Encounter with the Ancestors

This past weekend, November 17-19, 2006, I participated in a weekend workshop headed by Malidoma Some, an African shaman, author, and speaker, who hails from Burkina Faso in West Africa. He is a son of the Dagara tribe whose traditions date back thousands of years.

I first became acquainted with Malidoma by reading his autobiography, Of Water and the Spirit – Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. I implore you to read his book as it will broaden your horizon of reality and expand your vision of possibilities. It left me inspired, expanded, and most eager to read his second book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa.

The workshop, entitled Encounter with the Ancestors, is intended to, through ritual, to cement the bond between us and our ancestors in such a way as to provide healing for them so that they can in turn assist us in fulfilling our purpose assigned to each one of us when we were born into this world. Through ritual, those who have passed away, or more appropriately ‘transitioned’ into the spiritual realm, such as our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, can fulfill their purpose as ancestors and, being thus acknowledged and initiated as ancestors, can play the part they are meant to play as cooperators in the healing of the living and of the planet.

Thirty people participated in the workshop held at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and hosted by the East Coast Village, a spiritual community based in upstate New York which, under the guidance of Malidoma and his elders in Burkina Faso, engages in and promotes indigenous teachings and ritual for the purpose of healing and community.

In one weekend 30 individual strangers became a community founded on love, gratitude, and respect for one another and our world.

In one weekend I, who at one time believed that the spirits of the deceased remained ‘asleep’ until ‘judgement day’ and that any visible apparition was a ‘demon’ posing as a dead person for the purpose of deceiving the living, a belief I picked up long ago as a Seventh Day Adventist but had since discarded, made peace with the Spirit world.

In one weekend I shed the healing waters of pain at the altar of the ancestors, shedding their tears and mine, releasing their pain.

In one weekend I learned that the reconciling power of forgiveness is exercised more liberally by the ancestors than by the living, as evidenced in the compelling story of a woman whose ancestors were the largest slave trading family in New England. She has been filming a documentary of this story as a way of understanding it and, thus, completing her own Healing Voyage and contributing, in whatever measure possible, to the healing of the descendants of the enslaved Africans. Her ancestors have called to her to tell their story and to tell that they see the wrongs they have inflicted on the Africans and on the planet and that they are deeply sorry for what they did.

In one weekend I witnessed the power embedded in the written word when the written word carries with it truth and love for the truth as expressed in Malidoma’s books. He does what he does as a calling and mission assigned to him by his Ancestors, calling the world, especially the world of the strangers, back to the old ways of Mother Africa infused with Wisdom and healing power. To hear the testimony of strangers who are inspired and challenged to enter a New Covenant of Peace in spite of being the inheritors of a legacy of strife is to witness the building of Community on the foundation of a raised Consciousness and an open heart.

In one weekend I saw that it is indeed possible to merge the Healing Wisdom of Africa through ritual with the maddeningly demanding life of our modern world, and in so doing, inoculate oneself against the pathologies of modernity.

Brother Malidoma, I thank you for your willingness to endure and suffer all that you did at the hands of the strangers so that we who once languished in their world and ways could breathe (with the strangers, but wisely!) the rarefied air of Brotherhood and Sisterhood.

And to the Ancestors, I am, of Water and Spirit, your Son…..thank you.

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