BY CHANTÉ DYSON. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEUN IVORY.
I find that every time I sit down to write, I start off with a reflection about all that has been revealed to me since stepping into “adulthood” & using the critical skills gained in college to examine the world that I live in. For me, this is a ritual for my writing because I require structure and a process, and am only inspired by things that trigger something deep within my soul. I create and express my art from an authentic space and use the whirlwind that has become my life to guide me in the right direction when releasing my thoughts to you all. I remember taking a course in college about consumption & consumerism, and I myself, although educated on the topic, often find myself subjected to a limiting idea of humanism, where my value is determined solely by how much I am consuming and producing. Western culture pushes over-productivity, and I am grateful for the community at Black Girl In Om that has encouraged girls like myself to stop and check in with our inner selves. I currently do not operate on any routine and my schedule changes faster than my Gemini mind changes interests. After seeing the iconic film Black Panther, I was truly moved by the African influence and traditions depicted throughout each scene. The acknowledgement of the power of communication with our ancestors was beyond powerful to me. One particular line made me almost drop my large bucket of popcorn:
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ‘cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
We are all feeling the desire for more freedom and less constraints and limits on our humanity, especially as Black and Brown people of the Earth. Western society has failed us in the sense that mainstream society has adopted values and ideologies based on war, oppression, capitalism, consumerism, and white supremacy. I am thankful for social media because we are truly shaking the world up by using our voices and coming together to dismantle beliefs that do not serve us. When we join forces we learn to create our own realities and uplift each other on our own terms. In the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill, it’s freedom time y’all. I know that if I continue existing in this fast-paced life, consumed by dull Western beliefs and ideals, I will miss the true essence of what this life has to offer. You cannot escape this world’s evils, but you can alter your reality by focusing on the spirit. Here I offer 5 ways to use rituals as ways to connect to mother Africa. Your soul will thank you & the next generations will honor you for your wisdom.
1. Commune with your ancestors.
There is sacred knowledge & wisdom to be gained from one’s ancestors - the ones that you know who have raised, loved, and prayed over you, as well as the ones who have fought the long and hard fight to create better circumstances that you are living in right now. Our ancestors had infinite wisdom and knowledge, encouraging us to become one with nature.
“The ancient ways of the Khamitic people can teach all people how to become truly humane again. The Khamitic masters came to this realization by purifying their lives. Today, as we grow closer to our divine selves, this transformation can bring us to a state of constant bliss, peace, and wellness - Our ancestors learned how to combine and unite the elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit, and they continue to teach us their methods through the carvings and inscriptions on their temple wall.”
—Excerpt from "Sacred Woman" by Queen Afua
Communing with our ancestors can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Most people start off by creating an altar in the house. Your altar can include pictures of loved ones who have passed on, or even photos of your country of Origin. Many African-Americans suffer displacement issues by not knowing their specific roots back in Africa. It is painful to the self esteem to not know where one comes from. I encourage finding out your ancestry if you do not know, and you can include pictures of your origin country in your altar to bring in the ancestors of your homeland.
Other additions to include in an altar are candles, crystals, essential oils, feathers, ankhs, etc. Don’t feel like you have to be super specific with how you set up your altar; what is most important is your intention behind the Altar. I do not have a traditional altar in my home yet, but I do have a space for candles and crystals that I keep right next to my bed. Above my bed, I have feathers hanging down because for me, I can feel the spiritual guidance through feathers no matter where I am. Feathers represent “maintaining your balance throughout your journey no matter how fiercely the winds of life may blow.” When I am seeking clarity, I tend to ponder on which next move is best, and when I see a feather I am granted clarity and balance to continue living intentionally and with purpose. Do your research and find what works best for you and your spirit. Remember, it’s all about intentionality and the power is in your hands.
2. Bring back the value of community through dinner.
I remember my first visit to Africa. I traveled to Dakar, Senegal and stayed with my beautiful host family while they celebrated the end of Ramadan. I was a young girl, raised southern Baptist (if you know, then you know) and I was staying with this Muslim family who opened my eyes to some of the most beautiful ideas I’ve ever encountered. As we celebrated Eid, I noticed something special that I wanted to take back with me as I returned to the states. In Senegal, it is tradition when dining to eat from a large communal plate. A washing basin is passed around before dinner and everyone washes their hands. Everyone gathers around the communal basin and you are to eat from the section of the bowl that is in front of you. After dinner, it is common place for everyone to stay for at least a half hour to continue to build the personal relationship. Some hosts will serve tea and several communal bowls depending on the day. This value is truly lacking in our Western culture, and even something like dinner is a way to encourage more community in our lives instead of just eating in front of a draining television while glancing at our screens between each bite.
3. Channel Oshun & her beauty through...honey?
Oshun is one of the most popular and my personal favorite Orisha of the Yoruba tradition as she governs love and all of the sweet bodies of freshwater. She represents beauty, prosperity, love, sensuality, and fertility. A great offering to her is something sweet — honey is amazing. I have been learning more about Oshun & the Orishas and have committed to a nightly ritual of taking a soothing bath while basked in honey. This is an easy ritual you can start right away.
Make a spiritual bath: Pray over your bathwater, light candles/incense, and have soft music playing. Lather yourself in raw honey; known for its skin moisturizing benefits and antibacterial properties. Set your intention on channeling Oshun & embracing the divine feminine within.
4. Engage in consistent sacred movement.
Our ancestors used music and dance to heal and uplift the spirit. One way to express to the creator that you are grateful for your earth body is to celebrate it through sacred movement. Our people have always been dancers and used this art form to express joy, release energy, and fellowship with ancestors and the Divine. Sacred movement teaches us how to spiritualize matter. This ritual is important for creating harmony and bringing forth peace. Consider sensual/womb dance, African dance, or Caribbean dance to embrace that energy fully.
5. Embrace afrofuturistic art.
“Afrofuturism is not black sci-fi. It's not black fantasy. It's not an easily definable artistic genre but, rather, a sweeping, cultural aesthetic that examines issues around black representation, the black future and black agency using music, novels, visual media, history and myth to create something else entirely.”
One of my favorite up & coming musical artists is the dynamic duo known as Oshun. These ladies, hailing from Washington, DC (Aye DMV!) now living in Brooklyn are creating music that encompasses our traditional language, beliefs, dress, and sound, while putting a futuristic tone on things through their visuals to show us a brand new image of what our culture is and can be when we fully acknowledge our roots and live up to our purpose.
It isn’t easy to walk in authentic truth and purpose in this divisive and oppressive world, but we have each other, and we have the prayers and guidance from the ancestors who came before us. I encourage embracing these rituals into your everyday lives as it will truly bring peace and clarity to the soul, no matter where you are.
Chanté Dyson, originally born in Washington DC, is now a 2017 graduate of Rutgers University where she majored in Communications and Digital Media. She has followed BGIO for a while now, and was recently drawn to the opportunity to bring her editorial skills, that she’s developed in the fashion industry, to the wellness space, particularly for women of color. Chanté is passionate about women’s empowerment and believes that the work of BGIO will positively uplift, inspire, and raise the consciousness of her sisters globally. Her self-care go to is reading nonfiction and self help books. (She also loves exercise and the Headspace app).