The world is a vast mix of cultures and traditions. Nothing has a more lasting and profound impact on us than our families, communities, environment, culture, and beliefs. It’s fascinating to learn about the traditions and rituals that have been passed down for thousands of years from generation to generation. Of course, there are many traditions and rituals that are outdated and harmful, but that’s a different article.
I was recently introduced to the Dagara people located in West Africa. This tribe has no word for sex or divorce. Relationships in this tribe are not private. The term ‘our relationship’ is not limited to two people. The entire community is involved in, and responsible for, the relationship because the elders are guided by spirit to choose the couple for each other and support their relationship throughout the process with rituals. They believe that allowing others to be part of their relationship gives many more eyes to see and help overcome limitations. They believe that if we don’t reach out to friends and family, our reality becomes limited.
Community is a vital part of the Dagara people as it’s the spirit and guiding light of the tribe, whereby people come together to fulfill a specific purpose. The goal of the community is to make sure that each member of the community is heard and is properly giving the gifts they have brought to this world. Without this giving, the community dies. And without a community, the individual is left without a place where they can contribute. The community is a grounding place where people come and share their gifts and receive from others. When we don’t have a place to share our gifts we experience a blockage inside, which affects us spiritually, mentally, and physically in many different ways–we become stuck. We are left without a home to go to when we need to be seen.
Romantic Love is an Illusion
The Dagara people believe that romantic love is an illusion because romance means hiding our true self in order to gain acceptance. This type of attraction cuts off spirit and community, leaving two people to invent a relationship by themselves. Romance ignores all the stages of a spiritual coming together, where the couple begins at the bottom of the mountain and gradually travels in unity to the top. This gradual process allows people to show their true identity and not foster anonymity which forces people to wear masks. The kind of passion, the kind of emotion and connection that Westerners look for from a romantic relationship, village people look for from spirit. The power of romantic love in the West is really a symptom of a separation from the spiritual.
Marriage: Two Worlds Come Together
Marriage in this tribe is a song of spirit inviting two people to come and share their spirit together. When two spirits come together and really share at the deepest level without having the mind to interfere, the two are bonded in a very strong, sincere, and loving way. When the relationship is disconnected from spirit, the ego overshadows the relationship in order to make each individual feel good at any cost.
Continual Renewal of Relationship
There is a need to periodically cleanse our relationship with our partner. There is always something in the self that is either overcompensating, pretending, giving in, or pushing too hard. Before communicating in deeper states of intimacy we need to create a safe space where we can both share frustrations and disappointments. In a ritual you draw a line of sacred space, call in spirit for guidance. There is no lying, no pretending, and no fake politeness. In this space, it’s sometimes best if you shout your frustrations because what you are saying is so real. If you carry anger or sadness into intimacy, you will transfer that energy to your partner. Rituals help to renew the relationship.
Intimacy and Sex
In the village, children learn about intimacy and ritual from birth onward. As they mature it becomes crucial that they develop a profound understanding of these matters. At initiation, the elders guide the young deeper into intimacy, sexuality, and ritual so that they know what is awaiting them. They do not just wander into the unknown of adulthood and get wounded. The Dagara people don’t have a word for sex. Instead, the word for sex is going on a journey together as they invite spirit to join the sacred space that is created. In a sacred space, the couple admits that they don’t know what they are doing and give spirits the permission to be their guide and teacher.
When people recognise that they are spirit in a human body and that other people are spirits, they begin to understand that our bodies are sacred and that sexuality is far more than a means of pleasure. Sexual impulse creates an aim for physical pleasure only–intimacy will be short-lived.
Only a Sexual Relationship
The elders in the community believe that if a relationship with people around us is focused on sexual attraction, it diminishes our capacity for friendship and our eyes will not allow us to see others as they really are. People who are only involved in a sexual relationship carry within themselves a huge energetic hole from an early childhood wound that completely cuts them off from their true selves. Their hope is that the person with whom they are involved might give them the connection they crave. More often than not, the person they are reaching out to does not have a connection to the self either. And so you have two people who are disconnected at both the spiritual and the personal level. The relationship doesn’t have any kind of grounding force or foundation to hold it.
In the Dagara culture there is no word for gay or lesbian, instead, there is a word called gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are people who live a life at the edge between two worlds. The gatekeepers are people who are not called to be in a marriage. They do spiritual work on many levels, have access to mysteries that Elders don’t and are welcomed into both men’s and women’s circles. Everyone in the village respects them because without gatekeepers there is no access to other dimensions. The gatekeepers stand on the threshold of the gender line. They are mediators between the two genders. They make sure there is peace and balance between men and women. In the village gatekeepers don’t take sides, they simply act as the sword of truth and integrity. Most people in developed countries define themselves and others by sexual orientation.
The life of homosexual people in many countries is not at all easy, because most societies reject them. This is partly because a culture that has forgotten so much about itself will displace certain groups of people, such as the gay community, from their true roles.
The Dagara People
How do our hearts get hardened? By violence and avoidance of love. The Dagara people are mainly associated with the West African coastal countries of Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Togo. They don’t live with the amenities that developed countries offer such as electricity or water. Life happens outside of the home–they live very close to earth and nature and that is the gift they receive from such a place.
In the village, where life is directly inspired by the earth, by the trees, by the hills and rivers, the kind of relationship that exists between man and nature is directly translated in subtle ways into the building of the community and into the building of the relationships that exist between people.
The Dagara believe that people need rituals to release themselves, re-gather themselves, and replenish their strength. This is the way for spirit to begin moving through us again.