Saturday, March 28, 2015

This week's blog is on sangoma cosmology

The word sangoma comes from the Zulu word ngoma, for a drum. It is the sound of the drum that brings forth the spirit. The drumming is accompanied by special songs and chants. When the spirit enters the body the sangoma’s voice will change as he or she becomes the channel for the ancestor. Sometimes she will speak in tongues and often with a different accent. The ancestor who presents will often be quite fastidious and demand a certain cloth or garment in which they feel comfortable. Sangomas usually have an array of these and will wear a specific cloth depending on which spirit is addressing the group. Since most of the spirits are African, they request traditional attire but a foreign spirit can make a special request which then must be honored. They may ask for a glass of water or cigarette since now they are able to experience sentient pleasures again. Many sangomas will dance to work themselves into a trance or will be “danced” at the will of their ancestor once she or he enters their body. The tremendous energy and skill necessary to achieve this state can be remarkable and add conviction to the fact that the healer is in a profoundly altered state of consciousness. Many times the channel would seem incapable of performing in this fashion unless he was in fact “possessed.” 

Sangoma initiate in possession state

The Nguni believe that the first humans came out of the reeds. In addition to ancestral spirits there are terrestrial spirits, cosmic spirits and water spirits who are very powerful. Foreign spirits unrelated to the family also exist. They may be friendly or not. Frequently they have known the grandparents while they were alive and now are “hanging about” in the ethers with them. Some foreign spirits, on the other hand, are up to no good and these “intruders” may cause mischief or get in the way of the energy flow of the living. The Nguni are a warrior people, and malicious foreign spirits may be present because someone’s dead grandfather or relative killed them long ago. These bad spirits can be exorcised by Femba, a form of psychic diagnosis and psycho-spiritual surgery or exorcism. Bad spirits are capable of causing significant harm.

         Reincarnation is very much part of African philosophy and family members may reincarnate into their own families. Because of this, black Africans, who are steeped in the old ways and whose traditions are intact, believe that “the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children.” Psychology may attribute this to unskillful parenting which leads to hurtful influence and bad conditioning of the child. African philosophy goes further than this, believing that not only can unhappy and dysfunctional spirits affect their progeny from the beyond but also that a dysfunctional spirit can reincarnate into their blood line and recreate the same dysfunction in a future generation.  As an example, an alcoholic grandfather who has passed on reincarnates into the family line, perpetuating the alcoholic syndrome.

Since ancestral spirits may reincarnate into the same family it is crucial to heal the sins that may have occurred in the past such as murder, theft, abuse, and so on.  By reaching out, forgiving, and healing the spirit who perpetrated the nefarious deed, everyone is healed and another cycle of karmic dysfunction in the family is averted or lessened.  Forgiveness and acceptance are the keys here. It is best achieved while everyone is alive but in African tradition forgiveness and healing can occur beyond the grave.  If the sin is not addressed, the problem may not only have a harmful effect on the living in this lifetime but could continue into the next incarnation.

No comments:

Post a Comment