I just finished reading a most facinating book called “Of Water and the Spirit” by Malidoma Patrice Some. This unique read was recommended to me by a dear freind Jakki who lives half way round the globe in Nairobi, Kenya. She sure had it right on the mark guessing I would connect with this particular book and the author!
Aside from the fact that I have the greatest respect and facination for the shamanic practices and beliefs regarding nature of indiginous tribes everywhere, to read from the pages of one who is not far removed from a world that is still not completely destroyed and altered by colonialism was a treat for the soul beyond words. True, colonialism has certainly had a major impact on this particular tribe, the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso (upper west Africa), in that the jesuits (Christian missionaries) began back in the early 50′s trying to convert these “pagans” to modern religion and ways of life. Maildoma writes from the hip and from the heart at the same time. His journey is fantastic and a gift, but I was particularly drawn to aspects of Dagara customs and shamanism that revolved around their relationship with nature.
Dagara shamans work hard to remember and pass forward the ancestral rituals, beliefs and magic that heals, harmonizes, and keeps the balance of the community at large with nature. Until very recently, their lives remained so attached to their old world that the western world seemed like nothing but mythology to them. After years of christian programming and then intiation as a shaman back into his tribe, Malidoma moved to the USA as was fortold by the elders. On one particular return visit home, Malidoma brought videos of American tv shows to show the tribal elders. One of the shows was Star Trek. The tribespeople thought everything they saw was real life, they could not separte real western world from our fantasy world. In fact, when they saw Dr. Spock, they instantly recognized him and all agreed – “Kontomble!”. They recognized and accepted Star Trek’s Dr. Spock as a Kontomle only they said he was too tall ~ Kontombles are only about two feet tall.
A Kontomble is a human type being that lives in the underworld with all the animal spirits. They are the keepers and protectors of the critter world. According to the Dagara shamans, once upon a time all humans were able to communicate freely with animals. Now only the Kontomble and a select few shamans are able to do this. But when necessary, the Kontomble will communicate with shaman humans on behalf of the animal spirit world for the purpose of healing and warnings. Best be kind and patient with the Kontomble as their first priority is to protect nature. Shouldn’t WE be this way?
I hope to travel to this corner of the world one day as well as many other similar ones. There is much to learn from ancient indigineous cultures that colonialism has tried to eradicate. I commend Malidoma for following the path of his given name; Maildoma – Friend of the enemy/Stranger.
Andrea, “Critter Doc”