My birthday month of March came and went. I entered into a series of ceremonies to become an Indigenous Healer called an Igqira pronounced with a click in the Xhosa tradition. I am half way through. Bequeathed in five necklaces seen in a dream by me. I suspect that for me to write such things would be taboo, and will make a few who read this uneasy, however I am called to put out a few truths, because it is not to be taken lightly. Those who are told “you have the calling” try not to get caught up in the romance, it can be quite seductive, the beads, the animal skins and brightly colored baubles which I truly love. Make sure your trainer also heals you and that you know the reputation of their trainer. It has taken a difficult journey to get there and be called an Igqira and earn those accessories and those who finish, I honor with the deepest respect. !Camagu. Work only with those in the light. Pray for me as I embark on part 2. In some cases the trainee has to live with the trainer, this is an in -depth, discovery into ones self, especially if like me you are not raised of the Xhosa culture. I am now however accepted into the family of the Amaghebe clan of the Xhosa culture. I found the simplicity of the community especially the roles of the women and the men compelling and divine. Chopping wood, making traditional beer, fetching water, feeding the ancestors, sweeping floors with grass brushes, watching as the woman of the house smeared dark green cow dung mixed with grass over her floors, fresh dung floors dry very quickly with no smell a remarkable tradition. And all this overlooking the famous green hills of the Eastern Cape. The men were devoted to seeing that my ritual went well, collecting of the water for medicine from the ancestral river, the sacrifice of an animal done in the cleanest way, the eating of every part of the Goats, burning the bones. That in itself was humbling and I looked forward to it each day. I believe the many hours I spent alone in the USA prepared me for this. Some days I watched the women of small build, fell trees with a scythe, and in one fell swoop retrieve the fruits of that tree. Other days it was eating the intense green herbs gathered from their gardens. The women’s strength literally awe -inspiring. These modern days one can leave the training and the homestead to go to work, which is what I had to do, as long as occasionally you apply the white chalk for luck and once the beads and the various skins are on it is usually for life. Sleeping on a grass mat and each day sitting with the elders and visitors to the family not understanding a word when my translator was not present. Talking and greeting the ancestors daily with the lighting of Impepu is a daily practice. Impepu is like sage and connects one directly to the spirits. So I was not fully immersed in the day to day living, although I loved it. I had often looked out into the green hills of the Eastern Cape, with a scattering of brightly colored peach, yellow, turquoise rondavals and wondered what people did especially when there is little to no money coming in. In one household there is much, especially if you are still grinding the maize to make beautiful Xhosa bread with 2 stones and brewing beer in the traditional way following a dream. A process which takes 7 days.
The white bead ceremony, beads for head, arms and wrists and ankles and the waist, made by the trainer, is to show the ancestors and other healers that you have accepted the calling. The beads that you end up wearing must be visioned or seen prior to the commencement of the training. The ceremony following is a marrying of my ancestors with those of my new clan family Amaghebe. My ceremonies came with its own set of trials and tribulations devised and designed to get you on your knees in more ways than one, supposedly to teach humbleness and respect and also depending on what is present in the field to bring healings. I have bruised knee caps to prove it. I had to have an assistant who was also my translator. An Angel called Xhanti son of the chief. I commend him as being one of the most key persons in this process, a teacher in patience, dignity and above all integrity. He sat with me behind a white sheet for several hours and 3 days, i was only brought out when there was a ritual to complete. Enkosi, enkosi enkosi.
The old way of training healers is fascinating, intriguing, a teaching that is steeped in tradition and culture, dogma and in some cases misuse of power and dominance. It depends on one’s trainer as to how the training is carried out and it depends on the trainer as to how it ends up. What is often not considered is that respect begets respect, I think that’s pretty clear, many trainers play out the deep dark parts of their shadow on their students, nothing new here, but interesting to observe. The ones who are fully integrated teach with love and humor, a true blessing to be in the presence of and one wants to honor through knee bending if they are the requirements. The training is expensive and long, often long because many called cannot afford the fees. The Ceremonies are not devised for you alone they are devised to heal the community in one way or another, whether its a clean up of the land or a deep rooted issue in the community, its the start anyway. Traditional beer is brewed in certain ways following tradition. I love ritual, medicine work culture and tradition, it is truly my passion and of course some of this I cannot share and never will. When the ceremonies are not carried out correctly it can result in sickness instead of healing and in some cases the ceremony has to be repeated.
I have always seen the work of Ourdivinemedicne as a way to inform and expand awareness of other cultures and traditions, warts and all, or in my case boils and so it is there I will stay and first and foremost as a voice for the Ancestors and awakener of the Ancestors. Many fear and are sceptical about Sangomas and Igqiras and I trust this will dispel some of the myths surrounding this incredible ancient indigenous healing way. At times it is best understood that what would be called the deep unconscious in Western paradigm is in fact that the symbology of the Xhosa tradition in these trainings play a huge part. Guidance by the ancestors through sensations and felt bodily feelings, intuition, irrational twitches, chills or burpings are what confirms a numerous amount of information. This coupled with a falling star or the sighting of an animal or bird, dream or vision adds to the deep layers of magic that often have no words. This gives them the functionality of being binding and uniting and therefore aids our growth towards wholeness. A friend of mine said the sudden random screamings from a healer, which I have recently experienced, is the old Africa talking! The Dagara peoples from West Africa are steeped in these ancient ways as are many traditions in Africa and elsewhere and will vary from clan to clan, culture to culture, it is the Dagara traditions and healings where I first learned through those teachings to pay attention to …….everything. The only job afterwards for Igqiras is to train others and to heal heal heal, often for very little money or no money at all. A common practice in some traditions is to pay only when results are seen. Such a far cry from instant gratification.
I have been fortunate to meet many beautiful said healers on my travels in South Africa who work in the light. We have in the modern world become divorced from these deep layers of a symbolic language, divine interventions and it has led in many ways to the disconnect to our inner life and the unseen world, where a sense of meaningless seeps into our life creating a spiritual homelessness and a deep sense of loss played out through alcoholism ~a seeking of holism in a bottle. In the Western world it’s not played out much differently, drugs alcohol violence and gangs. The herbs, nature, the silent language of animal communication, the symbols, the secrets, the animals, the magic, the teachings passed down from elder to older, the protocols all play a major part in accessing these deeper layers thereby restoring an alignment with the other worlds, bringing a balance in the chaos and rooting us. Although ritual calls the chaos into the present to connect us to the ever-changing dynamics of the need for transformation, and wholeness.
The relationship between the African peoples and the ancestors of the Dagara and Xhosa with whom I have worked is very personal and the true meaning of the living dead. I am guided by ancestral wisdom and I listen to their wishes. The relationship is not one of appeasement or worship it is one of honoring and equality. They need our healing as we need theirs. Part 1 was completed with beauty, challenges and learnings and extremely painful boils! More next month. Thanks for taking the time to read these postings, may all worlds bless and protect you always Mbali/Bavulele
Photos courtesy of Xhanti Jafta, firstname.lastname@example.org