Malidoma awaiting the start of awards ceremony
with other recipients, in Gaoua, Burkina Faso
Photo by Alexandra DiezBarroso
E-Village News
July/August 2012
Greetings Village!

We've returned from the hiatus and we're glad to be back on track with this July/August issue of E-Village News!  Thank you so much for waiting with such patience and dedication!  We endeavor to continue with E-Village News through 2012 and beyond!

We hope you enjoy this issue as we highlight a very special and important occasion, which took place December 2011, honoring our beloved elder, teacher, and mentor---Malidoma Patrice Somé!

Peace & Blessings!
Chevalier de l'Ordre National
Written by Malidoma Patrice Somé

Medal of Honor
     Every country in the world has a tradition of honoring and a ceremonial way of recognizing outstanding civil service. It is like saying thank you to someone who gets the attention of the public by doing something unusual that impacts the collective. This act of recognition often works as an affirmation of the good work done on behalf of everyone, or as a way of saying "We need you, you are valuable to us, and by the way, keep on doing what you are doing!" 
     In Burkina Faso, the government has an elaborate assortment of medals, which it awards to various people at different national high moments of the year. The office in charge of the administration of these awards is called Grande Chancellerie des Ordres Burkinabč:  The Great Chancellery of Burkinabe Orders.

Malidoma Receives Medal of Honor Malidoma Receives Medal of Honor 
Filmed by Alexandra DiezBarroso 
On December 11, 2011, which marked the 51st anniversary of Burkina Faso independence, I was privy to such acknowledgement and dubbed Chevalier de l'Ordre National: Knight of the National Order.

     Why is it important to bring this to anybody's attention?  For over two decades, my work has mainly meant a struggle to raise the dignity of my people by being their voice of wisdom and healing.  In so doing, Dagara wisdom has inched its way into the map of world indigenous spirituality, and raised modern interest to its culture and worldview.   At a time when Western culture is scrambling to find healing answers to a plethora of issues in its psyche, indigenous paradigms have become increasingly attractive in this regard, and Dagara cosmological paradigm is one of them.  In lay terms, a better understanding between cultures of the world works as a conduit to greater peace and healing.  I went a great length to lay out, in ways sometimes deliberate, a wisdom that could not be understood unless blended into appropriate Western cerebral frequencies. In so doing, Dagara wisdom became accessible to the Western mind, which is prone to understanding things only when put in certain specific ways.
Attendees at the awards ceremony.
Photo by Alexandra DiezBarroso 

     But that was not all. Driven by a sense of equanimity, and in the interest of being a bridge between worlds and between cultures, I thought that the energy of interest in the culture of my people raised in the West should translate into something tangible at the source of its inception. Thus, through a non-profit organization created in 1994 called Echoes of the Ancestors, it was possible to direct the generosity and gratefulness of people in the West in the form of material support to my people battling with material basics. Countless Westerners, thankful to the Dagara people for their spiritual gifts to them, contributed funds to clean water, food, clothing and many other things. Thus, the energy that traveled from the indigenous land of Dagara people to the West, returned to the land. 
     In recent years, initiatives such as the Youth Festival, which aimed at revitalizing a sense of pride in the culture of the Ancestors, became a success thanks to the contributions of hundreds of people in this country and elsewhere. The Youth Festival began the daunting task of slowing down the fast erosion of this ancestral wisdom with the grandiose hope of stopping it altogether some day. At this moment, it is the one and only active project in Dagaraland entirely supported by people in the West

     This is what the government of Burkina Faso took notice of and appreciated enough to grant this award of Knight of the National Order. 
Malidoma poses with proud family and friends 
after awards ceremony.  
Photo by Alexandra DiezBarroso 

     I thank the Ancestors of this Land and my Dagara Ancestors for what they have made possible in these 25 years of journey through uncharted territories. I thank these Ancestors for their labor of love, peace and healing through this bridge across the Middle Passage.    
     I thank those who have walked this path alongside of these Ancestors and me, with their unyielding support, particularly in those times when the going was toughest. This Award medal is for you. It is for you because you stood by me when I was less than deserving. You saw through the eccentricities of the person to the beauty and purity of the message, and held both with love and respect. Your presence around me enhanced the light and brought more brilliance to the song of myself. When my world fell apart and my center could not hold, your quiet presence was a promise of rebirth.

     I thank even those who only walked with me part way and stepped aside when I fell off the edge. This Award is for you too. The stamp of your energy is forever felt. The short moment we journeyed together on the field was sacred, and our crossing paths a blessing of our Ancestors.

     At a time when the darkness around us is deep, I take this award as a wake-up call to greater self deployment, and call on all my brothers and sisters, lost and found, to meet me out there in the great meadow across the winter of our discontent for the great renewal and healing that awaits us.

With Love and Respect,

Malidoma during medal awards ceremony
in Gaoua, Burkina Faso.
Photo by Alexandra DiezBarroso
"What Are All The
Machines For?"

An edited interview with Malidoma by Marti Spiegelman, featured on Awakening Value/Voice America Talk Radio (September 9, 2010)


Marti:  I've been speaking to you about the shamanic technologies in terms of the Andean understanding, the organizing principles of consciousness.  But of course they're not the only ones who understood the physics of the universe in this way.  Virtually every culture lived and thrived on Earth by these principles expressed in their own way.

Another culture that I'm initiated in that carries a stunning, sophisticated understanding of shamanic technology is the Dagara culture of West Africa.  Like the Andean knowledge, the Dagara wisdom utterly outstrips our best westernized attempts to get it right on planet Earth---to figure out how to live well and thrive in life.

Today for our anniversary show, I have brought you a master of these [spiritual] technologies.  Malidoma Patrice Somé is an elder of the Dagara culture, he's an author, a speaker, and mentor.  He's been my mentor and he's a dear colleague and friend.  He's really the first indigenous person I've heard speak about shamanic technologies.  He has lived among us, he knows us as only an elder can know us, he knows our science and our dogged persistent belief in logic and linear ways.  He's come to know our hearts and the pain we carry and what we're missing.  Today Malidoma and I are going to have a fierce conversation about these things, and hopefully open all of our hearts to a new way of being!  Malidoma, welcome to the show!

Malidoma:  Thank you Marti for having me!

Marti:  Great to have you here!  Malidoma, last week I left the listeners with one of my favorite stories from you.  It's the story about you taking DVDs of the Star Trek episodes to the elders, and you plug in the TV and you show these DVDs with the transporter and all that stuff, and of course the elders don't speak English, they're just seeing the images, and you ask them afterwards if they understood what happened.  And they look at you like you're a little crazy and they say, "Well of course we understood what happened, but what we don't get is what's all the machinery for?"  I think I'd like for us to start at that point.  Let's talk about what indigenous technology is.  I want to compare it to the Western idea of technology and take it from there, so can you pick up on this and tell the listeners how you understand indigenous technology?
Transporter in Star Trek
Malidoma:  Thank you Marti for introducing me to this magical conversation!  It is evident that without technology, ways and means of maintaining a certain level, a clever level of harmony with the environment, with nature as we found it, humankind would not have lived long enough for modernity to occur!  It is evident furthermore that the technology that works most is the technology of the past, not necessarily the technology of the present.  I'm saying that with a sense of confidence for the simple reason that basically the indigenous technology has been around in the world for thousands and thousands of years, as opposed to our mechanized world that is part of the Newtonian era, the technological era, the Industrial era.  As we humans ushered forward the era of industry and that side of technology that it comes along with, for so-called reasons that improve human lives, we have noticed that somehow the world we live in has been reacting in some very strange ways, mostly consisting of giving us signals that this particular frequency is unsustainable.

Now, we don't remember any indigenous technological implementation to which the Earth reacted in this manner.  Therefore, by indigenous technology, it is a good idea to just humbly direct our mind, our imagination to a rhythm and a frequency of consciousness with respect to the ambient environment we're in that actually is conducive to a greater and more sophisticated consciousness and awareness to the point where that which we modern people tend to relegate to the category of fiction, or supernatural becomes simply natural.  That which we've come to regard as magical becomes just as normal as everyday living because we have successfully integrated that into the rhythm of our daily lives, showing therefore that we are aware and we are showing a conscious maturity in association with the pre-existing technological sophistication that was there before we arrived.

Marti:  Malidoma right at the break, you were saying some really eloquent things about how the indigenous mind would approach what's happening in the world today.  You were speaking about attuning to the rhythm and frequency of what is happening instead of fighting it like the Western mind does and you were talking about making the magic normal.  Let's talk a little bit about the Western mind and the indigenous mind.  I've been teaching people about---and you know this so well, you teach it beautifully---this division that sits in the Western mind; we think that if it's matter, if it's hard form then it's real, and if it's energy or invisible then it isn't real.  But the indigenous mind has no such division in it.  You and I, as teachers and mentors, we're faced with the task of waking Western people up to living without division.  Can you talk a little bit about your experiences in this arena and let's see if we can create something?

Malidoma:  It is often a sad thing to see the otherwise bustling human imagination and creativity and then find yourself so limited and imprisoned in a five-sense context of reality.  At the same time realizing that parallel to that is a continuation of that creative imagination showing signs of an expanding consciousness, but it seems as if most of that consciousness is being censored, as if it is forbidden, prohibited or otherwise dismissed as perhaps a realm that cannot be controlled or measured or dominated---whatever that is, it shows modernity self-diagnosing a certain kind of pathology indicative of either it's incapacity for inclusiveness, or maybe a "control-freak" attitude that only that which can be quickly dominated and controlled can be made part of reality.  So as a result, reality as defined by modernity, has been made so narrow that many of us cannot fit in!  This becomes a serious problem in a context in which we know that the individual spirit is longing for a greater field of existence; that is to say a much greener "Garden of Eden" to be in; a place of a type that we see in Alice in Wonderland or J. K. Rowling's stories.  

Mythical Place
A mythical place

     The point is clearly that, whether we like it or not, magic wants to be part of the daily consciousness of us human beings.  So what do we do about that?  We don't just sit back and continue to relegate these exciting realities to the non-real domain.  We have to at least begin to wonder, why is it that although we don't include it in our realm of reality, it continues to poke at the door of our consciousness, of our psyche?  That is because there is a certain limit beyond which certain things cannot be denied.  We can only pretend that we do deny it, but in the end there will be this growing longing that turns into a paralyzing illness simply because the sacred does not get the share of our reality in the way that brings health and wealth in this world!


     As a result, a lot of us are experiencing---let's call it spiritual trauma---crisis, emergencies that we then create all kinds of professional departments to attempt to deal with, simply because we live in a world in which magic is being ruled out, in a world in which certain kinds of realities are considered fictional, because they don't sit within the requirement and norm of the five senses. 


     But what is the degree of success we get in doing that?  I believe that the human spirit is always striving to be free, to explore as in New World, new civilization, simply because this is how powerful the human consciousness is and the human mind does not want to stay limited, imprisoned in the "zoo" of the five senses.


Marti:  That's really, really beautifully spoken!  What we're really saying is that we already have, even as modern humans, a capacity to know energy and to work with the magical and to engage what we call in English the invisible world and to actually make it visible.  In basic shamanic training the first thing you learn how to do is see energy, right?


Malidoma:  Absolutely!  That's right! (laughs)


Marti:  Then we learn something about ritual, about consciously engaging these powers.  Can you talk about the difference between an indigenous initiation---initiation meaning where we mature our capacity to work with the Other World---and trying to initiate Western people?


Malidoma:  Indigenous initiation is basically aimed at awakening the rather dormant senses.  The one, thanks to which of course the Other World is apprehensible, the same way as the so-called "real world" is, if not more.  In a context of this nature, all of a sudden the individual involved in initiation becomes suddenly a participant in a realm of consciousness, a realm of reality so big that indeed, what it brings to the self is a lot of humility, and a sense of belonging, but indeed purpose becomes a lot more tangible.  Now when you translate that into the Western context, what I've realized personally in my work is that the average Westerner has more to unlearn than to learn in this process as if somehow certain conditioning that is really part of the immediacy, the thought immediacy of this modern existence, is standing in the way of not wanting the individual to actually have access to the point that when the person is standing next to a gateway, an invisible doorway, that person can be staring at it and not recognize it simply because it is not part of the lexicon of reality, the kind of vocabulary that we have created that encompasses the hidden, the unseen world.   So in that case, the question must always be raised, what is it that is being done by modernity on the individual that the individual has, by necessity to shed, not to abandon modernity, but to shed certain kinds of conditioning in order to broaden his or her horizon of consciousness, thereby transcending this rather limiting perception that modernity comes along with.  

Basotho Male Initiates

Marti:  I have a lecture I give my students about this in the development of Western culture; we've basically pulled away from nature, we've unplugged from the greater powers that create us.  That's the same as unplugging from all of the information you need to mature and evolve.


Malidoma:  Absolutely!


Marti:  And it's gotten worse and worse and worse!  Would you agree that basically the same way that you would start an indigenous initiation, it's the same thing that we would do with Western people, which is to take them into nature?


Malidoma:  Absolutely!  It may look as simple as an "outdoor bath" which means a brush with the great outdoors---a re-immersion of the self with the trees, the landscape, the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the creeks, and so on and so forth, etc., with a mind that perhaps this is a carefully crafted engineering job done by a most skillful hand and that perhaps as they get into this midst, realize that they are a product of that and see that as a starting point for the celebration of existence, a celebration of magic, the super reality, because without nature, brushing at the wall of the human psyche on an ongoing basis, awakening to what you refer to as the "organizing principle of consciousness" becomes a daunting job!  There is basically no way of doing that in what is now referred to as "The Concrete Jungle."


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview in the upcoming September/October issue of E-Village News!      


Upcoming Events


Release the EN+R+GY of the "Predator" Workshop, September 26-30

Learn technologies & rituals for protection & restoring & sustaining balance!

Are you tired of taking steps forward while feeling that something is holding you back?  Do you wish you could release the energies that are oppressing you? 


The time is now to learn how to release the EN+R+GY of the Predator that is within and outside of you.  We have been conditioned to keep ourselves oppressed in the conformity of daily routine.  Modernity and many of these systems and structures are "shedding," collapsing and dismantling us from the core of our beings.  The authentic and valid truths of our souls' purpose are pushed and hurled forward, despite ourselves and the many obstacles that are placed in front of us.   


Embrace the element of NATURE, align with the rhythms of your frequencies and your Ancestors so you may feel and see where your PREDATOR lives.  Come and sit in sacred circle with Malidoma Some' and Ann Sousa and work with the indigenous technology in a modern-driven culture.


Malidoma will take us into the indigenous spirit technologies available to deal with all kinds of predators. His usual compelling communication of indigenous knowledge and the rituals to effect positive change in our lives will be the focus of this event.


Register here or online at


For more details about this event, contact Ann Sousa at 978-479-1335 or .  For questions regarding accommodations, contact Aamirah at 518-658-0122 or

Release the EN+R+GY of the "Predator" Workshop
East Coast Village (ECV)
245 Bly Hollow Rd
Cherry Plain, NY 12040
Cost:  $800-995
Wednesday, September 26th, 7 pm through
Sunday, September 30th, 1 pm

Special Predator-Kontomblé Workshop Combo: Only $1,600 to attend both events when you register at the same time!

Public Lecture & Screen Filming at Madison Theatre, Albany, NY   October 1st

Take a provocative look into a world "shrouded in mystique and superstition!"

Join us for a special screening of the documentary, Ancestral Voices: Esoteric African Knowledge, followed by an intimate discussion with Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé on the topic of traditional African spirituality. The film and lecture takes a provocative look into a world "shrouded in mystique, negativity, and superstition."

Film screening--7pm, $10
Lecture---8:30 pm, $25

For more information and questions, write here.

Public Lecture & Screen Filming
Madison Theatre
1036 Madison Ave, Albany NY
Monday, October 1st
Film @ 7 pm, Lecture @ 8:30 pm


Private Divinations at East Coast Village
in Cherry Plain, NY   October 1-3

Schedule an appointment to visit Malidoma for a private and personal divination.

Malidoma's divination sessions have a life-span of their own; they seem to become "living entities" that move into your life, staying until their work is complete.  Receiving a divination by Malidoma can very much be a process by which your epic story is reflected back to you, giving you greater clarity about your gift to the world...

For more information and to make an appointment, write to or call 407.574.5350.

Cost:  $250

Private Divinations at East Coast Village
245 Bly Hollow Rd
Cherry Plain, NY 12040


2012 Kontomblé Diviners Gathering
October 3-7
(2nd part of Kontomblé Training From Last Year)

The Kontomblé are small inter-dimensional beings that have been likened to the leprechauns, elves, or duendes.  They align themselves with mankind to provide support and guidance.  Connection with these beings is an individual one, with many people unaware of their connection with Kontomblé until it's revealed through divination. Once this connection is established, the diviner acts as a "medium" or a "channel" for Kontomblé who speaks directly through him/her from the Other World with the aid of a stick and sacred objects or through the diviner's own voice...

For questions regarding eligibility & attendance, contact Ritual Leader, Elder Yves @ 518.928.9088 or

Register here or online at


2012 Kontomblé Diviners Gathering
245 Bly Hollow Rd
Cherry Plain, NY 12040
Wednesday, October 3, 7:30 pm through
Sunday October 7, 1 pm

Special Predator-Kontomblé Workshop Combo: Only $1,600 to attend both events when you register at the same time!

Ancestralization Ritual near Halifax,
Nova Scotia, Canada, October 17-21

Help your Ancestors journey to the Ancestral Realm!

We are excited to announce that Malidoma will be returning to beautiful Windhorse Farm ( for another intensive program, connecting with the Ancestors in this, their Fire Year!

There are many souls in the West who are waiting to be assisted in their journey to the spirit world.  This series of rituals, based on Dagara tradition, is designed to help them make that transition.  We will spend Wednesday evening through Sunday morning planning and participating in various rituals specifically choreographed to assist the spirits of the dead in making their journeys to the spirit world.  The rituals will also assist the living in letting go, in a powerful way, of attachments that might keep souls bound to this earth plane. The Dagara believe that the deceased can become powerful allies once they are fully "at home" in the ancestral realm.

To register for the Ancestralization Ritual, go to 

Full Rate:  $1,600 CAD

Primarily shared rooms or dorm space; some private rooms available - 2 doubles.  Tenting also available, although October can have cool nights.

To register by mail, please download registration form and mail with check or money order payable to ANCESTRAL WISDOM BRIDGE ASSOCIATION CANADA to 33 Dingle Road Halifax, N.S. B3P 1B1.

For more information contact Theresa Thomas at or leave a message at 902-441-4573 and she will return your call as soon as possible.

Ancestralization Riutal, near Halifax, Nova Scotia
October 17-21


Public Lecture in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Sunday, October 21st at 7 pm 

Watch for more details.

Cost:  TBA

Private Divinations in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada    October 22-23

Schedule an appointment to visit Malidoma for a private and personal divination.

Malidoma utilizes cowrie shell divination for his sessions. You will be asked to spread a pile of shells, bones, stones, and other implements on a special "divination cloth." This spread, infused with your energy, is what Malidoma will read and interpret to bring a message about your life and purpose for being on the planet at this time. The message will also address how to find balance with the elemental spirits of earth, water, fire, nature and mineral.

Cost:  $250

For more information and to make an appointment, write to or call 407.574.5350.


Private Divinations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada    November 2-4

Schedule an appointment to visit Malidoma for a private and personal divination.

Experiencing a personal divination with Malidoma is a beautiful, empowering and healing manifestation of Spirit.  It is an opportunity to hear direction from the realm of the Ancestors and to connect more deeply with what you know "in your bones!"

Cost:  $250

For more information and to make an appointment, write to or call 407.574.5350.


Malidoma in Ojai, California
November 12-18

Malidoma will conduct divination sessions and will also teach the 5th and final session of the current IAST in Ojai, CA.

Divination sessions are available on Monday, November 12th through Wednesday, November 14th, from 9 am through 5:30 pm in increments of 45 minutes.  For more information, write to

IAST-Ojai, 5th & Final Session
November  14th-18th
(Currently closed to new participants)

Malidoma in Ojai, CA.
Temenos Center for Wholeness
Monday, November 12th--Sunday, November 18th

Malidoma's Pen

Ritual: The Anti-Machine 
(An excerpt from Malidoma's book, Ritual:  Power, Healing and Community)

Ritual in a way is an anti-machine, even though the industrial world is not totally devoid of the practice of ritual.  David Kertzer, in Ritual, Politics and Power, points ou
t it is innately inscribed
within humans to do ritual.  He goes on to show that ritual exists in every aspect of political practice where the construction of power is ordered by symbol and ceremony.  For him, ritual is unavoidable in modern political and social interplay because it is something that enables people to deal with archetypes.  There is some truth in such a vision.  But I think that the term is being manipulated to fit certain urges for legitimization.

A spirit can be used to legitimize someone's desires.  For example, someone can say that a spirit told him or her to do something, which legitimizes his or her unwarranted action (as in the American comedy line, "The devil made me do it!").  One can claim divine sponsorship to justify actions that have nothing to do with the divine.  One has only to look at American televangelism for that.
It is not possible, similarly, to associate the hasty, grinding wheels of the machine culture as the echoes or soundings of ritual. 
Ritual is not compatible with the rapid rhythm that industrialism has injected into life.  So whenever ritual happens in a place commanded by or dominated by a machine, ritual becomes a statement against the very rhythm that feeds the needs of that machine.  It makes no difference whether it is a political machine or otherwise.

I say this because it feels to me that this elusive sense of the divine in the modern world and the practice of blatant consumerism have spread even into the spiritual realm.  This reveals the attempt of a mechanized culture to protect itself from having to face even subtle duties toward its higher self.  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.

In the face of the sweeping industrial imperialism wrought upon the continent of Africa by Europeans, the traditional African, in general, and the Dagara in particular, have been unable to conceive of a way to respond to the attractiveness of the machine-like world without abandoning their ancestral ways.  Progress brings a different world into the already existing world of the indigenous person.  In Africa, whoever gets "touched" by progress is superficially in two worlds:  the traditional and the corporate.

The corporate world dims the light of the traditional world by exerting a powerful magnetic shadow-like pull on the psyche of the individual.  Thus the individual feels compelled to respond.  But as he or she tries to respond, the individual begins to realize that the source of the pull is elusive.  For the machine world either refuses to provide a sense of complete satiation or it just doesn't have it to provide.  And yet the machine world cannot let go of the individual (or else the machine will cease its motion) in spite of the fact that it cannot fully provide for the individual's needs.  So one of the ways to maintain a certain sense of self is to remain somewhat linked to essential traditionalism.

This is made apparent every time there is a death in one of our cities.  The immediate instinct is to carry the body back to the village in order that a proper mourning ritual can happen.  People of the same village within the city will gather to prepare whatever is needed for the journey back home.  They bring the funeral home, as they say nowadays.  These kinds of funerals account for 10 percent of all the funerals celebrated in the villages.

The city dweller in Africa who works for a company does so to meet his basic needs as a human being.  His adherence to a machine culture does not have the power to disconnect him fully from the roots of his ancestry.  Very few sever themselves from home.  Periodic adherence to proscribed rituals while dwelling in this industrialized culture is the medicine with which to dress the wounds and repair the deformities brought on by the might of Progress.  The modern seeker of ritual primarily acknowledges that he or she is wounded, or hollowed out, or emptied of his or her vital substance to the point that the individual is almost disgusted with the present state of his or her life.

These wounds are evidence of the need to enter into a special creative process.  They are the language with which entry into the realm of ritual is possible.  As long as one does not deploy special energy to repress and deny these wounds, but rather contains them creatively---that is, in ritual---then one is working on oneself as a potential survivor of the holocaust and the tyranny of Progress.  I mean to say that the hurt that a person feels in the midst of this modern culture should be taken as a language spoken to himself or herself by the body.  And the meaning of such a language is found in doing something about the part of oneself that is not acknowledged.

Ritual:  Power, Healing and Community

pgs. 19-21

Martin Prechtel on Technology, Gifts and Ritual
(An excerpt from Saving The Indigenous Soul:  An Interview with Martin Prechtel)

Technological inventions take from the earth but give nothing in
return. Look at automobiles. They were, in a sense, dreamed up over a period
of time, with different people adding on to each other's dreams or, if you
prefer, adding on to each other's studies and trials. But all along the way,
very little, if anything, was given back to the hungry, invisible divinity
that gave people the ability to invent those cars. Now, in a healthy
culture, that's where the shamans would come in, because with every
invention comes a spiritual debt that must be paid, either ritually, or else
taken out of us in warfare, grief, or depression.

A knife, for instance, is a very minimal, almost primitive tool to people in
a modern industrial society. But for the Mayan people, the spiritual debt
that must be paid for the creation of such a tool is great. To start with,
the person who is going to make the knife has to build a fire hot enough to
produce coals. To pay for that, he's got to give a sacrificial gift to the
fuel, to the fire.

Ideally, the gift should be something made by hand, which is the
one thing humans have that spirits don't.

Once the fire is hot enough, the knife maker must smelt the iron ore out of
the rock. The part that's left over, which gets thrown away in Western
culture, is the most holy part in shamanic rituals. What's left over
represents the debt, the hollowness that's been carved out of the universe
by human ingenuity, and so must be refilled with human ingenuity. A ritual
gift equal to the amount that was removed from the other world has to be put
back to make up for the wound caused to the divine. Human ingenuity is a
wonderful thing, but only so long as it's used to feed the deities that give
us the ability to perform such extravagant feats in the first place.

So, just to get the iron, the shaman has to pay for the ore, the fire, the
wind, and so on - not in dollars and cents, but in ritual activity equal to
what's been given. Then that iron must be made into steel, and the steel has
to be hammered into the shape of a knife, sharpened, and tempered, and a
handle must be put on it. There is a deity to be fed for each part of the
procedure. When the knife is finished, it is called the "tooth of earth." It
will cut wood, meat, and plants. But if the necessary sacrifices have been
ignored in the name of rationalism, literalism, and human superiority, it
will cut humans instead.

All of those ritual gifts make the knife enormously "expensive," and make
the process quite involved and time-consuming. The need for ritual makes
some things too spiritually expensive to bother with. That's why the Mayans
didn't invent space shuttles or shopping malls or backhoes. They live as
they do, not because it's a romantic way to live - it's not; it's enormously
hard - but because it works.

Western culture believes that all material is dead, and so there is no debt
incurred when human ingenuity removes something from the other world.
Consequently, we end up with shopping malls and space shuttles and other
examples of "advanced" technology, while the spirits who give us the ability
to make those things are starving, becoming bony and thin, which is one
reason why anorexia is such a problem: the young are acting out this image.
The universe is in a state of starvation and emotional grief because it has
not been given what it needs in the form of ritual food and actual physical
gifts. We think we're getting away with something by stealing from the other
side, but it all leads to violence. The Greek oracle at Delphi saw this a
long time ago and said, "Woe to humans, the invention of steel."

"There has to be a head and energy for theory....and another head that continually forgets the past and treats the mundane as extraordinary.  To keep this sense alive....I go back to reading things like Lewis Carroll and other material that will encourage me to be a mad hatter.  You have to connect all those things in a mysterious way."

~Fred D'Aguiar, b. 1960~
Interview by Joanne Hyppolite, Fall 1997, Anthurium:  A Carribean Studies Journal, II.1, Spring 2004