I Skyped with my Ancestors
A Story of Spiritual Connection in a Globalizing Digital World.
For a long time I have felt like I have been tuned into a frequency that allows me to feel the sadness of the violence and injustice many fellow humans feel in central Africa. I've never been clear on why, or why this place, or why it hurts so bad, or why it matters to me. Recently, for my graduate program, I had the opportunity to dig deeper into research about the wars, genocide, and gruesome violence that the children in central Africa endure. I felt overwhelmed with pain, heartbreaking compassion, and a feeling of guilt mixed of privilege and place. Because of the fast pace of the program, I felt the need to process the information efficiently, mechanically, and intellectually. I lost my usual sense of optimism and agency. Feeling disempowered and holding the issue without the normal humanity I am used to, I felt the need to just hug my African brothers and sisters, relieve their suffering, and mine, and just experience a human connection. I felt the need to process emotions that felt paralyzing. I felt a sense of urgency to get to a place of empowered positive outlook, to be able to do the work to contribute to the solution of children and violence happening in the heartland of our planet, in the middle of Africa.
I reached out to Mbali Creazzo, a South African priestess who was the source of the book 29 gifts. We shared Skype usernames, and I awoke early to log in and hoped for no technical difficulties. Mbali emailed me a minute before our session to tell me the electricity had been out in Cape Town for few hours and we'd have to reschedule. On the minute of our meeting, she informed me, the electricity reconnected, she assured me, this would be an important meeting, the ancestors had restored electricity for the occasion.
Mbali called upon my ancestors and consulted with them through a traditional spread of bones, shells, and artifacts. Through Skype, I heard her wise and strong voice, I saw her face of warm sun, she saw my swollen eyes, and it felt like I could smell Africa once again - a magical mix of Earth and Spirit. Here we were, all connected... she in dusty Cape Town, me in wet Florida, and my ancestors?
She began by communicating that my father's mother is with me closely, and that she is the one who has given me my medicine, the special gift I offer to the world. My original skepticism evaporated... my grandmother Norma, a daughter of Swedish immigrants, has given me, and all her offspring, undeniable and incredible artistic talent. In my role as an art educator I know art is perhaps the most precious power I offer. Mbali told me my Mother's Grandfather, my Grandpa Paul, is my current guardian, and has special intentions for me. My Grandpa Paul, like my other Jewish ancestors, escaped Europe, fleeing persecution, oppression, ethnic cleansing. He, even more than my other ancestors, was highly political, a proud socialist, human rights supporter, and a man who changed immigration law in his inspired action. She told me, that he along with my other Jewish ancestors, look to me as processor of the burden of genocide. She told me she believes, without doubt, it is my work to restore spirit to my ancestors who were victims of ethnic oppression and war and repair similar happening on the planet with my medicine... art.
She also said that, despite my skepticism, my intuition is accurate and my heart has a valid connection to Africa. "This is very clear: Mama Africa is calling to heal you, and for you to heal her."
At this I started crying the kind of cry that's hard to stop. I already felt, with some doubt, a very real, but unexplainable feeling of purpose involving: art, children, ethnic conflict, and Africa. And even without having personally experienced the Jewish Holocaust, I have always tasted it's blood in my mouth. I have felt, from a very young age, this feeling of the weight of the Jewish genocide on my shoulders; perhaps the residue of survivor's guilt, feeling both guilt and gratitude for living in the current privilege and comfort that I and many other white Jews currently enjoy. I have also felt from a young age, even before delving into research, a camaraderie with the African diaspora and our similar experiences of persecution, oppression, enslavement, and genocide. It feels painfully guilty to be apart of the diaspora that currently enjoys abundance, camouflage, relative safety, and ease of social mobility.
I cried and cried. It just poured out.
Mbali offered a comforting laugh. She calmly recollected that before our session, she took a nap in the blackout. She dreamt that her bed was overflowing with water. She said it was a message from the ancestors... I needed to cry and I needed to heal by way of water. She said I needed to process the pain of the lineage of genocide. She said I needed to use water to heal the wounds of the genocides of the past to offer my medicine to the genocides of today and the future. She said I needed to process the guilt. "You cannot work from guilt. You need to work from a different place... a whole place." She said I needed to reunite with Jewish ritual and begin African rituals of ancestral offerings. I needed to go to the water, the Atlantic ocean, often and offer milk, alcohol, conversation with the dead. She said, most importantly, I needed to offer my hungry Jewish ancestors, who were victims of genocide, a feast, it had to be on a full moon. She said that in the conversation, my ancestors will communicate through the ocean, and I had to listen.
It turned out that Passover, a Jewish honoring of injustice and ethnic pain, Good Friday, a full moon, and a lunar eclipse would be on the same night/morning, and I called upon some friends to join me in a morning of ritual and offerings. They had all recently lost someone, and felt moved to join in the process. We arrived at 4 am and set up our boards.
I gave my offerings to the sea.
I began my communication with a clear intention to listen to my ancestors. My conversation was filled with apologies, gratitude, and thanks to my Jewish relatives on the other side. When I asked them to please help me serve and support our African sisters and brothers, I offered white flowers, and at that moment the most gigantic wave of the morning came on shore and covered me. I responded with, "Thank you."
My friend joined me offering, as she had recently lost a dear one. We cried.
We did yoga, while watching the setting moon eclipse.
We paddled far out to watch the new day's sun rise.
When we returned to shore, we witnessed two other spiritual rituals in motion... Same time, same spot.
We saw surfers had gathered to do a "paddle out," a traditional send off with the ashes of a recently passed fellow surfer. As we had done this not too long ago, for a friend of ours, and the fiance of one of the friends who joined me on this mornging, we felt a kinship and offered our respects to their recently departed.
Twenty feet East, we saw a group in a circle, dressed in all white, a traditional African, Indian, and Baptist tradition, we heard Creole chanting, and realized we were witnessing a Haitian Baptist ritual of rebirth. The freshly dunked devotees walked out of the water glistening in the early morning sun.
We noticed several members seemed to be distracted by trying to document on smartphones, we respectfully approached, and offered to document for them, so they could participate. They were incredibly appreciative.
At the close of the ceremony, we exchanged heartfelt hugs with huge smiles. I felt the most warm, loving human connection, in the morning light, embracing one another, witnessing their fresh, optimistic faces, filled with innocence, renewal.
It was a morning of mourning, it was also a morning rich with ritual of rebirth and new light. I felt renewed, and full appreciation for a woman on another continent, who guided me to a clean space and renewing habit to be able to do the work I need to do.
Thank you Skype.
Thank you Mbali.
Thank you Ancestors.
Next year, in Africa.