“Have you ever been to a slave castle?” asked the man from Ghana, as we stood outside a temple shrine for the dead on one sacred desert playa. “Vultures still circle over it 200 years later.” He paused. “Half of the people died on the journey to the slave castle. Half of those people died in the slave castle. And half of those people died on the slave ships. The people who survived all of that… Those are your ancestors.” His words sank into my depths. I have their strength. And I carry their pain.
My ancestors are the real reason why I came to Iboga. They called me home through an open wound, for this was the place where the medicine entered. My art career had brought me everything I thought I wanted, only to find it was never enough. There was a dark “nothing” in my chest. After 13 years of sobriety, their ancient and concentrated pain brought me to seek relief through poison. And their profound strength whispered the way.
When I confessed to my wife that I had relapsed, she talked to the trees (literally). That’s her church, nature. The trees told her, “Iboga.” So we did research, which was initially terrifying as we read about adverse events and even deaths. We came to learn that proper medical screening and medical support could exponentially increase safety. We finally found a traditional Bwiti healer who was serving the medicine in Costa Rica alongside an experienced medical doctor.
At that point, my wife of six years could barely recognize me. After one night with the medicine, she could see me again, where something else had been inhabiting me before. After that first ceremony, I said: “I love my life. I never want to disrespect myself again.” Six months later, we were both in Africa experiencing a Bwiti initiation, rite of passage, and wedding. In that Bwiti temple, I saw the origins of hip-hop and all African-American cultures through the dance, music, and tribe. The cultural threads could never be severed, even through slavery.
Through my trials and tribulations, I know my ancestors and my soul were protecting me through my life and guiding me to the Bwiti.
In its essence, the Bwiti tradition is the study of life, which is never-ending. The Bwiti is not about beliefs; it centers around the art of knowing. Beliefs are like clothing that you can take off at any time, whereas knowing runs deeper…
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