Jambalaya author Luisah Teish bears a fresh trove of cultural treasures in her latest collection
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New Orleans, LA: From the author of the spirituality classic Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals comes to a captivating collection of West African folklore. In A Calabash of Cowries: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, storyteller, priestess, educator, and author Luisah Teish presents age-old tales through a contemporary feminist, eco-spiritual lens. “As a storyteller, I am blessed with the greatest of ancestral gifts: the ability, through the wealth of myths and folktale found in a calabash of cowries, to recount the wisdom of the ancestors and demonstrate its relevance to our present life,” she writes in the book’s introduction.
A Calabash of Cowries sets to print the folktales and spiritual literature that have guided and enlivened West African communities, both diasporic and continental, for centuries. From this rich trove Teish mines encompassing insights on gender, selfhood, relationships, community, labor, well-being, and humanity’s intrinsic responsibility to planet Earth. In addition to the cultural context for each tale, the collection includes ritual work that readers might undertake to deepen their engagement. The book, ideal for both individual study and communal read-aloud, is for all ages, poised for seasoned acolytes, agnostics, and spiritual newcomers; academics and educators; students of culture, and lovers of world literature alike.
Luisah Teish is known as a ritualist, keynote speaker, and spiritual advisor on a global scale. Originally published in 1985 by Harper & Row Publishers, her book Jambalaya has since been translated into German, Spanish, and Dutch. Republished in 2021 by HarperOne, it is now available as an audiobook read by the UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS PRESS author. As an Oshun priestess, Teish continues to officiate over spiritual retreats, rituals, and workshops in a practice that spans over forty years. She represents the African diaspora as a member of the Mother Earth Delegation of Indigenous Nations.
“The reclamation and restoration of ancestral wisdom and ceremony have been at the heart of [Teish’s] work for more than half a century,” writes Max Dashu, founder of the Suppressed History Archives, in the book’s foreword. “It is cherished by an international stellium of communities who call her Yeye and respect her foundational work at the crucial juncture of African spirituality and the liberatory passion of women.”
“I always feel privileged to participate in writers’ creations,” says UNO Press editor Chelsey Shannon. “But with Calabash, I’ve been especially humbled. In the West, ‘classics’ automatically refers to Greek and Roman traditions. But the fact is that African cultures also have rich, classic bodies of mythology and folk literature. Enlivening and disseminating that wisdom, as Teish is doing with this collection, is both deeply political and deeply sacred. I’ve been honored to be Yeye’s partner in nurturing this project for the past three years.”
A Calabash of Cowries will be published on February 23, 2023, and is available for preorder now.