Keeper of ShrineBalafon Player
E-Village News                 June 2010

 Responding to the Call of the Ancestors

In This Issue
Malidoma's Pen
Talking with the Ancestors
Ancestor Shrine
Host Divinations
Africa Trip Planned
Upcoming Events

Malidoma's Pen
"A culture in which people die accidentally is said to have a dysfunctional relationship with its ancestors.  It is the ancestors' way of attracting attention to something crucial to everyone's well-being.  You know the ancestors are healed when things begin to change dramatically for the better around you.  The healed ancestors will bring health, prosperity, and a sense of intimate connection that is unparalleled.

Ancestors are at a disadvantage because they know how to improve things and yet they do not have the body required to act on what they know.  We are at a disadvantage because, although we have bodies, we often lack the knowledge required to carry things out properly.  This is why Spirit likes to work through us.  A person with a body is an ideal vehicle for Spirit to manifest things in this world.  It is important to understand that when we feel that something is missing in our life, when we feel somehow disconnected or displaced, that these feelings are a sign for us to repair our connection with the world of ancestors and spirits."

The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 196


Quick Links
Asheville Village, NC


Mara 1
Ancestral Women
by Laila Amatullah

Exalted faces of our Ancestors,
Paint themselves before my eyes:

 Cleopatra, Kadeesha,
Joan of Arc, Pocohontas, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Rosa Parks.

A myraid
of traveling Womanly souls,
planting the seeds, for future generations to harvest, linking spirit to spirit,
Harmonizing with the energy of womankind.



The Market Days

by John Onyido

Our fathers knew of four market days
that intricately wove round their lives.  Days solemn tasks were performed.  Days ascribed to gods and ancestors, whose munificence were sought, their wrath serpiginously appeased.

Our fathers knew of four market days sepentinely clutching the festivals and ceremonies of the serried clan.
Days mothers trudged to village squares clasping hand-made wares for a cowry shell or two; days of splendor when children sired by a few belonged to all.

Our fathers knew of four market days around which moonlight tales were told.
Children scurried round elders to hear of the tortoise and the hare and brave deeds long past, gazing into the central fire smoldering the cool evening breeze.



Balafon Player
Ancestors Prayer

I remember the names of my ancestors.

 I speak the names of those I love.

 I speak their names and they live again.

  May I be so well-loved and remembered.

  In truth, may the gods hear my name.

From:  Awakening Osiris:  The Egyptian Book of the Dead (pg. 54)




Those who are dead are never gone:  they are there in the thickening shadow.  The dead are not under the earth:  they are in the tree that rustles, they are in the wood that groans, they are in the water that sleeps, they are in the hut, they are in the crowd.

The dead are
not dead.

 Those who are dead are never gone:  they are in the breast of a woman, they are in the child who is wailing and in the firebrand that flames.  The dead are not under the earth:  they are in the fire that is dying, they are in the grasses that weep, they are in the whimpering rocks, they are in the forest, they are in the house.
The dead are
not dead.

From:  Birago Diop in Senghor 2, pg. 144,
as quoted in
 Jahn, Muntu, pg. 108




"Once you have obeyed, the ancestors will be able to intervene in all the good ways they can.  That includes helping you with all the things you cannot know about until you have allowed yourself to be swallowed into the wilderness.

 The spirit of the land of this tribe has always been with you.  Remember you're an orphan who was recovered to his nest.  Several seasons ago, when you escaped from the white man and came back to us, our ancestors had already predicted your return to the healers.  The ancestors arranged the things that happened to you when you were a child and they helped you survive these experiences.  They helped you come back from your initiation ordeal.  They will ensure that you survive in the white man's wilderness as well."

Guisso, Malidoma's mentor---speaking to Malidoma after learning that the village elders want him to return to the white man's world.

 The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 309

Classic Slave PhotoGreetings & Happy Summer!

This June issue of E-Village News presents a special focus on Ancestors.  This year has led Malidoma to working primarily with communities' need to connect with the ancestral realm.  It's as if the Ancestors are sending strong vibes through the conduit of Mother Earth, calling us to consciously nurture and deepen our relationship with them.  As our news
letter motto states, Malidoma is truly "Responding to the Call of the Ancestors!"  It is vital to our success in daily living to heed the call and not delay the work required for healing and reconciliation in both worlds.  Luisah Teish, author of the book Jambalaya, states "As we walk upon the Earth, our feet press against the bones of the Ancestors on whose shoulders we stand."

They are calling . . . tune in to the ancestral vibration going forth through the land and listen to their voices . . . at minimum we can acknowledge them.

Listening intently,

      WhiteAncestors3                                                                                                           IndianWoundedKnee
Talking with the Ancestors:
Initiation and
the Purpose of Life
Excerpt of An Interview with Malidoma Patrice Some'
by Michael Bertrand, 1995

In your culture you have relations with the ancestors. That's something that we've basically lost touch with in our culture, not Shrineonly how to do it but even why or even if there are any.
   That is again a very important point that is tied to the reason why there is a need for initiation. How do you practice something so ancient when you are disconnected? It's just an irony. The connection with the ancestors is a primary requirement for the reconnecting with initiatory practices. It is one of the conditions for the healing that needs to happen for the modern world. We cannot go forward until we look back at those who have preceded us, in an attempt to produce a reconciliation between us and them.

   Otherwise, the perpetuation of denial is fostering all kinds of illnesses that indeed are encouraged by the very ancestors that we're forgetting, because that's they're only way to keep ringing the bell in our psyches about the necessity for this connection to happen. It is just as useful to them as to those caught in western phenomena. It is not something that can be avoided. Therefore, it's just a basic acknowledgment of life to acknowledge that one has ancestors.

   I've discovered over the years that people prefer to look forward because when they look back they find the memory they have of their ancestors is not that good. Those who can remember are connecting with crime, violence and pain.

With the colonialism...
   That's right. With colonial violence and so on and so forth. It may then feel very uncomfortable having to relate to figures in that manner. Yet, what we must understand is that being alive at this time makes us the prime healers of the very ancestors who were remembered in this time. Unless we're able to reconcile with them we can be of no use to ourselves as well as to them, because our relationships start in a dysfunctional compost. It is that dysfunctionality that those of us who are alive are therefore able and qualified to fix.

   This is why I like to talk about healing the ancestors. In this context it means eventually returning to them with a humble heart to let them know that indeed we're here to help do whatever it takes to repair the energy that has been broken through time and space. We are, therefore, opening ourselves to our suggestions as to what we need to do in order to reconnect or to open the mind with them in a healing fashion.

   It doesn't mean we have to invent something. They know from where they are what needs to be done. It's up to us to tell them we're open to receiving that knowledge so we can take the proper action, because we're still caught in a human body. They don't have a human body so they can't do what it takes to fix that problem.

So, we're saying that problem, or the healing of the ancestors, implies that we have to do it because we need their help as much as they need ours.
   That's right. It's reciprocal. They need our help because they need to produce a situation where there's continuity. We need their help because we need to resolve the turmoil that we get ourselves into in this modern world. The turmoil in the downtown and the inner cities, the violence that's going on, is all connected with the fact that we're disconnected from the ancestors. They can fix that because they know where it's darkest.

   It is mostly in our interests and in the interests of those coming after us that we do that. Otherwise when we die we'll join them and attempt to continue to complicate the (--vision?) here hoping that eventually people will remember where they need to go in order to get a solution to the problems. This is why I insist that it's a reciprocal thing, something that helps both parties.

So, in essence too, you've implied in your book that the ancestors need to be helped along their way so they go where they need to be in the afterlife.
   Yes. Unless this happens we'll not have the kind of benefit that they also seek. One thing we need to understand is that their constant interference in our day to day life is motivated by the fact that it would pay us to allow them to join the place that they need to join in order to feel complete, which is the land of the ancestors. Otherwise they will keep sticking around in our cities and creating the kind of turmoil that they think is the only way for them to remind us of what we're here to do, of the necessity of our relationship with them.

   Consequently, of course, this is an opportunity to take back and learn from existing indigenous cultures where this leads to a lot of ritualized grief because that grief helps in that journey across to the land of the ancestors. As long as we know that it is in our interest that they go there.

   What they're saying here is we are robbing them of their right to journey where they belong, where they can also be a proper source of help to us.
So, one of the way to heal the ancestors is to grieve them. If there were some way in which a day were taken where everybody in a given country spent it in grief for the ancestors so they could go to the land of the ancestors would be positively useful to us. I'm sure that several million tears, a double billion people shedding tears for the same ancestral pole (pull?) would be likely to make a difference.

   This is the kind of thing that eventually will have to happen. Maybe this is the only condition that will help us break into the remembering space that allows the understanding of what kind of initiation is needed in order to bring out the birth of the kind of community that people feel comfortable with.


AncestorAltar5 Ancestor Shrine

One of the most effective ways to connect with Ancestors is to set up an Ancestor altar or shrine.  Doing so provides us with an invaluable tool to help focus our attention and awareness of their presence in our lives.  It is also a tool to help deepen and nurture a relationship with them.  There is no "correct" way to build a shrine to the Ancestors; use your intuition and imagination!  It can be as simple or elaborate as you wish.  Let the Ancestors guide you!

For those who prefer some basic guidelines to get started, here are a few suggestions:

Choose a comfortable location in your home (or on your land) that can be designated as sacred space.

Choose a table or flat surface of any size or shape.  Using a space on the floor or ground is fine.

You can choose to cover the surface or not.  If you do, choose a cloth of any color or fabric.  Red is the color for the Ancestors in the Dagara tradition.

Items to put on the shrine can include:

Photographs of deceased family members or names written on paper

Cherished personal items passed down to you from relatives

A glass or bowl of water


s or plants


Rocks or dirt from your Ancestors' place of birth or homeland

Food and drink.  This can be a small portion of your meals set aside for the Ancestors.  Or you can place fresh fruit on the shrine

Spirits of alcohol, i.e. vodka, gin, rum, whiskey

Meaningful items and art pieces representing your ancestral bloodline and/or family history.  For example, if your great-grandfather worked to build the railroads, an iron railroad spike would be a wonderful symbolic representation of his life

Keep in mind that what is important is your sincere effort and good intention.  Building an altar to the Ancestors can be fun!  There will come a time when the Ancestors will speak to you about what they want on their shrine.  Pay attention and just listen!

How you honor and revere your Ancestors is a personal thing.  At your altar you can pray, talk, sing, chant, cry, meditate, recite poetry, etc.  You can whisper or shout to them the most intimate details of your life.  There is no right or wrong way to communicate with them and pay your respects.  The important thing is that you do, and that you are sincere and genuine.  It must come from your heart!  In return, the Ancestors will provide guidance, encouragement, and support.  In time, your relationship with them will grow and you may find that you look forward to a daily commune with your Ancestors.  After all, its family!


DCDagaraWheel2Be  a  Host  for  Divinations!
As some of you have experienced, receiving a divination from Malidoma is a fascinating and powerful encounter with Spirit!  Unfortunately many people are unable to receive divinations from Malidoma due to too-faraway locations or transportation challenges. 

Many have inquired about how to bring Malidoma to their area.  One way to accomplish this is to host Malidoma for divinations!  In order to provide the best opportunity for Malidoma to connect and share the wisdom of the Otherworld, get 20+ people committed to receiving a divination, and he will come to your area.  Hosts receive a free divination!  For more information and details, write to [email protected].

Photo by Wendy Kaas
Village Boys
Africa Trip Planned
For December 2010

Malidoma is planning a general trip to Burkina Faso at the end of this year!  The focus of this trip will be to introduce participants to the rhythms and flow of daily, indigenous village life.  Now is the time for those who are seriously interested to begin preparations to make the journey a reality.  Begin obtaining essential items such as passport, visa, travel shots, etc.  October 15th is the deadline to say "Yes!"  Write to [email protected] to get your name on the list of interested participants.  Details will be forthcoming!

Market Scenes in Dano, Burkina Faso!

Photo by Wendy Kaas

Photo By Sheila Evans
Upcoming Events

Sisters of the Gates Women's Gathering:  "Nurturing the Feminine"
Participate in creating a unique ritual that will heal & transform your heart & soul!
East Coast Village, Cherry Plains, NY
June 11-13
for more info & registration, visit the East Coast Village website

An Evening with Malidoma Some´┐Ż:
Drumming, Teachings, and Discussion
@ Rites of Passage Council, Asheville, NC
Saturday, June 19
for more info write to: [email protected]

Private Divinations---
Rites of Passage Council
Asheville, NC
June 19-23
for more info write to:  [email protected]

4th IAST, Asheville, NC
Rites of Passage Council
June 23-27

4th IAST, East Coast Village (ECV)
Cherry Plain, NY
July 14-18

Private Divinations---
Mountain View, CA
August 21 & August 23-24
for more info write to [email protected]

3rd IAST,
Santa Rosa, CA

August 25-29


APSYS Conference---
Systemic Constellation & Rituals
Pollauberg, Styria in Austria
July 19-25
for more info call:
Tel:  +43/(0) 316/32 52 91
email:  [email protected]

The Spirit of Africa:  Workshop & Divination with Malidoma Some
Caduceus Klinik, Niendorfer Weg 5
29549 Bad Bevensen, near Hamburg, Germany
July 30-August 1

Divinations:  August 2-3
for more info contact:
Caduceus Verein
ph:  49.5821.477.129
fax:  49.5821.477.130
email:  [email protected]

Lecture:  Of Water & Spirit---
The Story of an African Shaman
Ljubljana, Slovenia (venue tba)
Saturday, August 7 @ 7pm

Divinations available near Ljubljana---
Visoko 103, 1292 IG, 25 km from the center of Ljubljana
August 8-10

For more info about the lecture & divinations contact:
Jozica Amadea Demsar
mobile phone:  00.386.30.648.910
office phone:  00.386.1.364.48.47
email:  [email protected]


The Power of Ritual & Community:  Lecture & Book Signing
Circles of Wisdom, Andover MA
Cost:  $30
Thursday, September 2 @ 7:30-9:30 pm
For more info contact Cathy at Circles of Wisdom @ 978.474.8010 or
Betsy McNair @ 781.259.3431 or write to [email protected]

Ancestors, Healing, & Empowerment:

A One Day Intensive with Malidoma Some'
Rolling Ridge Conference Center
North Andover, MA
September 4, 10 am to 10 pm

To register visit:
For more info contact Betsy McNair @ 781.259.3431 or write to [email protected]

Divinations available in Lincoln, MA
Friday, September 3 & Sunday, September 5
For appointments contact Betsy McNair @ 781.259.3431 or write to [email protected]

5th IAST, East Coast Village (ECV)
Cherry Plain, NY
September 8-12

Malidoma @ 26th Annual Minnesota Men's Conference
Camp Miller, Sturgeon Lake
September 14-19
for more info call Craig Ungerman @ 860.923.6987 or 860.942.1658
email address:  [email protected]
website address:

5th IAST, Asheville, NC
Rites of Passage Council
September 22-26

Healing Relationhip with Ancestors Workshop
Blue Deer Center, Margaretville, NY
for more info write to [email protected]
October 1-3

Annual Gathering @ East Coast Village (ECV)
Cherry Plain, NY
October 6-10

"Perhaps it was because I attended so many funerals that I have such a strong feeling that death is not the end, that the people we bury are going off to live somewhere else.  But at the same time, they will always be hovering around to watch over us and guide us through our journeys."

     Edwidge Danticat
     "We Are Ugly But We Are Here," The Caribbean Writer, Volume 10, 1996

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