I dedicate this post to my mother, my family of many nations, my ancestors
i am distant from the western mind
in an instance of a beat from drums
i see your strong
just gratitude to our people is what i need to see
im scared ancestors this world has built a room of guilt
but my mind has been the war now i see wise one your people are mine
were the people
of poets or mystics
I am finding my self deeper into my Odyssey after a series of events that occurred in the Western Cape, a simple beautiful Coming Home Ceremony long over due it seems. My ancestors were chomping at the bit, wondering why it had not been done. I give deep gratitude to the people of Thembalethu, who came together to make this a sweet occasion indeed. Thank you to the !Korana chief who arranged it so quickly! It will always be remembered. The children who attended, had been taught the Nama Riel dance, which is undergoing a massive revival in the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces. It’s a dance-descendant of the old Khoi and San fireside rituals and it became the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ of gypsy sheep shearers and farm workers across the Kalahari and Great Karoo over many generations.
Nowadays, many schools in the Western Cape offer Riel dancing training to their pupils. And there are festivals all over the provinces where they can compete against Riel dancers from other areas. The Nama Riel dance is about a man courting a girl and a good Riel dance kicks up a lot of dust! The music felt familiar something I heard maybe as a small child of three on the streets of Port Elizabeth where I was born? The dance is accompanied by a guitar and was played by a gentle local man, who had been coaching the children. Can’t wait to learn it!
The following day I attended a friends Intiation ceremony as a Sangoma, traditional Healer, a wonderful witnessing of a collection of traditions and cultures that she carries and after at least two years of intense trainings, but actually beginning since she was a young girl finally she came home surrounded by her teachers and community. When I arrived it was the final day of 2 weeks of ongoing ceremonies, I felt like I had stepped into an old world.
The thatched rondaval that she had bulit in her yard in surburban George, Western Cape could have been anywhere in rural South Africa. I entered the space and was quickly transported. Smoke from the imphepo (like sage) that was burning, quickly dissapeared up to the heavens. Common amongst African people, it is used in ceremonies and religious festivals as an incense. This plant is used for different reasons and is commonly used by Sangoma’s ( Medicine people) to induce a trance state. Imphepho is also used to invoke the ancestors, it enables communication between the Ancestors. They say the smoke carries the prayer to them.
Some peoples faces, those who appeared to be involved with the initiate’s ceremony, were covered in white clay, a Xhosa custom, and for some it was also a sign they were still in training to become a Sangoma.
In the center of the stone floor of the rondaval is the food now sacrificed and prepared for eating. The initate received the first plate of food being dished, and had to eat until she was full then we could eat. If all animals killed for food were sacrificed and ritualized in this way I have always thought our food would not make us sick. Sacrifice has such derogatory connations. But in all our lives it is something that happens daily. Animals are killed in not such an honoring way for us to eat. People and pets are lost sometimes it seems unncessarily, and yet when I attach to these losses a meaningful. symbolic or mythological concept which has been in place in all traditions all cultures, then I see the alignment of such things as part of the natural order of the Natural World. Animals kill others to survive, as do we. When it is done as trophy hunting then we have seriously crossed the line of sacred.
I was immmeditaley fascinated and curious, as I carry Khoi Khoi and two or three more still being confirmed. The Khoikhoi (“people people” or “real people”) or Khoi, spelled Khoekhoe in standardised Khoekhoe/Nama orthography, are a historical division of the Khoisan ethnic group, the native people of southwestern Africa, closely related to the Bushmen(or San, as the Khoikhoi called them). Traditional Xhosa culture includes diviners known as amagqirha.This job is mostly taken by women, who spend five years in apprenticeship. There are also herbalists amaxhwele, prophets izanuse, and healers inyanga for the community. Wikpedia. No wonder I feel at home here, that and the fact that Traditional Healers and Diviners are a respected and recognised part of the system of healing and are recognised as the counselors, therapists and doctors of healing and law, fortune tellers, and herbalists.
A group of women drummed with voices so mellow and beautiful I was soon mesmerized. I was welcomed and honored into the group and asked to speak about the initiate, everything felt familiar. Each person could stand and speak. Men were few and far between in this particular ceremony although the Intiate’s trainer was a Zulu Medicine Man.
It seems that the pot pourrie of where I come from is quite varied and its exciting to get these tit bits of info, through visions, dreams and diviners. I consult 2 or 3 diviners on one issue, here that’s a common practice to get clarity. I had no idea the mixture of peoples I carry. I have wondered from time to time whilst here, why it was so important to know, and I realize that I was taken from South Africa at the age of three, and my whole journey has been about finding home, returning home, coming home. Knowing now that my past sickness and dis~ eases have been the ancestors trying to get my attention to become a healer, and to eventually call me home, again fills in the pieces of the evergrowing jigsaw. My work as a medicine woman, healer and diviner has been and still is about assisting people to return home.
I also had to spend my time in the Western world, for I am too of the Modern World with white European ancestors including those who were perpetrators even before the Apartheid regime. I was taken away to gain a global experience of the Modern World, do a part of my healing there, so that when I returned not only would I have that in my ancestor bag but I would also learn the medicines of the people here. To lose your identity, and your land, which also is South Africa’s history of its peoples, creates a deep homelessness even though one still continues to live in the country of your birth. It is of importance for my work here that I track my people to know who I am and where I come from. To assist in preserving the old traditions, the old rituals, the old healing ways is a remembering that will ultimately help to heal the deep wound of separateness. I also see that to live in a country that is determined to break your heart daily, keeps me in a constatnt state of gratitude. The contrasts so wide, the culture so diverse and broad the experiences so humbling, joyfull, heartbreaking and healing.
Whilst I may be born of two peoples, the intermarrying here has given me a rich diverse culture that I am hungry to find out more about. Why would I be ashamed to be related to those who are so deeply connected to the natural world with survival abilities to live in extreme dire situations. Some that I meet now are so removed from their traditions but it is heartwarming to know there are people like the Chief in George who is assisting in the preservation of these rituals.
Some of my/our people whilst descendants of the first people are also the invisible/ forgotten people who are slowly dissapearing, forgotten then and forgotten now. I find them everywhere still living in dire states of poverty, once the hunted, as animals, literally shot by farmers in hunts, some still considered vermin.
Why would I be ashamed to be connected to those who have such rich traditions, rituals and customs that understand the importance of connecting to all worlds. Who can commune with animals, plants, other worlds and the land. I embrace them celebrate them, and as the journey deepens. I deepen, knowing where I come from, has been the biggest healing I will ever know. I am finding out who I am beyond the limited experience of the last 59 years. The knowing is a deeper sense of self that I have never experienced, a deep love of who my people are and therefore a deeper more unconditional love of myself, a deeper connection to the natural world, that is teaching me so much about life death and rebirth.
I am humbled again and again by the generosity of Ubuntu. Some taxi drivers I believe have been sent as guardians to ferry me from place to place. One of them was called Kindness, he met me at the bus station recently, after I had done a ritual for my Great Grandfather. This complete stranger picked me up at 5am in the morning after waiting 90 mins (I had screwed up the time, no extra charge) gave me a hug, and greeted me with these words, “dont worry you’re safe now, I will take care of you!” The next day I was walking down the stairs of my rooms and the manager was talking on the phone. “I have just been sent information on our Great Grandfather, I haven’t opened the document yet”
Hmmm …..Messages delivered directly from my Great Grandfather, and so soon after I connected with him ……yes I love this work.
May all worlds bless and protect you always
My images of people in this blog are a mirror that reminds me that here when I look into peoples faces I see my own, and in a variety of traditions and cultures. I belong. I am home.
I get called MA a lot here by strangers, sometimes even Gogo by the kids (Grandma) and I guess that’s what really counts!