What’s the Difference Between a Shaman and a Preacher?

14 07 2014

Hetepu (Peace) Family

It’s been a long time. Hope all is well with you all.

shaman2  Preachers

I wanted to share with you a discussion that I had with someone recently.  They had read in one of my books how I mentioned that back in the day, due to slavery African American shamans were  preachers, priest or priestess, teachers, counselors, healers, psychics, herbalists, diviners, etc. because they all preformed some type of healing for their respective communities.  However, not every preacher, priest or priestess, teacher, counselor, healer, psychic, herbalist, diviner, etc. is a shaman. How is that possible? What’s the difference between the two and why do I follow a shamanic path?

Well, without going through a long dissertation, besides the obvious like attire, ritualistic approaches for seeking spiritual assistance etc. like chanting, drumming, dancing, etc.  The key difference is based upon how one sees the Divine. Shamans typically don’t follow any type of dogma, whereas most adhering to an organized religion or haven’t adopted shamanic principles into their life, usually do.

This approach is very significant and we see how it plays out when it comes acquiring spiritual assistance.  For instance, when an adherent seeks spiritual assistance in help with some issue they are facing. The adherent from the organized religion is instructed to seek the Will of God through prayer, meditation, divination, etc., because they have been taught (or believe) that they are a humble and sinned servant that needs to be saved.  From this approach, it would appear that God is doing the individual a favor, which explains the reason why so many feel they have to beg and plea to be saved, and if they breach a moral code of conduct, they must beg for forgiveness. This is not the case in most shamanistic traditions.

In shamanism when the shaman needs divine or supernatural assistance, they simply seek the solution to their problem through prayer, meditation or divination, etc. because they see themselves as a co – creator with the Divine. It is not solely left up to the Divine if they will live or not, but responsibility is also shared by all of those involved. For instance, if one wants to overcome an illness, then the patient has to also take responsibility for his or health and do what is necessary physically and spiritually to acquire good health. This is because from a co – creator’s perspective, the Divine is literally the Source and will support you in whatever you choose to do. This is the reason most shamans don’t concern themselves with spiritual enlightenment or seeking to expand their consciousness, because it is like acquiring knowledge without experience. Instead, shamans focus upon practical objectives because in resolving these issues they not only achieve tangible goals but in the process may also acquire the wisdom when dealing with similar issues. In this case, spiritual enlightenment is seen as fascinating side effect that if it occurs great, but if not there’s no problem because it wasn’t the intention in the first place. This is because shamanism focuses upon practicality, which is based upon Maa – that is, Objective Truth not what belief is popular at the time.

So in essence, most belonging to an organized religious structure (or still harboring this mindset) focus on the future (and the hereafter). Everything they approach is from this same dogmatic perspective whereas they feel if they don’t do this they will be punished. If they don’t eat right, they will be punished. If they act and treat their neighbors right, then they will be punished. If they don’t belong to this particular group or affiliates, then they will be punished. Everything is based upon the fear if they don’t do a particular thing, then they will “reap what they sow” because it is based upon catastrophe.

Shamans on the other hand, focus on the here and now in order to make a better future. Since shamanism is pre-religion, it doesn’t force people to live their lives out of fear of sin, karma, etc.  When something doesn’t work or doesn’t produce the desired results, it is not looked upon as being the will of God or some divine act. If God doesn’t punish animals for their animalistic behavior, why would God punish human beings for their animal behavior? This was seem contradictory, which in shamanism the Divine is not. So when something doesn’t work or doesn’t produce the desired results. It is simply seen as being botched like too much of one ingredient was added to a cake mix.  Basically, it is due to things not being in balance.

shaman

Shamanism basically assists an individual in saving themselves, instead of depending upon someone or something outside of themselves to save them, because most have been Called like preachers who have been Called to the pulpit.  The main difference being that most shamans consisted of them overcoming an deadly illness, destructive and negative behavior that is destroying their family and/or community, etc.. In their mysterious rebirth, they learn what to do and what not to do not because it offends the Divine presence within them. In other words, it separates them from their divinity, thus inhibiting them from creating miracles in their life.  This is why elderly black men and women in southern churches use to abstain from certain behaviors, practices, obscenities, perversions and substances. It was this shamanic practice that was brought from Africa that assured that the one being Called would not adjust their concept of God in order to accept, ignore or overlook their wickedness. This age old African tradition has rapidly become extinct in most Black Churches, which is why there is a lack of spiritual development today in the Black community.

Maa-The Path of the Feather

Maa-The Path of the Feather

I personally chose and continue to follow this path because it establishes a rapport between you and the Divine. When something is right, you instantly see the results. When you have done something wrong, you get that feedback as well and learn to make adjustments. No one needs to tell you what you is right or wrong.  If you have your right mind, we all have commonsense.  We all know what is right or wrong because the Divine is within all of us, so no matter how much we try to sugarcoat it you know. This is why it is not even necessary to persuade people of what is the truth or not the truth, because Truth is Divine and the Divine’s spark dwells within us all. So, it is not a matter of not knowing the Truth or Maa, it is about choosing not to believe it and in that case.  God doesn’t have to punish you. You are simply punishing yourself.

Maa Aankh with Utchat

Now, shamanism is not about making up your own rules as you go, but a lot of people due to Western thinking are use to rules and feel that if they don’t have any rules. They don’t have any guidelines to maneuver around.  For those people, I say that according to the Maa Aankh, when we physically die our soul will stand before Osar in accompany with our ancestors, where we will give account for everything that we did while among the living.  If our soul is boggled down by confusion and guilt, then we will become a confused, misguided and tormented ghost or aapepu. This means that if you can’t imagine standing before you beloved ancestors and proudly telling them everything that you did in secret with no shame. Then, you might want to give that thing, substance, behavior, etc. up.

And, this is the difference between a shaman and a preacher.

Hope that helps.





Have You Been Called? Understanding African Cosmology and the Calling Amongst African Americans

6 05 2013

Hetepu (Peace) Family.

Hope all is well. This is something that has really been on my mind since Malcolm X’s birthday is nearing and the rising disturbing actions and behaviors perpetrated by our youth in their desperate attempt to make money.  I have also wanted to address this issue about because some people have been asking if Kamta is a New Age thing.  So I have been letting this subject run around in my mind for a minute in order to address is appropriately.

Kamitic priest in leopard pelt

Kamitic priest in leopard pelt

Because shamanism has become such a very popular term to throw around by anyone claiming to be spiritual and not religious or refusing to follow the order of organized religion. I have decided to write this post to clarify, specify and distinguish Kamta from the New Age shamanistic movements. Please understand that I have nothing against New Agers because everything has its purpose, but I want to make it clear that this is not a trend.  I have to keep telling this story in order to raise consciousness, not because it is the trendy thing that is in fashion now, but because it is a Way of Life pertaining to my survival.

Portuguese ship

Portuguese ship

Kamta is a Spirit – led shamanic tradition based upon Kamitic (Ancient Egyptian) philosophy and Afrospiritual thought.  When the Africans were enslaved and brought to North America, unlike those taken to the Caribbean and South America, they were unable to maintain and retain all of their religious beliefs because their formal introduction spiritual system had been disrupted or simply destroyed. This along with the fact that there were various ethnic groups with different cultures and spiritual beliefs also made it difficult for the spiritual systems transported to Protestant Christian North America from Africa to survive. Fortunately, prior to the advent of the Slave Trade, many of the people from the Kongo region had willingly converted to Roman Catholicism or were at least familiar with the Christian faith due to their encounter with Portuguese merchants and missionaries.  Consequently, those Africans brought from the Kongo Angolan region were able to retain majority of their spiritual beliefs under the guise of Christianity. Although, they were not able to create or recreate a formal initiation system such as the ones that exist throughout the Afro diaspora, they were able to maintain an informal initiation system that follows what is commonly referred to as the Rule of the Sun.

Kongo_Cross

Kongo Cross (also called the Dikenga or Yowa)

The Rule of the Sun is based upon African Cosmology particularly the Yowa, Dikenga also called the Congo or Kongo Cross. The general understanding of the Kongo Cross is that the human soul like the sun rises, zeniths, sets and is reborn again to create another dawn. Spiritually speaking, we rise and peak in our awareness, but when we experience problems, setbacks, calamity, dishonor, illness, etc.  It is because we are spiritually dying or our sun/soul is setting in the West. The reason we spiritually die is because we have picked up impurities (egocentricities) from dwelling amongst the living in the physical world like selfishness, egotism, fear, etc.. So, spiritual death occurs in order to purify our soul. If we survive the problem, illness, fall from grace, etc.  It is believed that we have traveled to the spiritual world and were reborn like the dawning sun. So along with this core belief, early African Americans believed that when someone experienced a spiritual death.  It was because they were being Called to the spiritual world to obtain their spiritual gifts.  Although good and evil existed in the Kongo mind, the whole battle between the good and evil was seen as a way in which one finds his or her true Self.  In other words, it was seen as way to establish and maintain balance, so that an individual could learn to stand on the edge of both worlds.

Basic Kongo Cosmogram

Basic Kongo Cosmogram

Now the Calling in the African American community was similar to other shamanic societies, in the sense that those who were called at an early age displayed unusual birth signs such as being breeched, born with a caul over their head, having uncommon birthmarks and so on.  But, the most common form of calling in the African American community  was the fall from grace in which the individual after experiencing problems had some sort of epiphany or revelation.  This is because all adversity was seen as an individual going through a dying phase, because as one elder told me “You have to go through something, in order to get something.” This something that the individual must go through is of course the adversity and hardship of the physical world.  The something that the individual is going to get refers to their reward, their talent, purpose, destiny, etc. that will be obtained spiritually (or from the spiritual world).  This is why it is not uncommon to hear of individuals within the African American community today being “Called” to the pulpit to be a preacher.  In the olden days, the Calling was not just about being an evangelist.  The Calling pertained to doing any type of ministry (God or Spirit-led) work in regards to helping people in the community such as being a seer, a healer, prayer warrior, and so on.

Robert Johnson the Blues Musician Who Supposedly Sold His Soul to Play the Guitar

Robert Johnson the Blues Musician Who Supposedly Sold His Soul to Play the Guitar

Those familiar with African American folk beliefs will not understand the basis of Robert Johnson’s Crossroad Ritual and will now understand the reason what Johnson did was considered evil is because his blues music was not helping his community. It was only going to make him richer, which is why the man who allegedly teaches him was called the devil.

The Transformation from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to  El Hajj Malik Shabazz

The Transformation from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El Hajj Malik Shabazz

The Calling is a form of initiation based upon the Kongo Cross and it refers to being initiated and inducted into the spiritual fold to help the community. Like most initiations, which end of something old and the beginning or start of something new. It was understood that anytime an individual experienced any sort of unusual hardship, setbacks, obstacles, problems, etc. the individual was being Called.   This is the most accepted undocumented belief in the African American psyche.  It is the reason those individuals that have undergone a complete transformation such as the legendary Malcolm X (and a host of others), are so cherished in the African American community.  It is because African Americans like most people love a “comeback to grace” story and it is because the basis of our culture centers on the Rule of the Sun.

Because the Church became the most respected institution that white America during slavery (for the most part) would not meddle with.  Many of the people that were Called were given regular titles within the institution such as deacon, evangelist, missionary, etc. but there were also those who were known as Father, Papa, Poppa, Uncle, Brother, Mother, Momma, Auntie and Sister “so – and – so”.  Each of these individuals at some point in time assisted in the healing services that occur inside the church.

Contemporary Ring Shout

Contemporary Ring Shout

Like most shamanic traditions, African American religious service usually consists of a form of ritual called praise and worship, which consists of songs, music, dancing and trance called, filled with the Holy Ghost.  Next, the preacher that gives the congregation a message from God and at times can also include being prayed upon for healing using blessed oil.  The reason most people don’t think of it as being a shamanic trance induction service is because it is so norm and most people think that shamans are spooky witchdoctors running around with masks and bones in their nose chanting some unpronounceable language. A true shaman mediates between the spiritual world and physical world for his or her community. Everything that the shaman does is for the community because their spiritual development and advancement depends upon the people they serve. This is why typically those who were called in the African American community also did and continues to do something in regards to the church.

It is because of the Kongo Cross, anyone can participate in any form of African American spirituality (spiritual tradition, spiritual practices, folk practices, etc.) because it all centers on you going through something and surviving. It is simply put a spirituality that is based upon survival, which celebrates one’s success or victory over adversity.  And, this is what makes African American spirituality a form of shamanism.

Disney's Shadow Man of New Orleans

Disney’s Shadow Man of New Orleans

But, this form of spirituality has been steadily suppressed because in the early twentieth century, African Americans were routinely harassed and even imprisoned because of their religious beliefs. Today when people think of African religions or spirituality, it conjures up images of evil sorcerers. As a result, older African Americans familiar with this form of spirituality have often denied any association with it out of fear of being ostracized. Because African Americans were separated from the Motherland, in general unfamiliar with African cosmology and the old Kongo spiritual systems are nonexistent due to slavery and colonization. Slowly but surely, this system has continued to fade into extinction as the elders that followed and taught the system transition and are not able to pass their wisdom on to younger generations.

Emmett Till and Lil Wayne Controversy

Emmett Till and Lil Wayne Controversy

Today, a great cultural tragedy is occurring on several fronts. From one perspective, because of the lack of a cultural spiritual tradition, youths unfamiliar with their own ancestral history are mocking and ridiculing their heritage.  (i.e. the entertainer Lil Wayne).  This is also due to the fact that many still suffer from Afrohagiophobia, which according to http://www.mamiwata.com/part2.html.

“A pathological fear and irrational intimidation of African spiritual and esoteric science, ancestral veneration, and its ritual and cultural expressions. The simplest spirit manifestations that were once understood in their cosmological context, now “spooked” the newly conditioned generations of African-Americans.”

On the other hand, many people are exploring, searching, investigating, embracing, imitating and mimicking spiritual systems that are foreign to their culture and wondering why these systems are not working and helping them to bring money, peace of mind, or harmony to their relationships.  I am very well aware of the latter because I have put in my time researching and dabbling in various faiths and traditions myself. I have firsthand experience and know that if you do not belong to a particular cultural group, contrary to what anyone tells you. You are not going to get everything as the individual who is born into that culture.   There is going to be a lot of information that is going to be lost in the cultural translation.  A person born and raise Baptist, COGIC, Pentecostal, etc. and converts to Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, etc. is just not going to get everything because those spiritual systems are tailored to the cultures they serve.  I have even witnessed and talked to people who were involved in various African and Afro-American religions and they have told me about the indifferences that exist there as well.

Colonoware

Kongo Cross on Colonoware

So, here comes Kamta to save me.

After doing all of this research and studying all of these philosophies years ago. After trying to make a dying relationship with a “spiritual person” work and trying to incorporate all of these metaphysical ideas, I became deathly ill. Meaning, I almost died twice. How I survived was by throwing out everything that didn’t work and relying upon what I knew that did. I always have to tell people my story so that they can understand what happens when you don’t accept your calling, because it is real.

Queen Nzingah

Queen Nzingah

While I was undergoing my own rebirthing process that is when I began putting rhyme to reason and that’s how I learned about the Kongo people and our ancestral tradition, which can be traced back to the Ba-Ntu people who dwelled in Kamit/Kemet (Ancient Egypt).  It was because the original Kongo systems for the most part is nonexistent that Kamit/Kemet became the inspiration behind this system and I discovered the Maa Aankh cosmogram. By the way, this is totally within the Bantu-Kongo thinking because Kongo traditions have survived throughout the diaspora by adapting and modifying existing philosophies to fit their purpose.

Maa Aankh

So, the battle between good and evil is not seen as an eternal conflict between God and the devil, but between man and woman’s higher and lower selves allegorized as the battle between the Upper and Lower Lands of Kamit. It is the same Kongo concepts of the physical world above and the spiritual world below where one has to travel and meet Osar in order to be reborn, so that he or she can be stand on the edge of both worlds.

Unify Your Kingdom Within

Unify Your Kingdom Within

Now, the key differences between Kamta and other shamanistic systems is that everyone is called to do something because the Rule of the Sun is a way of introducing and inducting everyone into the cultural fold of communal service.  For instance, I have a cousin who just celebrated being drug free for 15 years now.  His ministry is helping other drug addicts.  He had to undergo that little experience in order to fulfill his purpose in life.  As I have mentioned before, since I have overcome and survived lupus. My responsibility has been to help others to do the same thing. This is one of my callings. There is a saying and it holds true for Kamta and it is, “Everyone is Called but only a few will answer.”

Maa Aankh Cosmology

Maa Aankh Cosmology

The point that I am trying to make is that we have our own spiritual traditions, our own ancestors, our own spirits and guides that we can work with and are willing to assist us out of this bind that we find ourselves in.  We do not have to make up, create or mimic another’s cultural tradition especially when they do not share our concerns and would not dowse us with water if we were on fire.  Our ancestors left us with all sorts of guides and maps.  We just have to use them.  So, I am writing this post to help you all to understand that if you have been called what you need to do, because the only ones who can tell you about it have either transitioned into the spiritual realm or are refusing to talk about it because they are suffering from Afrohagiphobia. Hopefully, this post will help you to understand why certain systems aren’t working for you and what you need to do to find your Maa (Way).

Sincerely, I hope this helps.

Hetepu (Peace),

Rau Khu

Copyright 2013