African Zen in Japan

I recently had the good fortune of being invited to Tokyo to lead retreats and give private sessions. My first introduction to Japanese mysticism and spirituality was at the age of 18 when I immersed myself in studying Soto Zen, a branch of Japanese Buddhism. I was taught how to clear my mind, find calmness in my breath, and energise my body through the beauty of nature. The teachers were kind and strict. I learnt the beauty of spiritual discipline. Now 20 years later I find myself full circle, back in Japan, and this time I was given an opportunity to give back to the Japanese people whose spiritual culture had inspired me years ago. 

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Mandela Medicine in the USA

Mandela5 Mandela emancipated Africa and made African people everywhere stand tall with dignity and self respect. He made it possible for us to believe in ourselves and practice our old spiritual ways, the ways of our ancestors, the ways of Mother Africa. One of Mandela's core principles was 'Ubuntu' (humanity) and this ties in with his traditional background as a Xhosa man.

I am proud to be an adopted member of the Xhosa nation. As a traditionally trained Xhosa Sangoma, I teach the old ways of our people. One of our principle teachings is 'Ubuntu Ubunzulu', translated as 'the depth of humanity', meaning 'one blood', 'one humanity'. As we say in Xhosa 'if you cut my arm red blood flows; and if I cut your arm, red blood flows. We are all connected. There is only one Great Spirit and one human race. A core Xhosa saying is 'uthando lothando, ubuntu olothando'.  Love is love, Humanity is love.

We believe that to be a human being is a wonderful and sacred job. Our forefathers like Mandela maintain that we are constantly realising our 'ubuntu'. We are constantly improving, by becoming more intuitive and more compassionate. Our original jobs as human beings is only service, 'how can I help you?'.

I will be teaching about Ubuntu as a way of reconnecting with our humanity. I will be in New York City and Asheville, NC. Through simple Xhosa songs, rhythms, drumming and stories, I intend to show people how they can reconnect with their own 'Ubuntu' and Ancestors.

As we focus on our blood and bones, so we energise our spirit, and we can walk as lions and leopards with dignity, love and self respect.

Do you want to learn the Mandela way? Then join me in New York City and Asheville, NC.

Written by John Lockley 9/5/2014


New York City 7th - 27th May

  • Public Talks/ Blessing Ceremonies
  • Thurs 8th - Metacenter, Manhattan, 7-9pm
  • Exchange: $30 at the door
  • Friday 9th - Golden Drum,Brooklyn, 8-9:30pm
  • Suggested Donation: $30
  • Wednesday 14th - The Fifth Line, Sterling pl
  • Exchange: $30 at the Door
  • I will perform an African Blessing ceremony with traditional Sangoma songs & rhythms. There will also be an opportunity for people to ask questions. A number of people have reported ancestral dreams after these sacred sound performances.
  • Weekend Workshop 17-18th - Golden Drum
  • 'Way of the Leopard training'
  • Ceremony 1 - Opening the Door to your Destiny
  • Donation: Early Bird price $250 - March 2nd-April 30th. May price: $300
  • To Book: Contact Golden Drum
  • Private Sangoma Divinations/ Plant healing In New York City, Brooklyn
  • May: 10,11,12,13,15,20,21,22
  • I throw the bones in the traditional Sangoma way and work with ancient plant medicine from South Africa to help heal peoples' spirits.
  • The main focus of my work as a Sangoma is 'ukuvula indlela' which means 'to open the road', so my job is to literally help people find their road or life path.
  • As the bones fall they form a spiritual constellation of a person's life. This is helpful in pointing out areas of strength/ gifts and also where more work is needed.


Asheville, North Carolina 29th May - 3rd June


Modern Shamanism & the Sangoma's Song

I was recently interviewed in New York City by Sam Liebowitz from Talking Alternatives radio. I was joined by my good friend, Itzhak Beery from the New York Shamanic Circle. We discussed the relevance of ancient shamanic practices for the modern world. I enjoyed the interview, and I hope you do too.

Link to Interview no longer available.

Tribute to Mandela 1918-2013

Mandela5 As the sun sets on our first national day of mourning here in South Africa, I pause to reflect on an extraordinary human being, Nelson Mandela.

Words fail to describe the man we know as Nelson Mandela. As a traditional healer, Sangoma in Mandela’s tribe, the Xhosa nation, I look to nature as a source of renewal and strength. Yesterday I witnessed a bird die in a strange and tragic way. I felt that something powerful was going to happen and true enough on waking this morning I was told of Mr Mandela’s passing.

Mandela’s life was characterized by struggle and harmonized by love. Even though he was old, we ‘South African’s’ could never truly believe that one day he would die. His life and message held us all together. He gave us hope, and made us believe that one person can make a difference. His message of equality, freedom and love between all people on the planet has become a symbol of ultimate goodness for all of us.

Sadly I never met Mr Mandela, however those friends of mine who did describe him as a man of incredible goodness, humour, strength and dignity. He was as he appeared to be on TV, a man who ‘walked his talk’ and demonstrated his beliefs through his everyday actions.

When he was released from prison in 1990 we were all spell bound by his oratory gifts and whenever he spoke on TV we would crowd around and listen to him avidly. He made us laugh, cry and believe in ourselves.  Mandela made us South Africans believe that we can love one another regardless of race, creed or ethnicity. That are future is bright and that we don’t have to live in fear of one another. He was funny and always surprised us when giving serious political talks. He would finish his talks with a human interest story of things that happened to him behind the political veil. We loved him all the more for this and we felt safe and secure in the future of South Africa.

In 1994 we held our first democratic elections. I was in South Korea at the time. I was invited to become a monk in a Zen Buddhist order by my grandmaster, Zen Master Seung Sahn Sunim. I declined, deciding to rather return to South Africa to follow my African calling and becoming an African monk, a Sangoma, traditional healer in the Xhosa nation. During South Africa it was illegal for a white person to walk around in the townships. These were strictly ‘black’ areas and unless you were in the army or police you had to have a special pass to walk in these areas. This made it near impossible for me to find my teacher and follow my calling to become a Sangoma. However after Nelson Mandela became president in 1994 everything changed, and the door to my work and life in townships around South Africa, swung open. I was greeted with warmth and love, like a lost son by my teacher Mum Ngwevu. When she asked me what took me so long to find her, I said, “Apartheid”. Her response was “Ah Thixo, enkosiam”. “Oh God, I’m so sorry!”. I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards Mr Mandela for making it possible for me to fulfil my destiny and calling to become a Xhosa Sangoma.

During the Apartheid years we were all imprisoned because we couldn’t express our human feelings for one another. No-one epitomized this more than Nelson Mandela. He came out of prison like a diamond from the roughest soil and taught us how to be human again without restrictions and fear. We will always honour his memory, and be forever blessed that he walked amongst us, and showed us how we can empower ourselves with dignity and grace. He set an example for us all to follow. Like many South Africans today I feel proud to have had him as my mentor, guiding me along the road of how to be a human being.

In Xhosa we say: Uthando lo thando, ubuntu olothando. ‘Love is love, humanity is love’.  It means that when we act with compassion from the deepest part of us, then we realise our humanity. Mandela was a fine example of a man who overcame huge obstacles and demonstrated ‘Ubuntu’ (humanity).

Hamba Kahle Tata Mkhulu ! Go well reverend Father.

Picture of me 1


Written by:  John Lockley  6/12/2013

Sangoma Medicine coming to the USA

Ancient prophecies predict that African and American teachings will help save the planet. The reason is that they still remember the old ways and how to reconnect us to Mother Nature. I have been encouraged by my Xhosa teachers and medicine colleagues to bring our ancient teachings to the Western World. These teachings are simple and profound, focusing on helping people to reconnect to their Ancestors and Dreams.

The Sangoma tradition in Southern Africa is literally thousands of years old. I am lucky to be part of the Xhosa lineage that represents one of the oldest living shamanic cultures in the world today. The ceremonies we perform are simple and profound encouraging people to go deep within themselves and their roots (ancestors).

The ancient ways teach us that it is no important how high we travel but how deep we go within ourselves. Because all life's questions about destiny, pain and suffering reside in our DNA. Our ancestors, and all of life within the great mother have battled with these questions. When we sit and ponder the question of 'why are we alive' and what is life all about we are left with a deep question ? This question takes us directly into the world of the mystic, sage, shaman, where it is okay to not know and this not knowing world opens our minds to multiple dimensions beyond time and space.

In South African Sangoma culture all spiritual journeys begin with saying our name out to the universe and announcing ourselves to all our Ancestors. For we believe that the first gift our parents gave us was our name. And our name holds within it the seeds of our destiny. In the same way that a small acorn holds the seed and potential of becoming a great oak tree. Gratitude is central to Xhosa ritual. We invoke our ancestors by showing gratitude to them for the gift of life. For without them we wouldn't be here.  The question is never 'what can our ancestors do for us, but rather what can we do for them'. For the circle of life needs to be healed now more than ever before. We heal the circle by welcoming our elders home to us and thanking them for the sacrifices they made.

Join me in ceremony. Here are a list of dates and places  where I will be in the USA.

I look forward to meeting you.

Warmest wishes,

John Lockley,

Ucingolwendaba (Above) I stand  with my medicine colleagues, Elliot Rivera from Puerto Rico, brought up in New York; and Dancing Thunder, medicine chief of the Susquehannock nation.

Portland, Oregon


st -


th  October

New York City


th - 


th  October

  • 11th - New York Shamanic Circle (NYSC) - Open Circle

  • A time for the Community to gather, pray, rattle, drum and dance.

  • John will lead the group in some dancing, drumming & praying.

  • By Donation: $20

  • 20th - New York Shamanic Circle's 15th Annual Gatheringin Central Park.

  • A gathering of indigenous & urban shamans from all cultures and walks of life.

Trance Dancing the Ancient Way

John dancing at a traditional Xhosa ceremony in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. In Southern Africa we 'Sweat our prayers' through the trance dance or ‘xentsa’ .

This dancing practice is an integral part of traditional Southern African life. Traditional healers known as Sangomas use the dance to connect to their ancestral spirits. The word ‘Sangoma’ literally means ‘people of the song’ because they use particular kinds of chants and rhythms to connect to the spirit world. Sangomas are the traditional Shamans or medicine people of Southern Africa. The job of a Sangoma is to ‘nceda abantu ukuvula indlela’ – to help people realise their spiritual calling. For we believe that when people are in harmony with themselves then they are in harmony with the world around them. There is no word for depression in the Xhosa and Zulu language from SouthAfrica, only ‘umoya phezulu’ okanye ‘umoya phantsi’. Spirit energy up or spirit energy down. Through rhythm and song the Sangoma helps to uplift people and in doing so helps them realise their spiritual potential.

The Sangoma rhythm is part of the sacred music from South Africa. Whenever a Sangoma plays their drum in a particular way it is said that they invoke the spirits of the land and community. The drum beat is a particular heart beat rhythm that helps ground, calm and connect people to their roots (ancestors). I have been playing my drum and singing my Sangoma chants all over the world. I am pleased to say that no matter where I am people connect with their ancestors in the most profound and humbling ways. I have often been touched to hear people in New York or Mexico come to me a few days after a ceremony, recounting beautiful and uplifting dreams from their ancestors. Music is truly universal, and the Sangoma drum is a call to spirit and the unseen world. Now let us wake up! Now let us rejoice in the beauty of being alive. With our chants, hands and feet, we pound the earth and feel at one with all things. Camagu!  (We honour & praise the divine).

On the 17th August Londoners will dance and shake their bones like never before. Are you ready to wake up?

Ubuntu 2012 in Review: A message of Hope

2012 Was an amazing year for me. I was invited to lead ceremonies all over the world from Canada to the USA, UK, and Belgium. I feel deeply honoured that people called on me to lead ceremonies and listen to how South African indigenous healers (Sangomas) operate.

In April this year I was working alongside my teacher, Mum Ngwevu performing thanksgiving ceremonies to honour our ancestors. After these ceremonies one of my elders, Tata Bongani said to me “Cingo uyasebenza kakhulu kulo nyaka!” “John you will be very busy this year”. He predicted quite accurately that this year was going to be my busiest year yet. I thanked him for his kind words and I left my beloved teacher and elders to lead my first ceremony overseas in Canada in May.

I was a bit nervous as it was my first time to Canada. The ceremony I lead was part of a 5 day Shamanic conference in Squamish, B.C. outside Vancouver. I lead the 101 + delegates in Xhosa chants, drumming and dancing. They loved it! I lead them in a special chant of “Umoya wam, ngumoya wam...” Meaning, ‘My spirit, my holy spirit’. I was impressed at how they all picked up the rhythm and went for it body and soul. The whole room was swaying in unison while I beat my drum. It was a wonderful moment. As always, I prayed in Xhosa, and sent a blessing to the delegates and their ancestors. I also mentioned my own parents, teachers and medicine elders back home. This ceremony set a wonderful precedent for the rest of the year for me.

After Canada I toured America, going to New York City, Colorado, San Francisco, and then again at the end of the year Memphis as well. I was hosted by the New York Shamanic circle, Earth Medicine Alliance in San Francisco and the Sacred Earth Foundation in Colorado. Again I felt very blessed and honoured to be invited by all these groups. I was touched by their dedication and commitment towards remembering the old ways and reaching out towards indigenous healers like myself.

I see people everywhere with an insatiable spiritual hunger to rediscover new ways of working with nature and the timeless ancestral/spirit world which is like a river moving in a continuous circle. The gifts that I have received in all these places is the gift of ‘Ubuntu’, humanity. For I am constantly reminded that no matter where I go there are good people everywhere who open their doors, hearts and communities to me, and allow me to sing in Xhosa, drum and teach these beautiful ways.

In October I was invited to San Francisco for the yearly Earth Medicine Alliance conference, and also the New York Shamanic event in Central Park. Both groups were well attended with people coming from all walks of life, and diverse cultures and traditions. We prayed, danced and rattled with Mayan traditions, Mexican and various North & South American indigenous cultures. It was gratifying and humbling to witness all of us as one human family with a commitment to peace and harmony in our fragile world. It gave me hope for our future, and the future of our children.

In my private divination sessions I was privileged to hear the hopes and dreams of hundreds of people. While we sat together in silence contemplating my sacred divination bones spread out in various constellations, I heard the whispers of our ancestors guiding us forwards. These whispers were always hopeful, inspiring and empowering. For each person holds so much light and power. It is my hope and dream that more and more people can hold onto their light and realise their potential. A potential that is truly limitless. For we are all free, and we have to take responsibility for it. I feel that it is this awesome freedom that makes people fearful. We all have choice. Embrace your freedom and allow your spirits to soar towards 2013 like eagles entering a new era. For I believe 2013 will be a wonderful year.

Blessings to all my friends, new and old in South Africa, USA, UK, Ireland, Mexico, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Poland and beyond. It has been my privilege to serve you in 2012 as a Sangoma and I look forward to doing the same in 2013.

Uthando lo thando, Ubuntu olo thando (An old Xhosa saying: Love is Love, humanity is Love).

Warmest wishes,

John Lockley.

( Special thanks to Thomas Donley for taking these pictures).

An African Blessing Ceremony

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.

Indaba Zikacingolwendaba


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.

Traditional Sangoma Thanksgiving Ceremony

On the 21 January this year 2011 I hosted an ‘umsebenze’ (spiritual work) at my teacher’s home in the Eastern Cape to give thanks to my teacher & husband for their support and encouragement. I also wanted to give thanks to the guiding ancestors from both their families. A third aspect of the thanksgiving was to give thanks to the elders and fellow community members who have stood by me from the early days of my apprenticeship and supported all my ceremonies. I also mentioned the international community, people in Ireland, UK, USA & Mexico who have supported my workshops, and I thanked them.

A key aspect of all Sangoma work is ‘ukuqula’ which means to honour and praise. The elders were particularly proud of my work and said it was unusual for a Sangoma to return to their teacher and say thank you. This use to happen in the olden days, but a lot has been forgotten.  I always say that if it wasn’t for my teacher and husband’s support, and the support from the elders in the community, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Also it is important to mention that I was very sick with the calling illness, ‘twaza’ when I arrived at the ‘Sukhwini’ home and I was treated with love and support. And I can never forget this.

I was trained and apprenticed by one of the poorest communities in South Africa. Many people ask why it is that I return every year to work with the poorest of the poor in a township in the Eastern Cape. And my response is always the same. The depth of spirit and humility which I have felt at my teacher’s home is beyond comprehension. And her community have stood by me for many years and assisted and supported me through all my ceremonies.  A Sangoma is a community medicine person, and their job is to serve their community. My primary community is in the Eastern Cape and they in affect have loaned me to the international community. Even though I travel all over the world bringing my Xhosa medicine and Sangoma teachings, it is imperative that I return every year to fill my elders in with what I am doing. They initiated and trained me, so I am first and foremost their Sangoma.

I took time during the weekends ceremony to talk about my work overseas and to tell the elders, fellow Sangomas and other community members about how ‘Ubuntu Ubunzulu’ (depth of humanity, Sangoma teachings)  has been received overseas. I told the community that the people overseas love my Xhosa singing and drumming, and they love the teachings on how to connect to the Ancestors, dreams, and natural world.

In South Africa amongst my community in the Eastern Cape my job is to hold a mirror to the people and show them how beautiful their culture is, and how beautiful they are. In Europe and the Western world I show people how to remember their ancestors and dreams through prayer, meditation, ceremony and medicinal plants.

With grinding poverty in the Eastern Cape, disease and a high death rate it is very easy for hopelessness to sink in. Also the empty glamour of westernisation with all that it brings can sometimes lure the youngsters away from their traditions and culture. I teach people to remember the old ways of their ancestors, the ways of dreaming and plants because these ways are so fragile and so beautiful. I talked to the community about the Western World, and how people have forgotten their ancestors, and how to work with dreams and medicinal plants. I spoke to them about the high levels of depression which is spreading in Europe and America. I encouraged the people to continue to follow their old traditions which are still alive and strong in the community, and are held by Sangomas, like my teacher, and myself.

When I finished my 'Indaba' one of the elders stood up and said with tears in his eyes, "Ucingolwendaba uyahamba phesheya ukufundisa abantu". John go overseas and teach the people. I had his support. The other elders nodded their heads in approval.

One of the jobs of a Sangoma is to channel information from the ancestral or spirit world and give this information to the community. So one of my primary roles as a Sangoma is to give ‘indaba’ or spiritual news to the community. We wear white clay around our eyes to signify our job as channelers, seeing into the spiritual world.

Please read a copy of ‘Indaba’ or spirit news that I read to the community, elders and fellow Sangomas, below. I have translated the Xhosa into English further down.

Indaba Zikacingolwendaba


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.

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.

Credo Mutwa Appeal

Credo Mutwa Credo Mutwa is one of the world's leading authorities on african spirituality. He is an icon of world mythology and african traditional knowledge. His book 'Indaba my children' won widespread acclaim both locally and internationally. It highlighted the rich tapestry of African spirituality.

Last year I had the good fortune of spending some time with him and his wife, Virginia. I was deeply saddened to hear how much they are struggling financially. Virginia is also in the process of building a hospice for AIDS sufferers.

Virginia Mutwa outside the building of her AIDS Hospice

The world owes a debt to Credo Mutwa and all the sacrifices he has made to spread African spirituality around the world. Through his wonderful gift of storytelling he demonstrates the common links between all people.

As the world is a global village, we have a responsibility to making sure medicine elders like Credo Mutwa and his wife Virginia live out their golden years with dignity.

I encourage all people to make a donation to this worthy cause:

Bank Account Name: Virginia Mutwa

Bank: Standard Bank, Kuruman, South Africa

Account Number: 236059556


Many thanks,

John Lockley

Xhosa Sangoma

Ubuntu 2010 in Review

mandala 2010 Has been a wonderful year with many highs, and a few lows. This was the year where South Africa hosted the 2010 world cup which helped boost South Africa's image abroad. A Blog I wrote, namely "World Cup Football meets Sangoma medicine" prompted various invitations to speak on  radio programmes like the BBC World Service, SAfm - South African Radio, and Dublin's Newstalk Radio. Hence, bringing my vision about the importance of    respecting South African traditional medicine, a step closer. I was deeply humbled and grateful by the warm response in which my message was received.

One of the biggest lows for me this year was the death and passing of one of my closest friends and biggest supporters in South Africa, namely Sydney Toto Peter. He passed away tragically in a car accident in South Africa on the 3rd August. He was the man who introduced me to my teacher in the 90's and helped integrate me into the local Xhosa community. Sid was the eternal optimistic, and he had a gift in making people smile and laugh around him. He will be remembered for his cheerful disposition.

My Ubuntu work thrived this year, with workshops in the UK, Ireland, USA & Mexico. I was pleased to see how willing people have been to hearing and learning about the old ways. The key theme here is the importance of respecting and remembering our Ancestors, and what it means to be human. Ubuntu means humanity, and it is an evolving process, depending on how we help and look after one another.

These Ubuntu workshops wouldn't happen without the support of a number of people. There are so many people to thank that I don't have the space to include all of them. I would like to thank everyone who has come to a workshop and taken the time to learn these ancient ways.

I would like to thank Richard & Katarina Diss in the UK for their help and support. In Ireland I would like to thank Henry Rowan, Carole Guyett & her husband Steve. I would also like to thank Hazel and Omo Lara. In America I would like to thank Jeff & Diane Baker. Jeff worked tirelessly in promoting my work last year and encouraging people to come to my Ubuntu workshops. He also wrote a wonderful article in the Sacred Fire Magazine, entitled The Lone Leopard.  Julie Bete also needs a special mention in her encouragement, and support with my USA tour this year. She has very kindly offered to be my assistant and help with my admin duties.

I would like to give a hearty 'thank you' to Eliot Cowan and David Wiley, two Tsaurirrikames (Elder Shamans) in the Huichol indigenous tradition of Mexico. In the last 4 years they have acknowledged and supported me with my efforts in promoting indigenous South African medicine. Recently in November in Mexico, David Wiley made me an elder in the Sacred Fire Community, an international community dedicated to promoting indigenous medicine.

Working in an area like African shamanism (Sangoma medicine) means constantly communicating to the international community about Africa and African spirituality. I have found that most prejudice comes from ignorance, thus highlighting the importance of clear and concise communication. In this area I would like to thank my close friend and publicist Sally Turner. Sally has continually helped me with all media work, such as radio, Internet and magazine articles. Sally is a true believer in Ubuntu, in our shared humanity, and in our innate closeness through us all having red blood.

As always I would like to thank my Xhosa Sangoma community in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. And in particular my beloved teacher, Mum Gwevu, her husband Tata Sukwini, and elder Tata Bongani. I have being constantly in touch with them this year, and they have stood by my side in my Sangoma work overseas. Thus helping to further our joint vision of 'Ubuntu Ubunzulu', the depth of humanity. Which is a humanity joined through blood, and superseding culture, creed and language.

Finally I wish All of you a Wonderful New Year filled with magic, beauty and love!

In Memoriam - Sydney Toto Peter

Sidney Toto Peter On the 3rd August this year 2010 Sydney Toto Peter died      tragically in a car accident in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Sydney was one of my closest friends and the man who introduced me to my teacher, Mum Gwevu and who helped to integrate me into the local Xhosa community. Our friendship began in the late 90's in post-apartheid South Africa. As the fires of Apartheid started to settle good men and women like him and his wife, Nokuzola, became true South African heros in seeing the humanity inside people rather than giving in to polical and social prejudice.

When I was found to have the Xhosa calling to become a Xhosa Sangoma/ Medicine man, Sid and his wife took me under their wings and said that I was free to come to their home at any time if I needed help. My teacher, Mum Gwevu, doesn't speak English and in the late 90's I spoke no Xhosa so Syd spent many hours of his time helping to translate for me. For hours we would speak about dreams, ancestors, Xhosa culture, beads, etc. He was never flustered or annoyed by my questions. In fact he would make me laugh, and tell me old stories about the Xhosa tribe. He was also very proud of me and my Sangoma gift. He would say to his friends "come and see my Umlungu (white guy) friend dance. When he dances you can feel the 'umoya' (spirit)". As a Xhosa Sangoma I had to prove my gift through my dancing. Syd loved to watch me dance and he would travel all over the local township to watch me dance.

When I struggled to be accepted by the local community I would talk to Syd and he would heal my loneliness. I remember talking to him recently about racism and how tired I was of being judged in South Africa for the colour of my lovely white skin. Again he laughed in his typical way and said to me, "that's nothing John, how would you like to be called 'kaffir' (very derogatory term used by white South Africans during Apartheid South Africa for Black South Africans) ?" He then related a story a few years ago when his car broke down on a particularly hot day in Kimberley (Northern Cape, SA). Like any man he looked for the nearest pub to get a cold beer. He went into this pub and exclaimed to me how wierd it felt going into a bar being the only black guy. "But hey John, it was the New South Africa, so I thought it would be no problem".  Apparently as he sat down the white man next to him got up and exclaimed under his breath "F****ng Kaffir!".  At that Syd was not perturbed in the slightest but merely said "hey, this 'fo**n' kaffir would like to buy you a beer, do you want to drink or walk??" The white man was so taken aback that he said, "ag ok, drink". So Syd bought him a drink and after about 2 hours of drinking they both knew one another's names, and whenever this man drove near where Sid lived in the Eastern Cape he would give him a ring and they would meet up. They became friends despite politics and skin colour.

Syd taught me about 'Ubuntu', (humanity), and to always laugh and see the lighter side of life despite sometimes extreme obstacles that we both faced in the townships like poverty and disease.

On the 3rd August South Africa lost a noble son, father, and brother.  On that day I lost a brother and a man who showed me so much love and compassion that my life changed completely.  Sydney leaves Nokuzola his wife, three children and the whole of Joza township who loved him.  His memory will never die, and whenever we joke and play and enjoy one anothers' company we will remember him.

World Cup Football meets Sangoma Medicine

John Lockley (Sangomas & FIFA World Cup) Growing up during the 70s and 80s, in a South Africa torn apart by Apartheid, I’d often find myself barefoot, playing soccer with the local black farm kids.  A bunch of us, black and white, would kick a ball around in the dirt. In the game I was merely another participant - not white, not blonde, not English - just another soccer player. For those brief moments I felt a sense of camaraderie with my team mates and it gave me hope. Hope for an undivided country where the colour of one’s skin no longer matters.

Thirty years on, Apartheid has at last been consigned to the history books. Yes, South Africa still faces some tough challenges as a nation, but as hosts of the upcoming FIFA World Cup we have a unique opportunity to allow “the beautiful game” to bridge cultural and social divides. And as a soccer fan and a practicing Sangoma (I am a member of  ‘Uthando Bayaphantsi’ traditional healers Association) I can’t wait for kick off. The event will also provide the world with a unique window into traditional South African spirituality and, if people keep an open mind, it could promote positive awareness of our indigenous spiritual culture and heritage.

Sangomas, the traditional spiritual doctors of Southern Africa, will play a significant part in the World Cup. Most of the major soccer clubs in South Africa use Sangomas in much the same way that modern clubs overseas use sport psychologists.  Sangomas are psychologist, herbalist and priest rolled into one. They are trained and initiated in an intricate spiritual way much like Tibetan Buddhist Lamas and are seen as instruments or channels of ancestral healing. At a recent milestone conference in South Africa it was announced that African teams may consult with traditional healers and use traditional forms of treatment during the FIFA world cup finals.

This is an exciting time for us, and an opportunity for Sangomas to dispel any negative misconceptions about their work. Sangomas and traditional African healers have often been wrongly associated in the west with witchdoctors, muti killings and voodoo. Sangomas are professional priests and healers, but just as certain individuals in the Christian priesthood and western medicine may occasionally bring their professions into disrepute, so unfortunately do certain individuals in the Sangoma world. Traditionally Sangomas are healers and bonefide Sangomas would never perform negative acts, they work with honesty and integrity.

A Sangoma might bless a football team and the pitch in various ways according to their particular culture. An animal blood sacrifice is one way for us to perform blessings and ceremonies, as in our culture blood is seen as cleansing and purifying, but we are also able to use medicinal plants, prayers, song and dance for the same purpose. We pay respect to our forefathers and call upon our ancestors to support our endeavours, placing our fate in their hands, whether in life or on the soccer pitch. Not so long ago FIFA cracked down heavily on Sangomas performing their rites on the turf at the Somhlolo Stadium in Swaziland, after it was disclosed that a Sangoma from either Black Mambas or Mbabane Swallows had cut open a section of the expensive artificial pitch and buried a sacrificial chicken in the centre. Not an issue the English FA are ever likely to have to contend with!

I will be supporting  the South African Bafana Bafana during the tournament.  I would have  been behind the Republic of Ireland squad too as my mother’s Irish, from Dublin, but controversially they haven't made it to the finals.  I'll be in Ireland in May, so if the Irish team would like a blessing ceremony I would be up for it.  And don't worry, I'll leave my chickens and goats behind and focus purely on the use of medicinal plants.

Traditional Sangomas/ African Shamans vs more Contemporary Shamans

Sangoma Trainees in our school

In order for us as mankind to walk forwards with integrity we have to know where we come from. Traditional shamans are the keepers of the old knowledge. I have felt very priveliged and honoured to be trained in the Xhosa way, an ancient culture and language that still practices the ancient way. I beleive aspects of Xhosa Sangoma culture can be used to help people to remember the old ways of their ancestors; i.e. the way of dreaming, medicinal plants and trance music to commune with life. Why? Because we are all human with red blood, and we have countless ways of helping one another.

What are traditional Sangomas or Shamans for that matter?

This question came up recently with a friend of mine. I don't know too much about contemporary Shamanism. All I can do is talk about my experience & training as a traditional Xhosa Sangoma. I am a traditional Sangoma because I was trained by my Xhosa teacher, Mum Gwevu & her husband, Tata Sukwini, who is a traditional leader. Neither of them speak English, and they follow the ancient medicine ways of their forefathers. They adopted me as a Sukwini member of their clan, and in an official ceremony recently they acknowledged me as a 'Sukwini'.

It is important to note that people don't decide to become Sangomas they are chosen. They are chosen by their ancestors, and this comes through in dreams. In Southern Africa people can also be called through a difficult illness known as the 'twaza' ( a global shamanic illness). As someone apprentices the illness abates. A person in South Africa would normally go to a Sangoma for a divination. The sangoma would then validate their dream experiences and/or illness and confirm the need to apprentice.

Sangomas are loved by their communities because they live a life dedicated towards healing and service. They are the traditional Monks & Nuns of Southern Africa and can be likened to Tibetan Buddhist or in my experience Korean monks & nuns. I see Sangomas as 'African Dancing Monks & Nuns' because we use rhythm, dance and song to honour life.

As a traditional Xhosa Sangoma/ African Shaman, we listen to our dreams, white dreams, prophetic dreams. Dreams which come from our ancestors and tell us the future or what is happening with somebody i.e. their health or their destiny. We never claim to be Sangomas, that is something our elders bestow on us after witnessing our dreams and our gift.  We are seen as being trained by our ancestors. Sangoma teachers are seen to teach 20% of the medicine and the remaining 80% is seen to come from our ancestors.  The job of the Sangoma teacher is to help align/ connect the student with their ancestors. Once this happens the student dreams and is given the required information from the ancient ones.

When someone starts their Xhosa Sangoma apprenticeship they start to wear white beads and white clothes and they are called Sangoma, but it is recognised that they are a trainee and have many initiation stages to complete. They also wear white clay over their entire faces to indicate that they are in the luminal/spirit world and are being trained by their ancestors. The other name for Sangoma is 'abantu abamhlope' which means 'white people' because of their white attire and dedicated profession focused on healing, praying and honouring life. When a Sangoma (trainee or senior) walks down the road people call out 'camagu!' , a term of deep respect, which means 'we honour and praise you'. Why? Because it is well known in Africa that Sangomas/ African Shamans are the guardians of the old knowledge, the medicine keepers, and they also help to maintain the balance between nature, man and the ancestral world. It is also well known that the job is extremely difficult and dangerous. And when people are seen to have the calling there is always a mixture of happiness and sadness because it is widely understood that Sangomas suffer a great deal, especially knowadays where we are misunderstood and sometimes mistakenly labelled as practitioners of the dark arts.

A Sangoma apprenticeship revolves around three areas namely; divination, medicinal plants & Xentsa (trance dance which includes playing the drum and singing 'ingomas', the sacred Xhosa songs/chants).  Amongst Xhosa Sangomas it is well known that a traditional Sangoma apprenticeship can take many years to complete. The reason being is that we have many ancestors, blood related and also nature spirits that we need to align/connect with. I completed my training after 10 years, and I still have some Xhosa friends who started before me, and who are still in training today. Exactly when you finish is at the discretion of the ancestors, and it comes through with particular mystical/ ancestral dreams which are clear and cannot be confused with ordinary reality.

The other aspect to finishing sangoma training is also financial. We pay our teacher for each initiation. However as the work is so closely connected to the community, when a Sangoma initiation occurs the entire community is invited. As there needs to be sufficient food and drink for everyone, a traditional ceremony could run into thousands of rands. So an enormous amount of energy is used to plan, execute and carry out each initiation. We always say that the financial side to the initiation is just one of the tests the Ancestors set us. Interesting enough my teacher comes from a poor background and she was able to finish all her initiations. The financial strain teaches us to be resourceful. Also if people in the community, family and friends notice how ardent, committed and focused you are as a trainee they donate money to you. This is the tribal way. And this is how I managed to finish my training as well.

In my experience I have found that my Sangoma training was very similar to my time as a Zen student in South Korea. Korean zen monks  follow an ancient tradition. The similarity is found in many ways but particularly in the area of chanting. Zen monks chant sacred korean sutras to clear their minds and reach enlightenment. Sangomas sing/ chant 'Ingomas' (sacred Xhosa songs) to connect to their ancestors. Hence, Sangomas could be likened to African Dancing monks/ nuns with a strong focus on transcendence and interconnectedness with our Ancestors, Great Spirit & Nature.

The Sangoma trainee also does an 'energy exchange'  for their apprenticeship through serving their teacher. They collect and prepare medicinal plants to be used  for clients, they give divination under the supervision of their teacher, and they help out with 'umsebenzes' (traditional ceremonies to honour the Ancestors & Great Spirit).  The trainees form the backbone of the Sangoma culture because they sing the songs, play the drum and build the energy during all traditional ceremonies. The trainees sing and dance calling forth the ancient ones (Ancestors & Great Spirit), and then when the energy in the room is right the senior Sangomas walk in to go into trance and give 'indaba' spirit news to the community. Like their juniors they work as channels or messengers between this world and the next. They also work as empaths so they 'feel' the energy of the community and they speak about this. They also give messages from the other world and they pass this on to the community to lift their spirits. An important aspect of these ceremonies is 'hlonipa' which loosely translated into english means respect. But it is a lot more than that. It is a deep form of humility, and honouring of the Ancestors, Great Spirit and the medicine of life. You see this when the senior sangomas talk, the trainees kneel out of humility. When each of the trainees in turn pray & honour they do it on their knees and all their colleagues join them. The Sangoma culture rests on this ancient code.

Again the job of the Sangoma is to lift the spirit energy of the individual or community, we call this 'umoya phezulu'. We serve the community.

Amongst the Xhosa people  I am known as 'Ucingolwendaba', the messenger between cultures. I am also known as 'Ligquira Inkulu', which means Senior Sangoma because I have completed all the various initiation stages making me Sangoma. I am now given permission by my elders to train & initiate people in the 'Sangoma way'. Normally only someone who has completed all these stages can initiate someone else to become a Sangoma.

Sangoma Premonitions

163 Many people have asked me if Sangomas have predictions? Recently a journalist contacted me and asked if Sangoma people have anything to say about the recent natural disasters occuring in the planet. I said yes we do and it all revolves around the importance of man re-aligning with nature in a wholesome way.

In 1992 I had a strong vision whilst walking around my garden. I was told about a tidal wave that would result in the largest loss of life in recent history. I was told that it would happen in about 10 years time, and it would signal the time for me to start working in a spiritual way to help people re-align themselves with nature in a respectful way.  When the Tsunami struck in December 2004 I was on a yoga retreat off the West Coast of Ireland. It was a snowing  outside and a bit chilly. At that time I was planning on going on a 3/4 month yoga retreat, training course in Australia. The realisation of the Tsunami struck home the importance of all of us to live with more respect and love for the natural world. I was already in training to become a Sangoma, and the hurricane was a clear sign that I needed to move forward with my training.

I have had many dreams since, and a few of them speak about natural disasters. The message is simple 'we need to reconnect, and re-align ourselves with nature'.

In the last few years I have had other dreams about the collapse of the world as we know it. My last dream was just before the banks collapsed in the UK in 2008, America and then globally. In that particular dream I was told that things would change in the sense that there would be more natural disasters and a greater loss of life. I was told that it is natures’ way of bringing us back into balance. The lesson here for us is ‘RESPECT’ or as we Sangomas would say in Xhosa or Zulu ‘hlonipa’. We need to learn to respect one another, our communities, our old people and Nature. But respect not just in words but in actions. As a Xhosa Sangoma I teach people ‘Ubuntu Ubunzulu’ which are the sacred Sangoma teachings of the Xhosa people related to our humanity ‘Ubuntu’, and the depth of our humanity (Ubunzulu) which speaks of our interconnectedness to nature and the ancestral/ spiritual world.

Our human race is arrogant, and we think we are in control of nature, and that we own nature . This is not so. The recent volvano in Iceland (begining of May '10) which grounded European planes for almost 2 weeks was a sobering reminder that 'we' are not in control, and that we are all at the mercy of Mother Nature. As a Sangoma I found this very humbling and beautiful despite having to change my return flight to the UK. I was happy to spend another 2 weeks in South Africa.

I was on the BBC, radio 4, ‘Saturday live’ show with Fi Glover on 5th September 2009 (see my home page for interview). Before the show, Simon, the producer asked me if I had to look back on my career for the last 50 years or so what would I like my legacy to be? I said for the old people to be respected and loved, and likewise for our Ancestors to be respected and loved, because then we as human beings would be more in balance. I think this is what these natural disasters are calling us to do. To be more loving, more caring and more respectful of ourselves, one another and nature.

So where does this leave us in the future?? I think mankind as we know it is going to have to become more sensitive in order to survive. This can only be a good thing.

Beyond Black & White - Ubuntu

"Sinamandla Kunye "- Together we are Strong
"Sinamandla Kunye "- Together we are Strong

Many people ask me "how can it be that a white man is a Sangoma?" I then reply "we all have red blood, and we all have ancestors".  I normally then ask people if it is okay for black people to become doctors, lawyers, priests, etc. The answer is always a resounding YES OF COURSE!  I then say "well then it must be okay for white people to become Sangomas, because to say otherwise is tantamount to reverse rascism"!  I then ask people if they have heard of Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu. Again most people have. Well Nelson Mandela is a lawyer, an advocate, and Desmond Tutu is an English priest, an Anglican Bishop. Both these men are my elders as both of them are Xhosa. So they have entered Western culture and excelled. Now as a white man I was called to become a Sangoma, and now I am a senior Xhosa Sangoma.

For us Sangomas, 'Ubuntu' means humanity. And people realise ubuntu through their conduct in the community.

When I give talks I relate a story during the early days of my training in a township in the Eastern Cape.  Apartheid finished in 1994, I started my training in 1997, so understandably people were cautious and a bit suspicious of me.  I remember one traditional ceremony which I attended. The people were very wary towards me. My teacher felt all this and when she went into trance she became like a lioness protecting her young and she shouted at the community. "U sika apha egazine ibomvu, uyasika Cingolwendaba egazini ibomvu. Ngamanye amaxesha ndapupa abelungu izinyana zithetha mna. Ngamanye amaxesha uCingo upupa Amaxhosa izinyanya, zithetha nina. Abantu Bafana".

"When you cut my arm red blood flows, when you cut John's arm red blood flows. Sometimes when I dream the white ancestors (Abelungu Izinyanya) speak to me, sometimes when John dreams Xhosa ancestor spirits talk to him. We are all very similar. Once more, I was told in a dream by the Great Spirit (uThixo) to train John, and that is what I am doing. When he came to me he was very sick, now he is much better. He treats me with respect. I met his parents and they also show me a lot of respect.  John is like one of my own sons" (translated from Xhosa to English).

After this there was silence by the community. And after 5 years of training I was accepted. Now I am treated with love and respect.

Again "Ubuntu" means humanity, and "Ubuntu Ubunzulu" is the sacred Xhosa Sangoma teachings relating to our connection to one another and our ancestors. If someone trains to become a medical doctor they have to pass a series of tests and examinations regardless of skin colour. At the end of their 6 or 7 hard years they are examined by other doctors and if they are deemed worthy they are rewarded with the title of 'Doctor'. A similar process occurs with Sangoma training. It is a traditional apprenticeship. If someone, regardless of skin colour demonstrates the Sangoma calling, and they act upon it respecting and honouring their teacher and community then they have realised 'Ubuntu Ubunzulu' (our sacred humanity & our connection to community) and skin colour should never be an issue.