We have a guest story from my close friend, creative and Sangoma – Terrie Molepo, who is also Gogo Madlazinyoka. Terrie’s pronouns are She/Her.
In this story she shares parts of her journey in ukuthwasa, healing herself and realigning with iDlozi after almost losing faith in her calling to be a Sangoma and healer.
Her story is particularly special to me because I have witnessed parts of it personally and I understand what it took for her to pen this down. I invite you to offer it your time and heart, and possibly receive some lessons and reassurance from it too.
As written by Terrie Molepo
No piece of writing has been more difficult to execute than this. I’ve written difficult things before but this one takes the cup. In it I attempt to write about a subject that I still feel dribbled by and always come out as the loser – well that’s what I think in my head.
In 2021 I set out on a journey to find myself and become more aligned. Find myself? Was I even lost to me? I don’t know, I just knew I needed to do something because I was operating from a place that was unsustainable and always left me feeling like I lacked.
I walked into iphehlo at the tender age of 22. I was a baby. We rarely discuss the trauma of iphehlo – suddenly strange things are happening to you and you feel like you are losing your mind. The next thing you are leaving your home to live at a stranger’s home for as long as it will take for you to get better.
To give you context, I had my first Dlozi episode in July of 2009. I can’t even explain how I lost my job at the end of the very same month and entered iphehlo in October before I could even wrap my mind around what was happening to me and my life. In hindsight I am glad it all happened when it did because knowing me, I would have delayed the process to research it and I probably wouldn’t have gone. Good move on iDlozi’s part, but trauma for me.
Fast forward into the next year, 2010, when I come back home – a young Sangoma who had no clue what they were doing or what they needed to do. I had a life that I was living before leaving for iphehlo and I was determined to resume with it as soon as possible. At the time, being a visible Sangoma online was still taboo as the practice was still regarded as sacred, whatever that meant then. Ukuthwasa and practicing are two different things – I came back home and thought that my Ndumba should be as busy as my Gobela’s Ndumba and that since I was now a Sangoma, I should practice. That was not the case and at the time I lacked the foresight to deal with the situation. Not even iphehlo prepares you for the need to consistently practice being a Sangoma with rituals like ukuphahla and going to the river. Nobody teaches you that the little voice inside of you which is commonly know as intuition can also be amaDlozi speaking to you.
I was young and impatient; not having a busy Ndumba was all the excuse I needed to pack everything away and resume with the life I lived before iphehlo. I moved through my 20’s aimlessly and at dizzying speeds. It seemed like I was always moving in the same spot and not necessarily progressing – being stuck in dead end jobs, failed romantic relationships and failed attempts of self-development through academic studies. As I approached my 30s, I wanted all of that to change, I yearned for a purposeful life that had a sense of direction and accomplishments. The subject of iDlozi became touchy and unapproachable because that was the relationship that I had developed with that aspect of my life, I could not discuss with myself if I was still a Sangoma or not. I’ve heard stories of people burning their bones or throwing them in the river along with other Dlozi artifacts they collected. The only reason I did not do this is because I remembered how tough intwaso yam was and how magical the moment was too. For a week or two after intwaso, every time I left my Gobela’s yard, I would come back with a bone that would go into my bag; as lost as I was, that reassured me that iDlozi likhona, liyaphila.
When I hit 30, I fetched impande, umtuntu and my bag of bones from my mother’s house and brought them to my current place of residence. I remember unpacking these in the vacant room that my cousin used to occupy. I remember wanting to be aligned with iDlozi and being unsure on what that looked like or what it fully meant. What I did know is that the first step towards being aligned is wanting to operate from a place of guidance and leading a purposeful life with Modimo le Badimo. iDlozi said “say no more,” and my journey towards alignment took off.
It started with me having a sit down with my dad and addressing all the issues that the young child in me wanted to tell an emotionally unavailable parent, this was the most daunting and yet liberating thing I could’ve done for myself. I may not have walked away with a mended relationship per se, but I walked away spiritually and emotionally lighter from all the baggage I was carrying around, which had seeped into every aspect of my life. I had held back changing my surname in the toxic emotional chess game I was playing with my dad – it was a couple of months after our conversation that I finally changed my surname to his. He had taken out lobola for my mother when I was two years old and they even had a traditional wedding, they just never got around to changing my surname. I proceeded to register for my fourth attempt at a degree after dropping out of the University of Johannesburg during the first semester of first year – this failure caused me my worst bout of depression at the time and hung like a dark cloud over my head; I wanted to remedy this. Through all these intentional shifts that I was making, I was also cultivating a relationship with iDlozi through river visits and ukuphahla to ask for guidance on the next steps I should take.
I had visited a friend’s church once after dreaming about it, but I didn’t go back for no real reason other than not feeling connected and reducing that to me not being a church person – little did I know (this where we all LOL). Now that communication lines between iDlozi and I were more deliberate and intentional, I was shown that I should go back to church. My biggest concern with this was that I had recently identified as trans and had started living my life, fully, as the woman I felt I was in my spirit. iDlozi insisted I go. Remember that little voice I spoke about? That was the one speaking to me. I wore a white dress, a white doek and took my white sphika with me to church that Sunday as someone who once never believed that they had moya wa kereke. That day I walked into the church, found a little corner and two hymns in I was bawling my eyes out. I wasn’t even sad, but this overwhelming sensation to just cry came over me. I realised then that, “oh this is go tshwara ke moya” – I surprised myself with this realisation. A few months later I was a uniform wearing member of the church, mme wa se aparo – iDlozi was right, I did not experience any discrimination as I expected.
At about the same time that I was finally giving attention to moya, clients started coming to my Ndumba and it finally started to become the place of spiritual guidance that I had envisioned it to be.
The year 2021 was my last year of completing my degree and I also knew that my time with my employer had also come to an end. It was time to move from just having a job that pays the bills to building a meaningful and purposeful career – things aligned to my branding and marketing qualification. I was not going to study hard for four years and not take the necessary leap of faith knowing Modimo le Badimo have my back. Part of my plan was to start a fast-food business and expand on my plus size women clothing business. A lot of money and time went into the businesses, and I will be the first person to tell you that things don’t always go as planned no matter how much you can pray and phahla for them. My car broke down, putting a halt to my fast-food business, and I had neglected the clothing business because school and the fast-food business had consumed me. I ended 2021 on a sour and depressed note because of this. Usually when I was faced with such situations where my life and world were crumbling, I would turn my back on iNdumba, feeling like they [my ancestors] had turned their backs on me too. Now that I understood that life happens, I instead leaned more into ukuphahla and prayer instead of just giving up.
The year is now 2022 – I turned 35 this year and five years ago I started the journey to transform my life. I had said that by the time I turn 40 I want to be in a better place emotionally, spiritually and financially. In May I officially graduate with a BA in Strategic Brand Communication (HIGH FIVE to me from all of us) and I am at the beginning stages of building a career in the branding and marketing industry – it is very exciting and scary all at the same time. I also want to incorporate my passion projects, which is my writing and YouTube channel, into my career.
I recently looked at a photo of when I set up my Ndumba for the first time after fetching my things from mom’s place; my things looked so small and unsure in the spacious room that they were occupying. Today my Ndumba has an interesting display of my different coloured church dresses and iziphika. On one side of my Ndumba is a bamboo bookshelf that mostly has my African literature collection – I am an avid reader first before I am anything else. On the other side of the room are ring lights and a camera stand for my YouTube channel, which is another part of me that I cherish.
I had said that I wanted iNdumba to guide me and to operate from its guidance, now when I look at it, many aspects of who I am operate from within it. I was recently shown a new form of divination to add to my using bones. It was sparked from reading a novel titled The Water Dancer that was sitting in my Ndumba; I had bought it two or three years ago. In it, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that the protagonist uses conduction, a combination of using memory and water, to physically move enslaved people to their freedom – it is a novel with a sci-fi magical theme. Shortly after finishing it I was told to go to the water and perform a particular task, after doing that I had a dream about how I was going to start using water in my consultations. Crazy, right? Yep, very crazy- haha! Six years ago, I would have shrugged this off in the same way I shrugged off going to church. What helped me not to shrug it off this time around was my quest for alignment. I realised that how iDlozi communicates with me is unique to me and it is my job to listen and not second guess the guidance because therein lies the tension of wanting guidance but being doubtful when it comes (typical human behaviour).
I have also realised that iDlozi will speak to me in signs that are easily understood by me. I now realize that my quest for alignment was in fact my quest for healing. I now sit in my Ndumba as a better person who has braved the journey of healing past traumas and seeks deeper meaning with self and Modimo le Badimo. That is the running theme in my consultations as well; everyone wants alignment and deeper connection. I may not currently be where I want to be, but I know the path is better lit now, it is illuminated with good intentions from iDlozi always wanting the best for me and wanting me to strive for my full potential. It is also my duty to trust the process and know iDlozi will never lead me astray if I listen truthfully and intently.
All the things we want iDlozi will give to us, provided they are good for us and add value to us. Our job is ukuhlala ethembeni, live with hope that all that’s good is coming and working our way towards it because anything worth having requires work. I am filled with hope about the future and better equipped for life. Twelve years after accepting my calling and walking into iphehlo I feel more aligned, I feel like iDlozi and I are no longer at opposing ends of the same stick. We are one and we are operating for, and with, my best interests at heart in service and honour of the gifts I came bearing into this realm.
Lesedi le Kganya. Ndawo!
Terrie on Twitter: @Terri_talks
Terrie on Instagram: @Terri_talks
Terrie’s YouTube channel: Terrie Talks
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