Mmele wa hao ke aletere, ke moo dithapelo le ditabatabelo tsohle di phelang teng. It is the first altar with which we commune as soon as we are aware of ourselves. This awareness of self comes in stages for the infant. At first they are aware of these different parts of their body and cannot conceive that others see them as whole human beings. As they move through the stages of development, they become aware of themselves as a human being with complexities. There is the physical, the emotional, the cognitive, the subconscious that is also tied to dreaming, and other parts that contribute to the whole functioning as it needs to. They explore primarily through their senses (sight, audition, gustation, the tactile sense, olfaction and finally, intuition, the 6th sense) at first then progress to more complex and higher order conceptualisation of self.
Similarly then, it goes without saying that perceiving of oneself as an altar, as the first sacred space, comes with several stages of development that the human being comes to be aware of. We’re delving into biblical territory a little bit, but stay with me. Don’t roll your eyes into the back of your skull, just yet.
1 Corinthians 12 1:1 speaks of the differents gifts of the spirit and explains in detail how these gifts relate to the human body. Verse 4 tells us that the Spirit has gifted each of us with a spiritual gift, that works to build ‘the church’. Stay with me. Now the church in this instance can be viewed as the physical body, the first altar as conceptualised here. Your physical body houses so many other layers of your being: the etheric body, your soul, your emotions, your cognitions and e.t.c It is the primary means our ancestors use to communicate, not only the ancestors, but Spirit and all its complex hierarchies and beings.
1 Corinthians 12: 7 categorises the gifts as follows:
*The gift of wisdom ( neo ya bohlale/ tshenolo)
*The gift of the word of knowledge (puo ya tsebo)
*The gift of faith (tumelo)
*The gift of healing (neo ya ho fodisa)
*The gift of miracles (tshebetso ya mehlolo)
*The gift of discernment (temoho ya meya)
*The gift of speaking in tongues (puo tsa mefuta e fapaneng)
*The gift of interpreting tongues (phetolo ya dipuo)
*The gift of prophecy (boporofeta)
All these gifts are said to be from the same Spirit, the spirit that called all of humanity into being. The same Spirit whose traces are in every being, fauna and flora included. Just as the physical body has several parts that work together, so does the body as an altar, a sacred space. These 9 gifts of the spirit work together to form a home for your spirit. I do not believe that any one person is imbued with traces of Spirit that are superior to others (side eyes THPs who site themselves as ‘the chosen ones’ and all those other narratives steeped in dominance and othering). Each of us have been gifted these 9 gifts of the spirit, to differing degrees. You may find that there are gifts that are stronger than others, inside one body, and it’s your mission to find out which one takes centre stage, so you can learn to commune with your body better, listen to it more intently, thereby honouring yourself and your spirit in the process.
If you thought this blog post was going to be about respectability politics, policing and a prescription of what to do with one’s body, meh. We’re not here for that.
What does honouring your body as a sacred space look like?
It’s different to everyone because we have varying degrees of access to resources that permit us to fully honour ourselves. To some it can be eating a nutritious meal. To someone else it is eating, period. For another person it is a glass of wine after a long day of communing le bane ba dinko di motsu and lending yourself to capitalismo and all its children. To another person it is a nap when overwhelm comes. Yet to another, it is admission into a mental health clinic or psychiatric hospital because they do not want to harm themselves. It’s taking your chronic medicines and acknowledging that chronic illness can be depleting both physically and mentally.
It looks like not branding yourself as defective because of systematic inadequacies and structural inequality. It’s acknowledging your emotions and feeling them as they come. To someone else, it is scheduling a good crying session with Adele playing in the background.
To honour yourself is to acknowledge that you are a complex person, with the capacity for both good and bad. It is knowing that feeling envy is normal. Feeling angry and frustrated is also normal. It is also knowing that a lot of things are not your fault, but also getting help for the things that have harmed you and caused harmful behavioural and cognitive patterns is necessary. Feel sorry for yourself, cry about it, but don’t let that be your entire narrative about yourself. You are complex and have capacity for so much more than what currently seems at your disposal.
You have spirit moving through your blood and bones and that’s what makes you worthy of exaltation, whatever that looks or feels like for you. Your body as the first sacred space. That’s it
Lesedi la badimo