"For the Dagara, cosmology begins with the story of creation. In the beginning there was no earth as we know it. In its place was a burning planet, a ball of fire combusting at high speed. Therefore, fire is the first element of the Dagara wheel. Fire is present in everything, and everything needs fire. It was not until this moving and burning sphere encountered a huge body of water that things began to change. Water became the second element in the cosmological wheel. The shock resulting from the collision of fire and water not only slowed the combustion process, but also chased fire into the underworld, leaving the surface as a hot steamy place, fertile for the breeding of all kinds of life forms. This surface, hospitable to life, is what is known as earth, which constitutes the third elemental principal of the Dagara cosmological wheel. The various hard components of the earth provide structure and connection and are known as mineral or stone, the fourth element in the cosmological.
Meanwhile, a steam of great density formed the atmosphere around the earth. (These images translate imperfectly into Western terms; think of them as poetic rather than scientific descriptions.) As the steam expanded, its pressure began to subside. The reduction of atmospheric pressure was conducive to the birth of life, and thus the fifth element, vegetative nature, came into being."
The Healing Wisdom of Africa
|Ancestral Healing Ritual with|
|A participant shares her experience:
"Do not be the one who is waiting for
others to find
This past weekend I attended a weekend retreat in Ojai with my teacher Malidoma Somé. It has been some time since I have been in the presence of community, creating ritual, and with Malidoma's brilliance. My life changed because of this work several years ago and, looking back, I realized that once I was introduced to the concept of ancestors as allies and support and that we are not separated from the elements, I literally picked up the ball and ran with it. I followed the calling to become a diviner one year into my training and continue to work with the ancestors who use me as a channel to divine the next stages in a person's life. I also teach five elemental retreats.
What an honor, what a privilege and today that is what I am grateful for. When asked why I was here when the community sat in circle, I said with a deep sincerity, "I am in love with this work and with my ancestors!" I cannot disclose the details of the ritual to honor the potency of it, but wanted to share a visual of it and the power of ritual and community.
The weekend began with an introduction to the importance of our ancestors to navigate the modern world. The way Malidoma talked about them brought them alive for us by inviting us to reconnect with them daily, talk to them and ask for their help. He spoke fondly of his grandfather, who he says speaks through him with a sense of humor but it was clear the relationship was strong, respectful and obviously one that offered him guidance. In a divination I received I was told I would often feel alone but to know I never was. This I now understand to be true.
The morning of our ritual it rained hard, it was relentless as we sat in the sweat lodge and sang and cleansed. Earlier we had wondered if the rain would stop long enough for us to do a fire ritual. We need not have worried. The ancestors had our backs. By the time we were to begin preparations, the rain had eased to a slight drizzle. As a community we spent the entire day creating the ritual space. Each element was assigned the task of beautifying the large amount of land we were kindly offered for this purpose. We divided into our elements groups. The fire clan to build fires, one on each side and a large pit leading to the larger fire. The water clan to create a cooling off, a healing and a place of peace for those after they had experienced the heat of transformation. The earth clan to create a village from where we left and where we returned. The village sang and drummed for 4 hours! It was where we were welcomed back. The mineral clan to create the paths of remembering that led us from the village to each element and back home, and the nature clan, the element of change and transformation, to accompany us on our journey of transformation. We all worked hard for hours to make our stations beautiful. A shrine was set up, with photos of the ancestors, all our ancestors together.
After dinner it was clear and dry and a full moon had come to greet us and light our way. We began the ritual; the land transformed from darkness into light. The candles lit up the paths, the ancestors waited to receive us at the altar where we were handed over by the supporting hands of our guides. Three fires burned bright to await our prayers.
The water shrine was held with such love and we danced to the music of those in the village who with gusto continued to keep the momentum of song and dance and drumming to the grandmothers and the grandfathers until each person completed their work and was accompanied back home, only to be greeted with a loud roar of our name. It felt GOOOOD!!!
I danced all the way with such joy and a sense that my people were pleased with me. No time for solemnity, only time for celebration. That night when we were all in bed, the rain began again. The old ones say it is a sign that when rain comes after such a radical ritual the ancestors are pleased, and so it was. The next morning a warm sun came to warm us. Now do you believe in magic?
My thanks to all those who accompanied me on this journey, but especially to Malidoma who continues to work relentlessly to bring the wisdom to us for healing. And especially to the Dagara people for their teachings and for allowing Malidoma to share these teachings with us, I am deeply grateful. ASHE!Mbali, a diviner from Los Angeles, CA., trained in Dagara divination. She participated in the Ancestors Healing Riutal in Ojai, CA., on November 19-21, 2010. To view her website,
Her email address isMbali@ourdivinemedicine.com
|The Five Elements & Community|
"I have been using names such as water people, fire people, earth people, mineral people, and nature people. Indeed, these five elements are also definable by clan; people are born into one or another of the clans, much like being born under a certain astrological sign. It is the time of your birth that stamps the element it carries on you. The decision of when to be born and therefore which element to embody is considered by indigenous people to be prenatal and is sealed by the individual.
The five elements, which make up five clans, together allow the entire village to form a cosmological wheel. The village can then balance itself by keeping the various elements in balance. For the wheel to be balanced, there must be an overwhelming representation of water. Just as the earth is essentially water, and just as the human body is essentially water, a community needs a large number of water people to maintain its balance. There must be at least three times more people of water in the village than people of fire. When there are not, symbolic heat creeps in and rises, resulting in crisis. The difficulty of forming community in the modern world seems to arise from this, for when the people coming together are predominantly of fire, friction is produced more often than balance.
This is why there are healing rituals aimed at coping with problems of imbalance. Water rituals can help calm the fire and produce reconciliation with nature. Indeed, when the proportion of water is more than three times that of fire, the earth becomes moist enough for nature to flourish. Water feeds nature, so the presence of water results in a vitally growing plant and animal life. A healthy relationship of water, earth, and nature will result in clean air to breathe. When these three elements are not in balance, the air we breathe is poor in quality. To upset the balance of elements is to throw the community into danger.
The principal task of a community is to maintain balance, a state in which all five elements are functioning smoothly, echoing one another. To achieve this requires great diligence on the part of a community. This effort need not be undertaken through the application of sophisticated theories of economics or social welfare. It is first necessary to determine which elements are troubling the community....
know that there is an elemental way of understanding social and economic problems, and that there is a way to resolve these problems through ritual.
The elemental wheel exists in each person just as it is present in each clan and in every community. This means that each person, on a smaller scale, must maintain a state of balance at all cost. Each person needs to keep the waters of reconciliation flowing within the self, in order to calm the inner fires and live in harmony with others. Each person needs to nourish the ancestral fire within, so that one stays in touch with one's dreams and visions. Each person needs to be grounded in the earth, to be able to become a source of nourishment to the community. Each person needs to remember the knowledge stored in one's bones--to live out one's own unique genius. And each person needs to be real, as nature is real, that is, without pretense, keeping in touch with a sense of mystery and wonder and helping to preserve the integrity of the natural world. To be out of balance in any of these areas is to invite sickness to come dwell within."
The Healing Wisdom of Africa
The following text is an edited essay excerpt from a speech given by Malidoma in 1995 on the basic tenets of Dagara Cosmology. As Malidoma states in his book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa, "Dagara cosmology is the starting point of tribal ritual and is thus the sustaining principle of tribal life (pg. 164)."
Every serious student of Dagara tradition and philosophy must begin here, in order to grasp basic understanding of Malidoma's work in our Western culture.
The Dagara tribe of West Africa successfully categorize their people into five different categories: fire, water, mineral, earth and nature. These are shown above on the African Wheel with the colors the Dagara normally associate with each type. Each of the five types of people play a very specific role. Every person born into this world comes from one of these categories in order to help fulfill the kind of function that that category of people is supposed to fulfill in order to keep the community together.
There are certain people that are referred to as "fire" people and these people are connected with the element named fire. Symbolically these people are supposed to be the link between the village and the world of the ancestors. They are supposed to be the ones that function as conduits through whom ancestral energy is passed on to the village. Therefore, more often than not, the kind of perception that they are linked to is dreaming. Their dream world is, so to say, very enriched. Their so called "intuition" is also very rich, and so is their perceptiveness.
It is not difficult to tell whether you have fire energy or not. If you don't dream, be careful. If you dream, still be careful, because either way something has happened. The important thing is to be very alert to the detailed images that are coming to you (in dreams). This is why you need fire people with an ability to help other people who encounter these images to be able to know how to deal with them. The Dagara do not encounter a strange dream experience, and then wake up acting as if it had been a spectacle, a movie. Instead they take action. If you do not know what action to take, then you go find somebody who can help you find out. It is a participant attitude. A lot of times when you don't know what to do, you are advised to tell Spirit that you would like to do something, but you don't know what to do. This is considered acting on it. But it is not acting on it to think about it as some kind of interesting view. It is not supposed to be interesting, it is supposed to be effective. It is supposed to be something real.
We also have people that are called the "water" people. These people are usually considered the peacemakers. They are the ones with the ability to reconcile differences, both differences within the self and differences with one another. Therefore, when there is conflict, they say "Well, is there a water person around?" Not that a water person is supposed to come and hose the people, but because there is a general understanding that if you have a conflict with someone, and a water person shows up, you have got to take that into account. You have got to postpone shooting one another! So a water person may be referred to as a reconciler, one that brings peace back, and the one that also helps maintain the serene nature of village life.
To these people you add what are called the "earth" people, who are directly a reflection of earth energy. Their function is to empower people, to nurture people, to make them feel at home. One of the challenges of existence is to constantly have a way to tell that we are welcome. Another one is to be able to be seen the way we are. If the world around us truly sees us, we have an opportunity to build hope. Otherwise, we tend to draw a circle. So therefore earth people are expected to be the ones that bring the best out of others, give them a sense of belonging, a sense of home.
To these three categories we add another one which is referred to as "mineral." Mineral is what I was basically referring to when I talked earlier about memory existing in the bone. Mineral people are referred to in English slang as "real story tellers." In a non-literate culture these people are equipped with a baffling memory, a powerful memory. They have all of the stories. Not just generic kinds of stories that are easy and mythological, but also genealogic stories, mechanic stories, stories of the kind that address the issue of creation.
Certain things have the power to produce healing within us provided that we remember them. Just like certain kinds of illness can only grow inside of us if we maintain silence around them. The same way the ability to remember something releases that thing into an energy form capable of making a lot of difference in our lives. That's what mineral people do, and what mineral energy as such is capable of producing within individuals.
The last one we call "nature." The nature people are also referred to as the "witches." I know the Western world doesn't like the word witches. They have killed a few of them over time. Probably they intend to kill some more. But the point is, a witch is really a great thing to have, because this is what we call nature energy in its purest form. In my village for instance, the tree that we see is not a fixed thing that stays there for several hundred years. The tree is probably the most mobile consciousness that we can tap into. There is no real clear English way of demonstrating a,b,c why....why the tree can be the most mobile thing. But believe it or not, this is the way it is. The Dagara people believe in a certain hierarchy in consciousness. The highest consciousness is the vegetable world, the nature world, trees. The second is the animal world, and the third one is us. So we are trailing behind.
Therefore a nature person is considered to be extremely important. That person knows the book of nature in such a way that they have the key to the evolution of our consciousness. The jungle is itself a decipherable book. When you look at nature it appears to be chaos, but you can perceive patterns in the chaos. If you only see chaos in nature it is a reflection of the chaos inside yourself. There is a very perfect order in nature. Understanding this kind of order is understanding the cosmic phenomenon. This is why, more often than not, indigenous people want to keep nature the way it is. Modification of it deletes an opportunity to decipher a very potent hieroglyphics. Perhaps this is why the modern world looks upon the indigenous as people who are not evolved, people who are primitive. In this context primitive is a reductionist word which does not depict the reality as it is, only the importance of being called primitive.
Nature itself, and the people associated with it, are supposed to be ones to bring the best out of a place. They makes us understand what change, transformation and adaptation means. Humans have a great chance of avoiding being caught in the hell of illness if they improve their ability to change, if they improve their ability to transform, just like nature does: when spring comes, everything comes to life, whereas before it was winter and everything looked like it was dead. Those changes allow for the kind of validity that our psyche needs in order to expand. I am just saying that illness, some of the causes of illness, comes from resisting something.... maybe either resisting change, or resisting ourselves. These concepts are not all that alien. It is just that somehow we need to give them a new stamp, a brand new state of approval, so that they can become more participant in day to day life, in our work.
Traveling across this country and working with people on a variety of issues, one of things that I have discovered, is that, in the absence of a true community, that is to say, a context in which people can come together and share the kind of things that they have in common, what happens is that a person who is really finding his or her psyche expanding (you can call that a "spiritual awakening" if you want), is really thrown into the kind of world that I live in. It is like being thrown into two worlds.
The conservative world does not recognize this kind of awakening. Therefore you find yourself at odds with everything else. At best you are looked at as a "weird" person. I looked up this word in the Oxford dictionary, and found out, that actually, it's not bad. It is not bad to be weird. It actually means originally "being wired." So basically, you come to understand that it means that you are powered up. So somehow those people who wake up with the spirit and think that it is diminishing to be called weird, they should really come together and celebrate being weird.
Recognition of one's own self-hood is now entering the public arena. I believe that a new global village, or global tribe, is now creating itself. Who is orchestrating this? I don't know, but I have a great sense that indeed there are lots of souls perceiving this who are very serious about waking up into something that will give us the greatest chance to survive. This is why some people have to admit to being weird, and to take it to the next step, wherever that next step is.
Of course, that will mean eventually stepping aside for a while from the rather imperialistic tendencies of the mind, and allowing the heart and soul to do the thinking for a while. What may be yielded in there will contain some more exciting material. I know it is very difficult for a mind accustomed to telling us what to do, a mind accustomed to judging every new step we take, to relinquish control to a heart and soul that is beyond logic. But waking up into spirit means saying goodbye to old logic. The kind of logic that is being constructed by the mind becomes quite inadequate. This is what the heart keeps telling us very regularly because the feeling of the heart cannot be mapped by the ego.
Now this may seem too far fetched, but I'm trying to catalogue some of the key places where modern people differ from the indigenous world. The indigenous world view and wisdom could be useful to modern people who have slipped into the other side without knowing what happened. I think that it is a blessing to wake up feeling that somehow there is a pull towards some serious, deep confirmation....
If you become open to layers and layers of dimensional reality, and have a way to embrace it, your life will be kept constantly exciting. Anything that is out there in normal reality, however glamorous it seems to be at first, after being in the midst of it for a while, sooner or later, it stops being glamorous to your eye. Your eyes get tired of looking at it. Somehow the excitement runs out. But in the spirit world you really never get enough of it, because there is so much that is not discovered. I can retell my life story for you to see that these things are exciting, but what is important is that there is a combination between excitement and fear. They go together. If something is clearly mapped out from the beginning, then 60% of this excitement is out. It is a known territory. What kind of excitement is there in that? But that which you jump into without prior, complete knowledge of the various steps you are going to have to go through, that is likely to be exciting....
The important thing is that we have to accelerate this kind of initiative because of the kind of responsibility that is always linked to this awakening. It is not just for the heck of it that someone wakes up into this kind of reality. It is for a specific kind of responsibility. It has to do with contributing to the global healing that is becoming crucial for the future of the world that we live in. So the faster one opens oneself up for this reality, the better it is going to be. This is not a private planet. It is a community initiative....
We have come to a kind of intersection, an intersection which is very crucial in the history of our world. Everywhere people say that great change is coming. The little experience I have had traveling across this country has revealed that there are lots of people who are craving for a deeper connection. This is not something that anyone should take lightly because what it means is that somehow a lot of us are already picking up signals that are coming from deeper space, or somewhere around us, I don't know. These people are therefore privileged because they are awake enough to record the message. Their task is to be able to begin sending the message back. Their task is to start talking back, not take it out to other people who may still be asleep, to tell them, listen, I picked up this message, what do you think? Well, they are going to think that you are weird, then send you back home, after charging you for the hour. Then you find yourself thinking that maybe they're right. Maybe you're weird, and therefore you're very confused. So again this just scrambles the channels. Recording the news means you need to keep the lines open. It is a real loss when spirit dials our number and finds out that we wouldn't listen. Every time it's busy, some major thing passes us, walks away.
This is why I try and say in whatever way I can, that expanding our consciousness right now is not something to take like a hobby. It is something that should become the base of our lives. It should be given the same serious character as is found in the indigenous world. I have come to realize by living here, and going between here and the village, why it is that in my village people spend 75% to 85% of their time either doing ritual, or talking about ritual, or recovering from ritual. The point is that you become so versed with these types of things, that once you understand the importance of it, nothing else really matters. Nothing really matters, and so you know where your energy goes, or should be going and you work at doing that. The more you do it, the evidence changes, and the confirmations that you encounter become strong enough to motivate you to get back into it. I've come to relate to it as a pretty good way of being addicted. A human being cannot escape addiction. We each have one or two. So it's good to add ritual to our addictions. Something of this sort, because then we guarantee ourselves a chance to actually get there, to check in with the spirit.
If there are groups here and there who do ritual as a community gateway to spirit, I think it is important for them to be open to others. In that way the circle can come to reflect the beginning of the kind of community that is going to be part of the global community we have talked about. It's going to happen one way or another. It could be rather mellow, or it could be forced upon us....
The future does not entail forgetting the past, to the contrary, it is more like going into the past. At least that is my sense of it. By going into the future you bump right into the past....
What's Your Element?
To determine which Dagara element you are born into, take the last digit of your birth year and see which element is listed for that digit on the Dagara Cosmological Wheel. For example, if you were born in the year 1950, the last digit is "0." The number zero falls under the element Earth--you are a member of the Earth Clan. If you were born in the year 1966, the last digit is "6." The number six falls under the element Water--you are one of the Water people, of the Water Clan.
Due to Malidoma's sojourn in Burkina Faso this month, the Ask Malidoma! column will not be featured. Stay tuned for next month!
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 askMalidoma@gmail.com. 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.
Interested in IAST?
We are excited to announce the start of a new, two-year intensive training cycle, also known as Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies (IAST) in Ojai, California! The first session will begin March 30th through April 3rd. If you are interested in attending, write to email@example.com.
IAST 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.
IAST 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.
Note that completion of an IAST training cycle is the prerequisite for further study and training with Malidoma and indigenous shamans in Burkina Faso!
To learn more about IAST, see our website at www.malidoma.com
Be 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations for the Dagara Cultural Youth Festival February 2011
& Invitation to Attend!
|Photo by Theresa Thomas|
Malidoma is again extending an invitation to those who would like to travel to Burkina Faso and attend the Youth Festival this coming year, which will take place the last week in February, 2011. Exact dates are not set, but details will be forthcoming. If you are interested in attending, write to email@example.com.
The Dagara Cultural Youth Festival 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!
|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. 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! We truly appreciate your support!
Journey to Village of Dano, Burkina Faso, West Africa
for more info write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Malidoma Somé at Jackie's on the Reef,
Negril, Jamaica, W.I.
Ritual & African Spirituality Workshop__
January 14-18, 2011
For those seeking to revitalize their connection with nature, magic, and community.
Cost: $1,500 (does not include airfare)
Paypal payments are available to email@example.com at
https://www.paypal.com/ or send a check to:
512 Argyle Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11218
Payments are also available by phone. Call 718.469.2785.
For more info, contact Claudia at 973.336.5226 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
To schedule a private divination session at this retreat,
write to email@example.com
January 27-29, 2011
write to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.
Lecture at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN
February 11 & 12, 2011
Stay tuned for more details!
February 13-16, 2011
Divination appointments will be scheduled
beginning the 2nd week in January, 2011. Write to email@example.com to schedule an appointment.
Dagara Cultural Youth Festival
Last week in February, 2011
Actual dates TBA on website
Dano, Burkina Faso, West Africa
March 12-16, 2011
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to
schedule an appointment.
Santa Rosa, CA
March 23-27, 2011
March 28-30, 2011
Divination appointments will be scheduled
beginning mid-February. Write to email@example.com
to schedule an appointment.
March 30-April 3, 2011
Malidoma @ Revelation Conference with Michael Beckwith
Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
for more info, click here
April 14-17, 2011
Los Angeles, CA
April 18-20, 2011
"Whether bird watching, star gazing or mountain climbing, each of us ought to have some relationship with the energies, forces and wonders of nature. Communing with nature is a critical link to living a vital, full and creative life."
~Roderick Terry b. 1964~