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Malidoma Somé: pain is the result of a resistance to something new

Malidoma Patrice Somé bridges paths between the ancient tribal world of the West African Dagara culture and modern Western society. His book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community is written with wild imagination, careful critical reflection, and intuitive insights that will forces us to encounter the world anew.

An excerpt from Ritual: Power, Healing and Community

Human senses are devices of communication. Sight is a language, as are pain, touch, smell and taste. The most powerful among them is the feeling of pain. For the Dagara elders, pain is the result of a resistance to something new—something toward which an old dispensation is at odds.

We are made of layers of situations or experiences. Each one of them likes to use a specific part of ourselves in which to lodge. It’s like a territory. A new experience that does not have a space to sit in within us will have to kick an old one out. The old one that does not want to leave will resist the new one, and the result is registered by us as pain. This is why the elders call it “Tuo.” It means invasion, hunting, meeting with a violent edge. It also means boundary.

⁣Thus, when an initiated member of the community registers communication through pain, it is a signal that the soul is in need of some communion with its spiritual counterpart. In other words, the soul is moving old furniture out and bringing in new furniture.

Words by @malidoma_patrice_some from the amazing book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community. Photo of his beautiful late wife Sobunfu Some


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