|MICHAEL ORTIZ HILL
The gift of illness, should we attend to its relentless questioning, makes us real. Being made real is what transforms illness into sacrament. Anthropologists call the African healing tradition, the ngoma of the water spirits, a “cult of affliction” because it is said that the ancestors visit “water spirit illness” upon people who are called to being a healer. Initiation is the only way to be healed of sacred illness. This talk is about initiation: the transformation of illness into sacred illness. It is about dis-memberment and re-membering, the dis-integration of a life and re-integration into a new life. I reflect on my own initiation as a medicine man in the ngoma tradition and meeting my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis as sacred illness. It is an intimately personal story but not personal at all. As a nurse and a healer I ve seen this story live the afflicted in so many ways but the core is archetypal, long preceeding the life of any human being. It is, indeed, one of the oldest stories of healing in the medicine ways people have kept faith with for thousands of years.
Michael Ortiz Hill is an author, registered nurse and practitioner of traditional African medicine, a nganga. He has practiced as a nganga among Bantu people in Zimbabwe and at UCLA Medical Center. His initiation in Zimbabwe was through the diagnosis of “water spirit disease,” initiation itself being ritual reconciliation with the water spirits and has published through Elik Press two small books looking at his ordeal with multiple sclerosis as sacred illness. He is also the author of Village of the Water Spirits and Dreaming the End of the World: Apocalypse as a Rite of Passage. He lives in Topanga, California with his wife, Deena Metzger, and wolf, Blue.
© Pacifica Graduate Institute - All rights reserved