15 April 2011
When a white Rhodes University psychology student graduated with honours and told friends and family he was ready to train as a sangoma, many thought he had lost his mind.
“Some people just could not understand it when I told them I had been called to become a sangoma, John Locksley said.
Fourteen years later – including a 10-year township apprenticeship with well-known Grahamstown sangoma MamNgwevu – Locksley is fast gaining a reputation around the world as an African shaman or medicine man.
Initiated Ucingolwendaba – “the messenger or connector between people and cultures” – by MamNgwevu, the 38-year-old Locksley now juggles his time between the UK, Europe, the US and his City of Saints home.
Based in Oxfordshire, Locksley now travels the world holding ubuntu workshops to help people “to honour their own ancestors and to connect with ancestral wisdom and guidance through nature and the dream world”.
But he makes sure he takes four months’ “retreat time” every year so he can return to Grahamstown and work as a traditional sangoma.
While in South Africa, he spends his time collecting and studying traditional plant medicines, throwing bones and interpreting the dreams from uThixo (Great Spirit) and iIzinyaya (ancestors).
Treating everything from depression to insomnia, nervous and anxiety disorders, “old family hurt and ancestral blocks”, Locksley “uses sacred ceremony, rituals with herbs, and Xhosa songs and trance rhythms to encourage a profound remem bering … an honouring of the human spirit”.
Although he is described as an “ancestrally trained and initiated Xhosa sangoma” on his African Shaman website, it took Ucingolwendaba years to respond to his “calling” – which happened when he was still an 18-year-old apartheid army conscript.
Locksley was working as a medic, treating black and white amputees from the Angolan war in 1990, when he was first called to be a sangoma.
“I used to greet the guys every morning and ask if they had any good dreams … the black guys never answered me.”
That all changed one day when a Zulu special forces sergeant – who lost both legs above the knee – warned him off.
“He said: ‘Private, don’t ask if I had good dreams … when I dream the ancestors tell me who is going to live and who is going to die in my platoon. In my culture dreams are sacred’.”
Locksley later had his own “hyper-real, lucid dream” about his apprenticeship to an ancient sangoma– who told him he would first have to experience “real suffering” before he could realise his dreams.
SOURCE: Daily Dispatch , 15 April 2011