Saturday, April 4, 2015

This weeks blog continues with general principles related to how sangoma medicine works.
Also; these are the upcoming talks at C.L.L. for the semester.

1.  Nature: The Hero/ine's Journey, Initiation and Rites of Passage. 
Saturday, April 18th, 201510-12 noon
Schott Campus Auditorium. Santa Barbara. 

2. Ancestors and the Dream Time. Saturday, June 6th, 201510-12 noon
Schott Campus Auditorium. Santa Barbara.

It is the healer’s duty to intercede between the living and the dead and to make restitution.  Animal sacrifice, not readily accepted in the West, is the most powerful way of appeasing the spirits. Since the ancestors, though dead, are still human, they respond very favorably to any attempts to acknowledge, thank, respect, greet, and “feed” them. Sacrifice is the ultimate form of reaching out or atonement although this can also be done using medicinal plants in sacred ritual. The spirit of a two-legged or four-legged domestic animal goes directly to the ancestor to appease him or her and neutralize a grievance or problem. It is the cry of the sacrificial animal that immediately gains the attention of the spirits. A sheep, because it does not usually cry out when slaughtered, is used less frequently than goats and chickens. A cow may be sacrificed in special situations, for instance during the graduation of a student or if requested by an ancestor. For those who find this abhorrent it should be noted that the animal is sacrificed humanely in sacred ritual and is eaten after the event, possibly a more holistic and spiritual act than buying a piece of meat in the supermarket.

         Spirits sometimes feel the need to complete the healing work they never finished while in human form and will choose a suitable family member or other person who is alive to act as a channel for this mission.  In my own case, Mpofu is a foreign ancestor or mandawe who “knows” me because she worked for my family. She was a sangoma in her past life and therefore very familiar with the technology. The person who is called usually becomes “possessed” by the ancestor who draws attention to her needs by making the elected one ill. The symptoms can take many forms: psychosis, severe headaches, intractable stomach pain, shoulder and neck complaints, among others. In my case it was incessant migraines which went away after I initiated. The afflicted one may go to a Western-trained doctor who will be unable to find anything wrong. However, a traditional healer will immediately recognize this Thwasa sickness, tell the patient he is possessed by the ancestors, and inform him that he must undergo initiation. Failure to respond to the calling will often lead to ongoing illness until the person concedes and goes to be trained.  Alternatively, the potential initiate can work through a sangoma to enter into a dialogue with the spirits, explaining why he or she cannot undergo training at this time.  Ancestors are reasonable and if respectfully approached and told why this calling might not be possible, they may relent but an explanation would be required. The spirit guides understand very well that free will is God's law. 
Thwasa, which comes from the word for moon, is the process of self-discovery and recognizing one’s spiritual links and destiny. Metaphorically, the Thwasa student begins as a new moon and matures into a full moon to become an inyanga, the one who doctors.

Eclipse in Limpopo 2002

         The sangoma is able to communicate with the cosmic, the terrestrial, and the water spirits as well as the ancestors. The ancestors are not gods and the early missionaries were misguided into thinking the Bantu and San Bushmen were heathens. All tribes believe in a single Great Spirit, or God (Umkulunkulu in Zulu, Modimo in Sotho), who, however, is seen as too remote and inaccessible. The ancestral spirits are there to mediate between the living and God and help us with our destiny path. Since various spirits are linked to the cosmos, the land, and the water (hence shells are often present in the healer’s divination repertoire) they can provide information not confined to the space-time continuum that can be very useful and even life-saving.

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