Traditional rituals are watered down in many cultures these days. They are no longer considered to be relevant. And so are often completely ignored or not followed correctly. And yet it is often these very traditional rituals that give meaning to life or bring about deep healing.
I am writing about something that may seem very foreign to many of us. And yet, in our country it is highly relevant and something we all need to be aware of and appreciate.
An African case study
A few months ago I spoke to a young Zimbabwean whom I know superficially. Joe said that he had lost a third brother due to unexpected health problems. Two of his other brothers, healthy youngsters, had also died the past 2 years under inexplicable circumstances. I could not help but wonder if someone had wished something bad for the family. Joe indicated that the family had already done various rituals as per their tradition. But nothing seemed to be working. His mother was ill a great deal of the time. This is not my field of expertise at all. However, I have a friend from Ghana who is a healer. So I asked him if he had any advice.
He suggested that the family find a traditional healer with a good reputation. But not someone within their own tribe. His feeling was that it is essential to find a healer who is able to connect with the ancestors and determine the real cause of the unexpected deaths. Joe’s family in Zimbabwe were able to find such a healer.
The traditional healer insisted on meeting with all the family. He said he was not going to have people give their own version of what he said behind his back. He also met individually with Joe’s mother and performed a ritual for her. The outcome was that her health problems would be resolved. When he met with the group, the healer indicated that he was not there to cause family strife. He expected the family to stand together and be supportive of one another.
Then the traditional healer described exactly what had happened. There was an elderly uncle who had not performed a ritual correctly when Joe’s mother was newlywed. He took a short cut. On top of that the uncle is involved in very dubious dark practices. It also seems the previous traditional rituals had not been taken seriously. Some of the elders are Christians now and no longer see traditional ritual as relevant.
The traditional healer pointed to the elderly uncle in the group saying he was the cause of the problems. The family was shocked because they had revered the uncle. Exposed in front of the group, the uncle admitted to not having followed a traditional ritual correctly. He also admitted to turning the ancestors against the family.
The traditional healer made it clear that if the uncle continued with his questionable practices there will be definite consequences. It was agreed that the remaining brothers would go ahead and do the ritual as it should have been performed years ago. If this is done, there will be no further deaths or misfortune in the family. When I chatted to Joe a few weeks after this, he said that the family could already feel the difference. His mother was also healthy and out of pain.
After much heartache Joe and his family found a traditional healer who was not being manipulated by their uncle. This healer behaved with integrity. He also had the best interests of the family at heart. It is heart-warming to see Joe no longer living in fear as to whether he is going to be the next person to lose his life.
The importance of rituals
Malidoma Patrice Somé from Burkina Faso has made it his life’s task to talk to Westerners about the importance of ritual in maintaining a sense of community. It is clear in the African tradition that traditional rituals honour one’s heritage and ancestors. Rituals also heal and offer support during periods of major transition.
Relevance for us?
Rituals are not only for indigenous tribes. I have personally been involved in various sacred ceremonies: saying good bye to significant people and pets, blessing a property, dealing with periods of uncertainty, turning fifty, closing off a chapter and opening a new one, etc. Each of these ceremonies left a significantly uplifting mark on my life.
So conscious rites of passage enable us to see ourselves as a spiritual being. Furthermore, sacred ceremony helps us celebrate life, connect with our true self as well as a universal divine presence in life.
If you are interested in learning how to incorporate sacred ceremony into your life, contact me for a consultation.
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