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The African Wheel - What Type Are You?

by Malidoma Somé
Edited Excerpts from a Lecture at Rollins College,
Winter Park, Florida, March 1995


Dagara Wheel

The Dagara tribe of West Central Africa successfully categorize their people into five different categories: fire, water, mineral, earth and nature. These are shown above on the African Wheel with the colors the Dagara normally associate with each type. Each of the five types of people play a very specific role. Every person born into this world comes from one of these categories in order to help fulfill the kind of function that that category of people is supposed to fulfill in order to keep the community together.

There are certain people that are referred to as "fire" people and these people are connected with the element named fire. Symbolically these people are supposed to be the link between the village and the world of the ancestors. They are supposed to be the ones that function as conduits through whom ancestral energy is passed on to the village. Therefore, more often than not, the kind of perception that they are linked to is dreaming. Their dream world is, so to say, very enriched. Their so called "intuition" is also very rich, and so is their perceptiveness.

It is not difficult to tell whether you have fire energy or not. If you don't dream, be careful. If you dream, still be careful, :) because either way something has happened. The important thing is to be very alert to the detailed images that are coming to you (in dreams). This is why you need fire people with an ability to help other people who encounter these images to be able to know how to deal with them. The Dagara do not encounter a strange dream experience, and then wake up acting as if it had been a spectacle, a movie. Instead they take action. If you do not know what action to take, then you go find somebody who can help you find out. It is a participant attitude. A lot of times when you don't know what to do, you are advised to tell Spirit that you would like to do something, but you don't know what to do. This is considered acting on it. But it is not acting on it to think about it as some kind of interesting view. It is not supposed to be interesting, it is supposed to be effective. It is supposed to be something real.

We also have people that are called the "water" people. These people are usually considered the peacemakers. They are the ones with the ability to reconcile differences, both differences within the self and differences with one another. Therefore, when there is conflict, they say "Well, is there a water person around?" Not that a water person is supposed to come and hose the people :), but because there is a general understanding that if you have a conflict with someone, and a water person shows up, you have got to take that into account. You have got to postpone shooting one another! :) So a water person may be referred to as a reconciler, one that brings peace back, and the one that also helps maintain the serene nature of village life.

To these people you add what are called the "earth" people, who are directly a reflection of earth energy search. There function is to empower people, to nurture people, to make them feel at home. One of the challenges of existence is to constantly have a way to tell that we are welcome. Another one is to be able to be seen the way we are. If the world around us truly sees us, we have an opportunity to build hope. Otherwise, we tend to draw a circle. So therefore earth people are expected to be the ones that bring the best out of others, give them a sense of belonging, a sense of home.

To these three categories we add another one which is referred to as "mineral." Mineral is what I was basically referring to when I talked earlier about memory existing in the bone. Mineral people are referred to in English slang as "real story tellers." In a non-literate culture these people are equipped with a baffling memory, a powerful memory. They have all of the stories. Not just generic kinds of stories that are easy and mythological, but also genealogic stories, mechanic stories, stories of the kind that address the issue of creation.

Certain things have the power to produce healing within us provided that we remember them. Just like certain kinds of illness can only grow inside of us if we maintain silence around them. The same way the ability to remember something releases that thing into an energy form capable of making a lot of difference in our lives. That's what mineral people do, and what mineral energy as such is capable of producing within individuals.

The last one we call "nature." The nature people are also referred to as the "witches." I know the Western world doesn't like the word witches. They have killed a few of them over time. :) Probably they intend to kill some more. :) But the point is, a witch is really a great thing to have, because this is what we call nature energy in its purest form. In my village for instance, the tree that we see is not a fixed thing that stays there for several hundred years. The tree is probably the most mobile consciousness that we can tap into. There is no real clear English way of demonstrating a,b,c why . . . why the tree can be the most mobile thing. But believe it or not, this is the way it is. The Dagara people believe in a certain hierarchy in consciousness. The highest consciousness is the vegetable world, the nature world, trees. The second is the animal world, and the third one is us. :) So we are trailing behind. :)

Therefore a nature person is considered to be extremely important. That person knows the book of nature in such a way that they have the key to the evolution of our consciousness. The jungle is itself a decipherable book. When you look at nature it appears to be chaos, but you can perceive patterns in the chaos. If you only see chaos in nature it is a reflection of the chaos inside yourself. There is a very perfect order in nature. Understanding this kind of order is understanding the cosmic phenomenon. This is why, more often than not, indigenous people want to keep nature the way it is. Modification of it deletes an opportunity to decipher a very potent hieroglyphics. Perhaps this is why the modern world looks upon the indigenous as people who are not evolved, people who are primitive. In this context primitive is a reductionist word which does not depict the reality as it is, only the importance of being called primitive.

Nature itself, and the people associated with it, are supposed to be ones to bring the best out of a place. They makes us understand what change, transformation and adaptation means. Humans have a great chance of avoiding being caught in the hell of illness if they improve their ability to change this time, if they improve their ability to transform, just like nature does: when spring comes, everything comes to life, whereas before it was winter and everything looked like it was dead. Those changes allow for the kind of validity that our psyche needs in order to expand. I am just saying that illness, some of the causes of illness, comes from resisting something . . . . . maybe either resisting change, or resisting ourselves. These concepts are not all that alien. It is just that somehow we need to give them a new stamp, a brand new state of approval, so that they can become more participant in day to day life, in our work.

Traveling across this country with my wife Sobonfu, and working with people on a variety of issues, one of things that we have discovered, is that, in the absence of a true community, that is to say, a context in which people can come together and share the kind of things that they have in common, what happens is that a person who is really finding his or her psyche expanding (you can call that a "spiritual awakening" if you want), is really thrown into the kind of world that I live in. It is like being thrown into two worlds. The conservative world does not recognize this kind of awakening. Therefore you find yourself at odds with everything else. At best you are looked at us as a "weird" person. I looked up this word in the Oxford dictionary, and found out, that actually, its not bad. :) It is not bad to be weird. :) It actually means originally "being wired." So basically, your come to understand that it means that you are powered up. :) So somehow those people who wake up with the spirit and think that it is diminishing to be called weird, they should really come together and celebrate being weird. :)

Recognition of one's own self hood is now entering the public arena. I believe that a new global village, or global tribe, is now creating itself. Who is orchestrating this? I don't know, but I have a great sense that indeed there are lots of souls perceiving this who are very serious about waking up into something that will give us the greatest chance to survive. This is why some people have to admit to being weird, and to take it to the next step, wherever that next step is.

Of course, that will mean eventually stepping aside for a while from the rather imperialistic tendencies of the mind, and allowing the heart and soul to do the thinking for a while. What may be yielded in there will contain some more exciting material. I know it is very difficult for a mind accustomed to telling us what to do, a mind accustomed to judging every new step we take, to relinquish control to a heart and soul that is beyond logic. But waking up into spirit means saying good bye to old logic. The kind of logic that is being constructed by the mind becomes quite inadequate. This is what the heart keeps telling us very regularly because the feeling of the heart cannot be mapped by the ego.

Now this may seem too far fetched, but I'm trying to catalogue some of the key places where modern people differ from the indigenous world. The indigenous world view and wisdom could be useful to modern people who have slipped into the other side without knowing what happened. I think that it is a blessing to wake up feeling that somehow there is a pull towards some serious, deep confirmation. . . . .

If you become open to layers and layers of dimensional reality, and have a way to embrace it, your life will be kept constantly exciting. Anything that is out there in normal reality, however glamorous it seems to be at first, after being in the midst of it for a while, sooner or later, it stops being glamorous to your eye. Your eyes get tired of looking at it. Somehow the excitement runs out. But in spirit world you really never get enough of it, because there is so much that is not discovered. I can retell my life story for you to see that these things are exciting, but what is important is that there is a combination between excitement and fear. They go together. If something is clearly mapped out from the beginning, then 60% of this excitement is out. It is a known territory. What kind of excitement is there in that? But that which you jump into without prior, complete knowledge of the various steps you are going to have to go through, that is likely to be exciting. . . . .

The important thing is that we have to accelerate this kind of initiative because of the kind of responsibility that is always linked to this awakening. It is not just for the heck of it that someone wakes up into this kind of reality. It is for a specific kind of responsibility. It has to do with contributing to the global healing that is becoming crucial for the future of the world that we live in. So the faster one opens oneself up for this reality, the better it is going to be. This is not a private planet. It is a community initiative. . . . . .

We have come to a kind of intersection, an intersection which is very crucial in the history of our world. Everywhere people say that great change is coming. The little experience I have had traveling across this country has revealed that there are lots of people who are craving for a deeper connection. This is not something that anyone should take lightly because what it means is that somehow allot of us are already picking up signals that are coming from deeper space, or somewhere around us, I don't know. These people are therefore privileged because they are awake enough to record the message. Their task is to be able to begin sending the message back. Their task is to start talking back, not take it out to other people who may still be a sleep, to tell them, listen, I picked up this message, what do you think? Well, they are going to think that you are weird. : ) Then send you back home, after charging you for the hour. :) Then you find yourself thinking that maybe he's right. :) Maybe you're weird, and therefore you're very confused. So again this just scrambles the channels. Recording the news means to keep the lines open. It is a real loss when spirit dials our number and finds out that we wouldn't listen. :) Every time its busy, some major thing passes us, walks away.

This is why I try and say in what ever way I can, that expanding our consciousness right now is not something to take like a hobby. It is something that should become the base of our lives. It should be given the same serious character as is found in the indigenous world. I have come to realize by living here and going between here, and the village, why it is that in my village people spend 75% to 85% of their time either doing ritual, or talking about ritual, or recovering from ritual. :) The point is that you become so versed with these types of things, that once you understand the importance of it, nothing else really matters. Nothing really matters, and so you know where your energy goes, or should be going and you work at doing that. The more you do it, the evidence changes, and the confirmations that you encounter become strong enough to motivate you to get back into it. I've come to relate to it as a pretty good way of being addicted. A human being cannot escape addiction. We each have one or two. So its good to add ritual to our addictions. Something of this sort, because then we guarantee ourselves a chance to actually get there, to check in with the spirit.

If there are groups here and there who do ritual as a community gateway to spirit, I think it is important for them to be open to others. In that way the circle can come to reflect the beginning of the kind of community that is going to be part of the global community we have talked about. Its going to happen one way or another. It could be rather mellow, or it could be forced upon us. . . . .

The future does not entail forgetting the past, to the contrary, it is more like going into the past. At least that is my sense of it. By going into the future you bump right into the past. . . .

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