connective elements healing

honoring creativity - restoring balance - embracing wholeness

By observing nature, ancient traditions explained all of existence through five elements.  

Connective Elements Healing aims to restore you to your true nature through five healing offerings -

BodyTalk, Coaching, Meditation, Reiki and Yoga. 

Filtering by Tag: Ritual

Healing in South Africa

“Your Mom will come in with a necklace of chicken heads with the chickens’ blood dripping down her body.” “Don’t be scared, though you will be.” “People will drum and dance all night. You will not sleep.” This was the helpful advice intended to prepare me for what took place at my house last weekend.

In Spirit -  Limpopo Province, South Africa

In Spirit - Limpopo Province, South Africa

In South Africa, great homage is paid to one’s ancestors and one’s whole life may be spent trying to placate them. When bad things happen, including illness, South Africans commonly point to the upset of the ancestors as to the origin of the bad luck. Through dreams or the intercession of a sangoma, a traditional healer, the ancestors may ask for a ritual ceremony. People gather for a lengthy rite and animals are, indeed, sacrificed in an attempt to settle the spirits and invite healing. Such was the case at my house last week.

First Arrival  - Limpopo Province, South Africa

First Arrival - Limpopo Province, South Africa

The only regular traffic in my village consists of men driving donkey carts full of various hauls. One afternoon, I arrived home from work as a donkey cart full of wood was being unloaded in our side yard. Preparations for last Saturday’s ceremony had officially begun. The next day, two Gogos came to brew traditional beer. The following morning, my Host Mama smeared cow dung over all the concrete surfaces of our courtyard in preparation for the next day’s event. I had questions about every one of these actions and the only answer I received was, “this is our culture.” Left without answers and taking into account my sensitive and empathetic nature, I realized I had to ground myself. I consulted a trusted confidant in the States to ensure I was properly shielded from the influx of energies sure to ensue.

The day of the ritual was a semi-flurry of activity with plenty of last minute arrangements, as is characteristic of South Africa planning. Around 7pm, Gogos and village elders started to arrive. Thankfully, the tent had been erected, but the lighting of the tent had still not been sorted. As Gogos do, they sat on the ground instead of the provided chairs.

My Host Sister and I acted as hostesses, as our Host Mama had not yet returned from the neighboring village. My Host Sister, having never attended such a ceremony was as lost as I was. We prepared tea and served scones to the guests. At one point, I was asked to wait on the room of sangomas. As I entered the room, a rush of energy almost overtook me. It wasn’t a collective energy, but coming from an undetermined source. I took a deep breath, got scolded for improper greeting, set down the tea and scones and left the room. Finally, my teenage language tutor and her friend arrived and provided some guidance. They told us the ceremony was to start at 10pm. As more people gathered, they brought blankets with them and amazingly slept amongst the noise as all of us awaited the event’s start.

Dancing with the Grandmothers -  Limpopo Province, South Africa

Dancing with the Grandmothers - Limpopo Province, South Africa

Around 10pm, the drumming began and we gathered in the tent. For the next four hours, I witnessed, singing, drumming and dancing as the Gogos, most of whom I believe were sangomas, became possessed by their ancestors. The first, I thought, was having a seizure. Then I realized, similar to kriyas in the yogic tradition, convulsions ensued indicating the presence of the energy, in this case the ancestor within each respective woman. It was astounding to witness elderly women who were unsteady on their feet while walking transform into agile beings while dancing in their traditional outfits.  I have no idea what took place during these couple of hours, but it was captivating. Around 2am, I chose to retreat to my room after the eldest of the Gogos danced. In the sanctuary of my room, I burned sage, did some energy healing and slept for about 3 hours while the drumming, dancing, singing and the slaughtering of a goat continued on my doorstep. I awoke the next morning, performed my own morning rituals and readied for what became a whole day of interesting sights and sounds.

The God Within -  Limpopo Province, South Africa

The God Within - Limpopo Province, South Africa

On Sunday, the only male of the group performed throughout the day. At one point, a young boy with Downs Syndrome rose from the crowd and was dancing with the sangoma. Their interactions were mesmerizing. Later in the afternoon, the sangoma led my Host Mama back to the tent where she collapsed shortly thereafter. She writhed on the ground while being tended to by several sangomas. As I sat with the young children of my household, the trauma-informed professional inside me was screaming to protect them from their mother’s convulsions. As I don’t speak enough Sepedi to have devised any explanation, the best I could do was rub their backs and concentrate on their heart chakras. As they took my Host Mama out of the tent, the enormity of what they saw hit them. I couldn’t do a thing. My elder Host Sister later told them that our Mama was just playing with her friends, which seemed to calm them.

The ceremony concluded as all South African gatherings do, with the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. This is consistently my cue to exit. I withdrew to my room, burned some sage, turned on my Himalayan salt lamp and did some energetic clearing. Interestingly, my Host Mother lost her voice for the rest of that day. My host Sister lost hers the next day. I spent most of this week the sickest I’ve been in a long time, was unable to sleep nightly and lost my voice midweek. I’ve done daily clearing and kept up with my own practices. I took this weekend as an intentional unplug and recharge, clearing my schedule and resting to hopefully return to a more balanced state.

I’m incredibly grateful to have witnessed such a rich, cultural experience in such an intimate setting. No one has really been able to explain much of last weekend’s happenings. However, the energy spoke for itself and perhaps it doesn’t require further explanation. I don’t know if the healing ceremony was successful in quieting my Host Mother’s ancestors and providing her with healing. I felt compelled to write about it and share these insights as a part of my own healing and clearing process. ♥

 

I bow in gratitude to you for joining me during this chapter of service. I hope to shed some light on the emotional and spiritual journey of a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in rural South Africa. ♥

 

Should you wish to learn more about traditional healing, I recently read Susan Schuster Campbell’s Called to Heal: Traditional Healing meets Modern Medicine in Southern Africa Today and found it a fascinating read.

 

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.

 

Burning Expectations

Expectations I had for Peace Corps Service in South Africa:

*       for it to be joy-filled

*       for it to be physically difficult, but emotionally fulfilling

*       that I would be able to use my self care skills to buffer stress and trauma

*       that people would welcome me

*       that people would welcome my help

*       that people would welcome my perspective

*       that people would welcome my ideas

*       ***that I would be valued***

*       to learn a language

*       that I would make lifelong friends both in country and within the Peace Corps

*       that there would be continuity in my service and my projects

*       that I would love my host country

*       that I would make a difference

*       that Peace Corps would support me

*       that I would be kind

*       that I would be open

*       that I would bring an empty cup

*       that it would fulfill my dream

*       that I’d be able to let go of him

*       that I’d be able not to think about him

*       that I’d be able to move on

*       that people would value me

*       that I could bring my skills to make a difference

*       that I’d see interesting things

*       that I’d love it

*       that I had the grit to do it

*       that I’d learn to stand on my own two feet

*       that I’d be lonely

*       that my relationships would shift

*       that my relationships would change

*       that my relationships would stay the same

*       that I would be able to be here

*       that I had everything I needed to do this

*       that all the tools of healing and self care and introspection would serve me as I served others

*       to grow

*       to be a good person

*       to be a good Volunteer

*       to be an exceptional Volunteer

*       to let go

*       not to think about life in the US

*       to be in the same place for two years

*       to be hungry

*       to not have access to food and others

*       to deal with bugs, spiders, stomach issues and lack of sleep

*       to feel in danger

*       to be in danger

*       to constantly fear sexual assault

*       to bring my skills to Africa

*       to grow as an individual

*       to shave my head

*       to learn a lot about yoga, personal development and all the topics I yearn to know more about since I’d have so much time to read, write and absorb

*       to slow down

*       to release expectations

*       to be instead of do

*       that it would go well

*       that because I’d deferred my dream for 20 years and was finally leaping that now was the perfect time to serve in the Peace Corps

*       that I wouldn’t miss my relationship

*       that I wouldn’t miss companionship

*       that I wouldn’t care that he moved on

*       that I wouldn’t care that life in the States moves on (without me)

*       that I would welcome rebuilding my life

*       that people would come visit me

*       that these 27 months would mean something

*       that I would tangibly give back

*       that I would curb the burnout I experienced as a social worker with my healing tools

*       that I’d be proud of myself

*       that I’d be proud of my accomplishments

*       that I’d carry myself with grace

*       that I’d represent myself well

*       that I’d represent my country well

*       that I’d get so attached I wouldn’t want to leave

*       that I’d love working with kids

*       that I’d teach yoga in Africa

*       that I’d only need support a year in

*       that I wouldn’t miss the States

*       that I wouldn’t look back

*       that I wouldn’t be safe

*       that I wouldn’t be heard if something happened

*       that the Peace Corps has a history of dysfunction and I shouldn’t have high expectations for support or being assigned to a site that matches my skill set

*       that things would go well

*       that I would struggle financially

*       that my monthly stipend wouldn’t cover my costs

*       that I was going into service without expectations

 

I’ve felt the weight of the world on my shoulders for the last year. In my new village, I feel the weight of trying to save a village, which simply isn’t realistic. Though I set out seemingly without expectations, here I listed 85 stream of consciousness expectations in a matter of minutes.

 

How often do we enter endeavors with the weight of the world on our shoulders?

 

Fire and the Mountain -  Taken in Limpopo Province, South Africa

Fire and the Mountain - Taken in Limpopo Province, South Africa

How often do we pile on the to-do lists and endless expectations of ourselves until we are burnt up?

 

How can we free ourselves of the weighty, unrealistic demands we place on ourselves ranging from life changes to mundane, everyday tasks?

 

How can we, instead, grant ourselves grace and breathing room and ease and space?

 

I’ve felt the weight of the each of these 85 expectations and likely more I haven’t even listed. I vow to let these go. Right here. Right now. I want to make an inventory of expectations on a regular basis and let those go, too.

 

I don’t have to carry the weight of the world or a village or a person or a task on my shoulders, my mind or my heart.

 

I choose grace.

 

I choose breathing room.

 

I choose ease.

 

I choose spaciousness.

 

I burn expectations with the intention of grace and breathing room and ease and spaciousness, making room for what is, making space for what will be.

 

I let go.

 

I invite you to do the same. ♥

 

I’m actively processing my 27 months of Peace Corps service with a keen eye towards my emotional and spiritual journey. I bow in gratitude to you for joining me.

 

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.