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Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman

4.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  748 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Među Dagarima iz Burkine Faso nema razlikovanja između prirodnog i natprirodnog: živi komuniciraju s duhovima predaka, a oni koji imaju prikladno znanje lako putuju u druge svjetove. Malidoma Patrice Some rođen je u dagarskom selu, da bi ga kao malenoga dječaka oteli i odveli u isusovačku misionarsku školu gdje je petnaest godina bio grubo poučavan europskom načinu razmišl ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 28th 1995 by Penguin (first published 1994)
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Outlaw by Stephen     DaviesThe Viper Tree by Joseph MonningerOf Water and the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice SoméRitual by Malidoma Patrice SoméThe Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo
Books Set in Burkina Faso
3rd out of 16 books — 3 voters
Outrageous Openness by Tosha SilverWomen Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola EstésThe Millionth Circle by Jean Shinoda BolenQuest by Denise LinnSoul Retrieval by Sandra Ingerman
Soul Reading
41st out of 49 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,812)
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ndelamiko lord
Feb 24, 2010 ndelamiko lord rated it it was amazing
One of the most intriguing, heart-wrenching, compelling narratives... steeped in mysticism and walking the line between the corporeal and spiritual realms. MUST READ.
Purnacandra Sivarupa
The Sanskrit phrase Purva Paksha, to turn the gaze around, has been applied in a modern context by the essayist and philosopher Rajiv Malhotra in the sense of reverse anthropology: colonized cultures naturalistically studying the cultures of their colonizers. This is usually done to the end of demonstrating the types of knowledge and the ways of knowing native to the colonized civilization to both the colonizers and to the most thoroughly colonized among their own number. Malidoma Patrice Somé p ...more
May 10, 2013 Mariusz rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books I have ever read.
It is about people who have not forgotten what really matters, what is life and... Here in Europe we have lost it centuries ago and now we are trying to make other loose it, too. And we are quite successful in that, unfortunately.
Is there a way back? Malidoma says there is. Thank you, Malidoma.
Aug 12, 2007 Erin rated it really liked it
I read this book in my first African studies class. It is a great example of the affect of Western values and colonialism on the traditional society and the roles within that society. It also talks about the individual development of man, the relationship between generations, and the respect of other cultures. It's a great read, especially because it comes from something other than a Western point of view.
Mar 12, 2008 Patrice rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with an open mind interested in African spirituality
Shelves: my-favorites
this book inspired me greatly and is probably in my top five favorite books of all time...i've read it a few times and will read it again a few more times i'm sure...
Dylan Grant
Jan 10, 2016 Dylan Grant rated it it was amazing
This book is a real treasure. Malidoma is an indigenous medicine man of the Dagara tribe in Africa, who was kidnapped at a young age by the Jesuits and forced to learn to speak and write in Frech. After escaping from the Seminary he was being held captive and "De-Africanized" in, he returned to his tribe and learned his ancestral ways. Then he journeys back into the world of the white man in order to act as a voice for indigenous peoples.

This is the first book of its kind that I've read. I have
Dec 28, 2008 Alcina rated it it was amazing
The book is an exquisite document of the initation rites of one tribe in West Africa. However, it was really about change and compromise and how the West/Euro culture could learn from indigenous people if only we would listen. I felt the need to be initiated as I read the book, though I kept wondering about the females and what their initiation looked like. I'm going to have to buy this book so I can have it on hand for beautiful thoughts on death, growing up, ways to see the earth and magic.
Sally Tarbox
Nov 08, 2015 Sally Tarbox rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
"I still often suffered from being a man of two worlds", 9 November 2015

This review is from: Of Water And Spirit (Paperback)
Malidoma Some was born into a village in Burkina Faso when it was still under French rule. He describes his first four years, focussing particularly on his close relationship with his grandfather, an elder and shaman. As he recalls his grandfather's funeral - spirit voices, and the dead man walking - I thought perhaps these were the confused recollections of a small child.
Andrew Gentile
Jun 23, 2014 Andrew Gentile rated it it was amazing
Malidoma provides the reader with an account of his childhood in tribal West Africa. While the story reads like the stuff of magical realism, this autobiography is non-fiction. It's incredibly rare to get such insight into the boundless realities that humans likely lived with prior to patriarchy, materialism, rationalism and reductionism. The book highlights how much of our humanity we have cut off from ourselves, and shows us the incredible possibilities for recreating the story of what it mean ...more
This book was amazing. I read this book long ago and cannot find another copy for my current library. Wonderful, wonderful account of an African boy's journey from an extended childhood to manhood. Wonderful book!
May 01, 2008 Tara rated it it was amazing
While this book is not the most lyrical, it is real. It reminded me how boxed into a reality I can be and how deep the possibilities of our perceptions really are. The
Harry Rutherford
Somé was kidnapped at the age of four and taken first to a Jesuit-run boarding school and then a seminar, where he was a victim of physical and sexual abuse. At the age of 20 he fled the seminary and walked back to his home village. When he saw his family for the first time in 16 years, he could no longer speak his native Dagara and had lost touch with his native culture; so he underwent the long, harrowing ritual initiation that boys normally go through at 13.

He then realised that his calling w
Mar 21, 2012 Chibineko rated it liked it
Shelves: school-read
I had to read this for class, so be aware that this did very much influence my review.

If you're like me and had to read this for a class, don't worry. This isn't as difficult as your teacher said it would be. This isn't a light and frothy jaunt through one man's self-discovery though, it's full of Malidoma's pain and confusion as he's abducted and placed in a barbaric missionary school and seminary. The good thing is that it's pretty readable and best of all, does have a happy ending. If you're
Aug 12, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it
I read this book during a college course, and had an amazing experience with it. The reason for this experience was multi-fold, but at the heart of it is an amazing book by a special author. This book is an autobiography of Malidoma Patrice Some. The author was born in Africa, stolen by Catholic missionaries and forced to go to a boarding school, only to escape and return home in his late teens. Unfortunately, his tribes’ traditions initiate boys into manhood at a much younger age than late teen ...more
Adam Shand
Jan 11, 2015 Adam Shand rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirit
This is a wonderful book. The parts which described life in his home village were wonderful and I especially loved the parts of the book which had cultural assumptions completely foreign to me. It was an important part of the story, and powerful in it's own right, but I could have down without the ugly story of us indoctrination and abuse at the hands of the Jesuits.

I haven't finished his later book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community but I suspect it will make more of a lasting impression. "R
Jun 03, 2016 Val rated it it was ok
The book concerns the story of a young man who is taken from his village, educated in a Jesuit school and then returns to his village and undergoes an initiation. There is a conflict between the two ways of life, but more so between two ways of thinking.
He is chosen by his elders to teach Westerners how to think like Africans and act as a kind of ambassador for his culture. The problem for him is that it is not his culture any more, as he spent his childhood away from it and is already 'Westerni
Duia Lafia Kwame
Dec 20, 2007 Duia Lafia Kwame rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People interested in indigenous spirituality
I'm just finishing rereading this book, it's my second or third time, i'm not sure. It is interesting because it tells the story of a young man that was abducted from his village in rural Burkina Faso by Jesuit priests; it turns out this is not an uncommon occurrence.

One of the things I liked reading the book for this time around was to look for the parts of the culture that were kept intact. For instance, the entire ancient world used to use a calendar that consisted of 10 days per week, but wh
Aug 14, 2015 Tina rated it really liked it
wow. what a book. it took me a long time to read it. some parts were long, like the sections on his grandfather's funeral and his time at the Jesuit school. I literally could not put the book down during the section on his initiation. Some walks between two worlds, spiritual and the physical. I have been told i do the same thing. his description of the spirit world and the other worlds are simply beautiful. if you are unfamiliar with the spirit world it may be overwhelming for you to read this. ...more
River King
Nov 11, 2015 River King rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary. What a life story, Why do we in the west have so little understanding of the life of spirit? Fascinating and inspiring.
I'm so glad I bought this book, so I can read it again. I wasn't too sure it was real when I read it, but it sure was interesting.
Chris Edward
Jan 08, 2016 Chris Edward rated it it was amazing
Wow what a sensational story! Malidoma tells the beautiful, uplifting and motivational story of his life. He contrasts the indigenous reality- where there is no written language to distort meaning and truth and magic is very much real , with the disturbing narrow reality of the Catholic seminary where he was raised in his most suggestible years. His mission back to his village is an archetypal journey of remembrance to which we can all relate. It's a story of courage. It's deeply personal and de ...more
N.E. Johnson
May 24, 2016 N.E. Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Come for the horrors of colonialism, stay for a world view that is dramatically apart from our own.
May 05, 2015 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Loved it. But then it came into my life at the right time. :)
May 31, 2015 Alice rated it liked it
This was an interesting book - about half the book describes the initiation ritual that lasts about a month and involves a lot of anxiety-, exhaustion-, and drug-induced "visions", hallucinations, dreams (whatever you want to call them). What struck me was the commonality with the esoteric in other religions brought about through dance, meditation, etc. The other "take away" was the value placed on not asking questions - but just finding things out for yourself. This was contrasted with the west ...more
Carol Robinson
Excellent book and very spirit filled
Kenghis Khan
Jul 28, 2007 Kenghis Khan rated it really liked it
A remarkably fascinating story, this book is written by an African shaman whose duty it is to tell his people's side of things. Despite the author's sincere and eloquent description of the relations to the supernatural his people claim to have, the book is difficult for secular-minded readers to be persuaded by. Indeed, although the author is well versed in Western theology, it would have helped if he would have discussed the attempts (or lack thereof) of modern science to understand his amazing ...more
Mikhael Brown
Jun 24, 2014 Mikhael Brown rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magick, shamanism
A most amazing book. A reminder of some my own experiences forgotten or were afraid to share. A great help knowing how another live between the worlds.
Nov 07, 2010 Theodore rated it it was amazing
An amazing book about Malidoma Patrice Some - a person who lives in both the western and African world. Very emotional as he is kidnapped from his village by Catholic French Priests and raised in a Jesuit Mission School. There he is harshly indoctrinated in European ways and worship. He escapes as a teenager and returns to his village where he re-learns the language and undergoes an initiation so intense it almost kills him.
Sep 26, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I read this book several years ago (6, I think), so while I can't say anything too specific about it, I do know I liked it well enough to hold on to it. This was a required reading book for my freshman year, college honors english class. It was a class dedicated to African literature or literature about African culture. The writing in this book is beautiful. I could (and do in the quote section) quote about half of the book.
Nov 20, 2010 Gloria rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful and informative book on African, specifically Dagara traditions regarding spirituality and rituals. Malidoma Somé story of initiation into his tribal community was a mind opening and powerful realization that transdimensional journeys are not only possible but necessary if one is to truly recognize, appreciate and learn from the knowledge of our ancestors.
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Great African Reads: March: Burkina Faso | "Of Water and the Spirit" 3 27 Mar 28, 2009 08:49AM  
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Somé holds three Master's degrees and two doctorates from the Sorbonne and Brandeis University. He has taught at the University of Michigan.
More about Malidoma Patrice Somé...

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“The power of nature exists in its silence. Human words cannot encode the meaning because human language has access only to the shadow of meaning.” 14 likes
“Grandfather used to call the rain 'the erotic ritual between heaven and Earth.' The rain represented the seeds sown in the Earth’s womb by heaven, her roaring husband, to further life. Rainy encounters between heaven and Earth were sexual love on a cosmic scale. All of nature became involved. Clouds, heaven’s body, were titillated by the storm. In turn, heaven caressed the Earth with heavy winds, which rushed toward their erotic climax, the tornado. The grasses that pop out of the Earth’s warm center shortly after the rain are called the numberless children of Earth who will serve humankind’s need for nourishment. The rainy season is the season of life. Yes, it had rained the night before.” 14 likes
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