I feel very fortunate to have met Sobonfu Some in 2016 at the Summer Solstice. I asked her a question about the Dagara tribal attitude to gay people and the room was suddenly engulfed in a huge smile and laugh from the lovely Sobonfu. “We don’t call them gay” she said, “they are the special ones, they are the gatekeepers, without them nothing can happen.” The open mouthed shock on the faces of the white middle class audience was a treat.
Sobonfu left her body in 2017. I had asked her to speak more about the gatekeepers, to come to LGBT spiritual events and give talks, but she insisted that it was not her place to speak on behalf of the gatekeepers, that the elders did not want her to, and said she had already written all that she could share in her book, ‘The Spirit of Intimacy’.
Here is the chapter about the gatekeepers from that book, shared here because this should be found and read by as many people as possible. I observe I am not the only one to think this, and have included below a couple of Youtube links where the chapter is read out loud.
SOBONFU SOME: THE SPIRIT OF INTIMACY
‘African teachings in the ways of relationships’ (2000)
HOMOSEXUALITY: THE GATEKEEPERS
The words gay and lesbian do not exist in the village, but there is the word gatekeeper. Gatekeepers are people who live a life at the edge between the worlds – the world of the village and the world of spirit. Though they do not marry in this world, they say they have partners in other dimensions.
What they do, they don’t like to communicate to anyone. It is their right to keep it to themselves. Everybody in the village respects that because without gatekeepers, there is no access to other worlds. Most people in the West define themselves and others by sexual orientation. This way of looking at gatekeepers will kill the spirit of the gatekeeper. Gatekeepers in the village are able to do their job simply because of strong spiritual connection, and also their ability to direct their sexual energy not to other people but to spirit.
The gatekeepers stand on the threshold of the gender line. They are mediators between the two genders. They make sure there is peace and balance between women and men. If the two genders are in conflict and the whole village is caught in it, the gatekeepers are the ones to bring peace. Gatekeepers do not take sides. They simply act as “the sword of truth and integrity.”
There are many gates that link a village to other worlds. The only people who have access to all these gates are the gatekeepers. I should mention here that there are two different kinds of gatekeeper.
The first group has the ability to guard a limited number of gates to the other world, specifically,those that correspond to the Dagara cosmology – water, earth, fire, minerals, and nature – because they vibrate the energies of those gates.
The second group of gatekeepers, which is our focus here, has the responsibility of overseeing all the gates. They are in contact not only with the elemental gates but also with many others. They have one foot in all the other worlds and other foot here. This is why the vibration of their body is totally different from others. They also have access to other-dimensional entities such as Kontombile, small beings who are very magical and knowledgeable. They are known as leprechauns in the Irish tradition.
Now what would happen if you’re dealing with a culture that doesn’t care about these gateways? What happens is that a gay person cannot do his job. Gatekeepers are left unable to accomplish their purpose. This is one of the most distinguishing factors about gays in the village. Now, as to their sexual orientation, nobody cares about this questions: they care only about their performance as gatekeepers. I figure if they want people in the village to know about their sexuality, they will share it with them. I once heard that one of the reasons why gatekeepers are able to open gates to other dimensions is in the way they use their sexual energy. Their ability to focus their sexual energy is a particular way allows them to open and close different gates.
The life of gay people in the West is in many ways a reaction to pressure from a society that rejects them. This is partly because a culture that has forgotten so much about itself will displace certain groups of people, such as the gay community, from their true roles.
In the village they are not seen as the other. They are not forced to create a separate community in order to survive. People do not put a negative label on them, they are regarded no differently than any other child of the village. They are born gatekeepers, with specific purposes, and are encouraged to fulfill the role they’re born to in the interests of the community.
In the village, gatekeepers have an eye of both genders. They can help the genders to understand each other better than usual in their daily life. That’s why a group of women, for example, might gather and bring a male gatekeeper to help them understand certain village issues. The same things happens on the other side, with a female gatekeeper coming into the middle of the men’s circle.
In the village homosexuality is seen very differently that it is seen in the West, in part because all sexuality is spiritually based. Taken away from its spiritual context, it becomes a source of controversy, and can be exploited. In the village, you never see gatekeepers, or anybody for that matter, displaying their sexuality or commenting on the sexuality of others.
Gatekeepers hold keys to other dimensions. They maintain a certain alignment between the spirit world and the world of the village. Without them, the gates to the other world would be shut.
On the other side of these gates lies the spirit world or other dimensions. Gatekeepers are in constant communication with beings who live there, who have the ability to teach us how to deal with ritual. And gatekeepers have the capacity to take other people to those places.
A gatekeeper’s knowledge is different from the knowledge of mentors and elders. This is because elders do not necessarily have access to all the gateways. The gatekeepers on the other hand, have access to all the dimensions. They can open any gate. Although their knowledge is very broad, elders will call upon gatekeepers to help them open a particular gate or help them better understand what the spirit world is about.
Gays and lesbians in the West are often very spiritual, but they have been taken away from their connection with spirit. My feeling is that without that outlet or that role in the culture, they have to find other ways of defining themselves. This could be one of the reasons why they would want to get married or make themselves look as though they do not have a unique purpose.
I have seen people in the West who have lost their identity try to usurp the role of gatekeeper once they learn about the power it involves. They do this for their own benefit, without really knowing what it means to be a gatekeeper. Being a false gatekeeper is not helpful to anyone. It can only be harmful to the usurper.
These people need to understand that in the village a person doesn’t become a gatekeeper out of a desire for power or even because of sexual orientation. No. Gatekeeping is part of one’s life purpose, announced before birth and developed through rigorous initiatory training to ensure that its power is not misused. A gatekeeper is responsible for a whole village, a whole tribe. Gatekeeping is not a game.
READ ALSO MALIDOMA SOME INTERVIEW FROM 1993 ON THE GATEKEEPERS: