My Spiritual Awakening in Godeni

By Daniel Dominguez

Having grown up in a Catholic household, I learned a lot about religion, when I was married and post-divorce I was a practicing Christian. Having realized that I never fit in with that culture three years ago, I became spiritually awake and opened myself up to more in the world. My willingness to learn spiritually became helpful in Ha-Makuya as I felt my spirit grown in the short span of 3 days, but also made me realize I have much to learn.

The first night in my homestay in Godeni we heard singing in the distance, I asked our translator Joel what that sound was, and he said it was a church hymn and asked if I would like to attend a Zion Christian church service. Alex, Jenn, Nolan, and I were intrigued by experiencing a church service in South Africa, and we began our walk down the dirt road with a plethora of children following us. When we were two houses away from the church, our translator dismissed our children telling us that they could not come with us into the church.

As we opened the gate to the house where the church service was taking place, the chorus became much louder. We walked up the driveway and around the corner, we saw about twenty people sitting down on plastic chairs and one man standing at a podium. Everyone slowly turned and saw us, and it grew quiet. Feeling like we interrupted, the silence became awkward; the Prophet turned to us and welcomed us to take a seat. We slowly walked to the back row and sat down. As the service continued, however, there was a woman on the floor crying. The Prophet welcomed us as visitors and began to tell the tale of David and Goliath. He instructed that we should take our efforts to conquer those who oppress us in our lives.

Then began something I have never personally seen: he waved his arms, and a woman began to fall to the floor like he was pushing the evil out of someone. A circle began to form, and people came up to exorcise their demons within them. They would lean into the arms of someone, and he would hit them in the belly and forehead screaming “fire, Jesus” repeatedly and then he would command the demon to leave the body. One woman began to gag as if she was going to throw it up, but she never did. As they continued they reached for Nolan. I went up behind him to make sure that he would be ok; he fell into my arms and began to growl. They reached for me next. Our translator came to me to grab my eyeglasses off my head to make sure they didn’t break. As the Prophet began to push me back by off-balancing me, he began to command my demons to come out from me. I could not feel anything within me, but he did not hit me like the others. After a couple of minutes, he let me go and continued. After the mass ended I asked Nolan why he began to growl, but he did not know. It may be that because of the beliefs that I grew up with, I did not give power in a way for the Prophet to expel my demons. I did, on the other hand, have a feeling of belonging while the Prophet spoke during ceremony. As we reflected at home we grew excited as the next day we were going to visit the Sangoma, the traditional healer that harmonizes with the living and the dead to heal your ailments and woes.

After our fruit, peanut butter, and toast breakfast, we asked our translator to take us to visit the Sangoma. We arrived at a house that looked like the rest in the village, we met the Sangoma, and she informed us that we were to wait for another group to arrive so that we could do the readings with them. In the meantime, we could ask her any questions we had. We requested to learn how she became a Sangoma; she informed us that it came to her in a dream and she was called to become one, and not doing so would make her ancestors mad at her. She trained with another Sangoma who verified that she had received the calling. She then had to collect the specific bones and pelts of animals that came into her dreams. I asked if she believed in God and she gave me an unexpected answer, she practiced Christianity until receiving her calling to be a Sangoma. However, still believing in God, she believes God guided her to become a Sangoma. When we asked if she could heal anything, she answered that not all things could be treated through her. When there was a disease that could not be cured by the bones, she sent them to a clinic because certain ailments could only be healed through conventional means.

We then began our consultations, and as she made her way around the room, I did not know what I wanted to ask her and then all of a sudden, I did. She threw my bones and right off the bat she told me that I had something in my heart that was weakening it. She said that I would become a wealthy man and that I would make my money helping the communities. Then she told me that I needed to return to church, the wisdom I had would be of use there and with the communities. I was asked if there was anything that I wanted to ask for the bones to reveal, I asked if she could see my child that passed away and if he was happy with me. She threw the bones and told me she could not see my child but that my heart was weak like she had told me. I asked if she could heal my weary soul, she consulted the bones, and I was told she could not treat my soul with the herbs that she had, but that only time could heal my wounds. That was all that was on my mind, and we finished the consultation. As we left the house, I began to reflect on the two very different experiences I had been through and how I could grow from them.

I asked Joel if the Zionists would be willing to accept the Sangoma in their church, he said that they would not because it was the devil’s work. The Sangoma believed otherwise, and this became a contradictory statement, I am sure that not all Sangomas believed in God like this, but she did. The Sangoma was willing to accept that part of her life, but the rest of the church was not willing to accept her back. I was ready to accept her and her lifestyle, but I left the church to grow myself spiritually. I reflected on my own beliefs and my contradictory behavior, I willingly trusted the Sangoma with an open heart; something that I did not do with the Prophet. My own biased might have reflected in how I viewed the practices of the Prophet and his followers. I may have closed the spiritual door with the Christians, and it may have reopened a crack with the Sangoma. From now on I will open myself to the many spiritual paths of the world so that I may continue to grow, maybe that’s what the Sangoma meant by telling me to return to church; the fact that I should return to being open to all forms of spirituality.

Natalie Miller