered mere metaphors or abstract representations of intangible concepts. These beings simply live in a different time/space continuum en perceive us as much as we perceive them.  They refer to our world as the Other world en see us as spirits, which is why they are interested in us. They are living, as it were, on the other side of de page of our reality.

The Western view of different planes of existence may be helpful in understanding what I yam referring to here. Another bridging image is the notion of fields of energy in quantum physics. In quantum physics, the understanding of matter as transferable to energy suggests a flexible attitude toward the nature and limits of de visible and material world.

For the Dagara and other indigenous people, it is inconceivable that the human mind could capture something that does not already exist somewhere. The human capacity to imagine is an example of our connecshun with remote fields of energy…….

How is this visionary ability connected to ritual?

In the indigenous mind, one reason people do ritual is that they do not want to repeat history, dealing constantly with unfinished business from the past. The appeal to the ancestors through ritual is based on an understanding that catastrophe happens when you fail to seek their guidance. So in some ways, doing ritual is like preventing the self from falling into destructive patterns. The symbolic spiritual realm speaks to the psyche the same way that a travel guidebook speaks to the conscious self – it confirms our locashun. Human beings need these reminders on the journey of life; they are the billboards of the psyche……

WHY RITUAL?

In summary, why is ritual important? As much as our body requires food for nourishment, our souls and spirits require ritual to stay whole. It is as if without the spirit being nourished in us, the body pays for the consequences. The food of the psyche is symbol, and it is through ritual that our spirit is fed. Because human beings are spirits at our core, it is natural for us to remain mindful of our true spiritual identity.

Ritual is necessary because there are certain problems that cannot be resolved with words alone….Complex problems plague and cripple entire communities; by actively involving the members of the community in seeking solutions based in ritual, a community can achieve a deeper solution than words and rhetoric alone can provide. Breaking the spell of circular arguments through the powah of ritual is one of the areas where indigenous people can provide effective help to the West.

[these multi-media excerpts of Chapter 7 ya The Healing Wisdom of Africa, you can do anyting you want with these hadithi. Share dem wid others, forget about dem, get vex, laugh bout it, au revise, cry…. but don’t say in years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.]

[As I look pon de pikin, Bredrin, sistas en elders in mi villages, I yam deeply grateful that spirits brought us together, for they saved not only my life, but have profoundly positively transformed the lives of so many others. dis hadithi ni ya hii upendo for jamii yetu.

revised excerpts from Welcoming Spirit Home – Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community written by one of our sacred leaders, Sobonfu Some.]

In de kijiji, community life is built upon spirit. We know that spirit is constantly present. Spirits bring us clarity, provides inspirashun, allows peace, en gives us all de blessings we need. In a sense, spirit is so incorporated in de fabric of community that it is impossible to disassociate de two. The presence of spirit in community makes it possible for de community to be the guiding light of de tribe….

SPIRIT IS A PART OF US

In my kijiji we do not feel we need solitude. We can have our personal time while we are talking to somebody else. We can have our meditation time while we are in de community context. There is no need to be separated from de group to have solitude. Solitude already exists within the group – it’s a part of de whole. When we start to divide or separate it means that something in de whole is not working for us. Because we have permission to be ourselves within community, we have no need for solitude.

Kwasababu spirit is a continuous part of each of us, it is not necessary for us to take time out to sit quietly en meditate to get close to spirit. Spirit is always with us.

It is common, in my country, to see two people talking and then, simultaneously, pause. In that pause many tings can be happening. They can be meditating, or they can be having personal time to “tune in.” But people will never say, “I have to go be alone.” It’s a foreign concept – it just doesn’t fit.

If you say you need to be alone in our kijiji, people will wonder, “What is it that is not working for you that you have to be alone? What is happening that I should know to support you?”

A changing Afrika has brought alot of pressure in the maisha of our people. Every year when I return nyumbani I find that a new aspect of modern life has been brought into de village. However, many tings such as family, community, en leadership structure remains the same.

We don’t have a leader or chief whom everybody follows. Instead of leaders, our guides are spirit and de wahenga. This is difficult for many people to understand, but the lives of everyone in our community are built upon de foundashun given to us by spirit en de wahenga.

This forces us not only to be our own police but also to take responsibility and to be accountable. It is not up to an individual to take care of someone’s wrongdoing; rather, it is up to de spirit en de wahenga. And, kwasababu we don’t like reporting to these forces, we make sure that we don’t fall into our own traps.

When conflict does arise, people do not run away or move to a new community. They see de conflict as a timely zawadi/gif sent by spirit to clear obstructions in their lives. Conflict is a way to boost closeness in their intimate lives with others. Without conflict to crack open hidden thoughts, meanings, and energies, en without de means of dealing with conflict, a community is bound to stagnate en eventually cease to exist. Conflict, in a sense, is de barometer of a community. The way we deal with conflict tells us about our state of maturity en where we are as individuals as well as community.

The ruling forces that exist in de Dagara tribe are spirit en de wahenga, kwasababu they are able to see past, present, and future, because they are able to be impartial at all times. Human beings are subject to judgements, influences, and mind changes; wahenga or spirits are not. An individual who has committed a crime will most certainly be put in the spotlight by de wahenga. This happens, for instance, when a person is seen by a diviner (a person who sees past, present, and future; a holy person), en de wahenga expose de crime to de diviner. It is then the diviner’s role to let de person know that de diviner also knows about de crime. It is not, however, de diviner’s responsibility to “punish” de person for the criminal act. If de individual seeks the help of de kijiji, de kijiji will make itself available to de individual. In de event, de criminal refuses to admit what happened, de kijiji will then turn de matter over to spirit en de wahenga. This way of dealing with matters, because it does not have a human-based justice system or any kind of hierarchy within de system, is often looked upon by anthropologists as a primitive way of leadership.

CONTRIBUTING TO THE WHOLE

De community concept is based on de fact that each person is invaluable and truly irreplaceable. Each person has a zawadis to give, a contribution to make to de whole. The kind of zawadis a person brings, the kind of being a person is, is very unique to him, hir or her en is valued by the community……

I know that the concept of community with spirit as its guide may be difficult to understand. As you continue to read these excerpts from books by sacred leaders of our vijiji, you will re/discover a deeper understanding of how to incorporate this concept into your own life and community.

In recent times, the word “community” has been misused and battered, so it does not always bring positive connotations….When you go the cities of Africa and you inquire about going to the vijiji, many people, especially young people, are baffled at the idea of Westerners wanting to be associated with what they call “deep Afrika.” They look at you as if you are crazy. For them it is incomprehensible that a person who was born and raised in a city in de modern world would want to abuse themselves with de mediocre kind of life that one has in a kijiji. They understand that education and schooling is a means of learning to forget about Africa and its community lifestyle, including everyting involved with it.

There are people who were not born in Afreeka – en who are not of Afrikan descent – who are far more Afrikan than some people who were born and raised in Africa. It is an irony, because so many Afrikans are now negating the whole Afreekan culture while many others want to be immersed in it…..

CREATING A SENSE OF COMMUNITY

Community is de spirit, de guiding mwangaza ya kijiji, wapi watu wanakuja pamoja to fulfill a specific purpose, and to take care of one another. The goal of community is to make sure that each member is heard en is properly giving de zawadis he or she has brought to this dunia. Without this giving, community dies. And without community, individuals are left without a place where they can contribute. Community is that grounding place where people share their gifs en receive from others……ase.

hadithi? hadithi? are you ready for diasporic encounters indigenus narratives?

I would rediscover the secret of great combustions. I would say storm. I would say river. I would say tornado. I would say leaf. I would say tree. I would be drenched by all rain, moistened by all dews. I would roll like frenetic blood on the slow current of the eye of words turned into mad horses into fresh watoto into clots into vestiges of temples into precious stones remote enough to discourage miners. Whoever would not understand me would not understand any betta the roaring of a tiger.

[Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land]

PROFILE OF AN ELDER

The profile of an elder includes certain types of behaviour and language that are quite visible and strictly followed. This is because age is related to powahs that can become lethal when in hands other than those of the old and wise. Among these is the powah of blessing. I have become very

fond of the elders’ werds of blessing. Every time I reach the end of my stay in the kijiji, they are the sweetest phrases for me to hear, “May all the wahenga of the tribe accompany you. May they pour vision, insight into your soul. This way you will see through them, feel through them.” “We must shower you with de grace of Spirit. May you go with your pocket heavy with precious stones of blessings.” I know that what the old wish well is certain to be well in the long run……..

ELDERS IN THE WEST

 Given the differences between indigenous and modern maisha, how do we recognise an elder in the West? How does one become an elder? How old are elders here?

….I would venture to say that there is something of an elder in any person whose words are listened to and who commands respekt and attention. One should not confuse such a person with an employer who forces respect simply because a paycheck is at risk…..Elders also appear as people who have profoundly changed the lives of others through their teaching or writing. In the best scenario, these teachers are able to help those who search for their guidance and leadership in their lives.

In the worst scenario, having become an author, they are changed into a lasting spiritual authority as well as a consumer product. In Socrates and Shakespeare, Hegel and Kierkegaard, and countless other Western deep thinkers, we see evidence of the form in which elderhood is cultivated and practiced in the absence of a villagelike community.

The Western elder is perhaps more visible as a wise thinker and holder or container of groundbreaking initiatives in human consciousness.Hence poets, philosophers, teachers, artists, and even social activists are either practising to become elders or have become elders altogether. Their legacy continues to affect people even as they have become, I would say, wahenga.

There are elders in the making in everyone, but it is most visible in those who have the receptivity to listen to the stories of others. The ability to listen, and the willingness to support others in difficult situations, are the heart and soul of elderhood. Young people have many difficulties to report. Anyone who would want to become an elder should lend them a listening ear. In the life of the elder-to-be, there is very little good news. Everyone who solicits the services of an elder-to-be is looking for a container to unload some problems. Consequently, one can’t become an elder who would prefer to hear only the better side of life…..

Above all, to be an elder is to be able to come down to the level of the person you listen to, not with a mind to tell that person what to do and what not to do, but to share similar experiences you have had in the course of your own life. People who have reached a place where they are able to recognise that everyone has similar troubles have begun to heal. The elder does not turn the tragedy of another into a horror story, but instead sees in de hadithi of the other his, hir or her connection with it.

Fame is not necessarily synonymous with being an elder. Fame often means being a commodity…..

ELDERS AND THE SACRED

If people in the West embraced the idea that de elder is at the edge, between two worlds, and is therefore a window to de Other Dunia as well as a mirror of it, certain of the West’s social problems would be solved. One of them is the rejection of aging and de elders, which puts the culture at risk. The other is the West’s relationship to de sacred. There is no doubt that in Western culture, the fear of aging has become quite acute …

If a culture rejects the sacred, it rejects elders. If it rejects elders, it rejects the welfare of its youth. You can’t have the one without the other. It is understood in the kijiji that youth and the elders are the ones in society who see clearly what is happening. The young are at an age where the hidden is obvious to their eyes. They want to point it out because they do not know how to pretend it is not there.

To be young or old in the modern world is to be at risk. People who wish to

embrace their elderhood must first listen to the pain around them. They must notice in the young and the adult the parts that are craving visibility. We must learn to sit quietly with our youth and to listen quietly to what they have to say. This is the job of elders. This calm, almost meditative approach to youth can also be a model for self-calming to other people who are too troubled to be quiet. Calmness is de beginning of de ability to hold the space, de beginning of an elder’s contribution to the community….

(kama how) dis post is a gift from The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual and Community by Malidoma Patrice Somé

[Paukwa! Pakawa! Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo….]    OUR BIRTHRIGHT AS A CONTRACT WITH THE UNIVERSE

If we view reality from de angle that we come to Earth to fulfill a particular purpose, birth can then be looked at as a contract between dis world en de dunia of the wahenga or other dimensions. This contract is agreed to in different ways. For some parents it is a conscious choice; for others, it is unconscious, but for the incoming soul the choice is always a

conscious one. In all cases the choice to be born is welcomed by all wahenga, spirits, and community. And in this sense we are all part of one large, interwoven community, ever growing, in this dunia en in worlds beyond.

We must remember that our position in respect to dis contract determines de quality of life our spirits will live in our

bodies. After our spirits are in human form, the difficulties of keeping de contract unaltered are always present.

Some people understand these difficulties as important landmarks are able to use them as maisha/life lessons, allowing the difficulties to remind them where to turn when they experience them. Many don’t realize, however, that de circumstances we experience in our lives are things we chose – we could even say “programmed” – prior to being born. And, because of dis state of ignorance or rejection of de idea that we actually plan our course, we often miss de lessons contained in de difficult experiences, en we continue to live in the dark.

If we believe that our greatest wounds are actually our greatest zawadi/gifts, we can embrace de idea that the hardships we experience in our families of origin are no accidents. Whether we are born to loving wazazi/parents, or abusive wazazi, born by natural childbirth or by Cesarean, born into or without a community, born with disabilities, or found in a trash yard, we all have unique zawadis to bring to dis dunia.

Our wounds are not only our landmarks, but our lessons – tools from which we must learn to draw our strength and wisdom. For example, if you find yourself irritated by the lack of true community, chances are that part of the reason you chose to be born in your environment is to bring an awareness to others that community is needed for our spirit and our watoto(children)’s spirit to blossom.

Ofcourse, we would like to assume that we did not have any part in such a contract so that we can blame others (such as our wazazi) or circumstances (such as a lack of time or affection) for our difficulties. Lakini ukweli ni, truth is,we signed up for de obstacles we experience, en when we reject dis ukweli, we spend most of our time feeling stuck and frustrated.

Our spiritual growth becomes stagnant, and our zawadis are not delivered to the world in a way that liberates us. As this way of life continues, our lack of spiritual growth and gif giving can turn into a toxin, a sickness that can destroy our lives.

When people do not fulfill their life purposes, they have to come back and try again, bringing different lessons to help them on their journeys. The question then becomes, How can we move forward in this life and do wot we are here to do? My sense is that we start to take responsibility for signing the contract, and then find, or create, the appropriate community in which we can then deliver our zawadis en be receptive to other people’s gifts as well.

The understanding Dagara people have of pregnancy, birth, and the purpose of incoming souls to Earth makes them take pregnancy and de birthing process very seriously. In fact, they make sure they prepare themselves for the incoming soul in a way that allows for a healthy and welcomed arrival. This overstanding is at de root of preconception, pregnancy, na afterbirth rituals…..

Hadithi-telling as a Ritual

There is a mythical and a ritual dimension to all hadithi/stories. Many rituals have been kept alive through hadithi. The simple fact of telling hadithi takes us into a ritual where we commune with de divine. In my kijiji, there is a prayer made at the beginning of each hadithi session to open de gates to de divine. Storytelling is a communal event (particularly in dis world wide web).

In my kijiji, there are days when the elders tell hadithi, en other days, de watoto tell hadithi. Sometimes watoto start the hadithi en de elders finish it or vice versa. By telling hadithi in this way, everybody is heard.

This is valuable because when a hadithi is told, you can tell wot is happening in the maisha of de person telling it, and it points out wot kind of ritual is needed for that person. And telling a hadithi to a group, family, or community can bring everyone together

Ndotos as a Ritual

Dreaming is one of the places where we dive into rituals without resistance. We can use our ndoto to do healing rituals for ourselves or other people. Again, you need to use and focus your intention, to ask for guidance and answers with an initial prayer before going to sleep, and be willing to receive the information you are seeking.

Often, ndotos send us valuable messages without our asking. Pay attention to your dreams – they just might be trying to tell you which ritual took place and which one is yet to happen, or simply tell you things you need to keep your eyes on.

There is no question that we all, at times, don’t remember our ndoto. This happens when we are agitated, frustrated, ungrounded, defensive, resistant to the work being done in our ndotos, or when we do not find value in dreaming.

If you awaken abruptly before things can be solved in your ndotos, you can carry the nervousness or anger from the dream into your waking hours. Try to wake up slowly and roll back to the side you were dreaming on. Lay down a few minutes and think about your ndoto. Keep a ndoto journal by your bed and write in it as soon as you wake up. You will be surprised by how much you remember and how much work you did during your sleep.

Be creative, and always remember that rituals are serious and should be taken earnestly. Most people practice some form of ritual in their lives without thinking about it. When you celebrate a life-strong, graduation, or marriage, you can turn them into meaningful rituals by bringing spirit, intention, and purpose to them. Think about the joy you receive when participating in a friend’s or family member’s birthday, graduation, or wedding. You can experience the same sense of joy, healing, and connectedness by incorporating rituals into your daily life…..

read mo from the source “Welcoming Spirit Home – Ancient African Teachings To Celebrate Children And Community” by Sobonfu Some.

Asante mama.

[in-the middle hadithi…..Chapter5]                                      

Mentors and the Life of Youth

There are certain things without which young people cannot survive and flourish, and mentoring is one of them. Westerners see adolescents as fundamentally naive about life. By contrast, the tribal mentor sees a youth as someone who already contains all of the knowledge that he or she needs, but who must work with an older, more experienced person to “remember” what they know.

A mentor therefore is not a teacher in the strict sense of the term, but a guide who shows the way, working from a position of respect and affinity, addressing the knowledge within the young person. The pupil is not an ignorant person in the eye of her or his mentor. The pupil is seen as a storehouse, a repository of something the mentor is quite familiar with and very interested in, something the mentor themselves has and know very well. The mentor perceives a presence knocking at a door within the pupil, and accepts the task of finding, or becoming, the key that opens the door. There develops a relationship of trust between mentor and pupil, motivated by love, and without which success would be unlikely.

AWAKENING GENIUS

Mentoring is aimed at increasing security, clarity, and maturity in the young person. It seeks to develop the genius within a young person so that the youth can arrive at his, hir or her destination – the sharing of one’s gifts within the community….in Afrika, as elsewhere, the journey of a young person through adolescence is taken with the help of a mentor, so that the young person may grow into the mature adult who can live out her, hir or his purpose in the community, giving of one’s genius and receiving, in turn, the help of others.

At the core of mentoring is the understanding that genius must be invited out of a person. People carry to this world something important that they must deliver, and mentors help deliver that genius to the community. To see the genius in a young person is to give it the fertile ground required for it to burst forth and blossom, for it is not enough to be born into this world loaded with such a beauty.

The newborn must be assisted in giving birth to the genius that s/he is born with. Failure to do so kills the genius along with the person carrying it. The community responsible for the death of an inner genius is like an assassin. The community that is able to receive the person’s genius gives birth to an adult who is able to contribute his or her healing gifts to that community.

The West defines genius as a great intelligence, or an exceptional talent. I don’t reject that definition. But it is different from the indigenous definition, which sees genius as an open line that flows through a person from the Other World. It seems to me that limiting the meaning of genius to intelligence or talent displaces it from its real source, and privatizes it in the individual. If genius has no grounding in the sacred, then it becomes easy for the community to ignore it if it chooses. In the traditional context, the community does not have a choice. The community is obligated to awaken the newcomer’s genius, and the ritual welcoming of the newborn into this world is the community’s official acceptance of this responsibility….

Mentoring is a role that is assumed not strictly by age, but by ability and experience….but more parents and grandparents are mentors. It is not surprising to find mentors aged twenty-five to thirty years if the need and the knowledge are present. Similarly the people mentored cover a wide range of ages, at least with respect to the knowledge being exchanged in that relationship. This is because in indigenous Afrika, knowing means becoming old. To say that someone is old is to say that this person knows something or has experienced something valuable. Furthermore, the mature self is hardened in the field of experience by awareness. In contrast, the werd young refers not just to age but also to the absence of awareness.

The way villages are structured leaves no room for a young person to escape having a mentor. The cohesiveness and identity of a village require this kind of caretaking. Unlike loosely formed modern communities, where each person is preoccupied by his, hir or her own affairs, kijiji life requires that most things be done collectively because people are very tightly connected. Tight connecshun requires friction. In turn, friction among people deepens their sense of belonging. People bound by community are sure, at some point, to get on one another’s nerves. This is not considered a bad thing, but rather a part of the natural human experience…..

If mentors are spiritual parents, biological parents are stepping stones, the points of departure for children. At their best, biological mamas and babas are friends of their children. They can help their children as special friends do in times of need. But their limitation is to be almost helpless in the business of bringing out the child’s true spirit. This is where the mentor enters in, since his or her spirit becomes for the pikney a mirror of what the pikin is feeling inside. Consequently, their relationship has some content that is based on Spirit, in contrast to the paternal relationship, which is based on biology……

Chapter 6                                                            Elders and the Community

No matter what culture you belong to, certain personal situations and social relationships are inescapable. For example, common to everyone is the recurrent feeling of needing to expand and to grow. Similarly, you cannot help at certain points in your life feeling the need for the emotional, psychological, and social support of others. Everyone needs to come into some sort of visibility, some sort of recognition. Just as these experiences establish the need for a mentor, they also establish the need for elders. Where a mentor invites the genius of a youth to come out of its hiding, an elder blesses that genius, thereby allowing it to serve efficiently the greater good.

Zanele Muholi

We will be talking about two kinds of elders in this series (of hadithi), an elder in the formal sense of a village or community leader who helps community members coexist peacefully, and elders in the informal sense of people whose age makes them invaluable resources in community life……

The elder is as important to the community as the newborn, in that they both share proximity with the Other World, the ancestors’ world. The newborn just arrived from there, and the old one, the elder, is preparing to go there. The very young and the very old complement each other because they draw from one another. The very old honour youth as the source of collective physical stability and strength and as recent arrivals to this world, who are more closely connected to the ancestors….

Perhaps the respect owed to the elder derives from the perception that the elder is at this critical junction where the natural meets the supernatural and where the ancestors and the divine intersect with the humans. In indigenous Afrikan context, this is a place of great freedom and great responsibility. In effect, the elder is almost the only one in the village who can have things his, hir or her way.

But more important, the elder’s posture is rooted in their intimate connection to the balance between this life and the Other World without which village life would be a nightmare. Not only Dagara people have made up their minds that they can’t live without elders….indigenous belief in this is so strong that tribal communities cannot understand how cultures can thrive without elders, the same way that a modern person would have a hard time imagining a life without electricity and running water…..

[coming soon…. profiles of elders! from revised excerpts from The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual and Community by Malidoma Patrice Some]

Next Page »