malidoma some

Malidoma Patrice Somé. January 30, 1956 - December 9, 2021


Grief  Ritual & Celebration:
June 10 - 12, 2022

Honoring The Life & Legacy of  Malidoma Patrice Somé

March 31


Elder Malidoma left his physical body on December 9, 2021, a Water Year. At his request, his body was returned to his homeland in the village of Dano, Burkina Faso, for the traditional Dagara funeral rites to be performed. Those rites were followed by the Ancestralization ceremony and Elder Malidoma has transitioned to the ancestral realm. Ashe-o!

With the passing of Elder Malidoma, we lost a great soul, a great tree that protected us, fed us with ancestral wisdom, reminded us of our gifts, and led us down the rabbit hole of healing rituals and initiations.

For those of us in the West, our grief here is far from over.

Many of you were unable to make the journey to participate in those rites – to grieve, share your stories and honor his life and legacy. Therefore, the Elder/Sob/Medicine (ESM) Council of the East Coast Village understands that it is necessary to provide a ritual container to grieve this huge loss. 

Elder Malidoma taught us the importance of ritualized grief. In his own words:

Any time a feeling of loss arises, there is an energy that demands ritual in order to allow reconciliation and the return to peace.

Grief must be approached as a release of tension created by separation and disconnection from someone or something that matters.

For many of us in the West, grieving in isolation (or on social media) is what we do. We are afraid of the judgment in outwardly expressing our grief when it unleashes itself in tears, anger, rage, and sadness. We stifle these emotions in order to maintain composure; to show how strong we are in the midst of a huge loss; to demonstrate that we can just “get over it” and move on.

However, what did Elder Malidoma teach us?

Denied an outward expression, grief grows stronger and organizes itself like a hurricane that can rise up and sweep us away. In my village, emotion is ritualized because it is seen as a sacred thing. If addressed within a sacred space, the emotions of grief can provide powerful relief and healing.

In the Dagara tradition, emotions of grief are not meant to be experienced alone, in a dark closet, behind closed doors where no one can see you or hear you. They are meant to be ritualized in community, to be witnessed in sacred space. When we come together in sacred grieving – we validate, witness, share our collective stories of loss, pain, and suffering – and relinquish them to the Other World.

For this reason, ECV is hosting a Grief Ritual and Celebration in honor of his life and legacy here in Cherry Plain, NY. We know that ritual allows us, not only to let go of the loss of a dear one, but also to cleanse and heal our deepest wounds.

And, while this ritual is designed around the loss of Elder Malidoma, we understand and invite you to allow for other losses that will arise. Loss of dreams, loss of community, loss of faith in humanity, loss of innocence in the midst of war.


Malidoma Grief Ritual & Celebration

We are grateful to Elder Robert, Tingan Sob of the ECV, who was the one to honor Elder Malidoma’s request to return to his homeland. Robert returned with personal insight into the traditional Dagara funeral rites which will be incorporated into the weekend. For those who have only experienced a grief ritual here in the West, there will be some traditional Dagara elements that may not be familiar to you. We want you to experience an authentic traditional funeral, what we have come to know as a grief ritual.

This is a brief outline of what to expect during the weekend of June 10 – 12, 2022. More details will be forthcoming soon.

Friday, June 10th:

Plan to arrive by 6 PM

  • Building a Legacy Wall: you are invited to add written memories, reflections, and messages about your experience with Elder Malidoma.
  • Greeting the Ancestors and lighting of an ancestral fire
  • Video screening of Elder Malidoma’s funeral rites in Dano

Saturday, June 11th:

  • Gathering in clans to share our grief stories
  • Setting ritual space as a community. If you have items or memorabilia to add to the ancestral altar, please bring with you. Note: you will be able to take these objects back with you.
  • The grief ritual. Bring loose coins and/or cowry shells for the ritual

Sunday, June 12th:

  • Closing the Ritual Space
  • Celebration and Feast

Plan to depart after 4 PM.

During the weekend, we will also allow time for personal connections with the shrines via the shrine keepers (sobs), morning energizers such as meditation and yoga. 

We wish to give special thanks to the following in support of this event (others we will name in due course):

  • Alima, who is native to Burkina Faso, offering a taste of authentic West African food during the weekend.

  • Jonathan Post, owner of the Beer Diviner Brewery and Taproom (across the street), the first farm brewery in New York State, where we will be having dinner on Saturday and the Sunday Celebration. 

  • Esu Anahata of the Barka Foundation who provided video of the funeral rites in Dana.

 If you have any questions, please contact us.

Peace and blessings,

Elder/Sob/Medicine (ESM) Council
East Coast Village

p.s. If you are unable to attend or simply want to show your support for this ritual process, please make a donation via this link or use the DONATE button below. Thank you!

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