As the sun started to set across the African sky the elders gathered, the herbs burnt, and the prayers were uttered. We all joined together to celebrate our community in the Sukwhwini kraal. The kraal is the sacred home of the Sukhwini ancestral spirits and my adopted family for over 15 years.
When I first me my teacher, Mum Ngwevu and her husband Tata Sukhwini I felt I had found gold. The gold of an ancient, intact medicine lineage that stretches back hundreds and possibly thousands of years. For the Sukwhini clan is connected to the Khoi San, and they are reputed to be one of the oldest indigenous peoples in the world today. As a white South African who has lived through Apartheid I have been deeply touched and humbled by the Sukhwini elders who have adopted me as their son, and taught me everything they know in terms of ancestors and connecting to the ancient world. Every year I organise a 'thanks giving' ceremony to say 'thank you' to the Sukhwini, Ngwevu (my teacher's line) and Xhosa Sangoma ancestors and elders, for keeping these ancient medicine teachings alive in the world today. We invite Xhosa elders, medicine people and local community members. It normally goes over 2 days and includes sacred prayer and ceremony. This involves going to the sea, river and forest to offer prayers in the old way. It also involves talking in the kraal (ancestral temple), and listening to the elders speak. One of the highlights of the weekend is marked with Sangoma dancing and singing.
Every time I do a workshop overseas I get a photograph taken to show my community and elders back home the people I am helping. At a certain point during the ceremony I stood up and called forth my ancestors, I spoke in Xhosa honouring the ancient ones and the Great Spirit. I then passed around my photo album covering all the ‘Ubuntu Ubunzulu’ (depth of Humanity, traditional Sangoma workshops) workshops that I lead during the past year. I told my elders how I have taught people in the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States and Mexico, to reconnect to their ancestors, elders, dreams, Great Spirit. I tell them how I use Xhosa Medicine to help people to dream. I emphasise the importance of following the old Xhosa ways because they are sacred, beautiful and very powerful. The whole community were speechless.
Then Tata Khumalo stood up. He is a dignified elder who the people respect as a preacher, prophet and wise man. He was quiet for a moment, and then he said “Andithetha ngoku...” I cannot speak right now. He had a lump in his throat and he was very emotional. The whole community was quiet and they uttered one long sigh, aaaaaaaaah. Then his voice returned and he said “enkosi Cingolwendaba!” “Thank you John!”. The spirit started moving through him and his voice returned. He shouted with joy about the work I am doing, and expressed his heartfelt appreciation for me honouring his community, Mum Ngwevu, and Tata Sukhwini. He finished with tears running down his face and saying, “hamba phesheya Cingolwedaba!” “Go overseas John and teach people these old ways”.
I was deeply touched with the support my elders gave me, and to highlight it my teacher Mum Ngwevu gave me some beautiful beads. Her ancestors had told her in a dream to make the beads for me, to say ‘thank you’ for honouring them and helping to spread the sacred teachings of the Xhosa medicine people, the amagqirha.
Please read Caroline & Charlotte's experience of their first traditional Xhosa Ceremony.
Spirit News by John Lockley ‘Ucingolwendaba’
I have travelled all over this world, such as Australia, England, Ireland, Germany, France and all over South Africa. In all these places I have not seen or felt the connection to the Ancestors that I have felt here in the Eastern Cape, Joza location.
Ladies and Gentlemen be proud of your culture and customs.
You are lucky and rich. You have no money but you are connected to your ancestors.
When you sing and dance you raise the spirits of the Ancestors. I tell people overseas that here in South Africa we have gold, the Sangomas.
The world is dying, my friends.
In Europe people have forgotten the old ways of living.
The world is dying because of greediness and a lack of humanity.
You give hope because here I receive the depth of humanity through Sangoma teachings. Wherever I am in the rural Eastern Cape I feel the presence of humanity and the Ancestors guiding us.
Fathers and men don’t forget to teach your children your culture and customs.
When you do spiritual work here in the Eastern Cape you send light throughout the world.
You give people hope, thank you.
Ndihambile phantsie omhlaba wonke, Australia, England, Ireland, Germany, France noMzantsi Afrika wonke. Kuzo zonke ezindawo andikubonanga okanje andiluvanga unxibelelwano eninalo apha eRhini/ Joza.
Mawethu zingceni ngamasiko nezithethe zenu. Nenethamsanqa nobutyebi obungaphaya. Anina mali kodwa ninxulumene nezinyanya zenu.
Xa nisombela nikwaxhentsa, ninyusa umoya wabaphantsi nivuselela nathi.
Ndixelela abantu phesheya, apha Mzantsi Afrika sinayo igolide engamagqirha.
Elizwe liyathsabalala bahlobo bam.
aEurope abantu bakhona balibele ngendlela endala yokuphila. Leyafa elizwe labo, ngenxa yokunyoluka nokungabina buntu.
Ninika ithemba kuba apha ndifumene ubuntu obunzulu. Naphina apho ndikhoyo ndiyaliva ifuthe lobuntu.
Botata nanimadoda sanakulibala ukufundisa abantwana benu ngamasiko nezithethe zenu.
Xa nisenza omsebenzi apha eJoza nithumela ilitha ehlabathini. Ninika abantu ithemba, Enkosi.