I went to visit a sangoma for a bone reading. A sangoma is a healer among the Zulu people of South Africa who diagnoses, prescribes, and performs rituals to heal a person physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. During their practice, they enter a trance state to perform acts such as communicating with ancestors, achieve extrasensory perception, or strive to attain paranormal abilities.
I never believed in psychics, but have always been interested in how I would be read. My brain rationalizes it as a psychic maybe can read someone’s body language and energy, movements and posture, in a way that tells a story. Or maybe there is something more beyond into the metaphysical, but that’s just too abstract for my brain to handle.
The sangoma in the valley lives on a reptile farm. He practices traditional medicine and trains others from around the world. I didn’t know what to expect when I scheduled a reading for 9 AM this morning. But I prepared for it by being open minded and opening my body (shoulders and chest opening up) to allow my energy to be available to read, almost like meditation.
I introduced myself and then fell into silence when I followed him into the rondavel, a large circular hut. It was dark and cold; incense burned making it smoky. We walked to the far edge of the circle, away from the door, and he motioned for me to be seated on a mat across from him and his collection of items. He told me he was not a fortune-teller, nor someone to speak solely to ancestors. He would share with me whatever the spirits were telling him. He said he believed in all of the deities – Buddha, Shiva, God, etc. He asked if I had a religious affiliation and I told him I was an atheist. He asked if I believed in spirits and I said, in a way, sure. He then asked if I had a silver coin. I didn’t think I did, but reached into my pocket to oddly find one. He placed the coin next to me on the mat.
He lit some sage on fire in a large bowl that looked like half of a coconut, passed it to me, and told me to breathe it in and ask my spirit to grant him permission to communicate. I tried to open my mind and be receptive, breathed the smoke in and out slowly, relaxed, then passed the bowl back. He put on a beaded wig giving him long black and white strands of hair and bangs covering the upper half of his face. He curled into a ball on his mat with his head towards the ground. As he entered the trance, he began flinching, as if he were feeling pain, and gasping. Soon his hands came over his head and, while still facing the floor, told me he saw a map in front of me. He then gathered a pile of goat bones, rocks, and shells into a small piece of animal hide. He shook the items in the hide and tossed them out onto the mat towards my silver coin. The bones flung out onto the mat provided a pattern with which he gave me my reading.
His reading of me:
There’s a map with a lot of different paths to take. I struggle with what my heart wants and what my brain tells me to do. This is a big conflict in my life that I fight with constantly. At the beginning of the bone pattern were the two ancestor bones that give me roots and guidance in my life. Heaped in the middle were the third guidance (ancestor) bone and a bone that symbolized power and energy. Sometimes I have too much energy that I don’t know what to do with. I should walk barefoot more to return some of the energy back to the Earth to be grounded and maintain balance in my energies. The heart bone landed on top of the black arrowhead rock that symbolizes fear. I am afraid to open my heart and my energy scares me sometimes. I need to let go of the fear and follow my heart, over my mind. The pile of items was fragmented with most of the bones in the bottom pile and 2 bones spread further from the others, in a smaller pile. These two were the rock that symbolizes the brain and one of the long bones, which was one of two pieces of bones that symbolizes the life path. This represented the fragmentation in paths I follow depending on if I follow my heart or my head. Towards the top of the larger pile was the intuition shell, which landed with the growth bone inside, meaning I was still growing and learning my intuition. I will begin to have thoughts and messages that I must learn how to understand in order to grow in to myself. At first they will be confusing but I must continue to listen to them and write them down. Strewn way up to the top, near my coin, was the hoof of the goat, which represents movement and travel – this would drive my path. Next to it lie the feminine bone, which represents intuition in the future, and what’s going on in the world – unlike the masculine bone, which represents the physical here and now events. I will travel in hopes to understand the world.
He curled back into a fetal position and told me that big changes were coming for me. That I would be moving a lot soon and that I would be growing. He said I would be on this path alone, but that it was okay because I am more balanced on my own and can control my energies. People will try to dissuade me from taking the path my heart tells me to go but I shouldn’t listen to them. He saw a whirlwind of energy that would confront me soon that would seem to be blocking my path. If I become stressed, I must take a step back and ground myself before taking the next step forward down this path so I do not rush into anything. He said I would meet a man who would tell me stories and try to distract me from my path. This would be a challenge for me but if I stayed focused, I would be able to follow the path my heart wanted me to go. He said he saw power – I’m not sure if he meant this was power in myself or something related to my energy. Good things were coming my way, but I would be met with challenges. A big change would happen soon and I must prepare for it.
I’m open-minded but, by nature, a rationalist. Sure, this reading makes sense for most young women (or men) traveling through a foreign country that are interested in a reading. I showed up alone, so that was a clue that I’m independent. The world is full of changes between the pandemic and social and political unrest, big changes are inevitable. But to me, having a stranger tell me the thoughts I was having in my head was really cool. It was affirmative, if nothing else, that the chatter in my head was a story that would be told to me, about me. He could have told a story about lots of things that could apply to solo, young women – heartbreak, family relations, future love, or wealth. Instead, my story was just that, mine. I know big changes are about to happen. Though I feel like I’ve changed a lot over the last year, I know I’m not done yet and something big is coming. I know I will continue to change and move and travel the world and I’m always looking to learn more and grow. It was an experience I’m glad I opened myself to as I wrap up my time here in South Africa.
Today was my last day on the farm. Tomorrow morning, hopefully after one more quick ride on Shiva, I will get picked up by my three new brothers to climb our brains out in the next couple of weeks.
The last few weeks on the farm have been a lot of work that have left me physically and mentally exhausted. Fire breaks were a daily task and I had a scary experience of being caught between the flames and a barbed wire fence. In my panic to get out of the way, I caught my face on the fence – maybe it will scar and make me look like a badass. I chopped about a cord of wood with the axe for Karl since I’m leaving during a cold front and know he won’t have help for awhile. I spent extra time with the young horse I’ve been working with, Ghandi, and know a piece of my heart will be left behind with him. My flight home has been canceled and rescheduled twice, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to return for sure. In the meantime, I’m trying to maintain my energies and experience as much of this part of the world as I can.