Michelle Yaa does not feel she converted to Comfa, the Afro-American religion practiced in Guyana. “I call it an awakening.” she says. “It’s just waking up.”
Yaa, like increasing numbers of the African diaspora, decided to stop practicing Christianity in favor of a religion of African heritage. Raised a Seventh Day Adventist, she spent her childhood questioning Christian doctrine. When she didn’t receive the answers she sought from church, she stopped attending.
It wasn’t until the end of university that Yaa reconnected with any form of religion. One day, she says, she began hearing voices. Rather than call her doctor, she called on her ancestors, writing down the names of those she could remember and surrounding herself with the slips of paper. She claims that this took place before she knew what the practice of ancestral worship was.
“I just did it automatically. And I cannot explain to you why I knew what was happening to me was not a negative thing,” she recalls. “When I went back to finish my studies, I [wrote about] spirituality for my dissertation because I wanted to understand what happened to me. I didn’t believe I was mad—so what was it?”
She began communicating with her ancestors frequently through rituals; her research eventually led her to Comfa, a religion where contact with ancestors is commonplace. “Everything started falling into place. I was trusting myself all the time and I wasn’t doubting for once.”