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Modernity, spirituality and tradition: My ancestors are my force of belief

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With South Africa’s rich history and shameful past – where our identities were distorted – young people constantly battle to maintain our sense of belonging in the context of faith, spirituality and tradition. Where the gospels are preached as the only true path, we often find ourselves struggling to make sense of our own beliefs.

I grew up with parents who knew of the gospel but also strongly believed in ancestors. Although my mother was a praying mother, we were never taught to go to church. I grew up praising my forefathers. When someone was sick, our first reliance would be incense and traditional herbs. All the events in our lives were said to be connected to our ancestors, including our achievements, misfortunes and health.

My grandmother used to burn incense and praise our ancestors while kneeling on a mat of woven grass. She called upon them to protect us whenever we left home for school after the holidays. During thunderstorms, she’d tell us to stand outside and call on our forefathers to make the lightning go away. Somehow it always worked, even though I didn’t understand how. I felt deeply connected to them.

Although I went to a Roman Catholic school where morning prayers and sermons were regularly held, I was hardly connected to the surroundings and the preaching. I only knew my ancestors as my protector. To this day, the concept of God confuses me. But, how does one unlearn childhood teachings and beliefs? I know faith, in my own understanding of it and I have applied it where necessary. I have had faith in my ancestors since I was young, I believe in their existence and, as a black woman, I have been able to communicate with them through dreams.

We are influenced by different things and different people as we grow and learn new things. After years at university, I’ve come to experience the pressure of being a young black South African woman who has to conform to the gospel’s teachings and the idea that Jesus is life. It’s either we are a lost generation who beseech guidance from God, who is said to be our saviour, or through our ancestors who keep track of our roots and origins. I have come to understand that the gospel, in a way, does work for those who believe in it. However, it shouldn’t overshadow the existence of tradition and customs.

I have friends who are in the same boat. “At home we strongly believe in ancestors and it’s always been that way. I don’t have a problem with religion but I’m more in touch with my tradition,” says Zamaswazi Mdhluli (22). As much as we are connected to our forefathers, there’s an underlying confusion about the intersection of faith, spirituality and our ancestors.

But there are also those who believe in what they see as the true gospel. Xolile Nzama (25) is a born-again Christian. “There’s only one truth and it’s through God. We cannot be foolish enough to think that ancestors are our protectors. God is the only creator and protector,” she says.

This confusion – religion vs culture – usually stems from the people we surround ourselves with, especially our supposedly “woke” counterparts who consider tradition to be outdated. But our origins are what give us a sense of belonging and belief, they inform our identities, and not everyone is able or willing to trade one for the other.

For a long time I’ve been defined by culture and tradition; “isiphandla” (the wristband made from a piece of skin cut from a goat or a cow) has always been that one symbol that reassures me of my connection to my ancestors. In the years I’ve been independent, I’ve never been to church and I haven’t found anything wrong with my life. Whenever I feel like I’m stumbling and my life is heading down a precarious path, I always turn to my ancestors for guidance. It has always worked for me.

Featured image via Pixabay
2 Comments
  1. Henry Price Jr. says

    comrade(s) Lizeka it is my intent to be brief but to also put conditions you speak of concerning religion in their proper context. Buntu (negroid) people have always been both a spiritual plus practical people. For we know irregardless of whether we acknowledge it or not it is only by correct use under a combination of use of both will we achieve our desires plus what is in our best interest. Over use of practical ways led Buntu civilization to divisions which had groups branching off plus moving to establish communities that allowed them to managed conditions to their desires. Unfortunately branching off led Buntu communities to militarily become weak plus vulnerable to foreign forces having greater number of warriors plus eventually better weaponry. You see when branching off begun Buntu due to their knowledge plus ability to work iron had superior weaponry but, under branching off development of weaponry ceased thus what was Buntu better weapons became out dated. With a lack of due unity plus weapons Buntu communities were easily conquered by foreigners. Foreigners not only conquered Buntu communities but they also took knowledge plus destroy Buntu writings (books) that held that knowledge. Buntu were people of Books but, as time continue with Buntu being void of development due credit for our accomplishments were stolen plus attributed to others without anyone questioning if those accomplishments attributed to those others truly belonged to them. Among those books were Buntu holy books. Information found in Buntu holy books was also attributed to other groups plus to some degree in a polluted form be found in others holy book today however, in viewing evidence available today beyond writings one will easily conclude Buntu are people of who those holy books refer to irregardless of those books attributing those accomplishments or/plus conditions to other groups. Truth be told all of this occurred in absence of Mansa Kankan Musa. Mansa was “glue” that held Buntu people together. There are numerous lies told concerning Mansa. I believe due to there is not proof for or against those lies. Among them are that Mansa was a Muslim but, it is also acknowledged he honored practice of all religions. Being Mansa left Africa in 1300s at a time Islam was intolerant of other religions unless those religions held a clear military advantage it is unlikely Mansa was a Muslim or in 1300’s no traditional African religions would have existed. What I have consistently found over decades when studying Africa is that our ancestors used esoterics that were common but effective in implying information. Such as word Wa which have been passed on for centuries during our (kankan) presence in America. I found Wa exist not only in Ghana which was at height of its power when Mansa left but also in Sudan indicating Wa at both locations were likely military bases allowing Buntu led armies to guard all of Africa. Another lie is that Mansa took gold to Mecca upsetting gold market. Believe this Mansa was collecting tribute payments for voyage his armada was to take. There was so little gold left it was impossible to judge value of gold. In dealing with spirituality I found use of code words or/plus recognition words. Such as in case of Julu which likely was first or primary Buntu religion. As Islam gained influence in Mansa absence many Buntu groups refused to become Muslim thus departed moving to East or South or West in Africa. Some in search of Mansa but in parting with kin recognition was established by large groups staying plus leaving. Group staying which is much smaller now due to continued splitting of Buntu groups even after becoming Muslims is Jula which took first half of Julu name. A large group that left took second half of that recognition name which is Zulu. Both groups in many ways still adhere to Buntu virgin practice in attempt to conceive more like Mansa plus honor their men. Mansa ability to interrogate all who spoke same language or pass on ability to interrogate to those who spoke language of foreigner plus had interrogation ability above that foreigner was seemingly immeasurable information acquisition tool that allowed Buntu by way of Mansa to obtain important knowledge of all sort on foreigners. In Mansa absence caucasoid foreigners were able to do same to Buntu thus,this led to further splits of Buntu group with method of escaping foreigners interrogation was to speak a language unknown to foreigners like foreigners language was unknow to Buntu. Foreigners begin to imposed their holy books upon leaders of Buntu teaching Buntu to read or/plus recite their holy books plus obligate their citizens to honor those holy books. Well as you all know foreign holy books in a most clever way have created ceaseless chaos for Buntu wherever we are found with cause being as simple as those holy books were not written for us or by us or in our best interest . Instead they are written to further cause of non Buntu but, we are accepted as followers of that religion as long as we work to further foreigners religion cause among Buntu. Spirit of our ancestors shakes us but we are unable to perceive cause. Cause being we are honoring those who destroyed our holy books plus replaced them with theirs. My Kankan ancestors realized this long before I was born. It is cause my name is Henry (Author) Price Jr. We have used names to pass on messages plus duty to Kankan of next generation for centuries. primary need was to write a contemporary Buntu holy book . My father due to having fought in murderous China-Korea-America felt it was not for him but passed on responsibility to me. I believing it is more important to write that book as oppose to consider my past have written a contemporary version of Buntu holy book plus forwarded copy of manuscript in 2009 to African Union headquarters. US copyright office refused to give me copyright for that manuscript despite fact book will not go to print unto I revise it. they fear Buntu holy book symbol of a right angle surrounded by a triangle surrounded by a circle surround by five squares with each be a fraction larger as oppose to one before it. I am unable to revise book under condition I believe it deserve which is for me to be 100% healthy. At this time plus since period I forwarded manuscript to African Union in 2009 I have been infected with Sexually Transmitted Disease ( STD) Epididymitis for which no American physician to this date will treat me. All I need is a two month supply of proper antibiotics. Now you see America I know. I am unable to give timetable but, Lizeka when I am able if not home to Africa within 90 days I will send you copy of manuscript. I have been told by people from both China plus India who saw African Union manuscript copy our brief contemporary holy book it will change this world being it give Buntu what was missing which is a holy book written by one of its own plus our holy book esoteric “hunt would would” level is above all other holy book thus overriding evil claim of Buntu being a subhuman specie. We are of highest order. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan aka Gue. translationbuddy.com

  2. rossg says

    Without our ancestors we are as nothing. Our ancestors are our family as our children are our family, we together, our ancestors and children are one family.
    Christianity is about bringing our family together and keeping it together. This also means knowing who our ancestors are and passing this knowledge onto our children.
    Our ancestors did not create this earth, nor the stars, nor the heavens, it is wisdom to seek guidance and counsel from God as it is he who created this earth, the stars we can see and the heavens in which we believe.
    It is by the power of God that we can be linked into one eternal family that includes our ancestors and our children. This is true.

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