It was 11 odd years ago when I first found out that I had The Calling. I remember leaving that consultation with so many questions, more than what I had going into it. The revelation was startling, however there was one question I could not get out of my head, had I crossed over to the dark side? You see the reality is this, the society which I find myself embedded in condemns ancestral worship, and is against any type of consultation with spiritual mediums. In fact, I had engaged in an act of pure evil according to societal standards.
I have since learned not to bother myself much with societal standards. Trying to keep up with them is a futile task and honestly society itself does not know what its own standards are.
What even lead me consult le Ngaka ya Setšo?
You see I had always known from when I was a little boy that I would become a Traditional Healer one day, how you may ask? I don’t know but, I just knew it. So my first consultation with a Traditional Healer served merely as a confirmation of what I knew.
I will return to this in a bit.
To try explaining what The Calling is very difficult, but let me put it like this. If hell existed, I would know first-hand what it is like there. The Calling is a brutal experience that will sap every ounce of energy out of you. I liken it to being in the clutches of a playground bully, who keeps wounding you mentally and physically. You cannot seem to break free, or even find a single second of peace from him and just when you think he has stopped. He comes back at you harder and sometimes he brings the gang with.
I recall dropping out of varsity after having thought about it briefly during the 20 odd minute drive from Alexandra to Auckland Park. This fact was casually announced when I got home as if I had copped a new pair of sneakers. I remember thinking I would use the time off to catch up on some sleep. We had become great buddies sleepless nights and I, think of Zakes le Bobo on Yizo Yizo or even Popeye and Spinach on Zone 14.
There were many other strange occurrences during that period such as getting fired from a job which, just the previous week I had been commended for being great at. It was rough for me.
I don’t know if what I have written even explains anything, I tried though.
Going back to how I knew that I would become a traditional healer. I knew it because every dream I had became a reality, if I dreamt that your girl was gonna drop you, homie she was gonna drop you kaosane, ka sms ebile. That was the easy stuff, knowing that somebody is going to lose their life is hectic, there is no fun to that. I don’t even think there’s any fairness to it honestly speaking. This is just an example of the complexities of the gift.
Just like I had decided to drop out of school, I decided to take Sabbatical leave from work to go face this damn thing. Leaving behind a nice job with a fancy title I had worked so hard to achieve, I went off the grid. Without saying goodbye ke vayile, I left my family and friends behind. All my social activities came to a complete halt. No more Salsa at Maboneng or Soulified Chillas parties, I also lost my status as a gentleman for not fulfilling my promise to meet with a beautiful lady for lunch. So hade to her, I never got the chance to postpone or rather cancel our lunch. As Erykah Badu said, I guess I’ll see you next lifetime.
Life as I knew it was changing, being the cheeky bugger I am, I drove myself to Limpopo playing a couple of Marvin’s Room mixes. I had no clue what I was doing, all I knew was that I would be returning home as a different man. I was due to return home as a Sangoma. What a thought.
I went into my initiation still reeling from the shock of losing a parent less than a year prior. I was exhausted and I still am. Bo Ngaka is very tiring I tell you. The initiation process called ho Twasa, is not nice. Especially if your choice of bed is a Queen size, I had to sleep on the floor through winter, even with the best blankets Mommy had packed for me, that floor was bitterly cold. Oh, and no holding of hands if you know what I mean with limited access to the outside world.
Having a rural background equipped me to adapt quickly to my new home. In fact, I quite enjoyed being away from life as I knew it. A life of no deadlines, no urgent emails or important meetings. I finally got to do what I think every person should do. That is to take time out of life to face yourself. In a real hardcore way, where for once you can look in the mirror and be honest about the fact that the mirror is not broken, it is you who is.
One would think that having a good paying job, a nice car, clothes and access to some very nice things life has to offer would be enough. All of these things are nice to have and make no mistake I am grateful for them, however I still felt a deep emptiness and it was a void I needed to fill. The reflection in the mirror needed to change and I had the time to focus on changing it. For once I felt like I knew what I was doing, even though I was doing it for the first time.
There was something special about being woken up by the crow of chickens and the mooing of cows, it was the perfect soundtrack for that phase of my life. It felt great to roam freely in the bush learning about plants and their healing properties, nature has a lot of secrets to tell us. But are we ever going to listen?
Then there was the introduction to Malopo, this is the dance that the BaPedi Traditional Healers dance when channeling the ancestral spirits. I had always heard about this dance but had never seen it with my own eyes, with the exception of a few clips on the net. I learned this dance without any choreography, I still do not know how I do it. All I know is that once I get out of the trance the feeling is similar to completing a race. Exhausting yet exhilarating.
Contrary to popular belief, people can be possessed by good spirits as is the case with most Traditional Healers.
As great and humbling as the training was. I would never recommend it to anybody who does not have to go through it. I do suggest that those who need to go, go.
I know a lot and yet I still don’t know.
I do not know why I wrote this, but I did.
Might be continued.
Photographer: Vus Ngxande