“Ke tsamaile lefehlong hobane ke ne ke imela ngaka e neng e mfehlella. ” This is a statement I’ve heard so many times, it’s jarring. For those of you whose comprehension of Sesotho is awol, the above statement translates as “I left halfway through my initiation process because my teacher couldn’t handle the might of my gift.” Oh dear.
I’ve come across many people who say that their ancestors will do all the work and they don’t need anyone to help them with anything. Perhaps if we understood the reasons for undergoing initiation under the wings of someone with experience and the know how of rituals and methods, it would somewhat dispel the myth.
When your calling is to become ngaka ya setso/isangoma you will dream of many many things including, but not limited to, methods of healing (ditsela tsa ho phekola/izindlela zokwelapha) amayeza/meriana/imithi/medicinal plants, invocations to chant when praying for specific things, songs, cloths with motifs, beads etc.
Say we accept that you can do it all by yourself, through dreams and with the aid of your ancestors. Okay. You dream of a medicine called umnungumabele. You memorise how it looks including texture, colour of leaves and the bark and whether you should harvest the bark, leaves or the root. Mkay. You’re doing this by yourself akere? O Mosotho wa Lesotho and don’t even know how to write umnungumabele. Whom are you going to cross reference with? If you find a person more experienced than you, to cross reference with, are you really going through this process by yourself? Say you have reached the second phase of your training. Will you know that you have reached this phase? Will you recognise the metaphors associated with this phase?
We should not lose sight of the fact that’ gifted’ as you are, you need the help of more experienced elders in the healing fraternity. You cannot do it by yourself. Will you go dig up medicine by yourself? Do you know digging protocol? You don’t uproot the entire plant and a couple of other things. What do you do when Amadlozi tell you it’s time to graduate? Which medicines are you going to use? Which rituals are you going to observe? Which parts of the animal do you harvest? Which animal do you slaughter? If you need to go to water, what do you do when you get there? In other words, are you going to perform every ritual, by yourself, one man?
I am not disputing that Amadlozi can guide you through the process, but we have to apply logic to this. Even ephehlweni/lefehlong, it is your ancestors in collaboration with your gobela’s ancestors that guide the process. Your teacher/gobela does as they’re instructed by your ancestors. Let’s say they guide you while you’re at home and you haven’t stayed away from certain foods and habits because you haven’t had to, will you know at each stage which rituals need to be observed? I keep coming back to this question because it is important.
It is important for an individual with a ‘gift’ to be rooted in a community. There are a lot of rituals that require group effort. Granted, it is not always easy to be part of a community, but it is important for continued learning and growth. Please don’t let your ego lie to you? You can’t do this by yourself. Maybe you do not need someone you deem a gobela, but you do need the guidance of an elder with more experience than you. That is a fact of life, I am not here to change that.
Think about this carefully. Don’t filter it through your ego.