Hey BeautifulMess fam,
I’m bringing you something a little different with this blog post. This time around we have a guest! Her name is Lebogang Mokgethi and she is a Sangoma. I will refer to her as uGogo, as we do eDlozini.
uGogo generously agreed to share parts of how her ancestral journey developed. What she thought was her own choice to study Archaeology in varsity turned out to be an intentional influence from her ancestors.
I asked uGogo to share her story so that you can get a view of how diverse amaDlozi can be in leading us to our truths and purpose. My favourite thing about this story is how Gogo’s ancestors used a Western institution’s resources and space to not only reach her, but to teach her some of the principles that she would go on to use in her healing work as iSangoma. She was basically on her own ancestral course within the main course.
Read Gogo’s story below.
As written by Lebogang Mokgethi:
I was born in Soweto, Johannesburg, raised there by a single mom who had me when she was 19 years old. I was also raised by my grandmother and uncles. We all lived in my grandmother’s house in White City, Soweto. Imagine, so many of us crammed in a two roomed house, and we made it work. That was my shelter and haven. I did not even realise that I was considered poor until I got to a multiracial school and was invited to a sleepover. That house was so huge, and we all had our own bedrooms to sleep in (I never had my own bedroom- let alone a bed of my own).
I honestly never lacked anything, and I was taught to prioritise getting an education. I became the first person in my family to get a degree- which then motivated my uncles to go back to school and study. We have come far as a family. That two-room house in White City gave rise to doctors, entrepreneurs, academics, and of course indigenous healers.
The Unexpected Initiation
I initially wanted to be a biomedical doctor, but my first hospital admission made me realise that I didn’t have the heart for it. I then wanted to explore the Amazon jungle (National Geographic did crazy doccies back in the day and I was obsessed with the Amazon jungle; in fact, I think I still am).
It was when I started watching Bones, the TV series, that I knew that I had found my craft. I wanted to become a Forensic Archaeologist and study human remains for the rest of my life. It made sense.
This was disappointing to my family. My mom wanted me to be an Accountant (which made sense because I could ace Accounting without even studying), my other uncle wanted me to be an Attorney (he was trying to live vicariously through me), and the other one who was also living vicariously through me wanted me to become a Chemical Engineer. Come to think of it, they didn’t even know what a Forensic Archaeologist does. I still think they don’t know.
Archaeology is the study of human history and material culture through excavations and robust analysis of artefacts and remains. That is the broader umbrella term of it. Archaeology has many sub-branches such as forensic archaeology, ethnoarchaeology and cultural archaeology (which is similar to social anthropology as well). When I got to varsity, I knew that my majors would be Archaeology and Anthropology. I had a plan. My Honours, Masters and Doctrate would be in Archaeology as well.
Yoh, I got to Wits University and learnt about rock art, material culture, stone tools, history of archaeology, history curatorship, human evolution- you name it. I then I got bored. The only thing I loved was human remains and the practicals. I think I had to study Archaeology to learn and understand material culture as that has contributed immensely to my spiritual journey as well as that of my patients, but it was not really something I was destined to go into.
We would have annual field school where we would go up into remote areas and mountains on an Indiana Jones-like mission, and guess what I would always find? Bones! It was also during this field school in Clarens, Free State, that we spent some time with indigenous healers. I was singled out and told about my calling. This wasn’t the first time; I first learnt about my calling in Grade 12 when my uncle took me to Zion Christian Church (ZCC).
Western Education Meets Dlozi Education
The Archaeology course was so easy & effortless. I could tell the story of a person without even conducting a full lab analysis on the sample. It was fun. In third year the script changed as I was introduced to Medical Anthropology- a discipline that looks at health and healing from biomedical and indigenous perspectives. I fell in love and knew that I had found my major.
Human remains – These were my favourite thing to study.
Rock art – This module was not nice. What’s funny is that rock art stories are similar encounters we have with the spiritual world. I hated learning about pottery, however it taught me how to understand patterns and link them to geographic locations as well as the origins thereof. Did you know that you can trace back one’s lineage by analysing the shapes and patterns they see through dreams? Hahaha. I feel like my ancestors were initiating me through western knowledge and discourse.
Development of archaeological thought- I hated this one the most.
Dendrochronology- I learnt how to study the age of material culture using trees. This came in handy ephehlweni when I was able to tell which trees were old, and which were young.
Analysing soil sediments- This gave great insight on climate changes in a particular environment.
Histories of indigenous people- I loved this one! One can reflect and look at how indigenous people are intertwined in terms of shared beliefs and customs. We are all doing the same thing, just using different words.
Overall, my Anthropology and Archaeology course led me to my calling, hahahaha!
The calling became aggressive after the Clarens encounter with the healers. The fact that I decided to play under a fountain didn’t help either. I always thought that it would just go away if I ignored it. The fact that I went to thwasa when I was in postgrad, and officially a Medical Anthropologist in the making, made my initiation easier because the Anthropology department was supportive.
My journey ephehlweni made me reflect on my academic journey as a whole. All the things I learnt in Archaeology came in handy.
The Dlozi Journey
I initially went to thwasa in 2016 and I soon realised that I was in a place of hell. To be fair, I was not sent there by my ancestors. I went because I just wanted to get it over and done with and I figured that going to a family friend would be a wise decision. NOT SO WISE!!!
Granted I was a sickly person, however I soon noticed that my eyesight was becoming a problem, and my then gobela would blame me for it. Long story short, I left and went on a mission to seek the house I initially dreamt of in 2005. My calling transpired, or rather showed itself, through illnesses. Come to think of it, after I dreamt of that house, I started getting sick. I would have incessant fibroids, cysts and eventually a burst appendix (each operation would then have its own complications).
I had problems with my reproductive health system and was put on the pill to try and regulate my hormone. The cysts kept on growing and I developed pulmonary embolism because of blood clots caused by contraceptive. Mjolo was also the worst because I would date weird characters and the relationships would always be short-lived. Oh yes, I also headaches too. It took a trip to the ZCC with my uncle to eventually know about my calling.
More About Lebogang
Lebogang is a young person much like any other. I love questioning things- I literally question everything (this is also annoying as I have seen that my son has become a questioner of life too). I love interacting with different groups of people. I love learning and understanding people. I believe I have an open mind and love trying out new things. Lebo is a lover of life, a modern-day Aristotle, and a drinker of gin. I am also a mother to an awesome boy, and a kick ass girlfriend, hahahaha!
Lebo, the healer, is a protector. My first instinct would be to protect and guide spiritually vulnerable people. I am also a counsellor. I honestly did not think that I could be so compassionate as a person until I became an official healer. As a healer I am also a teacher- I strongly believe in teaching patients the tools of self-actualization by connecting with the spirit. My passion is to impart much needed knowledge and tools to patients who are often confused and scared of what is going on in their lives. I don’t believe in rushing to administer herbal treatments without healing the psyche of the wounded patient. Illness is not just healed through medicine- healing is a journey and I want to journey with my patients beyond consultations and treatments, until they become independent spiritual bodies.
My area of specialisation lies within educating patients and bringing them closer to their ancestors. Some become initiates, others become initiates elsewhere. I believe that my ancestors use me as a catalyst to unlock the callings and purposes of others.
I want to contribute to the decolonization of education and health care; and create spaces of inclusion for previously disadvantaged and marginalised people. I am passionate about educating people about spirituality from an African lens; and being the epitome of my ancestors vision.
I’ve learnt that we really are more than just the physical and that if we neglect the spiritual, it tends to show itself in the physical world that we live in. I have also learnt that we are all confused and looking for answers and that we should be kinder to each other. Another thing that I have learnt is that there is always room to grow. What I am most proud of is being the one who decolonised my family and opened them up to African spirituality. I am proud that my ancestors have chosen to use me as their biggest vindication.
Lebogang went on to complete her academic research paper, with its focus being around traditional ancestral initiation – ukuthwasa. To see it, click HERE
Lebogang on Twitter: @Ms_LebouxM