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45 Feng shui
Jenny T. Liu, M.A.
46 Pet Corner
Linda & Allen Anderson
47 Voices of hope
Audrey Hope
50 ClAssIFIEds
(Continued on page 6)
alidoma Patrice Somé
is a master teacher for
our times. For the past
two decades he has
been opening a trove of indig-
enous knowledge from the Da-
gara tribe as he offers unifying
wisdom to Western people look-
ing to reconnect with the rich-
ness of life when it is imbued
with spirit and community.
Malidoma has faced many
daunting challenges since he
was born into the Dano village
of Dagara peoples living in Bur-
kina Faso, West Africa more than
fifty years ago. He was only four
when a French Jesuit priest ab-
ducted him from his village.
Like countless other children
from indigenous cultures around
the globe, he was sent off against
his will to a school run by for-
eigners and forced to adopt other
worldviews in order to survive.
Malidoma grew up with the con-
fusion and conflict of living in a
stranger's world.
While his life has been quite
complex, Malidoma has real-
ized considerable life achieve-
ment in finding mastery in two
very disparate worlds -- as both
an initiated elder Dagara medi-
cine man, and a Western trained
scholar with two doctorates, one
from the Sorbonne and the other
from Brandeis.
The author of three books,
his autobiography, Of Water and
the Spirit, is an award-winning
account of how he was able to
unify his own divergent cultural
experience. By his own account,
it is "the story of his initiation
into two different and highly
contradictory cultures."
Having found his own pur-
pose as a teacher who knows
how to bridge from the subtle
to the material realms, he is an
effective diviner able to guide
others to greater meaning and
fulfillment. His intensives and
workshops offer people the op-
portunity to experience a deep
healing of the psyche, through
connecting and communicating
with the physical world of nature
and the unseen world of spirit
allies and ancestors.
Donna Strong: So I wanted to
begin with a question about the
work you do, bringing forth in-
digenous technology and spiri-
tuality through the intensives
you are offering in Ojai.
malidoma: Oh. It's very inten-
sive. (Laughter.) It's one of the
most concentrated ways for me
to try and cover as much as pos-
sible in the African indigenous
medicine, which I refer to as in-
digenous technology.
The intensive is actually a
course that goes on chapter by
chapter. The first one, called
"Elemental," is basically an op-
portunity to understand the re-
lationship between cosmology
and ritual. We end up doing the
ritual as a better way of under-
standing this relationship.
I just present it as is; that is to
say, the five-fold way of the Da-
gara incorporating five elements
-- fire, water, earth, nature, and
mineral. And although in the
course of four days, we can't do
all these rituals -- they're very
time-consuming -- at least we
get to do the most important
ones: the fire, the water, and the
The second meeting is basic-
ally on ancestors. This is a thera-
peutic subject matter in the West,
reconnecting with ancestors. We
spend four days dealing with the
dead, the lost one, the forbear-
ers, and find a way to engage
and interact with them in a way
that provides a deeper sense of
community, since from a Dagara
perspective, it's hard to conceive
of a community if we don't in-
clude the other worlds.
The third session is centered
on the subject of having con-
versation with the other world,
with a subheading, which is di-
vination. In the course of that,
I remind people that since time
immemorial, divination has
been the human way to satisfy
thirst for knowing the hidden.
From the Greek traditions of the
diviner as a blind person who
ends up seeing better than those
with capacity to see; down to all
these indigenous oracle readers
who are always interested in
coming across like the gatekeep-
er, with a capacity to peek into
the other world and report what-
ever they see.
We get into Dagara divina-
tion prophecies, involving in
this case cowry shells, the shells
from the ocean; which when put
together form a certain kind of
pattern that translates, or writes
down what is going on with a
person. So divination becomes
the opportunity for people to test
this psychic awareness.
In Dagara culture, not every-
body's supposed to be a divin-
er, but everybody's supposed to
understand divination. So in that
case, those who have a calling
all of a sudden find themselves
really driven to the practice of it,
whereas the others end up un-
derstanding its structure.
The fourth one is mostly what
we call talismanic medicine, my
favorite of all the indigenous
technologies. The talismanic is
the one that takes us into a
deeper understanding of nature
and the structure of the natural
world, what is in there -- the
causality of nature and its capac-
ity to transcend matter, as well as
opening gateways to new dimen-
sions. All of that is encapsulated
in the apparently `chaotic' look
of nature.
Malidoma Patrice Somé
Dagara Wisdom in Action
by Donna Strong