About the Bwiti
Bwiti is an indigenous spiritual path that is followed by many different tribes in Gabon, Africa. It is not a tribe as many believe. Many tribes do however pass on the traditions of the Bwiti to their future generations. Bwiti is also not a religion as many mistake it to be. Religion by definition is a belief system whereas in the Bwiti there isn’t a standard belief system where everybody has to follow without question. Questioning and searching for the truth is an important part of the Bwiti and all initiates are encouraged to find the truth for themselves and actually not listen to or accept anything that man says; no human ideas and teachings but only what an individual can confirm by using all his/her own senses and what can ultimately be confirmed by taking an Iboga journey and finding to be true.
“The Bwiit tradition teaches us about who we are and about how to learn and discover about humankind, nature and god. Whatever we want to know Iboga will show us not in theory but in practice. Our tradition is not about theories as Iboga will allow you to experience what you need to know. The Bwiti is about knowing and not about believing.” – Moughenda Eating more Iboga is what allows an initiate to go deeper into his/her research. Becoming initiated into the Bwiti is done by completing a series of initiations one being deep spiritual research that is done by eating many fistfuls of fresh Iboga root bark for days and spiritually traveling as far back as to learn about the creation of human kind.
Iboga was first discovered by Pygmies who then taught some of the bantu tribes in the South of Gabon about working with Iboga and the traditions of the Bwiti. Over time these tribes fully immersed themselves into the Bwiti, making it their school of life; where the main teacher was Iboga. Soon enough other tribes from the North and then the East visited the South of Gabon in order learn about the Bwiti and Iboga. Concerned about what the other tribes might do with the knowledge of the Bwiti and wanting to protect it they only shared a very small part of their knowledge with the (well documented) Fang tribes in the North and other tribes in the East. After a few years passed, missionaries from Europe came to Gabon and started trying to convert the tribes to Christianity. The Fang in the north was heavily influenced but refused to let go of the small piece they knew about the Bwiti. So they mixed the two. The tribes in the South and East refused Christianity. The tribes in the South of Gabon were fully initiated into the Bwiti and nothing could shake them from the truth. The tribes in the East although, at the time, not very advanced in their spiritual practice intuitively knew the truth and also rejected Christianity. The Bwiti in the south grew to trust the Bwiti in the East and shared all of their knowledge with them.
“Today both Bwiti from the South and East understand one another. The Bwiti from the south will boldly go into the ceremonies in the North and even correct them on matters pertaining to the Bwiti and Iboga. The Fang of the North does not have the courage to attend a ceremony in the South or East of Gabon.” – Moughenda
Today the pure tradition Bwiti will hold their ceremonies in temples while the Fang in the North will hold their ceremonies in temples as well as churches. Many of the Fang bear crosses and will sometimes be dressed in white gowns much like what the Pope wears during ceremonies or mass. They will sing Christian songs and praise Jesus Christ. Something you will never hear in the South and East. In order to understand why there are two different beleifs in the Bwiti one must realize that the truth exists in the Spiritual world and this realm has been locked up for safe keeping.
When someone takes Iboga they will sometimes have visions but there are different levels of visions. Some visions are very meaning full and others are not. To see visions that are meaningful you need to be connected spiritually with the Iboga spirit, you need to enter spiritual world. Some of the knowledge that the tribes in the south of Gabon eventually shared with the tribes in the East is the codes. The codes of nature are the keys to unlock the door to the spiritual world. When this door is opened then it is possible to have very meaningful visions and experience truth. Without these keys a person experiences very low level visions. No matter who goes through an initiation as long as it is with a skilled guide who poses the codes of nature they will always come to the same truth.
The time when a person experiences their initiation is at the time when they are becoming a man or a woman, crossing over to adulthood from childhood or in other words they eat Iboga as part of their right-of-passage. From then on it is a school of life. Where young adults learn about life itself. The Bwiti has many teachings about how to live your daily life, intended to build a person in a very high spiritual way. It is a very serious spiritual education. The tradition teaches about the physical and the spiritual world.
“It is through the tradition that we discover and ground our selves and through initiations through the use of Iboga which teaches us how to get in touch with our ancestors and god.”
The Bwiti is a brotherhood and a sisterhood of healers and protectors. In the Bwiti all humans are equal. There are no leaders or followers. There are however people within the Bwiti that have titles to identify their roles within the village, there are; the Shamans, Elders, Healers, Apprentices, Students of life and Musicians. As mentioned before the main teacher in the Bwiti is Iboga. The Shaman is a guide and a messenger and the Elders are guardians of the codes (tradition). They organize the initiations and the ongoing ceremonies to heal and protect their people. Shamans and Elders are teachers but they only teach about the tradition so that the initiates can then go on to the initiation to confirm and investigate further what their elders have taught them.
The experiences and even the somewhat gruelling initiations of the Bwiti are all done with love and to ensure that each child becomes a strong adult that is grounded and will survive the most challenging of times that life can sometimes throw our way all while maintaining peace in our mind.