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.]