Grandmother Bernadette rebienot

     What I do today does not surprise me. I saw it all a long time ago. I didn't deduct anything from all I saw, and I haven't added anything. The temple that we build is from all that is inside us. This little voice within that each one of us has is our own advisor."

Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot was born in Libreville, Gabon of the Omyene linguistic community.  When she was very young, her mother died, and her father and grandmother raised her.  By age 5, Bernadette had her first vision, which soon came to pass. Her father, however, discouraged Bernadette from sharing these visions, so she kept them to herself.

Bernadette's grandmother was a twin, and it was believed she was given many special gifts as a result. Bernadette's grandmother learned the traditional medicine ways of the Pygmies. She shared this knowledge with her granddaughter. She taught Bernadette that plants are a special gift from the ancestors and must be protected for future generations.

Bernadette's grandmother believed in education, so when Bernadette was was of school age, she was sent a convent to live and to learn. There, Bernadette shared her visions with friends until she became seriously ill. The right side of her face was affected, and she was in excruciating pain.  The light made her ill. For three years, she lived in darkness.

When modern doctors and medicines failed to cure Bernadette,  her family took her to a Pygmy master of traditional medicines. At least 80% of Africans go to traditional healers. In her culture, healers believe humans actually have two bodies: the spiritual and physical.  Traditional healers look at people in their relationship with nature and the cosmos, then treat the person, not the illness itself.  This traditional healer recognized Bernadette's special gifts and said her illness was part of her initiation as a medicine woman.  "Disease is a foreign thing. It inhabits us to bother us into making necessary spiritual changes," Grandmother Bernadette remembers. She now believes that traditional and scientific communities must respect and accept each other before humanity can begin a healing process.

When Grandmother Bernadette accepted her future role as a medicine woman, the pygmy healer invited her to an initiation rite, a supreme honor. In most indigenous cultures, there is a special healing plant used in initiation ceremonies.  In Gabon, the plant is called Iboga. Iboga  is found in the lush primeval rainforests and has many healing powers.  "Iboga is a cultural treasure," Grandmother Bernadette explains. "We are the holders of this plants secrets ... iboga is therapeutic spiritually, a plant about meditation."

During her first initiation, Grandmother Bernadette saw everything that was going to happen to her in the future. Soon, her health returned.  With help from her master teacher, she slowly began using her gifts. Today Grandmother Bernadatte Rebienot is a teacher, therapist, and master of the Iboga Bwiti Rite and of Women's Initiations.  The people call her by her spirit name which means "awaited on, expected for a long time."  Grandmother Bernadette soon became well-known in her country. She has been president of the Association of Traditional Medicine Practitioners for Gabonese Health since 1994.

For centuries, Gabon women have gather in the forest to share their visions, pray for world peace and the well-being of their people.  "In Gabon," Grandmother Bernadette says," when the Grandmother speak, the President  listens. There is war all around us, but there is no war in Gabon."

Addressing the Council of Grandmothers for the first time, Grandmother Bernadette said it felt like a dream. She had seen them all while in a trance--thirteen Grandmothers from around the world speaking with one voice.  "The spirits of the forest of Gabon have said that we can't go backwards anymore. We don't have fear anymore. Time is short. Time is calling us. Spirit exists. It is much stronger than the body. ...spirituality is no different among the races. No one chooses where they are born. Only destiny. ... We all share ancestors because humanity is humanity.

"This morning, as I watched a deer in these beautiful woods, a spirit called my name twice," she said. "The voice of the spirit assured me this is very very big work we Grandmothers are doing."


Text adapted from "Grandmothers Council the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision
For Our Planet"
by Carol Schaefer
Trumpeter Books, 2006

Grandmother Bernadette Riebenot
Grandmother Bernadette shares her message in an online video.
Interview with Grandmother Bernadette
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Gabon Art

Historical Studies and Culture, Gabon, Africa
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Agriculture and Food in Gabon
Azingo Nationale
The Gabon national football team
This thinking game is played at funerals before the body is buried to entertain the body's spirit .
Association for Nature and Culture : Ebando
Based in Gabon Central Africa
Iboga Bwiti Rite
Online video from the BBC.
Protection of cultural resources of the Pygmies of Gabon

Eco-tourism in Gabon
BBC Radio program :Josh Ponte  worked with orphan Western Lowland Gorillas and helped establish a new colony.

The Story of  African Oil
In Gabon, critics say a tiny elite has siphoned-off the oil wealth.

Sustainable Development
News articles about Gabon

The People of Gabon

Omyene Language

Word from the Christian Bible
Spoken in the Omyene language

Bwiti Dancers

Music from Gabao
A music video.
Pierre Akendengue
Winner of the prestigious "Prix d'excellence" at the Africa Music awards in Libreville
Didier Ontchanga
An Afro pop singer

Background by Tickie
World Pulse Magazine


The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers