There’s a concept known as umbilini in isiXhosa and it corresponds with the Eastern concept of kundalini. It is conceptualized as a snake-like energy that lies coiled at the base of your spine/lower back/base chakra. It’s tempting to think of this energy as a literal snake, but bare in mind that this is a concept. The energy lies dormant until practices to rouse it from its sleep are put in place. Some people can feel a pulsating energy from their lower back, that travels gradually up the spine and finally explodes through the crown chakra. I know you’re imagining a keleidoscope of colour and energy moving in a determined manner. It’s not quite that dramatic. It can be, but isn’t always.
In order for this coiled energy to unfurl, there are a number of practices different cultures utilize. If you’d like to read more about umbilini as this energy, consult Dr Nomfundo Mlisa’s PhD thesis on ukuthwasa ngokwesiXhosa. If this link fails you, search “ukuthwasa Mlisa Nomfundo”. The thesis is freely available online.
I’m going to relate umbilini/kundalini energy to the tradition of ukuthwasa. I call it a tradition (moetlo/isiko/usiko) because different cultural groups practice and express it differently. For the base/root chakra, siyagida/siyaxhentsa/rea qoqopela. We dance to a specific drumbeat that is meant ho tsosa badimo/ukuvusa idlozi (get you to channel your guiding ancestor). The action of stomping on the earth as you dance rhythmically, gets you connected to its energy, thus dealing with your base chakra.
For the navel and sacral chakras (mpa/isisu) we use ibhudlu/sethoto and a very strict diet that excludes dairy (which exacerbates ixakaxa/leleta), processed foods, nuts and others. Ixakaka/leleta is responsible for meddling with clear dreaming and channeling of idlozi. It also hampers your ability to fully utilize and discern your gut feeling/6th sense/intuition from regular anxiety or ego-driven feelings.
When sivusela edlozini/ho ithoka ka sedimo (greeting and paying homage to one’s lineage) we speak of “ukuvuleka ikhanda nesifuba” which would roughly translate to opening of the chest and the crown of your head. This is not opening in the physical sense, but in the spiritual one. When your chest and crown are ‘open’ it means you’re connected to Spirit and can easily tap into the unseen through dreams and the spiritual senses.
For this aspect, we use ukufutha/ho arubela (steaming) with specific medicines that are targeted at opening up your heart, throat, third eye and crown chakras. Ukughaba/ukuphalaza/ho khapa (induced vomiting) is targeted specifically at opening the throat chakra, but aids the brow and crown in opening up.
The entire curriculum of ukuthwasa/ho fehlellwa is aimed at opening and aligning the initiate’s chakras. If one of the chakras is overactive or blocked, it affects how the others operate. For instance, if you are prone to very high levels of individualism and are self-centered, it may be difficult for you to have uzwelo/kutlwelo-bohloko/empathy which would allow you to be better in tune with yourself and the clients that come to your mpande(school) with specific problems. This may in turn affect the way in which you receive, perceive and interpret messages from Spirit.
The heart chakra requires healing from within. Your emotions and thoughts have to move at a certain frequency, in order for it to open and function in a balanced manner. Sometimes, the period of ukuthwasa is too short for it to balance completely, therefore it is an ongoing process.
Once your energy points are aligned and balanced, it makes it possible for you, the initiate, to use umbilini to discern danger from pure intention without confronting anyone; to hlahloba (divine); to receive guidance on which medicines to use for specific ailments and how to combine them. By the time you graduate (udla intwaso) you would have been utilizing umbilini throughout the process.
What then, of people who do not possess bongaka/ubungoma?
It is possible to balance your energy points outside of the context of ukuthwasa. It requires a diet that is low-fat, limited eating of processed foods, caffeinated drinks and food that is too spicy. Instead of using bo BBQ spices, steak and chops, chicken spice etc, it is advisable to use salt and cooking herbs. A limited consumption of alcohol, drugs and nicotine is also advisable. Please bare in mind that we’re different and our ancestors manifest in ways that our unique to our families.
You may meditate, pray, phahla (communing with your ancestors) hike in nature, visit natural bodies of water (rivers, the beach) to connect with yourself and Spirit.
Of course my recommendations are not a one-size-fits all. Some people’s spirits have no difficulty travelling and seeing, while others require the body to follow the guidelines I’ve mentioned above. The gist of the matter is that we’re all capable of connecting deeply to Spirit, to aid our lives and journeys on earth.
Lesedi bana ba thari e ntsho ❤️