Last October, on the weekend before Hallowe’en, I took a train to Manhattan with my partner. He was going sightseeing in NY, but I had a very different agenda. I was going to meet a man who claimed to be a genuine Xhosa Sangoma, which is a kind of medicine person/shaman from South Africa. I was following a hunch, a nudge from my spirit helpers and guides, and, I realized later, responding also to a strong push from my ancestors.
I had seen John Lockley’s face for the first time in an email from the NY Shamanic Circle. He intrigued me, this white man dressed in Xhosa ceremonial attire with the ghostly mask painted over his eyes. Normally I might only give a cursory glance at the NY Shamanic Circle emails, because after all, we are a long way from NYC, but I found myself reading carefully. I even followed links to videos and more photos, and heard his magnificent drum and songs in the Xhosa language. I read his story, related strongly to the “shaman sickness” that ultimately brought him to his teacher, and started to feel like I needed to meet him.
Now, I have Celtic, Native American, and Peruvian Amazon training, but mostly Celtic (Irish, to be specific). I’ve done trainings with some big names in Western shamanic circles as well. Still, I had never been drawn to African shamanism, so I was a little confused by this inexplicable need to find out more about what John was doing. Maybe my curiosity was partly piqued by the fact that he was a white male accepted and trained in a tradition usually filled by black females. But there was something more that I couldn’t put my finger on. As it turned out, my schedule conflicted with his first workshop date, so I reluctantly set the idea aside and went about my life. But then another opportunity presented itself, and my schedule cleared for this one, so I immediately made reservations for a weekend in Manhattan.
The Friday night before the workshop we got into the hotel about 9:30 p.m., so I really had no time to think, but the next morning, as I was getting ready to go, I was gripped by a strange reluctance, almost a fear, and I even told my partner I had changed my mind, that I didn’t want to go. I asked him if he wouldn’t rather we do the sightseeing thing in Manhattan. He looked at me incredulously. He said, “You came all the way down here to see what this guy is all about. I think you’d better go.” Then he hustled me out the door and into a cab, riding over to the Lower East Side with me, where we had breakfast together at the corner MacDonald’s once we found the address for the workshop. The whole time, my stomach was tied in knots. But I told myself this was ridiculous, and I took a deep breath and bravely rang the bell. We were buzzed in and went up the elevator to meet our lovely hostess, whom I had only previously conversed with through email. I instantly liked her, and my stomach settled down quite a bit. I was smudged before entering the ceremonial space, and I felt even better. I had time to meditate a bit in silence for some time before John came in.
I am very glad that I didn’t change my mind before breakfast that Saturday morning. John is a charming man and an entertaining speaker. But he is also a powerful and gifted shaman who plays a brilliant ceremonial drum and holds sacred space so that we can connect in a deep and meaningful way with our own ancestors. Learning Xhosa chants and songs and practicing the trance dance was fun and enlightening and difficult all at once. Being part of that sacred and ancient ceremony was very special for me.
At one point on Saturday afternoon, John was talking about honoring the ancestors of the land here, the Red People, the Forgotten Ones. We each did our own ceremony honoring our own ancestors, and I felt the name LaRock well up in me to speak out even though we were only suppose to speak the names back to our grandparents. LaRock is the maiden name of my maternal great grandmother, Adelaide, who was of the First Nations of Canada. This part of my family’s heritage was denied for so long, swept under the carpet and (intentionally) forgotten even within my own family, and I realized then that this was the main reason I was brought to this ceremony with John (although all of my ancestors were honored): to finally honor that part of my family, that forgotten bloodline, and that aspect of myself. When John spoke of the pain of the forgotten Red People, I felt that pain within my heart — the pain of denial – and, with the release and relief of that blood finally being acknowledged, I wept. My ancestors wept, through me. And I felt a lightness of being, suddenly, that persists to this day, though I have since been continuing the work in order to understand the circumstances around the denial of my great-grandmother’s people. I feel that a rift had been mended between all my ancestors, and so a healing took place within me as well.
My dreams that night were vivid and prophetic.
Now, this was my experience with John and his medicine, and I knew at the end of that weekend ceremony that I needed to somehow bring him to my community, to you. Your own experience with this powerful medicine may be different, depending on where you are on your path and what healing needs to be done in your life. But I can guarantee that there will be healing and there will be dancing and singing and drumming. And in the midst of it all, you will learn some teachings that you might not even recognize as such right away. But they will sink into your bones and by their very nature, they will change you.
I was thrilled when John agreed to come to Syracuse. This is a rare opportunity to have someone of this caliber come to us to teach! What a blessing. What an honor! And if you have any inkling that you might want to be part of this wonderful process, please register with me immediately. You see, John needs to know that he has a guaranteed minimum in order to be able to cover his travel expenses to Syracuse from South Africa, so now is the time to step forward with the fee for the May 3-4 workshop and say, “Yes, I am attending” so we at least know we have the minimum. Otherwise, he won’t be coming – and that would be a shame. We need to demonstrate support for traditional indigenous shamans and medicine folk, for this is the true healing for the earth and for ourselves that those of us in Western culture crave.
John will also be scheduling private sessions while he’s in town, so get in touch with me if you are interested in that, too. Contact me to register. Or feel free to mail your check or money order made out to:
Cindy L. McGinley
5900 N. Burdick St.
East Syracuse, NY 13057
Paid registrants will receive further details and directions closer to the event. Hope to see you there!