In search of Madame Fatou Seck

In search of Madame Fatou Seck

Madame Fatou Seck (center) at a healing ceremony in the U.S.


I’ve never met Madame Fatou Seck. Yet this great Senegalese healer calls out to me in Spirit.

It’s a feeling that has haunted me for years. I plan to visit Senegal in Across The King’s River to pay my respects to Fatou Seck and others who fight to keep the healing and spiritual traditions of this West African country alive.

I also long to walk barefoot on Senegalese soil. Though, I’ve never been there, I sense some of my ancestors were Senegalese (as well as Yoruba). Stephanie, my wife, has always insisted I look Senegalese. Perhaps this explains the connection I feel – the urge to visit a land that speaks to my past, present and future.

Madame Fatou Seck, crossed over in Spirit several years ago. Those who met her say being in her presence was a moving experience. Charles Finch, an African-american doctor and scholar who has conducted extensive research in Senegal, says meeting Fatou Seck was unforgettable.

“For the first time in my life, I could feel energetic power. When you have that experience, it makes quite an impression,” Finch says.

And Finch recalls how he witnessed “near miracles” while working with Fatou Seck – like the time she healed one Italian man who had suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome, a nervous system disorder, for most of his life.

Born into a family of fishermen in 1896, Madame Fato Seck was called into the healing traditions at age 17 and was “never known to fail” in her healing initiatives. At 26, she became a priestess of Ndeppkat, a spiritual science known for its efficacy in treating medical and mental disorders.

Practitioners of Ndeppkat are all women. Through Ndepp, God, the world of the ancestors and humankind are reunited once again, and “healing is carried out by invoking the intervention of cosmo-spiritual beings known as Rabs. Although there are many Rabs, only seven major Rabs guide human destiny and one communicates with them through drums, dances, songs, invocations, offerings and sacrifice.”

Maam Coumba Lamba: Ndoye is the ruler of the rabs. She is the “Great Mother of the Waters” whose special medium is the ocean.

Maam Massamba: Ndoye is the messenger of the rabs, maintaining the interconnection between the rabs and their human devotees. Trees and forests are sacred to him and when he is well satisfied with obeiances to him, he shows himself as a sudden, powerful gust of wind.”

Maam Nguessou: is the rab of griots and drummers.

Nak Dawur Mbay: is the rab of Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Ndiare: is the daughter of Maam Coumba Lamba.

And Matuley Faye: is the rab of Muslims.

As we prepare to go into production of Across The King’s River, I can’t help but wonder what Madame Fatou Seck and the Rabs will reveal to me – and you.

Vanishing Voices

Vanishing Voices


Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages, is without question, the book that inspired me the most to make this film. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to speak to Dr. Daniel Nettle, one of the co-authors of Vanishing Voices several years ago. And you can listen to that interview here: http://acrossthekingsriver.com/press/

Scholars say that at least half of the world’s languages may die out in the next century, and when languages die we lose a vast body of knowledge (scientific, medicinal, linguistic, botanical, etc.) because the accumulated wisdom of humanity is encoded in language and many languages that are on the verge of extinction are not well documented.

The authors of Vanishing Voices argue that “the extinction of languages is part of the larger picture of the near total collapse of the worldwide eco-system.”

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but think of the vast body of healing knowledge in Ifa and other African spiritual systems. If we allow our spiritual traditions to die, in many ways we will die too.

The issue of language extinction is a complex one. Although some cultures “abandon” their language in favor of another, external pressures are often the root cause of language extinction. In the book, “Ifa Will Mend Our Broken World,” Yoruba scholar Wande Abimbola says: “The school system in Africa has to be decolonized. It is still a colonial entity. Colonialism and slavery have not ended on the African continent. Once a people are not allowed to use their own mother tongue for education from infancy, their minds have been colonized! The conceptual space in their minds has been occupied by the language that they now speak, which makes them more or less like robots.”

I’ve been studying the Yoruba language for more than 10 years. Though I speak it fluently, I know I’ll be a student for the rest of my life. I must admit that I am disheartened that very few people in the African diaspora speak the language. It’s not that difficult to learn – the keys are dedication and hard work. You must make it a way of life. Here are some tips for those who wish to learn a new language:

1. Make it part of your daily routine. Don’t just take classes.
2. In addition to studying books, watch movies in the language you wish to learn.
3. Don’t make excuses: practice, practice, practice.

I recently saw a video of a young, white American man speaking Yoruba. I was inspired by his dedication and his fluency. If he can learn it, and I have learned it, what’s stopping you? Here’s the link to the video: Kayode Oyinbo Speaking Yoruba