THE SPOKEN WORD/SOUND/POWER - ORAL TRADITION AND THE LANGUAGE OF SACRED SYMBOLIM
Afrikans have traditionally used both oral tradition and symbolic language to express their spirituality rather than on written texts. To speak of any sacred scriptures as it pertains to spirituality in Afrika is to speak of what is written in the hearts of the Afrikan people.
The teachings of the ancients and holy men were originally preserved by oral tradition, transmitted from generation to generation for thousands of years.
When an old man dies. A library burns to the ground - African proverb
Myth, which is deeply, intensely emotional, has to do with the gods and creation, it is the imaged embodiment of a philosophical and cosmological system, the giving of form to thought and emotion. It is the driving force of a people, that emotional force that defines a people; it is the everlasting form of a culture, hence its link to the gods, to the heavens, to the forever. It is the embodiment the hopes, fears, dreams, and nightmares—of a people. The hero (HERU) is everyman, moving through a change, transformation and resurrection. He thereby becomes a part of it, representative of it, embodying the culture. THE HERO IS EVERY MAN WITH MYTH INSIDE HIM. Metaphor is the transformational process, the movement from the physical to the mythic/mystic/spiritual and forward again to the physical —changed forever, because one has become mythicized, because one has moved into history and returned with the "elixir"
The poet is the singer of sacred chants, the preserver of heroic legends, and the musician who put his tales to music. A poet, singer, historian, comedian, an entertainer, an archive. The griot is all these things and more. They functioned as motivational speakers and genealogists. Preserving the past through storytelling and music. Although modern historians have questioned the historical accuracy of such oral traditions, the presence of archaic words and place names within the stories suggest that they are in fact quite old.
Oral culture on the African continent has persisted when elsewhere in the world it has all but vanished. But with the written word and digital entertainment, who will continue to weave these stories around the fireside, and who will be there to listen?
THE WRITTEN WORD/SPELL (ING) AND THE ALPHA (BET)
The relationship between literacy and patriarchy is undeniable.
Symbolism uses a "feminine" outlook as a “holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world”. Symbolism is the integration and symmetry in which the energy of the feminine yin and the masculine yang is exactly balanced. One side without the other is incomplete; together, they form a unified whole that is stronger than either half. Images are perceived in an all-at-once manner.
The western ALPHA-bet upset this natural balance. It acquired a strong yang thrust, using the masculine linear, sequential, reductionist view. Reading words is a different process. The eye scans distinctive individual letters arranged in a certain linear sequence, beginning on the left (masculine) side of the brain. Older cultures read from right (feminine) to left.
Comprehension depends on the sentence’s syntax, the particular horizontal sequence in they appear. The use of analysis to break each sentence down into its component words, or each word down into its component letters, is a prime example of reductionism. This process occurs at a speed so rapid that it is below awareness. The alphabet consists of fewer than thirty meaningless symbols that do not represent the images of anything in particular.
Leonard Shlain in his book "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess" explains:
"The introduction of the written word, and then the alphabet, into the social intercourse of humans initiated a fundamental change in the way newly literate cultures understood their reality. It was this dramatic change in mindset … that was primarily responsible for fostering patriarchy."
He turns to the world’s major religions for evidence of the pattern:
"The Old Testament was the first alphabetic written work to influence future ages. Attesting to its gravitas, multitudes still read it three thousand years later. The words on its pages anchor three powerful religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each is an exemplar of patriarchy. Each monotheistic religion features an imageless Father deity whose authority shines through His revealed Word, sanctified in its written form. Conceiving of a deity who has no concrete image prepares the way for the kind of abstract thinking that inevitably leads to law codes, dualistic philosophy, and objective science, the signature triad of Western culture. I propose that the profound impact these ancient scriptures had upon the development of the West depended as much on their being written in an alphabet as on the moral lessons they contained.
Goddess worship, feminine values, and women’s power depend on the ubiquity of the image . God worship, masculine values, and men’s domination of women are bound to the written word. Word and image, like masculine and feminine, are complementary opposites. Whenever a culture elevates the written word at the expense of the image, patriarchy dominates. When the importance of the image supersedes the written word, feminine values and egalitarianism flourish"
Alphabet Versus Goddess