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Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (Compass) Paperback – May 1, 1995


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Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman (Compass) + Ritual: Power, Healing and Community (Compass) + The Healing Wisdom of Africa
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Product Details

  • Series: Compass
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140194967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140194968
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born in West Africa in the early 1950s--the author is indefinite about the year--Some was kidnapped at age four by a French Jesuit missionary to be trained as a priest, for the next 15 years enduring the harsh regimen of a seminary where his native language and tribal traditions were systematically suppressed. At age 20 he escaped, but when he returned to his Dugara people in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) they rejected him as an outsider. To reconnect with his native culture, Some underwent a month-long initiation into shamanism during which he reports that he journeyed to the underworld, became a bird, then a porcupine and was buried alive. A self-described "man of two worlds," Some, who holds a doctoral degree in political science from the Sorbonne and one in literature from Brandeis, is a speaker at men's movement conferences in the US. This vivid autobiography takes readers into a world of black magic, palpable spirits, walking dead people, force fields, transdimensional journeys--a world as strange as anything in imaginative fiction. QPB selection; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Some, who was born about 1956 in Upper Volta, was close to his shaman grandfather. But this relationship and his tribal way of life was destroyed when, at age four, he was kidnapped by a French Jesuit missionary and raised in a seminary, from which he escaped at age 20. Returning home to his Dagara village, he was viewed by some as too tainted by white knowledge and ways to be able to join fully in tribal life; nevertheless, he underwent an intensive and dangerous six-week shamanic initiation that thoroughly established him as a member of the tribe. Later, he was dismayed to learn his destiny as revealed in divination and decreed by tribal elders: to return to the white world as a bridge to save his tribe from complete inculturation. This fascinating autobiography illustrates the profound culture clashes between Western civilization and indigenous cultures. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

What an amazing writer Malidoma is!
Ty Clement
It brings the reader into intimate contact with a culture so mysterious, so remarkable and so decimated by the Catholic church and western ideas of civilization.
KAY T.
The only way he can be truly accepted as one of his people - the Dagara - is to undergo a dangerous and possibly deadly initiation.
Zhana21

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Phil Rogers on March 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Things Malidoma experienced as a young boy around the time of his grandfather's death and subsequent funeral make Carlos Casteñeda's and Lynn Andrews' 'accounts' seem rather sanitized, maybe even contrived (especially evident in the case of Andrews). Plus the man is far more of a poet, a seer and a deep philosophical thinker than these others. You'll not find a better writer on matters mystical and religious probably anywhere, at least not in the 'confessional/autobiographical' literature.
Then again, herein are so many quotable passages that you could meditate on to form the beginnings of a new personal philosophy, it's really quite stunning. And it all seems like it equally extends from your own body and heart. This is in contradistinction, say, to a well-written but rather dry and compartmentalized account such as J. S. Danquah's 'The Akan Doctrine of God'*, which is more meant for those who enjoy the scholarly treatise, but might never wish to imagine themselves venturing into village life.
Malidoma was kidnapped by the local priest a couple of days after his father was installed as clan leader, soon after his grandfather's death. He was only 4 years old. He does not pull any punches in detailing the horrible physical and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of these churchly personages, who made him and other young kidnapees and orphans total slaves to their colonialist/catechumenical education system. After over 16 years of this, the young man escaped and managed to walk back to his village over a hundred miles away. The remainder of the book is a very detailed and intense re-telling of selected experiences he was party to during his subsequent clan initiation. This constitutes the last 100 pages or so of the book.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By kaioatey on September 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the recent years there has been a surge of interest in indigenous tribal life and practices, as Western peoples start to feel the stirrings of their own indigenous tribal souls and go looking for answers to those who still possess the connection with the Land and the Spirit. While a lot has been published about Native American (both North and South), Tibetan, Altaic, Celtic etc. tribal life, rather little is known about Africa. Malidoma Some's book therefore provides a welcome and highly inspiring contribution.
With this book Malidoma ('Be Friends With the Enemy') creates a bridge into a world where a person's life is linked inextricably to the breathing of his village and where his destiny interlocks with that of his ancestors, his children and the rhythms of nature. It is a world imbued with meaning; the Dagara share it with tree and animal spirits, with supernatural entities (the kontomble, the "star people") and with ancestors who provide guidance and support. Malidoma also addresses topics of universal importance to all of us. What is a complete human being? Why does one need to be "initiated" into living in order to be "real"? How do we awaken and use all the resources stored in the "inner museum of our being"; what is the role of mystery and awe in the unfolding of our destinies and how does one learn to become available to them?
The book is written along the lines of ancient storytelling, and in a flowing delicate prose which radiates human warmth and respect for life. MS does a great job in depicting the Dagara as a spiritually aware people still attuned to their roots and their land.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Carine Fabius on September 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
With this book, Malidoma Patrice Some opens the door to a whole new way of looking at the world; one in which spirits (ancestor and otherwise), magic, wisdom and community come together as one. I was mesmerized by this story and by the possibility it presented for a deeper understanding of this life and how it can be lived. Hold on to your hat!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Brian Ziegler on October 23, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book brought me to places of wonder that I vaguely remember as a child. Even though my upbringing was western and dramatically different, there were times where I found myself strongly identifying with his experiences. I look to his story as a model of how to function in the world with integrity. A beautifully written story of bringing one's soul fully into incarnation. I was deeply touched and moved.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Loves Salsa on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Malidoma's life alone was a mini-representation of our entire experience as Afro-americans. He was kidnapped as a child from his Dagaran village and raised in a Christian missionary school. His own father was somewhat responsible for his kidnapping, because against the will of the elders, his father became friends with a Christian pastor and allowed him into the village (sound familiar?). One day, the pastor came and grabbed Malidoma without a word and took him to the missionary school (he was stolen, but he had access to the village...who's to blame? Sounds like the current debate :). Malidoma was subjected to all types of abuse as he was force to think as a European. There were European AND African teachers taking part in the brain-washing (sound familiar?). He was put into quarters with African boys from all over...many didn't even speak his native tongue (sound familiar?). As he and his new friends became older...they started to become more aware of their situation and the oppression. They remembered the pain and suffereing of the past and became rebellious. Although they had a small union, most of the other boys were too afraid to fight and some were even convinced that the Euro-education they received although through force, was a blessing that placed them above their "inferior" past (!). One day Malidoma struck out against a preist during class and ran away from the mission. He managed to walk nearly 300 miles back to his village that he wasn't even sure existed anymore. I was a long and HARD journey (!) and he finally arrived...only to realize just how "white" he had become (!). He was no longer a Dagaran...BUT fortunately his elders decided to give him a chance.Read more ›
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