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Issue: January 2013 Newsletter
Spirit Dancing

John Lockley

I had the good fortune of meeting Ya’Acov in September this year. We were introduced through a mutual friend, Charlie Morley, a charismatic lucid dreaming teacher. We met in the hussle and bussle of London’s Euston Station. Ya’Acov was enroute to teach a workshop in Europe. We started talking about dreams and how we were called to our particular paths.

It quickly became apparent that our paths were similar in that we use music and dance to connect to our hearts and our joi de vie or joy of life.  I was encouraged by Ya’Acov’s passion for sharing his music and dance, and I felt that I had met a kindred spirit on the road of alchemy and mystery. He invited me to take part in his ‘peace day’ festival (in September) in Devon with proceeds going towards ‘combatants for peace’.  He asked me if I would like to open the festival with my Xhosa dancing and singing. I felt deeply honoured, and accepted.  

At the festival I met Susannah, Ya’Acov’s lovely wife and partner. I was deeply struck by their commitment and dedication to their work and community. The focus of my work is ‘Ubuntu’ meaning humanity, and teaching people how they can connect with their dreams, ancestors and one another. An important part of this is community, or as we say in Buddhism, the Sangha. For within community we learn humility and grace. Ubuntu encompasses everyone by saying  ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. I was struck by the tangible feeling of ‘Ubuntu’ in Ya’Acov & Susannah’s community in Devon. There was a real sense of love and togetherness. And when the music started and I joined in with my drum, I felt our communal hearts beating as one. Recently I had the good fortune of taking part in a community dance here in Knysna, South Africa with Dion Viljoen and others connected with Movement Medicine. I was delighted to find the same feeling of togetherness and ‘Ubuntu’ that I encountered in Devon. So congratulations to Susannah and Ya’Acov for your wonderful work in facilitating peoples’ togetherness in coming together in community!  For as we dance, we dance both with ourselves and with one another.  In traditional cultures like in South Africa, there are no words for depression, however in Western culture it is a pandemic of frightening proportions. Dancing together helps heal our collective alienation and facilitates healing on many different levels.

So with this spirit of ‘Ubuntu’, Ya’Acov and Susannah have asked me to share a few words about my work and calling.

 I am a Sangoma from South Africa, the Eastern Cape. Sangomas are traditional medicine people who receive guidance from the spirit world through dreams and visions. The guidance we receive is geared towards helping humanity maintain balance with the natural world and one another. We are the wisdom keepers of sacred protocol and natural lore;  ways of working with the ancestors/spirits, plants and animals. People are chosen to become Sangomas through dreams and illness. It is a painful process. At the heart of our profession is the Xentsa or trance dance. It is the engine and vehicle through which we connect to the ancestral/spirit world. We sing ancient chants or ‘ingomas’ and play the drum in a particular way to induce trance and an altered state.

I was trained and adopted by my teacher, Mum Ngwevu from the Xhosa tribe. The same tribe as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.  I was called to this work through a number of dreams and visions from the age of 17. I succumbed to the gruelling and painful ‘twaza’ illness or ‘calling illness’ endemic to Sangoma medicine people of Southern Africa.  I found my teacher, Mum  Ngwevu after battling the twaza illness for over 7 years. Apartheid was in full swing in the late 80’s when my calling started, and as a white male I wasn’t allowed into the black areas to find my teacher. So I had to wait for Apartheid to finish before I could start my apprenticeship. It was during this time that I studied Zen Buddhism under Zen master Su Bong from South Korea. Our grand master, Seung Sahn Soen Sa invited me to become a monk, but I declined because of my Sangoma calling.

Apartheid ended in 1994 with our first democratic government under Nelson Mandela. A few years after that I found my teacher in the Eastern Cape.  Within a few weeks of starting my apprenticeship my teacher had a dream where the ancestors told her to call me ‘Ucingolwendaba’ meaning ‘the messenger’ or bridge between peoples’.  My apprenticeship lasted 10 years.  Afterwards I was guided to bring the ancient teachings of my medicine elders to the Western world.  My elders in the Eastern Cape gave me permission to teach and initiate others to deeper dreaming and reconnection with their ancestors.

I teach ‘Ubuntu’ workshops all over the world. In our culture these workshops could be termed, ‘khanya umsebenze’, meaning ‘the shining work’.  It is all about helping people to shine from the inside through deeper dreaming, and reconnection to their ancestors, one another, and the natural world. These workshops involve drumming, dancing, dreaming, medicinal plants, and prayer.  I help people work with their dreams in a mystical way.  As  Sangomas, we see our dreams us guiding lights to our ‘soul’s purpose’ or life path. So we could be termed ‘dream trackers’, helping people to track their dreams, and thereby helping them to manifest their soul’s purpose.

I offer 2 hour public talks or blessing ceremonies where I chant in Xhosa and play my drum. It is said that whenever Sangomas sing and drum we call the ancestors or spirits, thereby helping people to reconnect with their hearts. I have been pleasantly surprised to hear of people’s dreams after they have experienced one of my ceremonies. People often experience powerful dreams after these performances. New York, London, Dublin, Canada, Mexico, Australia, to name but a few. This has thrilled and delighted me, proving that we are all connected through the rhythm of the heart and red blood, regardless of culture or creed.

I run one and two day workshops where I teach people how to move with their hearts. This is done through trance dancing, medicinal plants, prayer and heart-beat meditation. A core aspect of the work is listening. Listening to our dreams, one another, and our beating hearts.

I also offer private one to one sessions where I give traditional Sangoma divinations. These involve the ‘throwing of the bones’ to help divine peoples’ life path. It is not a fortune reading but rather a process of going deeper into one’s life’s purpose or destiny. The job of the Sangoma is to ‘ukuvula indlela’ – meaning to ‘open the road’. Our job is to help remove peoples’ obstacles so they can realise their destinies in this world and the next. We do this through medicinal plants, prayer, counselling and rhythm work.  A divination is helpful in clearing obstacles and bringing difficulties/obstacles to light for healing and renewal.


I am available to travel to communities to lead Ubuntu workshops and give divinations. If you are interested to know more and you would like me to facilitate one of these workshops then please email me at, and see my website for further information,

A hearty thank you to Susannah and Ya’Acov for inviting me into your community and giving me an opportunity to share my teachings from the Xhosa nation in South Africa.

May our collective dance get stronger and may we continue to renew one another through the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity).

I wish you all a wonderful 2013, filled with magic, mystery and purpose!

Best wishes,

John Lockley

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.