Book Review by J.Chavae
This book was recommended to me by a close friend of mine and her boyfriend. She knows my love for spirituality and anything African. When us three get together we always end up in a deep conversation about what’s happening in the world, the craziness of black history, and life as black people currently, as well as spirituality and of course our personal lives.
I ordered the book immediately and when I got it, I was very excited to read it. The cover made me think and the subtitle “Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman” definitely caught my attention.
This personal explanation of life in West Africa and the experiences that Malidoma had to go through is very vivid. He starts out by telling about his life now, in the modern world. Then he goes into life as a child, life at the missionary school, his journey back home, and pieces of his initiation into manhood (as much as he could share with us).
Malidoma tells of the magic experiences and encounters that he had with other shamans, diviners, and creatures/beings from other worlds. None of this, to me, seemed strange. It was all very possible because I experience very lucid dreams and in those dreams my spirit ventures into other realms. It was more fascinating to me.
It took me about two months to complete the book (although I finished the last 60% of the book in 3 days after work because that’s where all the “good stuff” is). I do have to say that my reading slowed at the part of Malidoma’s story when he was at the Catholic missionary. It wasn’t that it was uninteresting, but I found myself getting mad at the actions and words of European imperialists/colonists/evil priests. He described his kidnapping, attempted brainwashing, abuse, and life at the missionary. It all made me upset….how some people think treating other people less than and so cruelly just because they believe in their heads that they are better than, due to skin color, all the while claiming to be “a servant of God/Jesus”. It was a sick joke to me.
Any who, there were so many words in the book that resonated with me, that made so much sense.
Like I said before, the latter portion of the book (which was the description of Malidoma’s initiation experience) was extremely interesting to me. He described the things he had to go through and see to become a man in his village. His words painted clear visions in my mind. I often found that as I read, I was literally pulled into the book. Nothing else in the world was occurring because I was in Malidoma’s world. He experienced going through portals, entering different worlds, speaking to things that don’t exist in our world, seeing things in different colors, and feeling things that were something like a guiding voice during each stage of initiation. He also told about the pain he had to go through, but also the feelings of bliss and feelings you just can’t describe.
The whole time I was reading his experience, I wished I could see these things for myself as well. It seemed so beautiful to me….even the bad parts. I wondered if women went through a similar initiation process. I did notice that my dreams became extremely lucid the past few nights, where I couldn’t tell that I was in a dream world….everything felt real. I also had a dream that I was in the book as far as being there and seeing the same things as Malidoma. I also wished that like the author, I could see all of my past lives to help me with my present lifetime.
This book, to me, opened up another part of my brain while leaving me with a longing to consciously experience other worlds and people. It made me not fearful of the things that I might see in my meditation or dreams. The book made me calm and happy for some strange reason. Like this man is my uncle and life as I think it should be is absolutely normal because he spoke about it and how his people live that life every day…connected with nature and the spirits.
“Living is about remembering who you are and where you came from.” That’s a line that stuck out to me. I can relate 100% to that. I lived the first portion of my life trying to be what everyone wanted me to be. When I finally quieted all of the outside noises and started listening to myself, I began to walk in the right direction on my life’s path. I found that certain things were natural and innate to me (like yoga, spirituality, healing, serving and helping others). As I looked back on my life, into my childhood, I noticed that there were so many hints of my true self as I was growing up that I never paid attention to. For example, I would talk to things, I used to wrap my hair in shirts or my body in a sheet like a sari, I was obsessed with astrology in middle school, I had a rock collection, etc. I never paid attention to all of that, but my spirit knew what it wanted for a long time. It took me over 20 years to start getting back to my true self and to “remember who I am”.
All in all this was an EXCELLENT book! I would say if you liked or loved The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho like I did, you will also love Of Water and the Spirit. This book is the real life version of The Alchemist, to me at least. It tells of supernatural things happening, of the lessons learned. I don’t necessarily think this book was written to teach one a lesson, but to simply share an experience to let people better understand a different group of people. I, though, learned a lot of lessons while affirming the lessons that I have been learning the last couple of years on my spiritual journey.