Sibyls on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michaelangelo (photographed today at the Sistine Chapel Exhibition).
The first Sibyls—the "Black Doves"—came from a long lineage of African prophetesses. A decolonial perspective on art history would talk about the bodies in Renaissance art. Decolonizing herstory would mean bringing the story back of women whose prophecies were appropriated by the Church.
Elder Malidoma passed in the early hours this morning. He was a key influence in my life at one time, my teacher of ritual and divination, almost a father figure. His name meant, "to make friends with the stranger/enemy."
So many were touched by the glint and spool of his medicine. He spoke to our longing. He poured spirit into arid places—bringing the elegance and lucidity and sophisticated wordplay of the otherworld, weaving these into the medicine of transformation. Malidoma knew how to speak to the inner ear of the heart. He knew how to whip up the spirit. He knew the old ways to the ancestors. He built new templates. He saw in you what you were not willing yet to see. He saw a community's gift of seeing and remembering. He roused us into the initiation of our ancient selves. He was a match-lighter and catalyst. Silver of tongue, magic and promise. Promises cannot always be kept. But look how many he kept. Failure is part of the risk. Yet look how he succeeded. Look what he completed.
There will be none other like Malidoma. Undoubtedly he will be welcomed with open arms and fanfare to the land of the ancestors.
To all whose life he touched, may we express our grief passionately. "Grief is in fact owed to the dead as the only ingredient that can help complete the death process." And, may we give gratitude for the gift of his life.
I have a poem up today as part of Dusie Collective's Tuesday Poem series. My thanks to Rob McLennan for the invitation.
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