I have just returned from Burkina Faso a small land locked country in West Africa, where I traveled with a group of people who have worked with Malidoma Some in the Medicine of the Dagara people. For me it was a true homecoming, meeting the people who lived in the town of Dano and who have gifted me this work. Life is simple in Dano, where the ancestors and other worlds as well as the indigenous technology that comes from these humble well natured people are held in high esteem and deep honoring. That and each element guides the daily life of the village, the community and the workings of people.
I was humbled daily. To experience the “ancient” on the land, the healing ways of the people, the rituals and the indigenous technology that is the way of life touched the ancient in me and I remembered. Simple became my teacher in many ways. “Aviela” is a greeting that speaks volumes. I could not help but grin from ear to ear when I received it.
Most of the time was spent with the family of Malidoma Some. They lived on compounds, in houses made of earth and timber from the land, long narrow structures, which when I entered them, they were warm and solid, almost comforting. Zangala is a word that describes the HEART of the compound, the home. We had to “register” on his uncle’s land, at a natural crossroads. I likened it to going to the Earth Consulate and announcing my arrival from the USA. May we register here so our time is safe, grounded and protected, a sort of procurring of an indigenous elemental visa for our stay. Can you imagine! And when I returned I had to do a simple ritual and greet the earth here to say I have returned. I love this concept, and were it applied to all of us who leave our land and come to other lands to live, asking permission to be a guest here so our journey is supported and sustained, we may all be living a life of abundance. It is a ritual I had to do as a guest in this land.
As I settled into the “simple way of life” I began to notice the Gatekeepers and Guardians carved into the rocks, the trees, the land itself, and where possible spent time with them. Easy to pass them by, unnoticed. There is no doubt that you are in Africa, but there is something else about this small town, in this small country. Magic abounds, it’s everywhere if I took the time to be still and listen. I was at my most content in silence. it was when I deepened into the medium to slow rhythm of nature. Behind the compound, were three Baobabs, strategically placed as if by hand in a triangle. After making a simple offering of ash and spirits, I loved to sit at the foot of the Grandmother and Grandfather for a chat and they were chatty! I am in my element in ritual space, alone in Nature and listening to the whispers in the wind. On this land everything was intensified, sometimes gentle, sometimes kind and at other times as is nature and the medicine’s way, ruthless, as it throws up many opportunties to transform.
Several families lived on the compound where we lived. Water was collecetd from a well, culturally only fetched by women or girls. At least sixty children graced us with their presence from morning till night. With only a plastic bottle at times for a football, they were content to amuse each other or be amused by these Westerners doing their dances or speaking their language. But they appreciated that we tried. They loved simple gestures, to shake our hands or carry our goods from the bus, and they loved to learn from one of the group who asked, “Where do you LIVE?” each day, A grandpa often seen surrounded by children sitting at his feet. The children taught me “simple” each day, loving being in their company, often in silence, and learning to love them as my family, . I did not speak Dagara nor they English but we spoke, in a language of mutual respect and unconditional love. Culturally not okay to be affectionate or cuddle, and I snuck in one here and there with a 3 year old boy who stole my heart!
On another family compound I watched the children dance in a circle around a simple Balafon at night (like a xylophone) until they were tired, what a beautiful way to spend time together. It was here that I had the honor of sitting with La Veille Dame, the oldest lady of the community, 102 years young. Later I was bathed in gold dust collected from the gold mine that day. The earth was mixed with water by her and women of the village, in a simple profound ritual that “inducted” me into the “Mother” of this place. More as this unfolds. La Veille Dame, walks back and forth to her home accompanied by a little girl no more than 2 years old, naked except for the beads she wore around her waist, she walked infront of the Old Lady and guided her home. I did not capture that image, but will never forget it. I have the gift of another Grandma given to me a month after mine passed…..see how things happen….I’m just saying
A Tingan (Earth Shrine presently not working) in the center of town, and guardian, Tingan Sob would normally deal with most matters concerning wrong doings and lo and behold if the element is crossed. I did not see police but I did see punishments nevertheless, leaving the person wondering the streets in severe scarcity. It is a fascinating model that leaves me questioning our Western ways indeed. Dis-ease of some sort seems to befall those who offend the other worlds, ancestors or elemental gaurdians. But at least they are aware of what is going on. In the modern world it seems we wonder/ wander in a state of confusion as to why “things befall us”
In this way of life in Burkina people go to diviners to see what the issue is and to receive presecriptions of a herbal, medicinal, sacrificial and protective nature to take care of the problem. Each diviner has his/her own speciality. They are the psychologists, healers, doctors, and therapists. Prescriptions are revitalising, creative and magical. Often simple, often profound. I love the constant juxtapositions, oxymorons, and paradoxes, that I found there, they mirror my own life, and are beautiful and fascinating in their simpleness. ….like the dry manmade LA river bed that I was drawn to live close to, I have now connected to the power of a river in a small town in Dano.
We were also there at the time of the Dagara Cultural Youth Festival, where we sat in talks with the youth and government officials. Although the language was French, at times it seemed I understood a universal language. Such subjects such as language, culture and identity and initiation were addressed by the youth who were given a opportunity to ask important questions. I was struck by the validation of the youth regardless that some were in shredded clothes and shoeless, they were given a voice at the table. We also shared in the Archery competitions, fashion shows, and spoken word. During the football tournament the youth played in bare feet. When a goal was scored half the spectators ran onto the field to congratulate the team! The youth were honored, would love to see such a universal honoring of our youth it just may keep them from entering a system where their genius constantly goes unnoticed and they initiate themselves into gangs to be seen and heard.
Doors were opened, I have walked through and I am ready to take the work to the next level. This work is profound, encounters with the other world were facilitated with Kontumble, if I had doubt and I never did, I do not now. If for a minute I think I am all there is and that I have control of all that is happening I will never forget that those messages, signs and symbols, and information are coming from the other world. It keeps me humble and centered and very revitalised and excited.
There is still much to learn, and I am not saying I could now slip into that way of life, but what I do know is that my life has never been the same, in a good way, since I experienced the unconditional love of other worlds and again after this trip I am changed forever, much as I know that the Coming Home journeys I facilitate to South Africa, are instruments of transformation.
I do not suffer under any illusion that all is good and well intentioned all of the time and certainly not when we are consumed by scarcity or even when abundance is present. I am well aware of how money is used to buy ourselves love, a place at the table, friends and distractions, but for now, each day, I try to remember the simpleness of “Aviela”, and my new family in Dano.
Thanks to the Dagara people who allow us to enter the simplicity of their daily lives, so that we too can share in their medicine and bring it back here……and to Malidoma for facilitating the journey to his family, and making this possible, and to Alwyn Thomas and Yetunde who always help to facilitate this journey and make it as smooth as it could possibly be. The relationships Alwyn has built with the family and most everyone in Dano it seems, helped us to steep in the culture as locals not tourists. Wether it was sitting drinking Pito (a beer made with Guinea corn and brewed by the women) with the locals at the side of the road, or taking us to meet the tailors and the weavers to get clothes made or simply guiding us through the variety of market stalls to bargain. Everyone knew Alwyn! This is what helps to make the experience rich and deep and it was.
May the other worlds bless and protect you always.
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