Responding to the Call of the Ancestors
HAPPY NEW EARTH YEAR 2015!
2015 marks the beginning of an EARTH year in Dagara cosmology. We hope you'll enjoy the writings and inspirations concerning the element Earth in this issue of E-Village News.
Peace & Blessings!
Earth symbolizes the mother on whose lap everyone finds a home, nourishment, support, comfort, and empowerment. Representing the principle of inclusion, earth is the ground upon which we identify ourselves and others. It is what gives us identity and a sense of belonging. Produced as the result of the encounter between fire and water, earth represents survival and healing, unconditional love and caring. Earth loves to give and gives love abundantly. In other words, earth cares as much for the crooked as it does for the honest. Both of them are allowed to walk on her. In the Dagara cosmological wheel, earth is located in the center and is colored yellow. This central position in the wheel stresses the importance of visibility. Earth is the power to notice, to see and to thrill in being seen.
The person who is of earth is a lover of the world, of the earth. Unlike water, which seeks a way always toward one place, the ocean, earth finds comfort everywhere, anywhere, and loves to give it. Earth people, or people with a lot of earth energy, are nurturers who, like all grandmothers, want everybody to feel fed, content, respected, and loved. Earth people can't stand the presence of scarcity; they would give away everything they had before they gave anything to themselves. Making others feel good makes them feel good. The earth person takes care of other people spiritually, materially, and emotionally.
A person without earth is in crisis, or is homeless and in exile. Such a person has lost his or her grounding. A person without earth feels empty, alone, and confused. She or he suffers from invisibility and anonymity. This unbearable situation can cause a whole culture to sell homes or parcels of earth to each other. This is because home in the symbolic or literal sense is the basic ground for identity. If you remove people's home from them and then offer it to them for sale, people will have to buy it, because being homeless is unendurable. Thus pieces of our mother have entered into our trade system with great success. Is this why Western culture feels odd in front of homelessness? Is it why it doesn't know what to do with those people who can't fit economic expectations? Land and the earth are now a commodity, and this fact will not change.
My point here is that the development of industrial economies and the movement of vast numbers of people into cities has not changed the essential connection between human beings and the earth that engendered them; it has only caused them to forget. When the people of a culture no longer remember that they are but a thread of the web of life on Earth, then they all become homeless.
Building community is difficult, if not impossible, if people have lost contact with the ground as their point of strength. For it is only from a place of grounding and centeredness that anyone can give something back to their world, to their community. Without grounding people will tend to take as much from the world as possible, since they are missing the nourishment that earth offers. Yet after they have gained all the material things they need, they will still feel uncertain about themselves. It indicates that they have not yet felt invited to give something to the world. To take without prior giving is like putting the cart ahead of the horse. You are not grounded. Deep down you do not know where you come from, and therefore you are unsure about where you are going and why. Earth, the spiritual shrine of our being, is the center of being deeply human.
The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 173-175
BUILDING A HOME
Because Earth is our deep center, it is the center of rituals concerning the building of a home. It is appropriate to dwell on the ritual of house building among Dagara people, to highlight its relevance to community and the sense of belonging. Among the Dagara, because the house is the most visible symbol of the earth, home is sacred. Similarly there is a link between the family and the community. This is why building a home is a very serious ritual undertaking. It is as if building a house is building a relationship.
Building a home in Burkina Faso
According to Dagara custom, men build the structure of houses, and women make them come alive. Before a man builds a home, he must bring a gift of fifteen hundred cowrie shells and a chicken to the village's earth shrine. The cowrie shells represent abundance, the chicken represents life. The priest of the earth shrine takes the gift from the prospective homeowner and presents it to the earth spirit mother with a prayer of support. This prayer of support often takes the form of an invocation to the earth spirit to assist in the birthing of a new family. Then both the priest and the prospective homeowner strike the ground together with the same hoe. This gesture of cracking the ground open is symbolic of planting one's roots, even though it is not the place where the new home is built.
After this the prospective homeowner notifies the priest of the ancestors' shrine, who is usually the chief of the village, of his intention to build. The next ritual will take place at the building location and will involve the priest of the ancestors' shrine and include, once again, the scratching of the ground while praying for community. The prayer translates roughly as, "This is the expression of a desire to come together, not to part together." To form a community requires the blessings of the ancestors if it will sprout and grow.
From then onward the house is built by stages, each of which is ritualized with sacrifices and offerings to the spirit of the ground and to the ancestors. All of this takes months to complete. The section of the home for animals is built first, because of the respect due to animals. Almost at the same time as the animal section is finished, a roof is placed over a small section intended for people. A home becomes a home when it has a roof, for at that moment the spirits that support the family move in. Someone of the family must move in immediately, to keep the supportive spirits from leaving, for an unoccupied house invites evil spirits. Soon after the roof is put in place, the women's quarters are completed, and the women and children move in. No bathroom is built into the house, since people use nature for sanitation, and human waste fertilizes the farmland. The man of the house will be the last one to move into the new home.
Putting on the roof
People occupy the new house, but the true owner is considered to be Tingan, the spirit of the earth. Because Tingan owns the home, every household problem is a message from Tingan, including sickness and relational crises. When such a crisis occurs, it is the result of a distancing from Tingan, and family members must consult a diviner to find out what Tingan wants.
The home is a direct extension of the relationship between members of a family and the village. The breaking of the new ground must, therefore, be undertaken with the presence of the community. The gradual move is made necessary because the process of shifting the location of the relationship is a delicate one. The extensive set of rituals serves the purpose of allowing the existing relationship between the family and the community to be transferred safely to a new location, a new ground.
There is no move-in ritual, because the move does not take place the day you change location, but the day you think about changing location. In this case, the ritual done with the priests of the earth shrine and the ancestors at the beginning of the process can be considered the move-in rituals.
The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 175-176
Earth is where we belong. She is our home. She gives us sustenance unconditionally and makes it possible for us to feel connected. Earth is where we go to and where we depart from. This means that she sees us in a way no one can. The nourishment and support of the Earth Mother grant us the feeling of belonging that allows us to expand and grow because we feel strong. Our well-being depends on this feeling of belonging, and perhaps this is why each of us fosters some type of territorial instinct, wishing to protect that which nourishes us. Earth's protection reflects her undivided commitment to us. We, in turn, protect her because she defines us and provides us with an abundance of resources.
An Earth Shrine
Earth rituals greatly emphasize the sense of belonging, self-worth, and community, including all forms of relationships. They serve as an opportunity for a group of people to demonstrate their ability to give attention, love, appreciation, and caring to an individual who needs it badly. This is how certain psychological illnesses are healed. Our womb is the earth; it is our place of origination. Feelings of absence, of being out of touch, any form of alienation, anonymity, and purposelessness---all are symptomatic of a disconnection with the earth. No other element can heal the hollow psyche in search of fulfillment, and for such situations, earth rituals are required.
The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 231-232
EARTH RITUALS & TOUCH
One aspect of earth ritual that people in the West are clearly in need of involves touching. Human hands carry a huge amount of healing energy, provided that one is aware of the kind of mental alignment that must accompany their touch. Our hands are healing instruments that must be treated as sacred. Many modern psychological and physical illnesses are linked to energetic depletion due to "touchless" surroundings. When the individualism of the West results in physical and emotional isolation from others, as it often does, people can become so starved for touch that their need can translate into severe physical illness. Isolated from others, people become afraid of touch, especially unsolicited touch. But a person's level of concern about being touched is almost always proportional to his or her need for it.
There is a deeply sacred dimension to touch, and therefore, a ritual that authorizes people to touch one another allows them to relax in a sacred context. So there is a need to reaqcuqaint people with the sacredness of touch. In my village, for instance, children spend their early years on the backs of their mothers or baby-sitters. Wherever they go, they hang on their back comfortably, enjoying the warm protection of their guardian's body. At night they sleep in the same bed with their parents. This continuous availability of touch nourishes something in the person's psyche that is fundamental to a future sense of community. The person later becomes aware of what a sense of belonging is and can't think of himself or herself outside of a community with other people.
I believe strongly that people who crave community in this country also crave the healing touch of human hands. The road to a real sense of community begins with the ability to restore the amount of touch that the body has been denied since the beginning of its human journey. The craving of the body for what is vaguely known as love corresponds to the need for filling up the great hole left in the psyche by a lack of tender physical contact. Restoring touch will help make it possible to stay in touch.
When people get together, the initial enjoyment of the encounter comes from their psyches touching one another energetically at close proximity. I have noticed among Westerners, however, that the intensity of the need for connection with another person competes with a powerful ambivalence about touch that often leads to an exasperating shallowness of communication and interaction. One sees this quite literally between two people who love each other but who are in conflict. They fail to recognize that their difficulties may have nothing to do with one of them being wrong about issues between them. What they are really troubled by is the lack of being touched.
Amma The Hugging Saint, sending loving, healing energy through hugs
The lack of touch is the greatest source of grief in modern culture. Poor self-esteem and the shrinking of a person's sense of identity can be traced, in part, to the lack of touch. But the restoration of touch must be done properly and not as a way of trying to stop a person from experiencing any emotion he or she needs to experience in the interest of healing. It also must avoid becoming a vulture's gesture, intended to consume an outpouring of energy. The danger is that when touch does not actually give energy to another person, it absorbs it, or scares it into protective silence. The person guilty of such energetic felonies may not even be aware of what they are doing.
In a context in which deprivation from touch is the rule, people grieve and crave secretly. This internal grieving is dangerous because it attacks the psyche and breeds more negative energy within. The opportunity to cry can trigger a healing process that touch accelerates if it is offered wisely and thoughtfully. The hungriest person inside us is not the one who is thinking about dinner, but the one who has not felt loved for a long time. This is why in Africa, amid scarcity of the worst sort, people still manage to wear a smile, to be genuinely generous and hospitable. While their physical stomachs are empty, their psychic bellies are overfilled with the food of touch.
It is not possible to engage in a productive earth ritual without proper touch. Earth is the archetypal symbol of giving. Indeed, the earth teaches us that touching must take the place of taking, or the modern world will continue to destroy itself by devouring everything that is consumable.
The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 232-234
LYING ON THE LAP
OF THE EARTH
The ritual called Lying on the Earth's Lap is one in which each individual rekindles her relationship with the earth. It allows the earth to absorb negative energy from our bodies. Therefore, a person who is ill, who has been the victim of abuse, who feels burned out, who is lonely, and who cannot connect should consider this type of ritual. Similarly, a person who is constantly surrounded by scarcity, who feels that nothing exciting is happening in her life, whose relationship is falling apart, or who has experienced a recent loss should also try this ritual.
Usually, the ritual takes place at a large shrine made of earth, either built as a platform or as a large mound, surrounded with a variety of foods. A well-defined gateway marks the entrance to the shrine. There is always another area, separate from the ritual space, well defined and distinguished by a fire at its center, which serves as the village. From there, people go to the earth shrine and release their emotion to the Great Mother, then return to the village, where they are cheerfully welcomed. The container of the village is held together by the dynamics of rhythm and chant. (A container in ritual language is an activity that is meant to keep the energy focused. Chanting and drumming often keep people's attention affixed to what is going on.) In it people dance with one another and sing together, united by the persistent, regular drumbeat.
At the earth shrine, which is guarded at the gate by keepers and at the shrine itself by healers, the mood is a little bit different. As each person arrives at the gate, he or she is greeted by the gatekeepers who tell them what is about to happen. Each person is reminded that their purpose in going to the shrine is to vigorously communicate to the Earth Mother that which has been the source of trouble in their life. They are told to come into intimate contact with the earth by lying on her lap like a trusting and vulnerable baby in a loving mother's arms. Then the individual is escorted by the gatekeeper to the shrine, where he is passed to the healers. The healers reiterate what the gatekeepers have said, with encouragement not to hold back from the Earth Mother. The goal is to keep the individual constantly reminded of the depth of what he or she is about to do, and to be as specific as possible about the nature of the problems that they are bringing to offer to the Earth Mother.
A dog's-style welcome!
As mediators, the healers must stand by discreetly to give any additional help the individual may need. More often than not, sacred contact with the earth results in a tremendous surge of emotion. The healers make sure they maintain some kind of physical contact with the person throughout the ritual so that there is a a constant sense of reinforcement from the village through them.
The time required for the healing depends on the individual needs. There is no way to regulate the amount of time a person stays with the earth, as it depends on how much emotional unloading is needed. When the person's healing is complete, the healers escort the individual to the gatekeepers, who take him back to the village. Now at the village are a few people on the lookout for the returning villager. When they see him coming, they scream the villager's name, attracting the attention of everyone. As the person enters the village he is received with hugs and cheers. In Dagara, people say that we must learn from dogs how to welcome one another, because our dogs are masters at making us feel wanted. It is not infrequent to hear people say, "Give him a dog's-style welcome." While the returning villager is being cared for by the village, another villager leaves for the shrine. This ritual lasts as long as there are people to be healed.
The Healing Wisdom of Africa, pg. 236-237
A RITUAL OF SYMBOLIC BURIAL
The above two rituals...do not match in intensity one that consists of a literal confinement of the self in the earth. Sometimes referred to as taking cover under the earth, or as a burial ritual, this is one of the earth rituals in which people return symbolically into the earth's womb and, inside the earth, experience being reshaped for a possible rebirth. Two postures are available in this case, either horizontal confinement or vertical confinement. In horizontal confinement, people are buried while lying flat. In vertical confinement, they are buried in an upright position.
Standard initiation practices involve vertical burial. The initiate is buried from the neck down overnight. The feeling is hard to describe, but similar to a paralysis; you feel yourself connected to a body that you can't move. The other strong perception is that you are very close to the earth, as if you are a quite small being. Your whole height above ground is the height of your head. The insight you get after the first hour is extremely fascinating. It feels like everything is very close by, and that you are a remarkably small entity in the universe. But as you stay in this posture long, there is a feeling of being held together by someone. If you go into dream time or a trance state, you might see light everywhere and loud noises that are not, however, frightening. If you are a claustrophobic, you might experience the opposite. A six-hour confinement will make you feel like you are being dismantled, but into pieces. But then you move into a deeply peaceful state.
(Information regarding the Earth Burial ritual is continued in Malidoma's book, "The Healing Wisdom of Africa," pg. 238-241)
IS EARTH YOUR ELEMENT?
In Dagara culture, your element is EARTH if the year of your birth ends in "0" or "5." For instance, a person born in the year 1960 or 1975 is of the Earth clan.
To find out more about your Dagara element, see the December 2010 Newsletter in the E-Village News Archives from our website
WHAT IS EARTHING?
Throughout history humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground. But modern lifestyle, including the widespread use of insulative rubber- or plastic-soled shoes, has disconnected us from the Earth's energy and, of course, we no longer sleep on the ground. Fascinating new research has raised the possibility that this disconnect may actually contribute to chronic pain, fatigue, and poor sleep that plague so many people.
The remedy for the disconnect is simple. Walk barefoot outdoors whenever possible and/or sleep, work, or relax indoors in contact with conductive sheets or mats that transfer the energy to your body. People who do on a regular basis say they sleep better, feel better, and have more energy during the day. This simple practice is called Earthing, also known as grounding, and it is both a technology and a movement which is transforming lives across the planet.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE EARTHING....go barefoot outside for a half-hour and see what a difference it makes on your pain or stress level. Sit, stand, or walk on grass, sand, dirt, or concrete. These are all conductive surfaces from which your body can draw the Earth's energy. Wood, asphalt, and vinyl won't work. They are not conductive surfaces.
Experience for yourself the healing energy of the Earth at work!
Woman relaxing on the ground inside the Old Hospital,
Island of Mozambique, Mozambique
Ancestral Remembrance Ceremony, St. Augustine, FL
Saturday, February 7th, 12 noon
Castillo de San Marcos, north lawn,
Mission Nombre de Dios
Nature, Ritual & Community Lecture, San Francisco, CA
Friday, February 20th, 7 pm
COST: $15/$20 @ door
CIIS Main Building, 1453 Mission St.
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Nature, Ritual & Community Workshop, San Francisco, CA
February 21-22, 10 am-5:30 pm
(workshop includes Friday night's lecture)
CIIS Main Building, 1453 Mission St.
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Divinations in East Bay Area, CA
COST: $300 (prepaid & nonrefundable payment)
For more info & to schedule an appointment, write to [email protected]4-Week Live Video Webinar, Via Jung PlatformMarch 5, 12, 26, & April 2
Course Title: Introduction to the Central Pillars of Dagara Cosmology
For more info & to register, click hereDivinations in Minneapolis, MN
COST: $300 (prepaid & nonrefundable payment)
For more info & to schedule an appointment, write to [email protected]Jackie's on the Reef, Negril, Jamaica, W.I.April 10-15
COST: $1,800 (does not include airfare)
For more details, click here
To more info & to register, write to [email protected]
or phone 718-469-2785Divinations in East Bay Area, CA
COST: $300 U.S. dollars (prepaid & nonrefundable payment)
Divination appointments will not
be scheduled until late March.Ritual Healing Village: The Elements @ East Coast Village, Cherry Plain, NYJune 8-14
For more info and to register, click here
"Ecology describes an attitude of someone 'who has an ethical concern for all living creatures and for the earth as a living system.' This is in direct opposition to the prevailing Western capitalist view, influenced by science where the earth is considered an inert body available for exploitation. When we understand the earth as an organism in its own right, we rediscover ancient concepts such as 'cosmos' and 'world soul' from a time when the gods and goddesses were still valued and known by direct experience. I am not suggesting we revert to ancient practices, but it is important to understand that they constitute valid underpinnings that have an ever-increasing relevance today."
~Sacred Landscapes: The Threshold Between Worlds~