Part II – Finding Your Identity, given your understanding of the nature of Amathongo
The biggest challenge facing an African Child in the present era is to find his/her identity. Such identity is being searched in many ways, others through various religions, and others through various ritual practices.
Most African people today are so much drowning in various religions. There are those who are trying to find meaning of life in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All these are in search of the so called ‘the living spirit’.
The word ‘ spirit’ is used in the Bible in several different ways – the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and the whole realm of ‘spirits’, good or evil. In the Old Testament ‘Spirit of God’ is one of the ways in which God’s action may be mentioned without actually making the anthropomorphic statement that God did this or that. Thus the ‘Spirit of God’ likes the Word and the Wisdom of God, becomes a periphrastic description of God’s initiative and action in the creation, providential ordering, redemption and eschatological deliverance of the world as a whole and of Israel in particular.
Our current modern difficulty is: do the dead so-called Ancestors also become ‘living spirits’ after death?
The answer is YES, they become powerful ‘spirits’ after death. Taking the Bible as our point of departure, in the Bible persons are not thus separate and distinct; they flow into one another. A man lives in his sons, who may receive a portion of another man’s ‘spirit’ and thus may in some sense become that other man. A man may reappear in history as another person, who, though he is not the same person, is nevertheless in some way identified with him. Linking up this with the Bible, a good example is that of Elija who in the biblical tradition becomes almost the same person as Elisha; the biblical way of expressing this is to say that a double portion of Elija’s spirit is upon Elisha (11 Kings 2.9; cf Deut. 21:17), or that ‘the spirit of Elija dost rest on Elisha’ (11 Kings 2.15; cf Ecclus 48.12). Elija acts through Elisha.
When the Spirit of Yahweh comes upon Saul, he prophesies after the manner of the ecstatic prophets and – very significantly – is ‘turned into another man’ (1 Sam; 10.6, 10 ) Micah is contrasted with the false prophets because he is genuinely ‘full of power by the spirit of the Lord’ (Micah 3.8). Even Jesus himself is recorded attributing the prophetic words of David (Ps 110.1) to the activity of the Holy Spirit (Mark 12.36).
Therefore God gives words to his prophets through the operation of HIS Spirit.
In today’s lives we see many people being prophets, ‘Spiritual Healers’ in various ways. Those ‘spirits’ coming from their past forefathers/grandmothers and we start calling them Izinyanga, Izangoma, Abalozi, etc.
This working of the Spirit amongst men is by no means confined to the sphere of prophecy: the Old Testament attributes to the Spirit such things as Joseph’s skill as a ruler (Gen 41.38); Joshua’s military genius (Num 27.18) the Craftsmanship of Bezallel and Oholiab (Ex 31.2-6); and Moral excellence (Pss 51.10f); 143.10). The same is evident to some of our great leaders, who attribute their leadership skills whether in Business or in Life as powers of the Spirit coming from their ancestors.
An African life is a constant apprehension of the supernatural powers of the Spirit of the Ancestors, who are living in us, it may be described as walking by the Spirit, being led by the Ancestral Spirit, or living Spirit ( Gal 5.16, 18, 25; Rom 8.4, 14).
It is the very same Spirit which is the Spirit of Power, enabling Christians to perform deeds beyond their own Strengths ( 11Tim 1.7; Acts 1.8; 10.38; Rom 15.13; I Cor 2.4; Eph 3.16)
The belief by African people in the ancestors and how they value them is not taken from the vacuum, but has this kind of history, which we have forgotten but are trying hard to bring forward as the Umsamo African Institute in researching on it and its Wisdom.
Ancestors are therefore real Spirits.