Ukuphahla: Communicating to the Ancestors

Updated: Oct 1, 2020


"Communication is a two way street. Sometimes I have to talk and ask for guidance - Pahla, other times I have to keep quite and hear the response - Mediation."
Gogo Noma


Thokozani MaAfrika, Camangwini, Thobela, Lesedi, Ndawe, Greetings to all.


It is Friday yet again and week after week in each lesson that I share I am also taught. It is that day of the week where we learn more about African Spirituality. This is the online classroom where learning is made simple. My name is Gogo Noma and welcome to the classroom where you learn with the educator.


Today’s lesson is very close to my heart and it is the reason I am where I am today, Spiritually. I am very patient when I teach one about it and I can never tire to repeat the process until it is understood. Today’s lesson is about Ukuphahla.


Please remember that I share with you experiences from my own spiritual journey and the information that has guided me to be who I am today, hoping you will also share and we can grow together.


I grew up going to Sunday school and not being exposed to any cultural practices. The only thing I knew and understood about Dingaka tsa setso/ Sangomas was that they worship and pray to Ancestors and that they have turned away from God and need to be saved from their lost ways. Sad, I know. Was this taught to me at home, NO, but the conversations shared with me in my Christian society made being a Prophet/Moprofeta more gloried and God-like than being a Sangoma.



The first time I tried to Pahla, I found myself falling back into Thapelo/Prayer. Which is where I am going to start today, Ukuphahla and ukuthandaza are two different practices or rituals in African Spirituality.


Ukuphahla, ho Phahla, is a ritual performed to create a connection and help one to communicate to the Ancestors. Those who have walked this earth, the Ancestors, Ba ho Modimo (Badimo/ Amathonga).


Ukuthandaza, ho Rapela, is a ritual performed to communicate to God, The Creator, The Source, Modimo ya hodimo mahodimong. When we pray, we are connecting to the power of creation.

There are many ways explained and prescribed daily for Ukuphahla, personally I believe each line of Ancestors will always guide one on how to communicate with them. Some things are said to be basic, but for me the only “basic thing” about Ukuphahla is you and a clear intention to your Ancestors, everything else is of the physical world and is added as per ancestral request or guidance.


Below I am not going to give a prescription on how to Pahla, but I am hoping to share guidelines that will help you make a connection to your Ancestors or Spiritual guides.


Ukuphahla – Communicating to Ancestors/Spiritual guides


· A candle

o White being the basic colour to act as a source of light between you and the Spiritual realm. A light that will help the Ancestors see you and the light that will help you see what they are communicating back.

o The use of other colour candles require for one to have a deeper understand of candle colours and what they represent, or to use them under the guidance of a Spiritual guider/Sangoma.

o The number of candles also depend on your intention for Ukuphahla, for example, if one is trying to communicate to both the paternal and maternal side they can use two candles and monitor separately how the candles response (therefore it is important to have someone who is guiding you and who you consult during this time, until you can understand the way your Ancestors communicate.)


· Communication Instruments

o I am going to refer to the below as communication instruments, as they are used to help strengthen the signal when trying to make a connection to the ancestors.


o Firstly, let’s look at Impepho. In other cultures, not everyone can burn Impepho or Impepho is not used at all for ho Pahla. Impepho is one of the communication instruments used to signal to the ancestors that you are trying to make a connection. I always say with Impepho we are simple saying "where there is smoke there is fire", so Ancestors will see, listen and hear you. Ancestors are with us, always, so don’t use Impepho to say you are calling the Ancestors, it is used to signal your intention to communicate. There different types of Impepho that can be used for different intentions when we Pahla. We will learn more about them soon. I personally walk with Spirit Guides that love incense sticks, so I use them more than Impepho ha ke Pahla.

o Snuff, BB and/or Matekoane/Cannabis and alcohol can also be use as offerings. The kind of alcohol is also depended on cultural preferences and the intention for Ukuphahla. Alcohol may include umqombothi, Gin, Brandy, etc.

o Some people must also give maize meal, seeds, and the likes as offerings.

o You might even need to add a bowl or a glass of water.



What does one say during Ukuphahla?


This is one of the first question I asked myself, especially when you start hearing people call all the clan names and types of Ancestral Spirits that you do not even know. This thing was not going to make sense to me, and I was never going to understand or even do it, so I thought.


The basic process for me is as follows, Thokozisa to the Amathonga -give greetings and seek their attention. The sacred clamping of hands is like a knock on the door in the Spiritual realm. I don’t think the word introduce works well here, I would rather say acknowledge who you are by saying your Paternal and Maternal surname, include clan names if you know them. Say your name and acknowledge your parents, whether alive or no-more. Then say your intention for Ukuphahla and start communicating.


Most people ask how do I communicate, what I am allowed and not allowed to say? When we talk about Ancestors, we are talking about your parents, your grandparents and so on, in other words your elders. How do you communicate with your Grandmother who is still alive today? My advice, communicate with respect, be clear, be specific, and be truthful. Even when you are upset and things are not working out, they are elders be firm and assertive but never show disrespect or aggression.


This is an example of what I used to say before I understood all the Spirits that walk with me, the Guides that I now call and acknowledge daily.


“Thokozani BoGogo na BoMkhulu. Lesedi BoNkgono le BoNtatemoholo. Thokozani batho ba ha Mkhehlane. Thokozani batho ba ha Silubane. Ke nna Nomatjhini Mkhehlane. Letsibolo la Tiisetso Sello Mkhehlane le Matshepo Silubane. Ke tlo kopa ho lona Lesedi le Khanya……….” Then I will start stating my reasons for Ukuphahla.

The place where we perform the ritual Ukuphahla is known as Umsamo or an Alter or a Shrine. Join me next week as we explore Umsamo in details, from what it is, to the different types of Umsamo and much more.

If you do not know how to Pahla, if you have been doing the ritual following what you see on social media alone, or what you are reading from sources such as this blog page of mine, without any Spiritual guidance, today take this valuable and life changing advice for free, consult and be guided in the right process for you and your guides. In Spirituality, there is no “one-size-fit-all”. This will also help you to have someone explain and clarify to you signals from your ancestors, for example, they can do candle reading for you.


Hope that this lesson has helped you understand Ukuphahla in more details and you now see the difference between Ukuphahla and ukuthandaza.


Don’t forget next week we are learning about Umsamo. Make sure you don’t miss out on anything promoting Spiritual growth by following me on my Facebook page and Instagram.


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Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences.


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My name is Noma, and this is Learning with Noma.

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Thank you for joining the class, until next time….
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