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Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (Compass)

Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (Compass)
Author: Malidoma Patrice Some
ISBN 13: 9780140194968
ISBN 10: 140194967
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 1995-05-01
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
List Price: $17.00

Malidoma, whose name means "be friends with the stranger/enemy," was born under the shadow of French colonial rule in Upper Volta, West Africa. When he was four years old, he was taken by a Jesuit priest and imprisoned in a seminary built for training a new generation of "black" Catholic priests. In spite of his isolation from his tribe and his village, Malidoma stubbornly refused to forget where he had come from and who he was. Finally, fifteen years later, Malidoma fled the seminary and walked 125 miles through the dense jungle back to his own people, the Dagara. Once he was home, however, many there regarded him as a "white black," to be looked on with suspicion because he had been contaminated by the "sickness" of the colonial world. Malidoma was a man of two worlds, at home in neither. His only hope of reconnection with his people was to undergo the harrowing Dagara monthlong initiation in the wilderness, which he describes in fascinating detail. Malidoma emerged from this supernatural ritual a newly integrated individual, rejoined to his ancestral past and his cultural present. For more than a century, anthropologists and ethnologists have attempted to penetrate the worldview of indigenous peoples. Now a true son of Africa has come forth, with the permission of his tribal elders, to tell us with stunning candor about their way of life. Today Malidoma flys the jetways writing on his laptop computer, seeking to share the ancient wisdom of the Dagara with the rest of the world and bring an understanding of another way of life to his village. His book is a courageous testament to the hope that humanity can learn to live in a global village and see the "stranger" as a friend.

Publishers Weekly

Born in West Africa in the early 1950s--the author is indefinite about the year--Some was kidnapped at age four by a French Jesuit missionary to be trained as a priest, for the next 15 years enduring the harsh regimen of a seminary where his native language and tribal traditions were systematically suppressed. At age 20 he escaped, but when he returned to his Dugara people in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) they rejected him as an outsider. To reconnect with his native culture, Some underwent a month-long initiation into shamanism during which he reports that he journeyed to the underworld, became a bird, then a porcupine and was buried alive. A self-described ``man of two worlds,'' Some, who holds a doctoral degree in political science from the Sorbonne and one in literature from Brandeis, is a speaker at men's movement conferences in the US. This vivid autobiography takes readers into a world of black magic, palpable spirits, walking dead people, force fields, transdimensional journeys--a world as strange as anything in imaginative fiction. QPB selection; author tour. (May)