E-Village News November 2010
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Malidoma's Pen
"A gateway to the Spirit World located in a cave was the technology that provided healing for one of my nieces.  My twelve-year old niece had some strange illness that translated mostly in the form of visions and nightmares.  People thought she hallucinated.  Having a moped at my disposal at the time, I decided to take my little niece on a ride to the healer's...

When we arrived there, it was dark.  The healer, who was the gatekeeper, came and disappeared into the dark mouth of the grotto without any flashlight.  He remained there for quite some time before coming out.  Standing in front of the cave, he made a long prayer,which was punctuated by noises coming out of the cave.  It was as if people were talking back at him, and things were moving very fast just inside the opening.  Eventually a faint light came out of the cave and settled there.  He turned around and said, 'They are here, just get in one at a time.'  My niece's jaws were clacking with fear and her knees were knocking against each other.  I encouraged her to enter the cave because nothing bad was going to happen to her...

Hesitantly, she walked in.  It felt like an eternity waiting for her because I could feel every bit of her fear.  I heard a screeching sound, and my heart stopped, then I felt very calm and content.  I knew my niece was okay.  When she came out...her face was beaming with joy! She said she had met her friends, the very people she saw in her hallucinations.  They were happy that she had come home to them finally, and they said they were going to work with her.  She said one of them, a woman, took her on a ride on her back.  They went far into a beautiful landscape.  They were flying up and down hills and mountains while she kept telling her not to be afraid because this is her home.  And so she felt no fear.  She did not remember how to be afraid, it was so beautiful.  She was crying.  I felt her joy while we rode home.  The villagers understand that this special connection with the kontombl� and the Spirit World held by my niece is a gift, and she will have a mentor who will help her hold and develop this gift in a way that will be healing for her and the others in the village.

Readers may be wondering if insights from indigenous medicine might be efficacious in the Western world.  I wonder if cases of mental illness, of the phenomenon known as chemical imbalance, and even depression might not be cases that could be addressed in this manner.  For even the possibility that some mental or emotional imbalance could be the prelude to a better and brighter life, as were my niece's 'hallucinations,' might act like medicine, restoring hope in a situation that appears unresolvable.  While gatekeepers and kontombl� may not be available to Westerners, perhaps some form of collective ritual could draw Spirit into such cases."

The Healing Wisdom
 of Africa

pgs. 76-77

Quick Links
More Than
 Just Bipolar

by Jessica Tisdall

ADHD, Bipolar,
Emotionally Unstable, with every psychiatrist comes a different label.
Take your
mood stabilizers, antidepressants, medication that steals my essence.

Sad, high, low, mad, you underestimate
 how bad!
Stay away from the booze, the weed, the hype, but tell me how else to sleep at night?

I crave to be normal,
fit in with the crowd,
I despise that I'm hyper and always so loud.  Mixed cycle, anxiety, mania, depressions, with every emotion comes a
 valuable lesson.

Passion, excitement
 to touch and feel,
I doubt these emotions I experience are real.  Random lovers,
 a thrill, hypo-mania, no man will settle with this type of behavior.

A sentence,
 a prisoner of
my own mind,
be gentle to yourself, treat yourself kind.  Stay strong, positive, mentally stable,
but with this disease will I ever be able?

I'm more than bipolar,
I know I can be.
Please show me the path to set my soul free.
This poem is my expressive confession...
I'm a girl living with manic depression....


Ship Wrecked
by Juliet Wilkerson

He said don't worry,
the storm will
 be over soon
But he doesn't
know about the

coffin in my closet,
the cadavers
in my brain
that speak to me in silent raging whispers, with chilly ivory fingertips grasping
 at my spirit
Whispers in the night of drunken sailors' tunes, and shipwrecks
echoing through the murky blackness of my morning coffee.


Drugs & Labels
by Donna

I get up in the morning,
a couple of
pills are due.
Hmmm, let me
 see now....
2 yellow, 1 pink, 1 blue.

I keep them in
 a little box,
that doles them out each day.
It further subdivides the meds, I take them right, that way.

One pill is an anti-depressant.  It's supposed to keep me from sinking,
down into a depressed hole, doesn't always work, I'm thinking!

Another pill is a hormone, for a sluggish thyroid gland.  And then there's one I'm at war with, it makes me feel
too "bland."

It's called a
"mood stabilizer."  It sounds like a mechanical device.  To be fair, it sometimes helps my mood,
 but the side effects aren't nice.

I take a bunch of pills at night that are supposed to make me drowsy.  But some nights, they just do not work, and in the morning I feel lousy.

So why do I take these pills, you ask?
Well....now that is
 quite a tale!
 I've been told
I'm this and that,
 diagnoses must have been on sale!

I've been struggling with an illness, at least that's what I'm told.
It seems that
 no one can agree,
and I'm just getting old.

It's only
to matter
how I really feel, they've said. 
But somehow
without a label, I'm lost inside my head.

I guess I'll keep
 on trudging and dutifully swallowing
 the pills.  Until somehow they find a "cure" for whatever
 are my ills!


by Clam Traffic Jam

do you hear that?
it's my aquarium
where my fish lives
and that thumping
in the walls...
it's just the man
with the head
with the arms
with no body
it's just him
trying to break through
and that shadow
in the corner is
see it breathing
it eats at my brain
every night while
I sleep
and that man
is Echo 199
from the future
and, doctor, they all live
they all do
in another dimension
you call it
my head
but I call it
the future

by Marea E. Johnson

Hideous voices
whispering through
the cracks of a
 broken mind.

A mind that
 once housed

The remaining pieces
now plagued
with unrelenting numbness
and indifference.

Humpty Dumpty
has a better chance
of being put
back together.


Lost Mother, Lost Daughter
by Frostany

You look at me through the thick glass of the door to the padded
 room I'm in

The staff here say I'm not responding to all the medications and therapies that they hurl at me, one after the next.

I stare back through the scratched window,
I see the tears in your eyes and if I wasn't
so numbed up inside I think I would cry too.

You see my hair
that hasn't been
brushed in days
you see my teeth that are yellowing and gross.
You see the way I rock back and forth to soothe
the self that I still have closed up tight inside.

I want to open the locked door and reach out,
I want to grab your arms and hug you tight,
I want to sit in your lap and have you comfort me
like a little girl who
 just needs some
 love and care

But the doors stay locked and you don't have the key, and you don't like to hug me anymore these days, and even though I'm small, I'm no longer a child.

I'm not your little girl anymore now,
I'm a mental patient in a psych ward
and you can't seem to see past that,
all you see are my flaws and shortcomings.

You see the way I mumble and ramble back
to the voices that only I can hear and notice.
You don't see the way I also say to you
"I love you mom and I need you right now!"
You see my fear of things that aren't real
but you don't see my fear of what my reality
has turned into here on this locked ward.

You see the way my eyes don't focus,
but you don't see the times that my eyes
are staring right at you and pleading for you
to notice that I'm more than just a screw up;
I'm still your teenage daughter who loves you!

You walk away from the window, shaking your head and sighing
and I start to scream and cry in my little locked Quiet Room.

The staff tell me to stop crying; you don't even turn around to check in on me once more,
but if you did you'd know that this time my problem's not just
the schizophrenia acting up; you'd know that just as you cry for the daughter you once knew,
I cry for the mother I seem to have lost.


Frostany is 16 years old and writes poetry when she is out of the hospital on occaison

Spiritual Awakening!
"In African indigenous culture, just as there is high respect for artists and healers, there is similar respect for the person who is experiencing a psychological crisis.  This crisis is seen as the result of an intense interaction with the Other World, making the person think and act crazily.  Resolving that crisis, in an indigenous community, results in releasing that person's gifts to the community--the very gifts won through the person's intense dealings with Spirit.  Every time I encounter a modern person who is in crisis, a person whom other people refer to as crazy, I wonder what gifts are being lost to the community.

Countless people wake up in the middle of the night wondering what is going on around and within them.  Some think they are crazy, some feel something incredible is happening to them, and others just go insane.  This problem is not specific to the modern world; it happens also in Africa.  The difference is that in the modern world, errant behavior in a person is regarded as a personal problem, concerning only that individual.  The possibility that there is a larger meaning to be found in the person's experiences, which might translate into something meaningful for that person's community, is rarely considered.

A community must look inside itself and its members for instances of powerful spiritual connection.  This not only guarantees ongoing attention to one another and diminishes our vulnerability to anonymity, but also softens the pains associated with spiritual awakening.

For its own benefit and that of its members, the community must provide a way to support people undergoing crises resulting from the activity of Spirit.  The community supports the person through ritual.  Such people often experience great agitation and may act inappropriately because they are a vessel of Spirit.  A ritual for assisting a person experiencing a spiritual awakening would involve placing the individual at the center of the village's attention; this attention settles the person's agitation.  Without a ritual structure, people undergoing a natural emergence of Spirit within often feel as if they are going crazy or are imagining things.  As long as Spirit is determined to disturb them, they will display unavoidable symptoms.  Once this kind of awakening begins, it is psychologically and emotionally damaging to be unable to integrate one's life.  Community provides the safety net in which an individual can rest until he or she has become reintegrated."

The Healing Wisdom
 of Africa

pgs. 97, 99

Awakening Genius

"Mentoring is aimed at increasing security, clarity, and maturity in the young person.  It seeks to develop the genius within a young person so that the youth can arrive at his or her destination--the sharing of one's gifts within
 the community.

At the core of mentoring is the understanding that genius must be invited out of a person.  People carry to this world something important that they must deliver, and mentors help to deliver that genius to the community.  To see the genius in a young person is to give it the fertile ground required for it to burst forth and blossom, for it is not enough to be born into this world loaded with such a beauty.  The newborn must be assisted in giving birth to the genius that he is born with.  Failure to do so kills that genius along with the person carrying it.  The community responsible for the death of an inner genius is like an assassin.  The community that is able to receive the person's genius gives birth to the adult who is able to contribute his or her healing gifts to
 that community.

The West defines genius as a great intelligence, or an exceptional talent.  I don't reject that definition.  But it is different from the indigenous definition, which sees genius as an open line that flows through a person from the Other World.  It seems to me that limiting the meaning of genius to intelligence or talent displaces it from its real source and privatizes it in the individual.  If genius has no grounding in the sacred, then it becomes easy for the community to ignore it if it chooses.  In the traditional context, the community does not have a choice.  The community is obligated to awaken the newcomer's genius, and the ritual welcoming of the newborn into this world is the community's official acceptance of
this responsibility.

If genius is the expression of the sacred in an individual, then the individual's link to the Other World is the spiritual umbilical cord that cannot be cut until its owner is fully awakened into his gift.  Just as our umbilical cord cannot be cut until we are fully in this side of reality, we must nurture and maintain the genius until its complete birth in this world .  To cut outright is to kill.

I stress the role of community because a mentor distinct from a community is very hard to conceive of in the indigenous mind.  The point is that there is no use delivering something to a destination where there is nobody to receive it.  The very purpose of mentoring is twofold.  One is to recognize and awaken; the other is to facilitate the delivery of the genius to the community.  In a culture where community matters more than anything, mentoring becomes an essential social responsibility.  People assume that a mentor will come forward
 who is appropriate for the particular youth
 in question.

Because genius is sacred, originating not in this world but another, it must be approached ritualistically, that is, symbolically--with respect and reverence... genius understands the language of ritual better than any other language.  Through ritual, genius feels invited to come out into the world.  Ritual makes the host of genius feel recognized, because ritual shows that the people inviting genius to come forth do speak its language and therefore must mean well.  Making the host feel welcome and recognized is necessary because the birth of genius is an intense emotional event in which the pupil is vulnerable.  Indigenous people tend to approach emotion, and sometimes even pain, as a sacred thing because they think it means that something in the person is moving out in order to let something else come in.  The tension between the incoming and outgoing energies produces pain.  So the pain involved in bringing genius to birth evokes ritual.  The stretching of the body's physiology out of its normal parameters, which is what allows the shift to happen, is supported through ritual, as a serious and
sacred thing."

The Healing Wisdom
 of Africa


The Shamanic View
of Mental Illness

(featuring Malidoma Patrice Som�)

by Stephanie Marohn

(Excerpted from The Natural Medicine Guide to Schizophrenia,
pages 178-189, or The Natural Medicine Guide to Bi-polar Disorder)

What a Shaman Sees
in A Mental Hospital    

     In the shamanic view, mental illness signals "the birth of a healer," explains Malidoma Patrice Som�.  Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

     What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as "good news from the other world."  The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm.  "Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field," says Dr. Som�.  These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

     One of the things Dr. Som� encountered when he first came to the United States in 1980 for graduate study was how this country deals with mental illness.  When a fellow student was sent to a mental institute due to "nervous depression," Dr. Som� went to visit him.

     "I was so shocked.  That was the first time I was brought face to face with what is done here to people exhibiting the same symptoms I've seen in my village."  What struck Dr. Som� was that the attention given to such symptoms was based on pathology, on the idea that the condition is something that needs to stop.  This was in complete opposition to the way his culture views such a situation.  As he looked around the stark ward at the patients, some in straitjackets, some zoned out on medications, others screaming, he observed to himself, "So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture.  What a loss!  What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted."

     Another way to say this, which may make more sense to the Western mind, is that we in the West are not trained in how to deal or even taught to acknowledge the existence of psychic phenomena, the spiritual world.  In fact, psychic abilities are denigrated.  When energies from the spiritual world emerge in a Western psyche, that individual is completely unequipped to integrate them or even recognize what is happening.  The result can be terrifying.  Without the proper context for and assistance in dealing with the breakthrough from another level of reality, for all practical purposes, the person is insane.  Heavy dosing with anti-psychotic drugs compounds the problem and prevents the integration that could lead to soul development and growth in the individual who has received these energies.

     On the mental ward, Dr Som� saw a lot of "beings" hanging around the patients, "entities" that are invisible to most people but that shamans and psychics are able to see.  "They were causing the crisis in these people," he says.  It appeared to him that these beings were trying to get the medications and their effects out of the bodies of the people the beings were trying to merge with, and were increasing the patients' pain in the process.  "The beings were acting almost like some kind of excavator in the energy field of people.  They were really fierce about that.  The people they were doing that to were just screaming and yelling," he said.  He couldn't stay in that environment and had to leave.

     In the Dagara tradition, the community helps the person reconcile the energies of both worlds--"the world of the spirit that he or she is merged with, and the village and community."  That person is able then to serve as a bridge between the worlds and help the living with information and healing they need.  Thus, the spiritual crisis ends with the birth of another healer.  "The other world's relationship with our world is one of sponsorship," Dr. Som� explains.  "More often than not, the knowledge and skills that arise from this kind of merger are a knowledge or a skill that is provided directly from the other world."

     The beings who were increasing the pain of the inmates on the mental hospital ward were actually attempting to merge with the inmates in order to get messages through to this world.  The people they had chosen to merge with were getting no assistance in learning how to be a bridge between the worlds and the beings' attempts to merge were thwarted.  The result was the sustaining of the initial disorder of energy and the aborting of the birth of a healer.

     "The Western culture has consistently ignored the birth of the healer," states Dr. Som�.  "Consequently, there will be a tendency from the other world to keep trying as many people as possible in an attempt to get somebody's attention.  They have to try harder."  The spirits are drawn to people whose senses have not been anesthetized.  "The sensitivity is pretty much read as an invitation to come in," he notes.

     Those who develop so-called mental disorders are those who are sensitive, which is viewed in Western culture as oversensitivity.  Indigenous cultures don't see it that way and, as a result, sensitive people don't experience themselves as overly sensitive.  In the West, "it is the overload of the culture they're in that is just wrecking them," observes Dr. Som�.  The frenetic pace, the bombardment of the senses, and the violent energy that characterize Western culture can overwhelm sensitive people.

Schizophrenia and Foreign Energy

     With schizophrenia, there is a special "receptivity to a flow of images and information, which cannot be controlled," stated Dr. Som�.  "When this kind of rush occurs at a time that is not personally chosen, and particularly when it comes with images that are scary and contradictory, the person goes into a frenzy."

     What is required in this situation is first to separate the person's energy from the extraneous foreign energies, by using shamanic practice (what is known as a "sweep") to clear the latter out of the individual's aura.  With the clearing of their energy field, the person no longer picks up a flood of information and so no longer has a reason to be scared and disturbed, explains Dr. Som�.

     Then it is possible to help the person align with the energy of the spirit being attempting to come through from the other world and give birth to the healer.  The blockage of that emergence is what creates problems.  "The energy of the healer is a high-voltage energy," he observes.  "When it is blocked, it just burns up the person.  It's like a short-circuit.  Fuses are blowing.  This is why it can be really scary, and I understand why this culture prefers to confine these people.  Here they are yelling and screaming, and they're put into a straitjacket.  That's a sad image."  Again, the shamanic approach is to work on aligning the energies so there is no blockage, "fuses" aren't blowing, and the person can become the healer they are meant to be.

     It needs to be noted at this point, however, that not all of the spirit beings that enter a person's energetic field are there for the purposes of promoting healing.  There are negative energies as well, which are undesirable presences in the aura.  In those cases, the shamanic approach is to remove them from the aura, rather than work to align the discordant energies.

Alex:  Crazy in the USA, Healer in Africa

     To test his belief that the shamanic view of mental illness holds true in the Western world as well as in indigenous cultures, Dr. Som� took a mental patient back to Africa with him, to his village.  "I was prompted by my own curiosity to find out whether there's truth in the universality that mental illness could be connected with an alignment with a being from another world," says Dr. Som�.

     Alex was an 18-year-old American who had suffered a psychotic break when he was 14.  He had hallucinations, was suicidal, and went through cycles of dangerously severe depression.  He was in a mental hospital and had been given a lot of drugs, but nothing was helping.  "The parents had done everything--unsuccessfully," says Dr. Som�.  "They didn't know what else to do."


     With their permission, Dr. Som� took their son to Africa.  "After eight months there, Alex had become quite normal, Dr. Som� reports.  He was even able to participate with healers in the business of healing; sitting with them all day long and helping them, assisting them in what they were doing with their clients . . . . He spent about four years in my village."  Alex stayed by choice, not because he needed more healing.  He felt, "much safer in the village than in America."

     To bring his energy and that of the being from the spiritual realm into alignment, Alex went through a shamanic ritual designed for that purpose, although it was slightly different from the one used with the Dagara people.  "He wasn't born in the village, so something else applied.  But the result was similar, even though the ritual was not literally the same," explains Dr. Som�.  The fact that aligning the energy worked to heal Alex demonstrated to Dr. Som� that the connection between other beings and mental illness is indeed universal.

     After the ritual, Alex began to share the messages that the spirit being had for this world.  Unfortunately, the people he was talking to didn't speak English (Dr. Som� was away at that point).  The whole experience led, however, to Alex's going to college to study psychology.  He returned to the United States after four years because "he discovered that all the things that he needed to do had been done, and he could then move on with his life."

     The last that Dr. Som� heard was that Alex was in graduate school in psychology at Harvard.  No one had thought he would ever be able to complete undergraduate studies, much less get an advanced degree.

     Dr. Som� sums up what Alex's mental illness was all about:  "He was reaching out.  It was an emergency call.  His job and his purpose was to be a healer.  He said no one was paying attention to that."

     After seeing how well the shamanic approach worked for Alex, Dr. Som� concluded that spirit beings are just as much an issue in the West as in his community in Africa.  "Yet the question still remains, the answer to this problem must be found here, instead of having to go all the way overseas to seek the answer.  There has to be a way in which a little bit of attention beyond the pathology of this whole experience leads to the possibility of coming up with the proper ritual to help people.

Longing for Spiritual Connection

     A common thread that Dr. Som� has noticed in "mental" disorders in the West is "a very ancient ancestral energy that has been placed in stasis, that finally is coming out in the person."  His job then is to trace it back, to go back in time to discover what that spirit is.  In most cases, the spirit is connected to nature, especially with mountains or big rivers, he says.

     In the case of mountains, as an example to explain the phenomenon, "it's a spirit of the mountain that is walking side by side with the person and, as a result, creating a time-space distortion that is affecting the person caught in it."  What is needed is a merger or alignment of the two energies, "so the person and the mountain spirit become one."  Again, the shaman conducts a specific ritual to bring about this alignment.

     Dr. Som� believes that he encounters this situation so often in the United States because "most of the fabric of this country is made up of the energy of the machine, and the result of that is the disconnection and the severing of the past.  You can run from the past, but you can't hide from it."  The ancestral spirit of the natural world comes visiting.  "It's not so much what the spirit wants as it is what the person wants," he says.  "The spirit sees in us a call for something grand, something that will make life meaningful, and so the spirit is responding to that."

     That call, which we don't even know we are making, reflects "a strong longing for a profound connection, a connection that transcends materialism and possession of things and moves into a tangible cosmic dimension.  Most of this longing is unconscious, but for spirits, conscious or unconscious doesn't make any difference."  They respond to either.
     As part of the ritual to merge the mountain and human energy, those who are receiving the "mountain energy" are sent to a mountain area of their choice, where they pick up a stone that calls to them.  They bring that stone back for the rest of the ritual and then keep it as a companion; some even carry it around with them.  "The presence of the stone does a lot in tuning the perceptive ability of the person," notes Dr. Som�.  "They receive all kinds of information that they can make use of, so it's like they get some tangible guidance from the other world as to how to live their life."

     When it is the "river energy," those being called go to the river and, after speaking to the river spirit, find a water stone to bring back for the same kind of ritual as with the mountain spirit.

     "People think something extraordinary must be done in an extraordinary situation like this," he says.  That's not usually the case.  Sometimes it is as simple as carrying a stone.

A Sacred Ritual Approach to Mental Illness

    One of the gifts a shaman can bring to the Western world is to help people rediscover ritual, which is so sadly lacking.  "The abandonment of ritual can be devastating.  From the spiritual view, ritual is inevitable and necessary if one is to live," Dr. Som� writes in Ritual:  Power, Healing, and Community.  "To say that ritual is needed in the industrialized world is an understatement.  We have seen in my own people that it is probably impossible to live a sane life without it."

     Dr. Som� did not feel that the rituals from his traditional village could simply be transferred to the West, so over his years of shamanic work here, he has designed rituals that meet the very different needs of this culture.  Although the rituals change according to the individual or the group involved, he finds that there is a need for certain rituals in general.

     One of these involves helping people discover that their distress is coming from the fact that they are "called by beings from the other world to cooperate with them in doing healing work."  Ritual allows them to move out of the distress and accept that calling.

     Another ritual need relates to initiation.  In indigenous cultures all over the world, young people are initiated into adulthood when they reach a certain age.  The lack of such initiation in the West is part of the crisis that people are in here, says Dr. Som�.  He urges communities to bring together "the creative juices of people who have had this kind of experience, in an attempt to come up with some kind of an alternative ritual that would at least begin to put a dent in this kind of crisis."

     Another ritual that repeatedly speaks to the needs of those coming to him for help entails making a bonfire, and then putting into the bonfire "items that are symbolic of issues carried inside the individuals . . . It might be the issues of anger and frustration against an ancestor who has left a legacy of murder and enslavement or anything, things that the descendant has to live with," he explains.  "If these are approached as things that are blocking the human imagination, the person's life purpose, and even the person's view of life as something that can improve, then it makes sense to begin thinking in terms of how to turn that blockage into a roadway that can lead to something more creative and more fulfilling."

     The example of issues with an ancestors touches on rituals designed by Dr. Som� that address a serious dysfunction in Western society and in the process "trigger enlightenment" in participants.  These are ancestral rituals, and the dysfunction they are aimed at is the mass turning-of-the-back on ancestors.  Some of the spirits trying to come through, as described earlier, may be "ancestors who want to merge with a descendant in an attempt to heal what they weren't able to do while in their physical body."

     "Unless the relationship between the living and the dead is in balance, chaos ensues," he says.  "The Dagara believe that, if such an imbalance exists, it is the duty of the living to heal their ancestors.  If these ancestors are not healed, their sick energy will haunt the souls and psyches of those who are responsible for helping them."  The rituals focus on healing the relationship with our ancestors, both specific issues of an individual ancestor and the larger cultural issues contained in our past.  Dr. Som� has seen extraordinary healing occur at these rituals.

     Taking a sacred ritual approach to mental illness rather than regarding the person as a pathological case gives the person affected--and indeed the community at large--the opportunity to begin looking at it from that vantage point too, which leads to "a whole plethora of opportunities and ritual initiative that can be very, very beneficial to everyone present," states. Dr. Som�.

Malidoma Patrice Som�, Ritual:  Power, Healing, and Community (New York:  Penguin, 1997):  12, 19

Malidoma Patrice Som�, Of Water and the Spirit:  Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (New York:  Penguin, 1994):  9, 10.


Ask Malidoma!
Malidoma Q:  How can a person begin to find out what his or her life's purpose might be?  Is this something you feel we can discover for ourselves, or must someone wiser tell us what it is?  I'm 55 years old, and though I feel it's important for me to know this so that I can put my talents to their best use, all my efforts haven't led to clarity.  Or do we not need to know?  Maybe only the ego cares about this!  What do you think?

A:  There is no way we and our purpose can be ignorant of, or completely alienated from, each other like twins who were separated at birth. It is inconceivable that we humans could be in this world for no reason. We either know our purpose or it knows us. There is a larger issue and it is whether we are waiting for someone to confirm what we already know before we truly believe it, or we are strong and bold enough to embrace our convictions. As people under the umbrella of modernity we long for acknowledgement and recognition. As humans, we want to be witnessed. To be seen in our gift means a lot to us. It means that we have the permission to fulfill a mission. It is as if someone, preferably an authority, has pronounced us fit to do what is seen as a mandate to fulfill a destiny. This witnessing or pronouncement from a valued person is like an authorization, a permission to go ahead and do what we must do. Consequently, if purpose is mission, purpose without the "permission" is purpose denied deep down. At least, this is what the human psyche reads.

     Purpose and gift are one and the same. We all came into this world each with a gift. The gift is our profession, the thing we are most qualified to do in this lifetime. In indigenous thinking, there is no way one can arrive in this world without one. So the larger issue in the modern world is to quickly find out what that gift is in order to radiate and live it. This is what initiation in indigenous culture takes care of. Initiation allows the individual to become aware of, and to see their gift directly from the other world. Seeing the gift is seeing the light. It bursts open the floodgate of emotion and commitment and anchors a person's life in it.

     Our purpose is always pulling at us. Without formal initiation, we must notice this pull and go in the direction it wants us to. We must sense the throbbing of the gift inside and be willing to test it in various ways. The vitality of the gift feels like an irresistible pull to do something. It is a call to action that begins with a quest. For some, it may take a lifetime searching for it. In "Matrix" for example, Neo felt the pull to search because his purpose was to become the agent of redemption who frees people from the illusion of their conditioning. He didn't believe it at first. But eventually he came into the realization that he is the One. Similarly, purpose rarely discloses itself solemnly to its bearer. Instead, it comes feeling like a definite interest in something you like and later on takes the form of an increasing amount of passion toward a specific action in a clear area. A fixation with arts turns out to be a calling for healing for choreographic design, a career in therapy, etc.  A person who is constantly withdrawn and dangerously introverted may turn out to be a shaman with deep connection to the otherworld.  If you are deeply excited and moved by what you are doing, chances are you are in tune with your gift. Purposeful living rises naturally from deep within as an urge to engage in activities that uplift self and the others. If what you are doing feels like this, chances are you are fulfilling your purpose.

     The worse part is when gift or genius begins with critical marginalization such as a derangement of the mind and body: a complete withdrawal from normalcy, and even a restless and reckless behavior endangering self and others. It suffices to say that sometimes the size of the gift is proportional to the rattling that plagues its bearer. Historically, in indigenous cultures such as Dagara, the gift of healing usually begins making itself known through trauma. I have seen some people in my village go "nuts" because their gift of healing had morphed into a giant energy that drove them crazy. So, in a culture that understands, a person in crisis is the staging ground for something beneficial to the village. Gifts like to come out of their bearers in a grandiose fashion. This may sound like an irony, but it must be said that contact with the otherworld is not always smooth and gentle.

     We have a contract with our gifts. According to this contract, we must deliver the gift. When, for one reason or another, we default on this, the gift is upset. The resulting effect is that we drop out of rhythm, out of harmony. We get sick. This physical condition is an expression of the disharmony resulting from a cacophony that accompanies an alienation from purpose. So if you feel you have talents, a gift that nags you everyday, follow the thread of its expression. If you do not feel anything at all, see a diviner or a therapist as soon as possible. The gift knows the style of its expression and where it wants to go. It is service to it and to self to go down that path with little or no knowledge or plan. It might appear troublesome, but in the end, it is source of generativity, creativity and blossoming. Living in one's gift is like living with the beloved. Purpose is the defining factor for any viable raison d'�tre, a source of dignity, style and elegance in which life's demeanor is reflected.

Many inquiries come to Malidoma through cyberspace concerning a deeper desire to connect with and experience personal, more in-depth knowledge and information of Dagara traditions & cosmology, and their real application for daily modern living.  Ask Malidoma! was created as a way to fill that need.

He is eager to respond to questions on Dagara spiritual traditions & cosmology, the elements, nature, divination, ritual & community, inter-dimensional beings & worlds, kontombili, the role & benefit of ritual sacrifice, ritual application for daily living initiation, shrines, ancestors, etc.

Send your question to [email protected]Malidoma will choose and respond to at least one question per newsletter.  He is most likely to respond to the question with the widest appeal to the community, or the question that is most-frequently asked.

Upcoming Radio Talk Show Interview featuring Malidoma:

Sunday, November 14th
Call to Consciousness" Talk Radio Show Interview, Live.  K-Talk AM 1150, 9:30 am PDT, Los Angeles, CA area Outside Los Angeles area, go to http://www.ktlkam1150.com.  Archived the following week at http://www.universalflag.com/av.html
Host: Brian McClure

Archived Radio Talk Show Interviews featuring Malidoma:

"Expanding Awareness" Talk Radio Show Interview, with Malidoma Som�.  Archived from the August 28th show at http://www.innerexplorationprocess.com/victorvenckus/WZBC.html  Host: Victor Venckus

"Awakening Value:  Shamanic Technologies of Consciousness & Success" Web Radio Show Interview, Archived from the September 9th show at www.awakeningvalue.com  Host: Marti Spiegelman

"The Way Forward
" Talk Radio Show Interview, Live.  KPFK Radio 90.7 FM, 2 pm PDT, Los Angeles, CA area.  Archived from the October 1st show at http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive  Host: Eisha Mason

"Grassroots Holistic Health" Blog Talk Radio Show Interview, Live.  An Interview with Dr. Malidoma Patrice Som�.  Archived from the October 23rd show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/grassrootsholistichealth  Host: Wesley Gray

"Inner Vision Monday
" with Meri Ka Ra & Brother Yaw Talk Radio Show Interview, Live.  KPFK Radio 90.7 FM,
1-2 pm PDT, Los Angeles, CA area.  Archived from the October 25th show at http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive 
Host: Meri Ka Ra & Brother Yaw

Interested in I.A.S.T?DCDagaraWheel2

The two-year intensive, also known as Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies (I.A.S.T.) is an exciting training program that explores the anatomy of indigenous African spiritual technologies and practices.

The continent of Africa is not only the birthplace of mankind, it is also the repository of profound unseen powers and technologies waiting to be utilized in such a way as to contribute to a radical healing change much needed in the world today.  This calls for some militant initiative on the part of those within whose heart ancient Africa speaks--  those individuals will find it immensely rewarding to check in for this exciting and compelling journey home where they can expect to find how much of the old in them has been waiting to burst in service of the World's need to heal and to transform.

I.A.S.T. training is being offered for this purpose!

Designed for those with aggressive intent to commit and devote themselves to serve the needs of others in this new era, this five-part program is created to lay the groundwork, deeply and personally, for a leap into the magical and spiritual technological legacies of the African ancestors.

The current cycle for the two-year intensive I.A.S.T. trainings, is nearly completed.  We are gauging interest for the next two-year intensive training. If you are interested in participating in I.A.S.T., please write to [email protected] Once we have a sufficient number of people interested, we will look further into dates and locations.

Note that completion of an I.A.S.T. training is the prerequisite for further study and training with Malidoma and indigenous shamans in Burkina Faso!

To learn more about I.A.S.T., see our website at www.malidoma.com

Be a Host for Divinations!DCDagaraWheel2
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 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 Other World, 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]

Donations for the Dagara Cultural Youth Festival, 2011
Photo by Theresa Thomas

The Dagara Cultural Youth Festival this year February 2010 was a tremendous success!  The monetary support Malidoma received through donations for the festival--without a doubt--played a major role.

Because of this achievement, Malidoma has indisputably become the leader in the safeguarding and promotion of Dagara ancestral traditions.  In the past, UNESCO, a division of the United Nations was co-sponsoring this government program.  Suddenly in 2009, both UNESCO and the government dropped any support and the Ministry of Culture told Dano that it was on its own.  The High Commissioner of Dano, upon learning through the grapevine of what Malidoma had been doing in the West, asked him for help.  This was the beginning of Malidoma's highly visible leadership role in his own country (he was featured on T.V. several times in Burkina Faso--never before had this occurred).

The Dagara Cultural Youth Festival is an attempt to interest youth in the values of the traditions of their ancestors so that they can preserve it in themselves amidst the sweeping changes of modernity.  UNESCO had shown interest in it for reasons of its own and then dropped out when these interests dried up.

Again we need your help! 

Playing the Balafon
Photo By Theresa Thomas

If you have ever been moved by the values of the Dagara culture in the West, this is a wonderful opportunity and--we believe--an invitation from the ancestors to step up to the plate and show the extent of our appreciation of the wisdom that is now endangered in its place of birth.

The goal is to raise $15K or more for this week-long event which is scheduled to happen again in February of 2011. Exact dates are not yet set. Your tax-deductible contribution can be sent directly to Aviela Inc., c/o Robert Walker, P.O. 82, Cherry Plain, NY 12040.

Once again this is a call to rise, for it is now our time to shine!


Upcoming Events

DCDagaraWheel2 Private Divinations---
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
November 1-5
for more info write to [email protected]

Ancestral Light--The Healing Wisdom of Africa  A Public Talk with Dr. Malidoma Som�________
The Michener Institute, Auditorium
222 St. Patrick Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1V4
(1 block N of Dundas & 2 blocks W of University Ave.,
close to St. Patrick Subway Station)
Tuesday, November 2 @ 7-9pm (Registration @ 6:30)
Advanced Tickets:  $25 Regular, $20 Seniors & Students
Buy On Line at http://malidoma.eventbrite.com 
or cash at Wonderworks Book Store (79 Harbord St.
Toronto, M5S 1G4)
At the Door:  $30 (Cash only)
For info/questions contact host:
Leslie Fell,[email protected] or 416.231.4815

An Evening with Malidoma Som�:  A Public Talk
$15 advance, $20 at the door
in the Council House @ The Ojai Foundation
Thursday, November 11, 7:30-9:30pm
For reservations go to www.ojaifoundation.org
or call 805.646.8343
The Ojai Foundation is in Upper Ojai.  Take HWY 150.
Go past Besant Hill School.  Take next RIGHT (opposite
Old Walnut Road).

The Gender of Magic:  Men & the Other World

A Men's Gathering_______________________
Ojai, CA
November 12-14
Cost:  $455 (includes meals)
$250 deposit by Oct. 15th to secure placement
Payment in full by Nov. 1st
Make check payable to Tudor Marinescu & mail to
658 S. La Luna Ave, Ojai, CA.  93023
Bathrooms, camping & sleeping in a yurt are available
for more info write to [email protected] and also see
info flier

Call to Consciousness" Talk Radio Show Interview, Live  K-Talk AM 1150, 9:30 am PDT, Los Angeles, CA
Outside Los Angeles area, go to http://www.ktlkam1150.com
Archived the following week at http://www.universalflag.com/av.html   Host: Brian McClure  Sunday, November 14

Private Divinations---
Ojai, CA

November 15-19
for more info write to [email protected]

Staying Connected:  Receiving Help & Healing
From the Ancestors---An Evening with Malidoma Som�
A Public Talk
Wednesday, November 17 @ 7:30 am
KRST Unity Center for Afrakan Spiritual Science
7825 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA  90047
$15 in advance/$20 at the door

Ancestor's Ritual
Ojai, CA
November 19-21
Cost:  $455 (includes meals)
$250 deposit by Oct. 15th to secure placement
Payment in full by Nov. 1st
Make check payable to Tudor Marinescu & mail to
658 S. La Luna Ave., Ojai, CA.  93023

Bathrooms, camping & sleeping in a yurt are available

for more info write to [email protected] and also see
info flier

Journey to Village of Dano, Burkina Faso, West Africa

December 8-21
for more info write to [email protected]

Malidoma Som� at Jackie's on the Reef,
Negril, Jamaica, W.I.

Ritual & African Spirituality Workshop__________

For those seeking to revitalize their connection with nature, magic, and community.

Cost:  $1,500 (does not include airfare)
Contact:  Claudia at 973.336.5226
January 14-18, 2011
Email:  [email protected]
To schedule a private divination session at this retreat, write to [email protected]

Lecture at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN
February 11 & 12, 2011
Stay tuned for more details!

Private Divinations
Minneapolis, MN
February 13-16, 2011
Divination appointments will be scheduled
beginning the 2nd week in January, 2011
     "In Africa, madmen are tolerated because madness is sacred ... A madman no longer decides, no longer distinguishes between good and bad.   So we can't judge him.  He is untouchable.  The origin of madness is a mystery and we don't meddle with it."
~Assane Kouyat�, b. 1954
Interview by Olivier Barlet, Africultures, 2002 July 23