Black Panther, Greta Thunberg and the Lions of Rain

I did not enjoy the movie ‘Black Panther’ nearly as much as I hoped to. The aesthetic was beautiful, but the emotional punch somehow hollow, and I confess, I came away disappointed. What I found most interesting, however, was how true the message of the movie is, in a way that I have not yet seen stated quite so bluntly anywhere else: the idea that an African nation with superior technology is hiding what it knows in order to not bother with having to explain, share, or help out the ignorant first world. This, in my experience, is so undeniably true that none of us seem to know how to wrap our heads around it.

True, there are many people who have been saying these things for a long time, now – Dr. Malidoma Somé for one has spent his life sharing what he has termed ‘African Spiritual Technologies’ with Westerners in order to help us heal. Baba Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa has been writing this over and over again throughout his many books. Vine Deloria Jr.’s last book, ‘The World We Used to Live In’ is another call for the developed world to really listen to Indigenous wisdom – not as a fairy tale, or as a way of feeling good, but as a real, practical, and applicable form of sustainable living for the human community. And as much as I love talking to trees, and as much as this is very important, the referenced systems and technologies are bigger than individual people having non-human friends. However, somehow, still, in order for the Western World to confront the possibility of a superior African technology on a mass scale, there would have to be an unprecedented paradigm shift that would allow for us as a global community to remember the deep and precise wisdom that allowed chosen members of a community to relation with the spirits of nature in such a way as to call down the rain.

The stories of the mhondoro in Zimbabwe – the so-called ‘lions of rain’, the guardians of the land, the spirits that come and choose to possess a human being in order for that person to then be a link between the spirit world and the human world – these are well-known in Zimbabwe. These sacred stories are told and retold and closely guarded – they are not told for entertainment, and they are not told in order to then be analyzed for ‘factuality’. And yet they are absolutely true and real. A world where environmental concerns, draughts, unpredictable and hostile weather patterns were all taken to the spirit guardians of the land is one that we all need to start not even believing, but applying. To put this down as a matter of faith is to deny the alchemical processes of what makes life – all life – possible. I love Greta Thunberg’s message – however, I find that the lack of a reference to indigenous wisdom and technology is a missing piece in her speeches. It is not only scientists who are experts on the weather – it is also the keepers of indigenous technologies who commune with the spirits of the land. We must have conversations with both in order to find a way forward.

This indigenous knowledge is different than scientific knowledge – it is not easily accessible, and notoriously difficult to find (the true thing, and not the lie), and it requires constant whole-being alertness and discipline. However, it is also so obvious, so on the surface, and so much of a reality of most parts of the world that it seems very strange that all of us manage to live in a strange denial of it. How can you know and respect the stories of the mhondoro living on mountains, the ones who know how to conduct the water-petitioning ceremonies (mukwerera), and then discuss the same subject with global leaders without mentioning this fact? In Africa it is well-known, for example, that most politicians go to traditional healers; in fact, common sense here dictates that it would be difficult for a politician to stay in power without consulting with traditional healers. When going to climate summits, why is this knowledge not suggested? Where are the shamans then? Has all of the old knowledge been so communally and personally disrespected and thrown out that it can no longer be found? Has this knowledge been so overlain with greed and jealousy and desires for personal profit that it can no longer serve humanity as we face our ‘house on fire’? I would hope not.

Let us not forget, in this frenzy for our own survival, that there is a larger reality, a larger picture, and technologies that would, indeed, make a difference in our desire to heal both ourselves and the planet. And yes, they live in Africa and are carefully concealed, beneath the surface of third-world chaos and poverty. And yes, we have to approach them with deep humility and true hearts in order to undo and heal centuries of western attempts to destroy precisely this knowledge. And yes, it is not human beings – neither western or indigenous – who dictate the terms of these technologies. And yes, they cannot be ignored if we are to find a way to live sustainably again as a people.