Just a few more hours before this weekend's African Grief Ritual with Sobonfu Some.
Sobonfu has a very faithful,loving and light hearted tribe. I'm talking about the people here this weekend. Many of them have been coming to her ritual weekends since 1998. There is a deep kinship and respect for this woman and her gifts.
When I arrived, everyone was gathered in a rather large circle as Sobonfu spoke. Then we began with the welcoming. Every person said their name and why they were here. At first I was concerned about my ability to pay attention to every person since there were so many people. I was worried I would get itchy for this welcoming to be over. This fear turned out to be unjustified. Everyone had my full attention from start to finish. Sobonfu spoke after the welcoming and I found myself leaning forward in my seat so I wouldn't miss one word of her wisdom. Our evening ended and we were sent to our individual houses here at Wellspring to get a good nights sleep. However, I spent the rest of my evening in the house living room reading "The Spirit of Intimacy."
The Spirit of Intimacy is one of Sobonfu's books.
After reading through specific chapters that appealed to me I was brought back and reminded of the true purpose of relationships. Of all relationships and I knew I had come to the right place this weekend.
Saturday morning we began again as Sobonfu went deeper-explaining the many types, stages and voices of grief.
She said "In my village it is an insult to not share your grief with someone in the community." She went on to say
"If you don't share your grief, Your ache today hits someone else tomorrow."
And how utterly true that is. When she spoke that truth, my mind began to think about all of the ways this truth has shown up in my life. From everything from my Landmark and Scientology courses to this past fall when I felt some of the people in my tribe who had recent loss, or unexpressed or incomplete grief and it felt like they were misdirecting it at me. And I already know how many times I misdirected my grief at others.
Most of her words though, reminded me of Scientology and Ron Hubbards work. Since he traveled the world and lived with the indigious people across the world as he was developing Scientology, it all lined up and was very confirming. While I'm certainly not nearly as free as I aspire to be, I've already done grief ritual. Several times. However, not like this. This weekend, it was the sacred, raw ritual of people who seem to carry a hell of a lot more wisdom than us western folks ever have and the purity of it all is what makes it so different.
Saturday we bagan to go deeper and began to build 3 specific alters for our ritual. I had no clue what was happening or what was going to happen but i trusted the process, the people I was with and I especially trusted Sobonfu.
Alter 1- the forgiveness Alter. The colors chosen for this one was blues and greens.
The forgiveness alter purpose was to forgive yourself as you can not forgive anyone else until you forgive yourself.
The next Alter was called Grief.
This one would be built in between the other two with black and dark blue.
The final one was the Ancestrial alter. Red and yellow was the color choice here and this is the group I was in. As we all had the opportunity to pick which alter we wanted to help create.
We were free to take pictures until the candles were lit. Then we were given specific instructions on how this would all flow.
We were given specific instructions and this part of the ritual began.
Starting with people representing the elements and the spirit of our ancestors. Speaking, invitations to be with us.
Sobonfu spoke in her native tongue and began the song we would all be singing. The repeated African lyrics were symbolic of water flowing to help wash away the grief. The song was very soothing and even those of us who were not born singers sounded good. As we all sang, the drumming began.
What happened next moved me to tears. I was moved by the beauty of it all.
When grief began to flow out, you brought it to the alter. As people began to do this, another person would stand behind the person grieving to "have their back," should the person who had a grievers back begin to grieve, that person would also kneel at the alter and two more villagers would come up to the alter to have their back. When grievers were done they returned to where we were all singing and dancing or they would kneel at the forgiveness alter or the Ancestrial alter.
It was magic, very pure and a level of sheer beauty.
After a few hours we began the process of preparing for our dinner break. Which was also handled in a sacred way. Gatekeepers, grievers and supporting villagers were given a plate of food as the rest of us ate.
When we were done dinner, one of the tribal members approached me and asked me to stand in to call forth the sprits of all of the children. I was honored to do so. Yet my loss of my child was also the primary trigger.
The tears started to flow quickly and freely down my face before it was my turn. So I wasn't able to say anymore than what I was instructed to say. I wanted to acknowledge every mother or father in the room by acknowledging the severed cord may have happened but we ask these children to join us because our unconditional love is as present today as it was the day they were born.
I wasn't able to get those word out but I was able to get the tears out. It was pure grief but it wasn't enough to bring me to the alter. A wave, quickly passing.
The beat of the drums began to pick up a little speed and the grief coming out of people did too. We were instructed to go beyond having someone's back to holding them should they want to be held.
It felt wonderful to dance and sing this song for several hours. Time flew by very quickly.
I volunteered to spend the night guarding the alters with another woman. 2 villagers were requested to do this. Our job was to be there should anyone need to go to the alter in the middle of the night and our other job was to keep an eye on the candles that would be lit through the night.
There is more, so much more but I'm heading back to one of the houses here to shower before breakfast and want to finish my experience before I write more.