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Death Consciousness – from Ethiopian church traditions. Take a listen to this begena song

This Begena song is essentially about Death Consciousness in the traditions of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church religious traditions.

March 08, 2015
Updated on March 19, 2020 

You may not be able to understand the song in the video. But you can still get the sense of its significance if you stretch your imagination along the lines of what the song is all about: death consciousness.

It brings you in touch,not merely remind you, with the idea of inevitability of death in a very spiritual way in the tradition Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It makes you imagine it. Feel it. 

It’s not a nihilistic yearning for death or a quest for death as a solace from disappointment, sadness, “failure” , meaninglessness of life or something of that sort. It’s a spiritual consciousnesses of death as a reality. It’s brings to mind and heart that even the divine Christ experienced death. Death is not like disconnecting from divine in the heaven. Death is rather like going back to the creator. And what the singer laments is not about the fact that death could come any time but as to what good deeds he has to take with him when death arrives anytime.

The season is Lent in Ethiopia for believers of Ethiopian Orthodox Church – a time of prayer, repentance and spiritual awakening. Begena Song (zelesegna in this case as in the video is common during this season. Now the fourth week of fasting is finished which marks half of the entire lent fasting season which is much longer than Lent in the Catholic religious tradition.The Ethiopian church is nearly as old as Christianity itself and bears signs of originality in so many ways. The singer Merigeta Fikru is one of the renowned begena singer.

Death consciousness in its form of enlightenment could be immensely beneficial to pursuit of freedom not just in the sense of freedom from personal challenges whether that is a function of illusion or reality but also in the quest for freedom in the realm of political struggle and beyond. The significance of death consciousness transcends its relevance as a source of strength and invincibility to live a full life, no matter what your conception of full life looks like, in that it reminds us of the duty, it’s a duty, to be good and do good to others.

Living death, whether it is imposed or self-inflicted, is not to be confused with death consciousness. The former is disempowering while the latter is very empowering.

The problem in our generation – with specific reference to Ethiopia – is not so much about the fear of death as I see it. It is about the illusion of life or “better life” so much so that the generation live death mistaking it with life. Surely, the malaise of modernity has reached Ethiopia as an effect of neoliberal conquest project (globalization) and is demolishing the Ethiopian values which were to a great extent shaped by a world view from the realm of religion. The generation is living illusion. The cultural conquest is not understood for what it is. Perhaps that explains why the illusion of life manifested as fear of death is now entrenched.

Mesfin Woldemariam, retired Ethiopian professor, author of many books and blogger, related death to silence : ‘mot chew yale zimeta newu’ (ሞት ጭው ያለ ዝምታ ነው).It could be translated as a stage where silence enters a state of eternity or it could be literally translated as a desert of silence.

This song is really empowering so much so that one could benefit from listening to it frequently as a mantra.

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