THE BWITI TRADITION
The Missoko Bwiti tradition is from central West Africa, and it is not considered a religion. Bwiti is the study of life, nature, healing, and one's self. The study of life is infinite. There are no beliefs held or adopted in the Bwiti; there is only the art of knowing. Beliefs are considered to be dangerous artificial constructs that can come and go. The oral tradition supports this lifelong journey of discovery. It is both mystical and grounded into embodied life and the earth itself.
The tradition centers around connecting to one's soul, being present in the moment, and observing the truth—which is is verified with at least 3 of our human senses. In this practice of verifying truth with the 3 senses, delusion can be averted.
The ceremonial and reverent use of the Iboga root is integral to the Bwiti tradition for spiritual initiation, spiritual discovery, speaking with one's soul, spiritual and physical healing, shamanic diagnosis and prescription, community celebration ceremonies, self-study, prayerful microdosing, direct communication with nature spirits, fertility and aphrodisiac purposes, an endurance and vision aid during long hunts (in light doses), spiritual travel through space and time, and communion with ancestors as well as the healing of ancestral lines.
Knowledge of iboga was first held by the Babongo people, otherwise known as the Pygmies, who then passed on the practice to sects within the Bwiti tradition. As the 2nd oldest genetic line in the world, the Babongo people may have worked with iboga since ancient times.
Individual counseling and community discussion is integral to the Bwiti healing process with iboga. But this is no ordinary counseling. Rather, it is a channeled transmission from the medicine through trained providers. The counseling is a remarkable, living modality that can take years to master. This Bwiti counseling technology is radically different from Western psychotherapy approaches to counseling.
When one comes to a Bwiti ceremony, it is important that a guest respects that they are coming to a Bwiti ceremony—and not psychotherapy. Often, guests come to a ceremony precisely because therapy has not been enough thus far. While the SoulCentro team is trauma informed and honors consent with every offering, we are also responsible for honoring the Bwiti tradition. A guest must be willing to drop comparisons to Western approaches, examine any unconscious bias around the superiority of Western ways, be open to experiencing the indigenous ways of knowing, and be completely honest. Avoidance, resistance, or judgement resulting from prejudices can interfere with the healing potential of these profound healing arts which have been honed over eons. Just as with Western psychotherapy, a fruitful process with the Bwiti requires participation and willingness.
While medicine-informed therapists can be extremely helpful for the preparation before and integration after the medicine experience, the retreat and ceremony space is not the place for therapy or therapist intervention. In fact, having a therapist present who is not also a fully Bwiti trained medicine provider could be detrimental in the midst of the sensitive multi-day medicine process.
While we at SoulCentro as traditional providers agree that it is important to adapt to some degree when bridging different cultures, we are not willing to alter the essence of Bwiti tradition to suit people's individual preferences or prejudices. That would be cultural appropriation.
While there are cultural details that are intimately connected to the indigenous environment and lifestyle, much of the Bwiti tradition is highly relevant to our modern day urban existence and ailments. The Bwiti have studied the human being mind for countless generations, and in many ways, the Bwiti can see our individual and collective pathologies more clearly than we can in the industrialized world—and help to heal them.
This page is a humble introduction to this vast and rich tradition with many unique branches within it, and this is by no means a comprehensive definition. In fact, much of the traditional knowledge and practices are reserved for initiates.
We at SoulCentro are beyond grateful for the Missoko Bwiti tradition and the many profound ways that it has blessed our lives and the healing process of many guests. We have been initiated into the tradition and also trained as iboga providers, which is a far more complex commitment. Initiation is considered to be the beginning, not a license to serve this medicine. Members of the SoulCentro team have been specifically requested by indigenous Bwiti elders to help share and represent the tradition in the West. We honor this request, while remaining in connection with our Bwiti community through annual journeys. We are committed to practicing reciprocity with our Bwiti elders in dynamic, collaborative projects.