Earth as Goddess: A conversation with African healer and guide Baba Mandaza Augustine Kademwa

Baba Mandaza Augustine Kademwa, from Zimbabwe, was born a Svikiro (in Shona, his native tongue), a carrier of many earth and water spirits, and a Mondhoro (Lion), one who is in constant prayer on behalf of others. He is guided by water and lion spirits. As a vessel of the Spirits, Mandaza receives visions and dreams, makes offerings, performs healing rituals, and serves as a messenger for the Ancient Ones. Mandaza is an African traditional healer and voice for Mother Nature, who was initiated through the tradition of the njuzi, the water spirits. Mandaza carries with him, in his heart, the Central African spiritual tradition of healing and peacemaking.
—Thanissara

The following interview was conducted earlier this year (2019) at Dharamagir Sacred Mountain Retreat (dharmagiri.org), the Buddhist retreat center founded in 2000 on the border of Lesotho and South Africa by meditation teachers Kittisaro and Thanissara, who trained as monastics in the Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah. Mandaza serves as a Spiritual Elder and Guide for Dharmagiri.
—The Editors

Mandaza at Dharmagiri. Photograph by Thanissara
Mandaza at Dharmagiri. Photograph by Thanissara

Thanissara: What is important for us to understand about Earth as Goddess?

Mandaza: I love to call her Creator, myself. Humanity has forgotten where we came from. We actually came from the earth. This is the truth that has been forgotten by humankind. She is Mother Earth. She is the Creator. She is the giver of everything. Everything that we know of. You are holding a cup of tea there in your hands. That cup came from Mother Earth. You are wearing warm clothes because it is cold; all these clothes came from Mother Earth. And your body is from Mother Earth. When this body leaves the soul, it goes back to its mother. What comes from Mother Earth goes back to Mother Earth.

I don’t know where this idea of separating ourselves from Mother Earth came from. I don’t know the purpose of trying to separate humans from Mother Earth. The land is life. It is the Tree
of Life. If we tamper with the Tree of Life, there won’t be life on earth. We are incapable of taking care of land, land takes care of us. In many forms, in many ways. But humans think we own land. Since we own it, we can control it. This is what we think, that we can do anything with the land. This is what we are made to believe. That is wrong belief and wrong thinking altogether.

We are right when we call her “Mother Earth.” Mother of who? She is not only the mother of humans, she is the mother of all things. Just listen to your heart, close your eyes and think about this land we call Mother Earth; you’ll begin to see how big she is. How she owns us all. We can’t heal Mother Earth, we’re incapable of healing her; she heals herself. She is the one who can heal us. I see the land as a sacred temple. The land is holiness and wholeness, because she’s everything. She is the holy Oneness; that’s why she is a mystery. Studying geography, it will give us little information about this woman we call Mother Earth. It’s only those people who are given the eyes of the land who can truly understand the land.

You know she is the spirit of peace, the spirit of truth, the spirit of justice, the spirit of true freedom. She is the medicine Mama, that can heal any illness that the Western doctors are unable to handle, that even traditional healers are unable to handle. That medicine we call Mother Earth can handle anything. She is that important. Tampering with her is tampering with our own lives. She has many lives. If we lose our own one life, we cannot get another one, but she can. That is why she’s a mystery. She’s a wonder, that’s why she calls herself “I am the I am.”

We are realizing only now that she exists. Why are we trying to get closer to the land now? What has gone wrong? We declared our own independence separate from her, she was watching, and her comment was, “I just want to see how far you are going to go without me.” She is not looking for us, we are looking for her now. But why now? She is the medicine of life that we have separated ourselves from, therefore all is not going well in our human world. That is why we are trying to look for her.

She watches us do what we want to do, independently, and we are going nowhere. We are going in circles, around her. We are sitting on her, sleeping on her, walking on her. If she declares independence from humans, where are we going to stand? Where are we going to grow the food? Where are we going to build these beautiful homes and all that stuff? Where are we going to get the minerals from, if she declares her own independence? We have to connect with her for our own good.

My own warning is that if we mess around with this woman we are messing around with ourselves. She gives abundantly to all creation. Freely and with love, she is the compassion that we look for and she is the peace we look for. It is true that she is the freedom we seek. She is the unconditional love that we seek. She is the message of hope for the future, she is the life giver.

T: That’s so beautiful. It sounds like besides being creation, she’s a spirit.

M: And she is a spirit, yes, the spirit that we talk about, the spirit that we have even given different names, you can give her any name, she accepts that. Some people want to refer to her as the God or Goddess; she embraces those names. But she says, “I am who I am. I am everything.”

T: How do you get closer to her?

M: By understanding who she is. The moment you understand who she is you come closer to her. As you are talking about her, we are coming closer to her and she listens. But the moment we abuse her we are distancing ourselves from her, from the Tree of Life.

T: How do you understand who she is?

M: Go and talk to her, your own way. It could be through having in mind this woman during your yoga sessions, your nature walks. Think of her and you get in very close to her. She will talk to you. She speaks all languages, known and unknown. That is why she is a mystery.

T: Do we hear her in our hearts?

M: We do. We’ve got to understand her, not with our heads, but with our hearts, that’s important. When you mention the name Mother Earth you must feel it in your heart. Then she becomes you and you become her.

T: So we invite her in.

M: You just invite her. Just open the door to your heart, she will enter gracefully.

T: That could change everything.

M: And she changes everything. You begin to look like her, not only to look like her but you become her. So when you become her, you begin to look after yourself well. But at the moment you are still separate from her, you abuse her…

T: And abuse yourself.

M: You abuse yourself. This is the mysterious message that she gives us, the healing message. The only medicine that can bring world peace. It’s not from the Torah, the Koran, or the Bible anymore, it’s not from any other cultures that we’ve established for ourselves. We’ve come back to the real root of creation if we love this woman, the Earth.

T: It feels like our salvation is in that process.

M: It is indeed in that process [Laughs.] We have declared our own independence from her, we are separating ourselves from her. But she is Oneness—one whole, holy, holiness. If we walk with her we become her and she becomes us, we heal everything on planet earth.

T: It feels really radical that we could do that together.

M: Yes, but it must begin with you as an individual. Become Mother Earth yourself as an individual, then this big Tree of Life will expand, we then become a spider web. A spider web begins from the center and it grows. Who is this center? It’s you as an individual. Are you transformed?
Can Mother Earth see herself in you? Can you see yourself in Mother Earth? If you can then we’ll bring order in this world.

T: What would she like to see in us?

M: Beauty. Love. Compassion. Spirit of sharing. Laughter. Peace of mind. Eating good food, unpolluted food. That’s what she wants to see in us. But at this moment when she looks at humankind, beginning from the food we eat, the waters we drink, the way we live life, there’s chaos. She is not yet in us.

T: What can we learn from the animals and how is she in them?

M: If you go and visit the animal world, the giraffe, has a tall trunk, she can
see enemies from a long distance, she warns the rest of the animals around her. She, the giraffe can tell where good food is. Because her eyes are higher, she alerts other animals to say, “Let’s go this direction, there is food.” Are we doing like animals, we humans? With us, whoever discovered this, it belongs to me and my family—not with the world of animals. During the dry season there are other animals that can smell where the water is. Once they walk in that direction of the water, the rest of the animals and birds follow. Are we doing that? If Mandaza discovers a piece of land where there are diamonds, do I alert other people and say, “Come, please let’s come and share?” I will begin to take control… We even create a war to stop any other people from coming near that land where the diamonds are being discovered, where oil has been discovered.

T: The sense of ownership and control is a sickness.

M: It is a sickness and illness. Those who have eyes of Mother Earth should find ways of healing that illness.

T: How can we heal that? It’s so deep.

M: Let’s go in nature and we’ll learn how to do that… We are very good at talking about love of Mother Earth, we write magazines about the beautiful Mother Earth, we teach a lot about the beautiful Mother Nature but we are never near that beauty, we are very corrupt people.

T: Even when we look at it we make it distant from us.

M: We observe, we talk as observers, forgetting that we are also nature. Do we truly love ourselves? If we don’t love Mother Nature, how can you love yourself? Because we don’t know how to love ourselves, we end up growing fruit that is planted today, germinated today, and in the market today. How is that possible?

T: Because we try to control her for our own, we have created a Frankenstein.

M: Very true. So it’s no longer time for us humans to really read more about nature or to watch movies about Mother Earth, it’s time for us to live with nature, to be very close to Mother Nature, Mother Earth. She is you. And we are her.

T: Even if we’re in a city we could grow herbs or plants, some way of connecting, planting seeds . . . .

M: Look at what she does, Mama, look at what she does. There are trees everywhere in the cities, what are those trees doing there? Manuring mother Earth… every winter season they give their leaves back to Mother Earth.

T: We don’t give back.

M: There is injustice there, there is no love for Mother Nature. Yes we give things, dinner time, thank you Mother nature, by word of mouth, not by action. Go and give something back to Mother Nature, that becomes my powerful prayer.

T: We can do ceremonies, to make offerings.

M: Exactly, to honor her….

T: Honor her in her own place.

M: Very true.

Baba Mandaza. Photograph by Thanissara.
Baba Mandaza. Photograph by Thanissara.

T: Well, everything’s her own place. But to go into nature . . . .

M: Going into nature means you are going into your own self, yes. Do you truly love yourself if you don’t go into your own self?

T: We can do that on our own, we can do it together . . . .

M: On our own, we can do it together, collectively she would smile more. It must be our daily prayer, daily ritual. Just when you are in your kitchen doing your dishes, you are handling, holding Mother Nature, the water you are using there, all that you are using is a gift from her.

T: As water runs out, so many places are getting so dry. The elements are out of balance.

M: That’s the language she uses, drought, and you know, you are abusing yourselves, water is your blood, you people, how do you treat it?

T: What do you see in the future for us and Mother Nature?

M: We have to build our future from now. I’m so happy that we are aware that our future is bleak if we don’t connect with Mother Nature. Since we are all aware of this, what exactly are we doing about it? Mother Nature cannot do it for us. She has given us the knowledge, the wisdom, the tools, she’s handed them over to us. What are we doing with those tools to build our future? I always say you are a future ancestor and what you know today is going to be passed onto the next generations. Is your future as a future ancestor making you happy now, with the story you are writing today, the story you are making today? If your story is not making you happy you need to revisit that story and rewrite it, prepare our future now.

T: We must write new stories.

M: That’s correct, that’s what I see. If we continue polluting the land, as an ancestor, I will then influence future generations to pollute the land. It’s knowledge and wisdom passed on from Mandaza to the next generation. So you are the most important beginning of a future. You are the most important foundation for the future. How is this foundation that you are building now? How does it look like? Are you happy with the foundation you are laying right now for the future? Is it not going to collapse? We don’t want things to fall apart. We want to see a future whose foundation is going to last forever. When we sing the new song, the future can be built. That’s what I see. That’s exactly what I see.

This subject needs to be talked about, to be shared almost on a daily basis in our families, in our communities, in our neighborhoods. Talk about this beautiful Mother, bring her into our homes, the table, celebrations.
Acknowledge what we’ve been given, every breath. Because breath, the air we breathe is her. If she says, “I don’t want to breathe through you” what happens? The body goes, life goes, but she remains. She’s the only creation or creator who never dies.

T: We’re so lucky to be part of her creation.

M: Ja. If only humans knew how important they are to Mother Nature.

T: In what way?

M: We are very important people because we are Mother Nature’s vehicles, created in her holy image. She sees in you black or white color, she created that color. She is that color of your body. That human body form, she is that. That’s why she says, “I want to see myself in you and I want you to see yourself in me.” When I look at that tree I must see Mother Nature. She is that Great Spirit, that lizard on the rock, she is that beautiful spirit, that hippo, that frog, that eagle, that star, that new moon, you know, she’s all those things. Do we love her? She says, “Love me the way I love you people.” She could crush us into nothingness and she doesn’t feel sadness for she loses nothing.

T: I wouldn’t blame her after what we are doing to her, but she doesn’t, yet . . .

M: Exactly, Mama! She’s that powerful and that unique. So tonight when you go into your bed, look into that bed of yours, those are the gifts from Mother Nature, your beautiful bed came from her, your beautiful blankets, they are her gifts for us. The hair you are wearing, your hat, those are her gifts. I am who I am, I am everything. I am peace, I am love, I am freedom, I am justice, I’m your future, I’m your beginning.

T: I’m your end.

M: I’m your end, exactly, yes. This is what I see Mama, look at all the gifts from her. She says, “Take anything you want, but respect what I give you.” We have forgotten where we came from, we have forgotten the message, we have forgotten the teaching. So we need to look back and say, “I want to come back home.” ◆

From ParabolaVolume 44, No. 4, “Goddess,” Fall 2019. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing. Four times a yearParabola has explored the deepest questions of human existence. Without your support, we would cease to exist. Please consider helping us by making a donation.