What is immortality? The Oxford Dictionary says ; living forever, not mortal. Divine or unfading and incorruptible.
This week on Wednesday, I am presenting a talk at the 8O’Clock Club on immortals and the ancestors. We grow up learning about these beings that live forever and we learn about their natures, trials and exploits. Some live in peaceful harmony and others spend eternity repeating a task, never to master it. Carl Jung looked at these universal patterns that reflect human behaviour and called them archetypes. Most people around the globe are familiar with Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology. There are numerous lines of philosophy and ancient traditions that also contribute to myths and legends.
How are these myths built and how do we use them to better understand human nature. I believe we are born with inherent knowledge. The first most basic being our fight or flight triggers (survival of self). The second is procreation (survival of the species). Everything else is acquired information we gather from the collective experience of entire human race. We learn from history, either what is presented from those who came before us, by our own life lessons and consciousness.
I also believe that we are genetically encoded by our parents experience. We follow the patterns of experience that is reflected around us. Geography, Creed, Religion, Socio-economic and race all dictate the patterns of our learning.
In African culture and traditions, death is not viewed as the destruction of life but rather the immortality of spirit. These who have died and joined the spirit world are referred to as the Ancestors or Iminyanya.
In the Venda culture the practice of the re-burial of the Chiefs connects to the custom of swallowing these small rocks. The body of a deceased chief is laid out on a wooden elevation, and left until it has completely decomposed. Once the white rock originally swallowed by the dead chief falls out of the body, that rock is then swallowed by the new chief.
It is believed that swallowing this rock will give him strength and ensure the immortality of tribal lineage. Women guard the body and the small rock to ensure that the rightful chief swallows the rock and not a pretender to the throne.
The Rain Queens of the BaLoBedu are considered immortal through the succession of the queens. The secrets of calling the rain, are imparted to the successor just before the death of the queen. The new queen must accept the inevitable ending of any career and/or public life she may already have embarked upon, thus ensuring that Modjadji (meaning ruler of the day) continues.
In a savage world of ceaseless warfare and oppression, this small tribe was left unscathed for fear that the awesome queen would take umbrage and curse offenders by withholding the precious rain. The Zulu held her in awe and called her Mabelamane.
When I am Grief counselling one of the things I tell my clients to that as long as they have memory the departed loved one has life. This is proven over and over through history. Take Napeoleon as an example – we know more about him than people living in his time.
What is the legacy you will leave behind, do we all become immortal?