I first met Tsaurrurrikame Eliot Cowan in 2007. I was freshly in the throes of a spiritual crisis-- one that shook the very foundations of how I perceived my own safety in the world. A friend had sent me his book, Plant Spirit Medicine, a few years before, and I knew then that I needed to pursue his teachings.
The 2 years I spent studying under Eliot literally changed the fundamental way I understood the world. Raised in the suburbs of New York City, I was surrounded by people who mostly ignored, even scoffed at nature! By pursuing nature medicine through Eliot's
indigenous perspective, I was forced to rewire my brain to comprehend what he was asking us to do. Talk and listen to the spirits of plants?? That means that ALL plants have spirits! That we can communicate with! Every day! And because plants and trees can't be the only wise beings filled with spirit, therefore everything on this planet became rightfully infused with conscious awareness. This is still something I work to remember every day of my life. Remember. Remember. Rocks, too. Clouds, too. Cars, too. Plastic, too. The spirits of some things are easier to access than other things. Nothing is excluded. I highly recommend engaging with the spirit of a plant! I mean the everyday ones that grow in the sidewalks and in our gardens. Every plant offers medicine on some level-- edible or not. I owe this understanding to my beloved teacher, Eliot.
I met Dr. Malidoma Somé only a year or two after meeting Eliot. In fact, after I finished my 2-year studies with Eliot, a strange rash developed on my arm that was completely resistant to treatment. Upon my very first encounter with Malidoma a few months later, the rash mysteriously cleared up.
I felt a strong pull to study with Malidoma. His book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa, produced profound healing dreams for me. I was in the midst of a frightening, disorienting spiritual crisis at that time, and aside from enrolling in his training in Indigenous African Spirit Technologies, I pursued a one-on-one divination from him. This initial divination allowed Malidoma to peer directly into the spirit world and discern what was at the root of my spiritual crisis. He recommended I consult directly with his elders in West Africa, which I had the good fortune to do a few months later in person on a visit to Malidoma's home village in Burkina Faso. The healing work and insights that have come from Malidoma and continue to come from my 14+ year relationship with the Dagara are myriad and profound. Malidoma's work brought me into deep communion with the spirits of the elements, the ancestors, and the wisdom beings the Dagara refer to as the kontomble. These relationships continue to shape my daily life navigating a culture which both dismisses and fears the very real world of spirit.
I continued my studies with Malidoma (receiving specific ritual training and blessing to hold Dagara-style ritual) until his death in 2022. After my initial trip in 2010, I returned to his home village of Dano, Burkina Faso both in 2015 and in 2023.
Malidoma's name meant "to make friends with the stranger/enemy." He spent his adult life translating the spiritual foundations of his native Dagara ways as medicine for the largely spiritually-impoverished, ancestrally-orphaned modern Western world. As someone in close relationship to his work, I honor the gifts of his life path and gratefully fumble forward into the complexities of race and African history that offering this ritual work brings along with it in the USA.
Learn more about Malidoma in his beautifully written memoir of his early life, Of Water and the Spirit.