The Ritual of Pahla / Patla: Prayer, petition and thanksgiving.
One of the first things you learn as a twasa or initiate is how to pray. The Pahla, a petition or prayer is performed twice a day and should be an ongoing practise for a Sangoma or healer. In the tradition I was initiated, Thokoza Sangoma’s, the pahla is practised as described below.
Morning and evening prayers.
It is important to note that we don’t pray to or worship the ancestors like we do God. The prayers are to “report” to the ancestors (i.e. your direct ancestor, and the ancestors of Nguni & Ndau) and to God, what your current circumstances are, for instance if you are having difficulty with something, to petition them for their help and guidance, and also to give thanks for the blessings they bring to you.
The principle of reciprocation is practiced where we give something in a symbolic way, in order to receive, we give as an act of gratitude and we give as an act of feeding the spirit of the ancestors, and in so doing also our own spirit, to manifest what we need on this earth.
Items used in the Pahla are a large straw mat, a “khamba” or pot with “ukombothi” (traditional beer) (or we sometimes used a bottle of alcohol) snuff (ntsu), imphephu (a sacred herb) and a white candle.
The pahla starts at the gate or entrance of your or your trainers homestead. The mat is rolled out on the ground and the sangomas take up position in a line from the “youngest” to the “oldest” initiate – the youngest being the most recently initiated or twasa. The candle is lit and placed in the centre in front of the mat. The imphephu is lit and is passed down to the youngest to start the prayers. The same ritual or prayer is repeated with the imphephu, snuff and beer.
The items are offered to the ancestors in turn – first to the right – ancestors of Nguni, then to the left – ancestors of Ndau, and then to the front centre to the ancestor of our Impande – or the keeper of the family tree of our lineage. All three items are offer in rounds – first the imphephu is offered by all, then the snuff and then the beer.
When the prayers at the gate are completed – it moves on to the place of the Impande – and outside altar or the place where the tree of the linage is planted and the keeper of the Impande resides, and then to the altar in the Makosini / Indumba, or ancestors house, where the sangoma does his or her work with the ancestors.
When the pahla is completed, all present may offer up a song or prayer from their own spiritual tradition – such as the singing of Christian or church songs.
The Pahla of Thokoza (in specific to the Impande of Umsala Umzathi):
Clap twice with your hands. Pick up the offering and greet the ancestors: “Thokoza bo gogo nomkhulu”. (I greet you grandmothers and grandfathers. Please come closer to hear our prayers). Offer the item to the ancestors saying “I offer this to you”. Then offer the items to your right, to your left, and to the centre in front of you speaking to the ancestors:
Imphephu: “Ngicela ukunuka imphephu lenu” (I offer / burn this imphephu for you). To the right: “Bema Nguni”, (I smoke this for the ancestors of Nguni), to the left, “Bema Ndau” (I smoke this for the ancestors of Ndau) and to the centre, “Bema Gogo Khoza, Mnigazwe Impande” (I burn this for Gogo Khoza (Umsala Umzathi) the keeper of our Impande).
Snuff: “Ngicela ukunuka snuff lenu” (I offer / burn this snuff for you). To the right: “Bema Nguni”, (I smoke this for the ancestors of Nguni), to the left, “Bema Ndau” (I smoke this for the ancestors of Ndau) and to the centre, “Bema Gogo Khoza, Mnigazwe Impande” (I burn this for Gogo Khoza (Umsala Umzathi) the keeper of our Impande).
Beer: “Ngicela phuza ukumbothi lenu” (I pour / drink this beer for you). To the right: “Phuza Nguni”, (I pour this for the ancestors of Nguni), to the left, “puza Ndau” (I pour this for the ancestors of Ndau) and to the centre, “puza Gogo Khoza, Mnigazwe Impande” (I burn this for Gogo Khoza (Umsala Umzathi) the keeper of our Impande). When you offer the beer to the centre – take a small sip and spit it out.
When the offerings have been given – start your prayers aloud and clap while you are praying. When your prayer is done, end with the words “Thokoz Ndau she, umNdawe”. (Greetings great ancestors of Ndau).
When all 3 rounds of prayer are finished at the altar – end the prayers with: “Ndau Ndau, ngiya babonga, uko kwana nabami. Ndau she”. (I give thanks to the great ancestors who help me to see). Sing songs of praise.
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