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.

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Written by:  John Lockley  6/12/2013

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?

Gateways of the Mind - Amsterdam

A 4 Day Convergence Of Lucid Dreaming & Out-Of-Body Experiences in Mozeshuis & Aäronkerk .

John will be available for Sangoma Divinations on the 3rd & 4th.

To Book: