Only one side of the story
In my previous postings, I have shown you aspects of my travel, accommodations, and activities that I participated in on my recent adventure to Africa. What I want to do now, is to address an aspect of the culture that I found to be very powerful and helpful for me to bring back. The aspect I speak of is the connection of the Dagara people to ceremony and ritual in their daily lives. As I was getting a tour from one of the tribesmen — the only one that spoke English — he was showing me his residence. I noticed on a path going out of the compound there was a small stump that seemed out of place. What I mean by this is that it seemed that people could trip over the stump and that someone would have removed it by now. That, of course, is looking at things through my foggy Western eyes. I asked the gentleman, “What is that stick in the ground by the path? Aren’t you afraid someone’s going to trip on it and hurt themselves?” With a bright white-toothed smile he laughed and said, “That, my dear friend, is a very powerful Earth Shrine. There have been many miracles that have occurred for people who have come to the shrine and made offerings and done ritual to the spirit of the Earth.”
It was at that moment that I remembered 12 years ago doing ritual in that very spot. Because the walls of the compound had been modified, I did not recognize the spot until he spoke of it in that way. I remember almost every day having some kind of ritual that went on in the village. Sometimes a person would have a dream and they would bring it to the elders. The divination would be done about the meaning of the dream and how to either feed the helpful aspect of the dream, or divert a warning that may have come through the dream. Once the divination had been done and the remedy or “prescription” had been given, a ritual would be conducted.
Rituals for Removing Obstacles
When we first arrived, we maintained a very grueling schedule that had been set. Transportation was very important for us to be able to get to all of the villages and to connect with the people we needed to see. Malidoma’s uncle, Desiree, had been using one of the cars and it had been running perfectly for months. The day we arrived, the car broke down. First the battery, then the alternator core, and then the entire alternator. It was one thing after another! One of the things that I admire very much about Malidoma is his tenacious insistence upon bringing solutions to situations that support the well-being of the people he cares about. He looked at me at one point with great determination and said, “The work we are doing must be very important, because the obstacles are coming out of nowhere! Someone or something is trying to keep us from accomplishing our goals. This cannot happen!”
So with great persistence, we continued to repair the car, call on the ancestors for their assistance, and hope that Desiree would arrive soon. To make a long story short, the car did get fixed, Desiree did arrive, and the first thing we did when he got to the village was make an offering to the spirits of the road asking for them to clear the way. We never had any problem with the car after that.
True Devotion to the “Old Way”
One of the things that became clear to me was the true devotion to ritual of Malidoma, the shamans, and his wonderful uncle. More importantly, it was a commitment to ritual that was practical and worked. You see, oftentimes I will work with groups who talk about practicing ritual and they have ceremonies that they do over and over and over again, but not necessarily with specific intention or helpful results. It’s almost like they do ritual as a process that may bring some kind of relief emotionally, but not in a way that impacts a change in their lives. In Dagara-land, if a ritual doesn’t work by having a profound impact and getting you what you’re asking for, you find another ritual. Efficacy is critical and I really like the fact that they call the ancestors to task and EXPECT to receive what they’re asking for.
Now, What Do I Do?
I am called to task. I do a tremendous amount of ceremony. In the past, I must say the efficacy of my rituals has not been satisfactory. Through my inspiration with these people, I am encouraged to find the rituals and helpers that will lead me to successful and effective life altering results. So I’ll keep you posted!
Tonight in Park City I am facilitating a drum circle and Kava ceremony. I am also inspired to facilitate monthly rituals connected to the elements that will help me and my students transform our lives in a real ways; not only with our words, but with our actions that create the lives we desire. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how the kava ceremony goes.