Monday, March 8, 2010

Soul and Spirit in African American Culture by Author Stephanie Rose Bird

Soul and Spirit in African American Culture
By Stephanie Rose Bird

The Big Book of Soul: the Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit: Legend & Lore, Music and Mysticism, Recipes and Rituals, by Stephanie Rose Bird(Hampton Roads, 2010) takes an unusual path to understanding soul and spirit in African cultures. As an herbalist that practices African earth-based spirituality, I used my background as the lens through which to understand the African American spirit.

Some words are more conceptual than they are easy to define; such is the case with spirit, soul and yes, even African American Spirit. Let’s examine each of these individually. When I think of spirit, I think of many different aspects of the word. I think of Holy Spirit of course but I also consider that part of the self that perseveres and shines—both are spirit. Spirit is very connected to heart, an aspect of the self that I also gave plenty of room to in my book.

Soul is so many things. It is a heart-felt spirit that is evidenced through connection to the arts such as dancing, singing, visual creations and music. Soul is the inner-most part of our being and the element that can live on when our body fails us. Soul connects with spirit making a powerful force.

African American spirit is challenging to define because African Americans are such a diverse people. Today in America there are communities and individual Africans living in the United States who do not have a history of enslavement. Then too, there are those of us that are here because of the legacy of slavery—and this includes many African-Caribbean immigrants. Just as with the term African American, when you talk spirit you are talking something equally varied especially when you consider spirituality which is at the foundations of The Big Book of Soul.

Many people know of African American spirituality through the Christian church. Others realize there is also a contention of Moslem African Americans. Few understand that there are quite a few who practice African Traditional Religions (ATRs) and African-derived Religions (ADRs). I see ATRs and ADRs as foundational concepts in our inner-most faith, our soul faith if you will, and that is why it is one of the primary foci of my book.

My people and most of the African Americans I know have an ancestry that includes enslavement and the middle passage. That history is evidence that an important part of the African American spirit is the spirit of survival and resilience. It is a soulful culture that has creatively retained Africanisms from the Motherland, reflecting bits and pieces of African culture to the present day.

An Africanism is a retained cultural practice that originated in Africa but that is today mirrored in the diaspora (the Americas, Caribbean, as well as parts of Europe). The Big Book of Soul examines Africanisms such as West African drumming, Negro spirituals, Field songs, and various types of dance, soul foods, notions of beauty, and even healing remedies and baths as a means of cultural expression for the African American spirit. Conceptually, The Big Book of Soul is indeed a very big book addressing many topics that have been little understood and seldom discussed.

Bio:Stephanie Rose Bird is the author of the newly released The Big Book of Soul: the Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit. She is also the author of A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for Body and Spirit, (Lawrence Hill Books, 2009) Light Bright and Damned Near White: Biracial and Triracial Culture in America (Greenwood Publishers, 2009), Four Seasons of Mojo: an Herbal Guide to Natural Living and Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs. In addition to writing, she is a professional practicing artist and instructor specializing in oils, mixed media, handmade paper and pastels. She blogs and writes about her books on You can find links to her books on her website located at Bird lives with her husband, family and animal companions in the Chicago area. Inquiries about book signings or workshops should be directed to: Rosemary Herbert, Publicity Manager, Red Wheel Weiser Conari, 65 Parker Street, Suite 7, Newburyport, MA 01950, 978-465-0504, ext. 1116, 978-465-0243 (fax),

About the Book:
Stephanie Rose Bird, author of the new age book, The Big Book of Soul: The Ultimate Guide to the African-American Spirit will be stopping off at Writing Daze! Soul is the essence of African American culture–the ingredient that makes it tick. In The Big Book of Soul, writer and herbalist Stephanie Rose Bird takes us on an amazing journey into the ancient traditions of mysticism, spirituality, and mythology that lie beneath this uniquely African American experience.
Bird explores the healing, magic, and divination traditions of ancient African earth-based spirituality, and traces how these practices have evolved in contemporary African American culture. Along the way she offers recipes, rituals and resources that you can use to heal your life.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for hosting me Rebecca!


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