Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Sangoma as Wounded Healer and "Thwasa" - The Ancestors Sickness that leads to Initiation

"The consciousness of the seer is a greater power of knowledge than the consciousness of the thinker. The perceptual power of inner sight is greater and more direct than the perceptual power of thought."  Sri Aurobindo

The shaman, traditional or indigenous healer, uses altered states of consciousness, spirit possession, and out of body spirit flight to gain knowledge about any problem at hand. This ability may be hereditarily transmitted, arise out of a dream or vision bestowed by the spirit world, or occur because of selection by the tribe. There are shamans or curanderos in Peru who after surviving being struck by lightning become curanderos. Sometimes the calling arises out of a deformity, disability, illness, or even a psychosis. In other words, a "wound" may create the shaman, thus generating the true "wounded healer" archetype. Some shamans are self-chosen, but those that are “called” wield much greater power.
In Southern Africa someone who is “called” by the ancestors often becomes ill and will visit a traditional healer. The sangoma will divine or go into trance and say that she or he is “possessed” and that the only recourse is for him or her to become a sangoma.  Failure to respond to the ancestors usually is associated with progression of the illness. The "sangoma sickness" mysteriously disappears after initiation has begun. The process of being called and then initiated is called Thwasa. In my case the sangoma illness was repeated migraines and shoulder pain.
In South Africa, traditional healers, or shamans, are called sangomas or inyangas. They can be either women or men. There is no practical difference between a sangoma and an inyanga—both are "possessed" and derive their power from the ancestors. Historically sangomas would work in trance by channeling the ancestors from the spirit world and inyangas with medicinal plants and translating messages from the cosmic realm by "reading the bones." There is now much overlap between the various ways of working all of which are determined by the ancestors and not the initiate. Your guides know the best way in which you need to help and heal.  All these healers work with dreams and some are clairvoyant and just "see." There are also highly specialized sangomas who work with "femba," a process which cleanses the client of intruding spirits or energetic pollution.  A sangoma will usually channel her own ancestors, but sangomas who specialize in femba are also able to channel the patient’s ancestors for information or for intrusive spirits in order to exorcise them. Many herbalists dream the plants they are to give their clients and are also receiving messages from their ancestors. All these healers have various special gifts including divining the future, diagnosing illness, finding lost objects or people and establishing direct contact with the ancestors and the supernatural. When a rural black South Africans visit a Western physician they are often surprised and even disillusioned when asked to list their ailments. Any competent sangoma should be able to tell them what was wrong without taking a history.

To become a sangoma requires arduous and difficult training. Not just anyone is called and, though sometimes burdensome, the calling is regarded as a gift and a great honor. The goal of an ancestor who channels healing through a living relative is to help and to heal. Any sangoma who abuses the gift is likely to be affected adversely with bad luck, ill health, poverty, or loss of the healing power. Most traditional healers practice with great humility and acknowledge that the source of their power is the ancestors.

The ancestors cannot communicate in a normal way because they live in the realm of spirit. Therefore they choose to talk through trance-channeling (spirit mediumship or possession states) through the divining bones, and through dreams.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Developing a Relationship with Spirit Guides

Africans believe that the dead are not dead and that our ancestors are there to help, protect and sustain us. They cannot communicate with us in the normal way since they live in the realm of spirit, but they are there none-the less. Many of us never even knew our grandparents and certainly pay no tribute either to them or to parents long gone. Those of us who have had inattentive children at one time or another know how easy it is to turn away from even a loved child when a relationship is not nourished. The same is true for ancestors. As my teacher said to me, "If your ancestors turn aside, you are defenseless in life, like a paper blowing in the wind."
Many Africans in subSaharan Africa still nurture their connections with the dead, and the favor is returned by the spirits. We have all had a feeling at times that someone up or out there is looking after us. For instance the person who has a flat tire, misses a flight, and finds out later that the plane crashed might feel touched by a benevolent and unseen hand. The sangomas would interpret this as protective work by the ancestors. Africans also believe that if rituals are regularly dedicated to the dead spirits, life becomes much easier and things seem to flow more of their own accord. When we have to make critical decisions we are not alone. The spirits strengthen us with their love and their belief in us and are present for us when we need them. If we are attentive and listen carefully for their messages from the beyond, we will enjoy more health, wealth, and happiness. We need to be reminded constantly that these communications and signs are subtle and usually do not appear like a lightning bolt out of the sky or in neon lights. They come like a whisper on the wind or the nuance of a dream or the appearance of a special animal, but they are there nonetheless to remind us that we have spirit friends and helpers.

 Making an Altar to connect to your Guides 

Determine as best you can who is it that you were connected to or loved you that you might like to have help guide you in this incarnation. (Anyone whom you had issues with should be forgiven but are best not included.) These can be your ancestors but also deceased teachers, inspirational people and spiritual masters. Remember that there are spirits from past lives who loved you and there is nothing strange in having a Tibetan, Egyptian or any other guide. A grandparent whom you never even knew may love you from the other side and may be assigned to guide. Because we recycle in and out of many lifetimes and frequently back into the same blood line or spiritual tradition guides could well have been your grandparents, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers in past lives. Love is what makes them want to help as well as make it more possible to cross over the veil between worlds in order to do so. How and why one and not another is assigned to help I do not know. It seems they can agree once given permission.
At the end of the day it does not matter whether you know them or not, they know you. Gratitude and good manners are what makes them work best on your behalf. You cannot take them for granted.
Communication with the other side is difficult and best done through the medium of an altar and a dream journal. Our dreams are often scripted by our guides to help us. Free will is the cosmic law so we must ask to receive. Requests and gratitude can be expressed by going to the altar, praying or meditating and when indicated making offerings or rituals to express thanks for good things in your life. Remember that they are not localized in space and time and have access to being in many places in their spirit form. They also know your past incarnations and your karmic life book. Even if they were  uneducated when alive they can often understand the variables affecting you better than you can. They can also see a little into your future. The future is limited by free will and the number of variables operating at that time. Also its good to realize that they have usually been "purified" to some extent after going through a reconciliation process for their Higher Selves. They are not usually exactly the same as they were on the earth plane.
Place pictures on the altar if you have them or things that were special to them and can connect you to them such as a ring, bracelet, amulet, walking stick etc. It is good to use or wear these when the need to connect is stronger  On special occasions such as thanksgiving put aside a plate of food for them and talk about them at the table to family and even close friends. A meal to welcome them into your life and initiate the practice is a good idea. If something very special happens or is needed, make a meal or do a ritual to  ask or say thank you. 
Even if you cannot see them you are never alone.

The Ancestors

This ancient system of healing through spirit began in Africa and may be as old as humanity itself.  Some of the principles are difficult to understand, but they work. They are the roots of connecting to the non local cosmic Field, and they are still practiced to this day. Many sangomas cannot read or write, but they understand how to work practically in the Field for the benefit of others better than most Westerners. We will only benefit from what we can learn from them.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What does Southern African wisdom have to offer us in the West

When most of us look at Africa all we can see is the threat of AIDS,  Ebola, sporadic but horrific genocide, and failed governments led by ruthless dictators. What we do not see is that there is a rich ancient knowledge waiting to be tapped. In the West we have become masters of technology. However, in many parts of Africa, there are still masters of the spirit world. Our captivation with science has cut us off from our primal roots, from the Garden of Eden experience – we struggle to get in touch with our inner being and with the cosmic reality. It is hard to enter the cosmic "Field" with hard intellectual data and with a motivation that relies on acquiring things. Africans still in touch with their roots, on the other hand, have easy access to spirit in trance, dreams and in other ways. African wisdom can teach us to get back to what we once knew and who we once were. 
A visitor to rural Southern Africa may be struck by a relative sense of material poverty, the lack sometimes of the most basic needs. But extended families still live in the villages—grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts—all of whom together with the community and in the spirit of "Ubuntu" help each other and take part in raising the children. The few remaining San Bushmen of the Kalahari, who still live as hunter-gatherers in their ancestral lands, have the least in terms of possessions and seem quite happy if they have domain over their habitat. It is perhaps the hunter-gatherer who owns nothing that has the easiest access to the spirit world. There is no material “stuff” in the way - theirs is a different form of wealth. 
      This new blog is about indigenous African healing wisdom which takes these loftier concepts for granted and has done so for eons. In order to become a sangoma, one must surrender to the ancestors or spirit guides who are in line with Divine will. One must give way to something more important than oneself. Most true shamans from the subcontinent of Africa are "called" by their ancestors to heal and to help. Their mission is one of service and sacrifice. The sangoma is a servant of the people. I cannot remember meeting an authentic healer who did not seem complete, happy, content, and fulfilled in spite of the arduous demands of his or her profession.