African Spirituality

What does African spirituality mean to you? Voodoo, witch doctors, black magic? I can’t remember now if those where some of my first thoughts, but I certainly hadn’t ever found myself particularly drawn to African work. Yet somehow, in September 2007, I found myself on a weekend work shop with Sangoma (shaman), John Lockley. I still couldn’t understand what I was doing there. It was held in a beautiful shamanic centre in the hills of North Wales, a secluded spot near Corwen that I had visited a few years earlier (www.thedreamingbutterfly.com). I hadn’t been up there for a while, but something was calling me, and when I looked at the workshop list the only thing that caught my eye at the time was this African Shamanic work. Even though there was no single thing about the workshop that jumped out at me, it just kept popping into my head and then someone gave me a free copy of Sacred Hoop magazine that happened to have an article about John’s initiation, so I decided maybe I was supposed to go along.

The introductory weekend is now a bit of a blur in my memory, but I remember particularly enjoying the trance dancing that John taught us -which is great fun! I also remember feeling my heart really open over the weekend. Another thing I clearly recall is John telling us that the work can set things in motion in your life, which stuck in my mind because the following week a couple of fairly big changes happened in my personal and work life. These were not easy things for me, and left me unsure of whether I wanted to continue the work further. It was not long after this that I did a shamanic journey to the spirit of water. It was a beautiful journey and during it I was told that it would be good for me to do more work with John. Not being one to ignore the advice of the water spirits, I signed up for a 9 month African Shamanic practioner’s course!

Having talked later to other people on the practioner’s course, I found my journey was not unusual. Many of the others felt a great deal of resistance to the work, but just kept getting called to it in various ways. And I have to tell you that I am so glad that I followed my intuition. The practioner’s course has been amazing.

Africa is a continent of great spiritual power, where the old shamanic ways are still alive and shamans can trace their lineage back through ancestors going back many hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I have felt this work more deeply than I have felt any other spiritual work before. I have found a path which is based on being humble, open hearted, respectful and digging deeply into your soul. It is about finding your humanity, and an understanding that my humanity is bound up with your humanity. It is about respect for the old ways, the elders and our communities. It is about working with dreams, nature, the plant spirits and our ancestors (both our blood lines and our spiritual families). The work has subtly, yet powerfully worked itself into every fibre of my being. It has truly and deeply touched my life on every level.

There is often a lot of negative press about African spirituality. I think that the great power found there can bring up fear in many of us. And yes, where the light is very bright, there can also be found darkness. But in John’s work I have found only the purest light. And I would urge any one who is drawn to shamanism and the old ways to come along and experience one of John’s workshops.

Caroline Evans, Teacher, Wrexham.