My grandmother and I loved to sit in the garden. On this particular day the sun was gently warming the earth, the wind whispered and we were sitting under the shade. I was thanking her for conducting my ceremony umhlonyana which is a coming of age ceremony, one of purification, rebirth and to give thanks to the ancestors for protecting me and guiding me on my path. I was telling her about how proud I am of being umu(Ntu) owesi(Ntu), a person of African descent who practices African spirituality. I was saying this in contrast to my religious upbringing. We both laughed when she commented on this by saying that, “We were taught to worship the ancestors of other people and to forget our own.” Forever will these words remain with me.
Tree Analogy: Everything is Connected
Imagine that you are a branch on a big and beautiful tree. The tree bark represents the many who have walked this path before you and their fair share of challenges, failures, successes and triumphs. These are your grandparents, and great grandparents. In isiZulu we say oGogo, noMkhulu. Their paths all converged so that you may exist. You are a branch, connected to this tree whose roots reach all the way to the source of creation, uMdali. When you are disconnected and misaligned from this family tree, you are disconnected to the source of creation, uMdali or God/God source.
Your divine path, the path of abundance, is already written but just like a branch receives messages, instructions and sustenance from the tree roots in order to grow, so must we get messages, instructions and sustenance from our ancestral lineage. If a branch looks to the world outside of them to get sustenance, it will die and eventually fall off.
When we are disconnected, we become weak in mind, body and spirit. It is in understanding our ancestors who bring us light upon our path that we become reconnected to uMdali, the true essence of divinity and existence.
Why Ancestors Are Demonized
Often, pre-colonial Africa is described as uncivilized. In our schools we are taught in history class that Europeans came to Africa and brought civilization to Africans. A big part of civilizing Africa consisted of Christian missionaries teaching Biblical religion to our people and erasing their spiritual practices which have existed on the continent since the beginning of human existence.
It is said that King Leopold II of Belgium presented himself as a “philanthropist eager to bring the benefits of Christianity, Western Civilisation and commerce to African natives,” he went on to enslave the entire Republic of Congo and killed over 10 million Africans. It can then be concluded that Christianity was a tool to enslave the minds of Africans before their bodies could be enslaved. Ancient wisdom teaches us that if you control the level of knowledge or consciousness of a people you can control them in perpetuity.
The truth is Africa was far more sophisticated and civilized than the modern world could ever be. If the measure of a “civil society” by modern standards means a world where the majority are poor, hungry, destitute, materialistic, depressed and are living paycheck to paycheck awaiting inevitable death - I would say that is a lack of understanding of existence, that is not a civilization but a slave society.
Africa was a place where the wellbeing and success of community was of paramount importance as well as the preservation of Earth. The cultures of Africa show us that there is a deep connection between family (past and present), nation, nature and Spirit that must be diligently nourished and nurtured. The spiritual practices of Africa strengthen this deep connection and give power and understanding of existence to the African people. When this way of life is uprooted and foreign belief is put in its place it causes the displacement, dysphoria and aimlessness of African people.
Spirituality is the foundation of Africa; it teaches us to build our own legacies, not to be subject to others. It gives us autonomy as opposed to the so-called “civilized world” that thrives off of our dependency.
It was fundamental for European missionaries and colonizers to demonize our foundation that is Ancestral spiritual practice, so that we may be permanently disconnected, destabilized from our core values, beliefs and be dependent on their systems in perpetuity. When we break away from this, we plug back into the family tree and are reconnected to the practices, customs and wisdom that helped our ancestors live in unison and in harmony with the Earth.
Remember Who You Are
The beginning of wisdom is to know thy ancestors because when you begin to understand those who lived so that you may live - you begin to understand your very own nature. You do not exist as an individual, whose life purpose is to live dependent on White society, rather you exist as a culmination of your ancestors and it is your responsibility to help rebuild your family as well as the African nation through your calling, talents, abilities or skills. These are locked within your ancestral memory, which we have been disconnected to. When you unlock that wealth of wisdom through ancestral spiritual practices you reconnect to your family tree and persist in the pursuit of wealth creation interrupted by colonization.
The Budhhist’s of Asia, the Hindus of India, the Muslims of Islamic Nations all practice their own spirituality that has been passed down from generations through family trees so why should Africa be any different? Why should Africa adopt foreign religions and forfeit their own? Why would someone teach us that?