Malidoma Some´: Making friends with the enemy

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For over 25 years, Malidoma Patrice Somé, Phd., has devoted himself to being the voice from out of the continent of Africa dedicated to the inclusion of its Ancestral wisdom in the concert of world culture and spirituality cradled by the West.

He is a speaker currently in great demand across the country. He holds three masters degrees and a Ph.D. form the Sorbonne and Brandeis University. He is the author of three books and several articles on spirituality. Most importantly, he is a bridge between two worlds, a man whose self-expressed goal in life is to convey his knowledge of the spiritual life of his people to the rest of the world.

Dr. Somé was born in the African community of Dano, in what was then known as Upper Volta, a colony of France. Today the nation is known as Burkina Faso. Although he does not know the date of his birth according to European calendar measurement, the year of his birth is listed as 1956 in government records. He was baptized in the Catholic tradition as “Patrice”, shortly after his birth. Somé’s father was a great believer in the white man’s God as well as tribal customs. Somé’s grandfather held a naming ceremony as is Dagara custom and called him ““, which means he who would “be friends with the stranger/enemy.”

At age four, Somé was forcefully removed from his village by his father, and taken to a Jesuit boarding school where he was provided with a Western education by priests who were determined to create another black priest. After enduring 16 years of physical and emotional abuse by the priests, he left this school when he was twenty, and returned to the village of his birth.

Upon his return, integration into his traditional tribal religion and customs was difficult, due to his long absence from his culture and his apparent indoctrination into Christianity and a “white man’s world”. Elders from the village believed that Somé’s ancestral spirit had withdrawn from his body and that he should undergo a dangerous, month-long initiation process called Baor, an initiation among Dagara males which is believed to reunite soul and body.

His autobiagraphical work, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, tells the story of his abduction to a Jesuit school, where he remained for the next fifteen years, being harshly indoctrinated into European ways of thought and worship; of his return to his people, his hard initiation back into the life of the tribe, leading to his desire to convey their knowledge to the world. Of Water and the Spirit is the result of that desire; it is a sharing of living African traditions, offered in compassion for those struggling with our contemporary crisis of the spirit.

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