Grandmother: Bernadette Rebienot | Omyèné, Gabun/Afrika
Bernadette says that she inherited the ability to see things which others couldn’t from her grandmother who was a twin. Her grandmother also taught her that wild plants were a gift from the ancestors and that they should be preserved for future generations. her grandmother told her time and time again that she ‘should think of tomorrow’ and ‘respect the forest.’
On her mother’s death, Bernadette was sent to a girls’ convent school where she was educated by nuns. After a time she became seriously ill. The right side of her face was affected and because of the excruciating pain she was forced to spend her time in darkness as light exacerbated the symptoms. The illness had already lasted 3 years when Bernadette’s grandmother insisted that traditional medicine should be tried. The Pygmy master they consulted recognized that Bernadette had a special gift and they she should accept her illness as the path to her initiation as a medicine woman.
The traditional healing methods in Bernadette’s culture are based on the idea that there are two bodies: a physical and a spiritual one. ‘Disease is something foreign which seeks us out and disturbs us so that we take the necessary spiritual steps. This means that when the physical body is treated, the spiritual one is treated the same time. In Western science only the physical body is recognized and treated, the spiritual side of a person is not taken into account. In Africa we are convinced that the two bodies complement each other.’
The Pygmy master they consulted invited two other masters to be present at Bernadette’s initiation ceremony which was a great honor. During her first initiation as a young girl the traditional healing plant Iboga was used. Through this Bernadette could see how her future life would be. Soon after she regained her health.
Under the supervision of her master she slowly began to use her gifts until she finally understood and accepted her destiny and spirituality which led her to become a healer. The skills developed through her master’s tuition she later applied as teacher, therapist and master of the Iboga-Bwiti-Rite.
Grandmother Bernadette soon became well-known in her country. Since 1994 she has been the president of the Health Department of Traditional Medicine and participated in many international conferences. She is a widow, the mother of 10 children and grandmother to 23 grandchildren.
Addressing the Grandmothers’ Council for the first time, Grandmother Bernadette said that it felt like a dream to be sitting at the table with all these women. In a trance she had seen the 13 Grandmothers all speaking with one voice.