I’m not saying I totally believe in this stuff, but it does seem to work.
I’ve been excessively anxious since the hurricane. I’m grateful the water didn’t enter my house, but cleaning up the flooded garage and crawlspace has been long and arduous. Seven weeks later, we are still replacing insulation, heating ducts, and sheetrock. Depression assaults me, even when there’s no immediate reason. My mind has been fuzzy, difficult to focus. I even considered psychotherapy, which I no longer subscribe to.
I have been taking Glenn Leisching’s second-level class in West African indigenous spirituality. Last night we made wedemé, which Glenn has described as “a personal gateway to abundance, medicine, and power of nature”. He defined it as the personal force each of us has that protects our vulnerability. In Africa it is held in such awe that it is barely spoken of, but here we have to have it explained.
Our task in the class was to make a representation of our individual wedemé out of clay. Glenn instructed us to begin with an invocation to our ancestors, the five elements of nature, the kontomblé, or little people, and wedemé itself. Then we sat crafting our sculptures, which he said should be animal in shape, and fierce, as if ready to spring forward.
We each mixed into the clay a handful of earth brought from Africa. I embedded a deer bone, porcupine quills, cowrie shells, owl feathers, a thorned rose twig, and a yarrow leaf into my sculpture. I won’t describe its form, as Glenn says wedemé are private, meant to be kept in darkness. But I made sure its aspect was ferocious, as befits a being poised and eager to defend me.
At home I went straight to bed and lay in the dark. My mind roved over my ancestors, and suddenly I made a connection. After the Civil War, my great-great grandfather, William Davies, bought a farm in Kansas. The farm failed, partly due to cyclones. Even as an adult, his daughter, Mary, had something close to a panic attack whenever she felt a breeze, because it reminded her of being hustled into the cyclone cellar.
I picture the family rising out of the ground after a tornado to find their barn flattened, a chunk of their house torn away, a great swath of wheat in ruins, a season’s vegetables pulverized. Could it be that the flood damage to my house has evoked the despair of my ancestor, resulting from natural disasters over a century ago?
I overlaid his grief with mine and sent him comforting thoughts. (I guess I should send them to Mary, too. And come to think of it, her daughter Helen, my grandmother, was known in the family as a compulsive worrier.)
In the morning, my depression was gone, along with the fog I’ve been plowing through. My mind is clear, and my belly is calm. It feels as if a wall has been knocked down, and fresh air is flowing again.