THE FORCE OF THE PRIMAL # 8
“The sages who have died are present in this world to a greater extent than when they were alive.” The Zohar
Spirit guides are not subject to time and space.
They are always around but not always to be known, always within call but not always to be heard, always present but not always to be sensed, always holding us, but not always to be felt. The Ancestors
Just as sangomas and Bushmen healers believe in the power of ancestors and guides to help them so do other ancient wisdoms, both indigenous and non-indigenous.
Sangomas and Bushman shamans are experts in obtaining non-local information from the other side of the veil between the worlds in dreams, trance possession, out of body travel and divination.
The manner in which they do so differs.
The San Bushmen in their out of body spirit trance dance actually fall motionless on the ground while their spirit travels across the veil to glean information. When the dancer returns to his/her body they transmit the wisdom to the clan to help them survive, heal and hunt.
The Bantu peoples and their sangomas in Southern Africa are distinctly different in appearance from their Bushmen neighbors. Voluntary trance possession by a spirit where the ego steps aside and a spirit takes over the body is distinctly part of sangoma tradition. It is not sanctioned by some because of the cosmic law of free will. This frowns upon giving up one’s identity to a spirit force no matter how vital the information or trustworthy the spirit.
Trance-channeling, common in the West, where the spirit is remote from the body differs radically from trance possession.
“When a word is spoken in the name of its speaker his/her lips move in the grave. And the lips of him who utters the word move like those of the master who is dead. A sage cannot speak words of teaching unless s/he first links his soul to the soul of his dead teacher or to that of his teacher’s teacher.” Talmud
The Israelites were originally nature bound like indigenous peoples. They honored the directions and sacred plants such as myrtle, hyssop, cedar, palm and willow. Seasons and festivals, were determined by a Lunar Calendar. Earth and stones were imbued with spirit or animated by the breath of the Divine. Each plant was said to have an angel or a spirit watching over it.
The 12 tribes had totem animals. They used sound, incense and ritual bathing to cleanse and heal. Sangomas went further by placing sacred plants in their healing baths as passwords to the spirit world for specific healing intentions.
“God says, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities . . .” Ezekiel
Incense repels and clears dark forces within and without. Plant medicines were used for an array of issues. Smudging and blowing medicinal smoke through a ram horn (shofar) could purify. Red string, stones and amulets were used for protection.
There are many similarities between the shamanic characteristics of the Israelites and Southern African indigenous traditions.
Bones appear to have immense spiritual power. Elephants have been seen doing rituals with the bones of their departed ones. They visit elephant grave sites and have been filmed using their bones in a type of funeral procession where they walk in a line and hand a bone back along the line with their trunks (Cynthia Moss.)
Animals and humans were said to be endowed with their own unique "essence" (Etzem in Kabbalah) resident in their bones. In the divination set of the sangoma, each animal is endowed with its own unique personality. For instance, the anteater is the animal that digs the grave, and this bone talks of death or spirits on the other side. When the bones are "thrown,"energetically by the presiding spirit in a form of telekinesis, the anteater bone, knows exactly where to fall, in what orientation to lie and what to tell.
Ancient Hebrew shamans believed in the powers inherent in different animals – for instance, the eagle was an animal of compassion, the vulture was endowed with insight, and the raven was known to be the trickster. In sangoma medicine vulture medicine is used to facilitate one’s ability to “see” and divine.
Animal sacrifice was practiced in Temple days by the Hebrews as the ultimate atonement for sins against God. For sangomas, animal sacrifice is the ultimate restitution that is made to an ancestor to reconcile guilt, shame and remorse, for releasing intrusive spirits and appeasing the dead. The cry of the sacrificial animal is believed to get the immediate attention of the spirit world. Sangoma initiation is predicated on this fact, requiring sacrifices to be made, usually of a goat or a chicken. It is done in a sacred manner and the meat is eaten and a portion left for the ancestors.
Many of these principles can also be found among other indigenous peoples on different continents. They are universal truths, but our modern way of life has discarded this wisdom as primitive, superstitious thinking.
God’s cosmic law is free will, and African understandings are well aware of this. It is implicit in the divinatory process and in dream interpretation. The bones and the dreams tell you “what to see, not what to be!” What you do with the information is up to you.
There is an “Old Testament-like” nature in much of what the indigenous peoples of Southern Africa believe and this existed long before the missionaries arrived and who focused mainly on the New Testament.
These mystical cultures as well as the Druids and Celts were well aware of the power of tricksters and dark forces that could sabotage one’s life path, attempts at spiritual transformation or healing.
There is nothing you can think or intend that is not accessible to dark forces and that they will not attempt to corrupt.
The dark side, sorcery and witchcraft were recognized by Kabbalah as part of the Omnipresent primordial light and darkness
“I create the light and the dark – choose light!”
Lucifer and the Nephilim (the fallen angels) are at the heart of this darkness.
The influence of tricksters is well known amongst most indigenous peoples. They are also represented in the divination set of the sangoma.
There is a tribe in Southern Africa called the Balemba or the Lemba that are unique in that they have always claimed that they were black Jews. Recently, genetic studies have proved them correct. In fact many were genetically found to be members of the priestly sect of the Israelites
Their traditions are similar to other neighboring tribes. Women are considered ritually impure during menstruation, as are medicine men or women who attend a corpse. Anyone who eats road kill or an animal that has died of natural causes is also impure. Bantu sangomas purify themselves before doing any divination or healing after attending a funeral.
It is hard to know fact from legend, but the Lemba believe that they are descendants of Solomon. Possibly after Nebuchadnezzar sacked the temple, around 700 B.C., they may have migrated south instead of being forced into exile in Babylon. Alternatively, when the Israelites were released from exile in Babylon and allowed to return home, some may have migrated south instead. There are many theories as to their origins. They seem to have first journeyed to Yemen, to a place called Senna, where they lived for some time. They then crossed the Indian Ocean and trekked down the eastern side of Africa. Some migrated across the Limpopo River into what is now called Venda, while the rest remained in Zimbabwe. Still others earlier on might have gone west to Ethiopia to become the Falashas. There are also black Jews in Uganda.
The Lemba were also warriors with expertise in making metal weapons. The Great God, Mwari, gave them a sacred drum or Ngoma Lugundu, the drum that thunders. Before engaging in battle with tribes that opposed their safe passage, they would sound the drum, which apparently made them invincible. The drum was carried on poles, much like the Hebrew Ark of the Covenant, and was never to touch the ground. They were also duty-bound to keep to their traditions.
However, when they arrived at the Limpopo River, they intermarried and became lax with their laws. The sacred drum fell on the ground and was lost, and after that misfortune overtook them.
The Lemba now are a paradoxical population of tens of thousands of self-proclaimed Jews who live mostly in Malawi, Zimbabwe and in Venda. Many today also follow Christianity or Islam but still proudly lay claim to their Jewish heritage. There are about 70,000 Lemba in Southern Africa.
Many of the principles of Bantu spirituality are shared by the Lemba. The Lemba had no Torah and other Southern African tribes had no Bible, Koran, Vedas or sacred texts to learn from. Theirs was an oral tradition.
The Bantu peoples, and the Bushmen of Southern Africa, have sophisticated psycho-spiritual abilities. We in the West, with all our education and technology seem to be lacking in these dimensions.
An explanation for the advanced spiritual skills of Africa’s indigenous peoples may lie in the fact that they had been living in close proximity to nature and the earth - the Garden of Eden archetype. They learned spiritual and healing secrets from their contact with nature, and being able to stay close to their primal intelligence and natural rhythms. Sadly, this pure indigenous knowledge, that has until recently only been taught by word of mouth, is now slowly being polluted by adoption of our modern way of life.
"This is the original medicine and it will never change."
P.H. Mntshali (my sangoma mentor.)
Within nature lies the secret tongue of the Great Spirit, or what Kabbalah would call the Sod – the secret. The Bushmen and the Bantu sangomas have studied and mastered the essence of this language from nature.
Ask of the wild animals and they shall teach you and the birds of the sky shall tell it to you or speak to the earth for she shall guide you and the fishes of the sea will declare it to you” Job