[GlobalAfricanPresence] Wisdom of the Somés
- rrashidi@... wrote:
> Anthony Conley wrote:
> > Lifestyle: Culture: The Wisdom of the Somés
> > ( Essence ) Diane Weathers; 12-01-1998
> > A husband and wife from the Motherland explain how including ancient African
> > traditions in daily routines could change the quality of our lives
> > "EVERYONE HAS A MISSION IN LIFE," explains Malidoma Patrice Somé, a
> > shaman--or high priest--from the West African country of Burkina Faso and
> > author of Of Water and the Spirit, a wonderfully strange and very personal
> > account of the rituals, beliefs and worldview embraced by his people, the
> > Dagara tribe. "Our mission is connected with a revival of the ancestors'
> > culture and tradition. There's a missing link to our African ancestry that
> > has repercussions on the quality of our lives. We cannot move forward into
> > the future by abandoning the past. Knowing tradition is everything."
> > Somé (pronounced So-MAY) is seated in the living room of his home, perched
> > high in the hills of Oakland, California. The room vibrates with symbols
> > from the homeland--pieces of African cloth, a framed map of Burkina Faso.
> > The fireplace has been transformed into a shrine, adorned with various rocks
> > and minerals and photographs of loved ones.
> > Next to Somé sits Sobonfu, his wife and partner in his life's work.
> > Malidoma's name means "be friends with the stranger or enemy." Sobonfu means
> > "keeper of the ritual." Through their writings, lectures, workshops and
> > intensive courses for healing practitioners, the couple share the customs of
> > a traditional society in which elders are revered for their wisdom; the
> > ancestors are called upon for assistance, guidance and protection; and
> > community is always there for support, watching your back.
> > Malidoma Somé is very much a medicine man for the new millennium, a teacher
> > and healer with one foot in the old world and one foot in the new. Sent by
> > his village elders to the West to carry out his mission, Somé, 42, has
> > earned three master's degrees and two Ph.D.'s since the early 1980's. "He is
> > playing the game and doing it well," says 30-year-old Sobonfu, who comes
> > from the same village and joined him in this country in 1991. "You have to
> > have a title just to quiet the critical mind of the Westerner," she says.
> > Still, the couple stay connected to their homeland. They're raising funds
> > for a water project in their village, and at least once a year they return
> > home--not merely to visit but to be cleansed.
> > The couple's style and manner are gentle and easy, their spirits young. They
> > don't preach or proselytize; they simply describe age-old yet
> > soul-satisfying Dagara practices and rituals that can be adapted for modern
> > use. "These are very practical things that are meant to be part of your
> > day-to-day life," Malidoma says. "If you're a student, there is a way to
> > ritualize your studies: Ask the ancestors what is important for you to study
> > at this time. For the plant worker, ritual can be used to improve the
> > workplace and relationships with management. Don't separate the sacred from
> > the secular."
> > Here Malidoma and Sobonfu offer some of the Dagara people's fundamental
> > beliefs and practices, which may help you fill the spiritual gaps in your
> > life.
> > The Power of Community
> > Malidoma: Central to the Dagara tradition is the notion that the community
> > should be a vital place where every individual member is useful and
> > irreplaceable. You find this notion throughout traditional societies, but in
> > the West, community has been abandoned in the name of progress. When you
> > examine the continuing crises and profound challenges that Black women and
> > men face in this culture, it becomes evident that there is a very important
> > missing link: to family, village and community. This missing link lies at
> > the root of society's dysfunction. When you lack proper community and family
> > connections, you put your elderly in institutions and your young ones are in
> > constant crisis. This doesn' t signal that we have not progressed enough; it
> > signals that we have abandoned something crucial that once tied all these
> > things together.
> > Sobonfu: In order to heal we have to learn to re-create ritual, to respect
> > our elders and to bring back some sense of community. We have to redefine
> > community. Community doesn't mean that our family has to be there. It
> > doesn't have to be geographical--these days that can be difficult. We must
> > look for people who value who we are, who see our gifts and whom we can then
> > bring together to form a community. If you tell certain people that you have
> > a problem, they will completely shut the door. We're talking about a
> > community made up of people to whom you can really open up your heart
> > without being hurt or rejected.
> > Finding Spirit in Relationships
> > Sobonfu: When two people come together, whether in romantic love or in
> > friendship, it happens because Spirit wants them to. There is a purpose. So
> > you must listen for the message that Spirit wants you to hear and remember
> > it. But you must constantly go back to that Spirit and give thanks so that
> > you can act on whatever message it has brought into your life. If we don't
> > look into the meaning of the message that Spirit is trying to convey to us
> > through another person, we will only focus on the physical. The physical can
> > only last so long without the backing of the Spirit and without the backing
> > of a community.
> > Malidoma: The problem is when you think of relationships as private deals.
> > Without community, we're making our relationships and our connectedness to
> > one another very complicated. Without community, the troubles of life you
> > confront by yourself are doubled when you become part of a couple. Ritual
> > can be a tool to handle the problems that arise in a relationship. But you
> > still must have the support of the community.
> > The Role of Ritual
> > Sobonfu: A ritual is a ceremony in which you call on Spirit to be your guide
> > and driver. Ritual is based on Spirit--ancestral and natural forces. But it
> > also must have a specific focus. You can't do ritual merely for the sake of
> > doing ritual. In the West you have a form of collective ritual in the
> > church. But individuals need more than collective rites. They need personal
> > rituals that address specific problems or needs.
> > Malidoma: The most frequent ritual in my life involves offering ashes to the
> > ancestors, which I do whenever I'm about to begin anything important. For
> > thousands of years our ancestors have viewed ash as a protective device, a
> > shield against adversity. So with ash from a burnt piece of wood and a
> > rock--the rock represents something old- -I go to a place, anyplace, and as
> > soon as I call the name of a dead ancestor, the spirit of that person
> > inhabits the stone.
> > For example, if I take an airplane trip, I tell the ancestors, "Listen, I am
> > going on a journey and I don't want to go there by myself. I want you to
> > take care of the safety of the machine I am in. When I arrive at my
> > destination, I want you to be the source of every inspirational tool I need
> > to come across in the way I want to come across." It's a way of putting the
> > responsibility for everything I do in their hands so that they become my
> > guide.
> > Another common ritual is "give away." When I get a gift, I bring part of it
> > to my ancestors as a token of my gratitude. When they take it, they will
> > convert it into something bigger and give it back. If the blessing comes in
> > the form of money, I buy some food and bring a tiny bit of it to my
> > ancestral shrine along with some water, which symbolizes peace. I pour the
> > water for them and say that this is a moment of celebration. I leave the
> > water and the food there overnight, allowing the ancestors to continue
> > participating in the good that has happened to me as well as the challenges
> > that I will encounter.
> > Connecting With the Ancestors
> > Malidoma: Every person in this country should have a shrine in their home
> > dedicated to their ancestors, so that whenever a crisis occurs in the
> > family, that crisis can be brought to the ancestors' attention. Explain the
> > situation [to the ancestors] as something that is far beyond your capability
> > to handle. Beg the ancestors to contribute energetically to resolving the
> > problem. Make promises, if necessary. For example, you could tell the
> > ancestors that if you resolve the crisis, you're going to buy tons of food
> > and invite all your friends to come eat and celebrate the recovery. You know
> > how Africans love parties, so why not make a party into a ritual? The
> > ancestors love to know that you can give something of yourself away to make
> > many people happy. The key to success and transformation is to create
> > positive energy in the lives of many people. That energy comes back in terms
> > of resolving all kinds of conflicts.
> > Creating a Shrine
> > Malidoma: One of the primary elements [in a shrine] is a stone or many
> > stones that speak to you in some way and touch your soul. These represent
> > the ancestors. If you have photos of your ancestors, include them as well.
> > You might also include masks. There are many African masks here in the West,
> > but they are treated merely as art objects. We need to incorporate masks
> > into sacred spaces and treat them as representatives of powers from the
> > other side. You also have to have some soil from the land where you live and
> > some water in a container that you consider special. Keep a candle burning
> > constantly as a symbol of the light that is always there for you so that
> > when you have something to share, you can go to your shrine and just speak.
> > Sobonfu: A shrine should always fit whatever you are dealing with. Each
> > thing you place on the shrine has to have some meaning to you. You shouldn't
> > just collect things for your shrine.
> > Malidoma: If you want to assist someone who is going through a crisis, put
> > his or her picture on your shrine and keep it there until you' ve helped
> > lessen the crisis. Also, every time you experience something unusual,
> > something transforming, and there is an object connected to that experience,
> > see it as an object that wants to join your shrine. Your shrine is not
> > fixed. Over time, it becomes a history of your life.
> > Diane Weathers is a frequent contributor to ESSENCE.
> > Books by Malidoma Somé include Of Water and the Spirit (Viking Penguin,
> > $13.95), Ritual: Power, Healing and Community (Viking Penguin, $12.95), and
> > the recently released The Healing Wisdom of Africa (Putnam, $24.95). Sobonfu
> > Somé explores the Dagara's approach to intimate relationships in The Spirit
> > of Intimacy (William Morrow, $19.95). Correspondence to the Somés should be
> > sent care of Echoes of the Ancestors/Wisdom of Africa, P.O. Box 4918,
> > Oakland CA 94605-6918; or call (510) 639- 7637.
> > Diane Weathers, Lifestyle: Culture: The Wisdom of the Somés. Vol. 29,
> > Essence, 12-01-1998, pp 124, 126,.
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