The efficacy of the verb and herb ritual formulation

Source: The efficacy of the verb and herb ritual formulation | Sunday News (Entertainment)

Cultural heritage with Pathisa Nyathi

I do not know why I thought that the Christian creation myth referred to the word as being present in the beginning. 

I searched high and low and failed to locate that narrative. It probably is not there at all. 

I wish to read what it says about the word and make some comments and contrasts with ideas I used to hold in the early part of my life. My view is that with age, sometimes comes the accumulation of wisdom. 

All the same, let me give my understanding of the word today. Word at one level is sound. This is probably the most familiar as it is relevant to everyday speech and conversations. It is sound that has attached meaning, which is acquired by members of the same community who have been socialised in the same way. We communicate through words, and in this instance, we refer to the sounds, their representative symbols, and their language. 

Language, comprising words and sometimes without sounds, conveys messages and through that process, we are all socialised in the same way. We interact, express emotions and make known our wishes. We may chastise individuals that exhibit errant social behaviours. The net outcomes sometimes are what indicate that silent words of the heart were uttered. 

Words are states of the mind and the soul. Unspoken words, therefore, may be used to bring about conditions and states that we may not be aware of, nor associated with seeming silence and those in the know can harvest the power of words and do wonders, both positive and negative.

 Words can do work. They are forms of energy. Even unuttered words have power. Force and power are attributes of applied energy. This may not immediately make sense to some people. Well, philosophy and spirituality occupy the pinnacle in the continuing search for knowledge. Did the Greek philosophers not go to Egypt (Kemet) to learn from African ideas? Socrates, Plato and others who became icons in the world of Philosophy,gleaned directly or indirectly ideas from Africa.

Philosophy and Physics seem to share something. I gleaned this idea when in 2014 I was walking along a street in the academic City of Oxford, in England. I too think there is some link. Philosophy, spirituality, science and mathematics facilitate the search for relationships, meanings and knowledge. I had some insightful experiences last year while attending the Gaborone Book Fair in Botswana. I got the feeling that these fields of human endeavour share the same goal and seek answers to questions that humans pose. 

The least appreciated among them and the least understood is spirituality. The reason could very well be that Africans are despised, denigrated, demonised and at best, their knowledge is labelled as indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). I hate the term!

Some readers may begin wondering as to the relevance of all this. Are the current series of articles not about Ancient African science? That science too is science, it is philosophy and it is physics and is mathematics. By the time we are done with this series of articles, readers will have acquired some modicum of understanding of where mathematics comes in, in the field of witchcraft, an important component of AAS.

As we have said before, the emphasis in our articles is not on stories, juicy as they might be, but on seeking to unpack underlying laws, rules and principles. This is where the narrative of the word comes in. Words have some power as claimed above. Their force and power may be decided in terms of work that their energy may result in. Spiritual energy is silent and smart energy, no different from the loud and audible sounds that brought down the walls of Jericho. I hope this one can be found in the Bible.

Symbolism that we have been dealing with in previous articles is applicable in literature. This comes as no wonder because ancients used to share common ideas, beliefs, cosmologies and thought. This is surmised from the tangible world including the artefacts that they fashion. Ideas and perceptions about stones and rocks were shared in common. All the ancients embraced in particular the circular design. 

Indeed, the various icons, both aesthetic and functional were similar and in most instances were no more than mere variations of the ubiquitous circular design and its associated idea of cyclicality. Ideas change through innovation, experimentation, borrowing and copying from other communities. Sometimes, movements of people carry new ideas to other communities through trade and colonization. Religious ideas have influenced other communities’ spiritual ideas. 

Now, the digital era is creating a global village of ideas where village culture, village chiefs and everything else are not inclusive of Africans and their ideas. The sweetly and liberally sugar and chocolate-coated digital renditions are just too tempting to resist. Of course, Africans are to blame for not feeding the voracious monster with a cuisine of African knowledge and ideas. The monster consumes everything that is placed in its mouth.

Changing ideas have led to some communities regretting what their ancestors used to do. I remember the time when the Scotch were apologizing for their ancestors’ crimes. Witches in Scotland, indeed as in the rest of Europe were killed. Thousands of them stood trial and when convicted of witchcraft, they were executed, particularly between the 14th and 18th centuries. Actions result from and flow out of beliefs. How fair is it for the modern Scotch to judge their ancestors in retrospect? 

One principle that we wish to highlight in today’s article, relates to what was known in the ancient European world, as verb and herb. The language is English and is the reason why I say the expressed idea was prevalent in Europe where English was spoken. However, the idea is equally present in Africa to this day. 

I remember some few years back when one interviewee told me how one day early in the morning, he saw and heard two witches making incantations of a witchy nature. The words that they uttered regularly and identically were to the effect that so and so should be killed by a car. 

The words resonate with what one individual said in a WhatsApp group. We were in Chipata when this strange fellow wished we had all perished in a traffic accident. Of course, those to whom the malevolent wish and prayer were directed did not bother to answer his evil-driven prayer and wish. In the IsiNdebele language, there is an expression that the mouth is a witch, umlomo uyaloya. Out of a mouth, emerge words.

This is about the effects of the power of words. The said women were making incantations  very early in the morning. The witches’ preferred time of day is generally between the hours of 9pm and 3am. The night is special and spiritually more active than the daytime. Equally, nudity has more power than a dressed-up individual has. 

Thus going to bed at night in the nude, stands a better chance of affecting communication between individuals and the intangible spiritual realms. Have we not seen wizards who have had their airborne crafts downed during their flights that they are always naked? Some of us may not appreciate that these people are applying knowledge based on a more intimate understanding of natural and physical sciences.

Words on their own may not work as effectively as when they have been complemented or enhanced by other interventions. What a verb did was and is complemented by the herb. Plants have their own unique individual characteristics. Each plant or tree is known to possess certain traits that may be adding to the execution of what words seek to achieve.

These unique traits of plants explain why certain species are used for specific purposes that other plants cannot do. Plant species differ from each other. Further, each may have to be harvested in a special way. My book, “African Body Art Volume I,” has a section that deals with requisite conditionalities that have to be fulfilled for the attainment of efficacy and successful execution of ritual formulae. Numerous conditionalities attend to the efficacy and successful execution of ritual formulae. Knowledge beyond seminal ingredients has to be accompanied by the existence of a supportive and facilitator ambiance, as it were. 

In the case given above, the verb is the primary ingredient. The herb, part of a plant such as bark, roots, or leaves is some kind of complementary ingredient that serves a purpose beyond mere catalysis. Requisite complementarity may even take various forms. However, the two would still operate successfully when accompanied by a requisite ambiance, the broad spectrum of conditionalities. 

Back to the two witches. The incantations that they recited convincingly had to be identical at all times. This is to say, what they repeat has to be the same regardless of the number of times they recite the incantations. “So and so should die in a car crash.” That has to be the same all the time, otherwise, there would be confusing instructions and therefore different intended outcomes , to the point where the sensor will not know what is desired as an end state. 

When the next statement says,” So and so of Bulawayo should die in a car crash,” the two are no longer identical and therefore they cannot result in the same outcome. Whoever engages in a witchy incantation should know and remember the first line well in its initial rendition in terms of the actual words uttered, their order, the pitch and volume to end up with the same expected outcomes. 

A sensor does interpretation relating to what is to be effected by way of requested outcome, for example,  being killed in a car crash. The same command has to be registered. Quite often, people may rush to the conclusion that the ritual formulation that they received does not work when they have failed to observe the conditionalities. What time of night was the incantation recited? Was the incantation made by one in the nude?. What time within the lunar cycle was the chant made? There are different energy potencies at different times of the lunar cycle. 

African rituals are usually performed at times of maximum energy potency as dictated by the various stages in the lunar and or seasonal cycles. 

When it is a critical ritual package, the season of performance becomes important. Energy potency is not uniform throughout the seasons. 

One would have to garner all the patience and perform rituals during an appropriate season. Is the day covered with clouds,so that the sun and its light are not visible? 

Conditionalities in AAS were and still are very important to observe and follow. Current generations are too eager to get started and going. In the process, they ignore the requisite conditionalities. 

The result is the failed execution of ritual formulae. Then they are quick to negatively judge out of ignorance. A critical condition may have been missing and that led to failure and disillusionment.

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