Archaeological evidence shows that the primordial pattern for human beings is to gather in relatively tightly knit, clan-sized groups closely aligned with nature. Every indigenous tradition has a geographical location that they call “home” – their community, their tribe. They know that it is the place where they are physically and spiritually connected to the spirit of Mother Earth and to each other.
In the Dagaratradition, Tengan is the earth spirit that allows us to be so connected.
Tengan: Protector of the Realm
In Dagara tribe of west Africa, when a new village is established, the first thing that is done is to establish a Tingan shrine which will be a tree where the Tingan spirit will reside. It is the spirit that allows an area of land to be safe for humans to inhabit and protects them from negative spirits and entities that are out in the wild, therefore providing an umbrella of protection for the villagers.
Tingan is the spiritual male part of the Earth element and has a female counterpart, Tenbalu, which we in the west have referred to as Mother Earth. In addition to protection Tingan also brings in abundance and well-being to the people that are connected to Tingan.
Tingan is only in a specific geographical location, which would be a village in Dagara-land. Therefore, there are many Tingans, one in each village. Tenbalu is not restricted to any one geographical site, as it represents the spirit of Mother Earth. Tingan is the administrator and lawgiver for all things relative to the land, and it also deals with serious life and death issues.
Individuals cannot by themselves tell Tingan anything, or make a request, or do a ritual with Tingan. If this is attempted, then Tingan will ignore it. If an individual needs to interact with Tingan or request something, or perform a ritual, they must first approach via the Tingan sob, the gate keeper of the shrine, to help them contact Tingan and share their request.
Annual Tingan Celebration: Coming Home to Community
The key feature about the Ark is that it weaves our personal stories as well as our village story and the story of the land. The Ark is the home, the village and the Earth combined. What sets us humans apart from the other mammals is that we have voice and fingers with which we can make, speak, and sing beautiful things. Our suffering turned into beauty is what feeds the Spirit world. The idea is that everything that gets tied to the Ark gets fed and infused with prayer and spirit, so it becomes a living representation of the Earth and village.
Tingan at the East Coast Village is calling you home.