Sobonfu Somé connects today’s world with a heart-felt message of spirit, community and ritual in our lives.
“Where are the babies?”
West African elder and ceremonialist Sobonfu Somé posed this question to those of us gathered around the fire. It was the last day of Ancient Wisdom Rising 2011, and we all knew the babies to whom she was referring–infant twins, a brother and sister, who had graced our presence throughout the three-day retreat.
A misty rain fell quietly outside the ceremonial fire tent, creating a cozy feeling of connection and adding to the magical setting. Sobonfu, one of eight indigenous elders and wisdom keepers who formed the core of the gathering, had just shared how her tribe, the Dagara People of Burkina Faso, view the relationship between the youngest and oldest members of the village.
She had described how that relationship between the very young and the very old forms a vital bond, a container of sorts, which creates the space to hold a healthy community. Within that container, each individual villager’s spirit can be recognized; each person can be free to express him or herself fully.
Spontaneously, Sobonfu asked if the two most senior wisdom keepers would bless the babies.
New Zealand Maori elder Raina Ferris and British Columbia Haida elder Woody “Kawan Sangaa” Morrison prayed and sang blessings in their own languages. It was a powerful moment of heart, emotion and care that required no understanding of words. Those present felt both a longing and a beacon of hope to live more fully in an authentic home– the heart.
With her actions, Sobonfu showed us how “community” is more than just a trendy word. With wisdom from the other side of the world, she demonstrated how community is a necessity for all humans; it lies within us, in the realm of the heart. Around that fire, we all were held by the space between the youngest and the oldest; we became a community.
Sobonfu Somé, whose name means “keeper of the rituals,” was destined from birth to teach her ancestors’ wisdom, ritual, and practices to Westerners who seek a deeper connection with the sacred rhythms and essences of life. She travels the world on a healing mission as she shares the rich culture of her homeland.
Life in Sobonfu’s village would likely appear impoverished and primitive to the “civilized” observer. Meals can be meager, there is no privacy; children wander about from hut to hut. But while Burkina Faso ranks among the world’s poorest countries economically, it remains one of the richest in spiritual life and custom.
In Sobonfu’s village, everyone lives in direct relationship with the Spirit that is alive in all things. Rituals that ensure harmony and balance are woven daily into the fabric of life. Frequent ceremonies, some very elaborate, are conducted to mark life passages, a celebration of Belonging and of Home.
For example, everyone in the village joyfully anticipates the unique gifts a new child will bring the community. They honor that uniqueness through life and into the time after death, when the unique gift will continue to contribute to the well-being of the people through a Dagara Ancestor.
Sobonfu offers precious gifts of healing, communication and community. Read more about her work at sobonfu.com, including her leadership of Wisdom Spring, a not-for-profit that seeks to provide drinking water and resources for education to various villages in West Africa.
Sobonfu is one of five indigenous elders coming to Ancient Wisdom Rising 2013, August 16-18, at the Blue Deer Center in Margaretville, NY. She will join Eliot Cowan (Huichol/Plant Spirit Medicine), Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Tom Porter (Mohawk), and Eda Zavala (Peru) for a weekend of teachings, stories, and ceremony to enliven your connection with nature and spirit. Visit ancientwisdomrising.com.
Ancient Wisdom Rising is presented by Sacred Fire Foundation, which works to restore balance by igniting heart-centered ways to relate to each other, our communities, and the natural world. The Foundation’s charitable activities preserve, protect and promote traditional and Indigenous ways of life and include grant making, partnership development and the Wisdom Fellowship Awards. sacredfirefoundation.org