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[GlobalAfricanPresence] Wisdom of the Somés

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  • Djehuti Sundaka
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2001
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      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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