A Teaching Memoir That Crosses the Barriers Between Worlds
A shaman is one who has learned to move between two worlds: our physical reality and the realm of spirits. For John Lockley, shamanic training also meant learning to cross the immense divide of race and culture in South Africa.
As a medic drafted into the South African military in 1990, John Lockley had a powerful dream. "Even though I am a white man of Irish and English descent, I knew in my bones that I had received my calling to become a sangoma, a traditional South African shaman," John writes. "I felt blessed by the ancient spirit of Africa, and I knew that I had started on a journey filled with magic and danger." His path took him from the hills of South Korea, where he trained as a student under Zen Master Su Bong, to the rural African landscape of the Eastern Cape and the world of the sangoma mystic healers, where he found his teacher in the medicine woman called MaMngwevu.
In Leopard Warrior, John shares a gripping account of his experiences and the wisdom he learned over years of training. Here he invites you to discover:
• Powerful insights into the spiritual tradition of the Xhosa lineage of South Africa—the tribe of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu
• Ubuntu—a core concept for recognizing and embracing our deep interconnection with all living things
• Ancestor medicine—how we can learn to honor the blood in our veins, the heritage of our soul, and our shared humanity
• Recovering our forgotten knowledge about the wisdom of our dreams, the spirits of plants and animals, and the power of the unseen world
In traditional African healing circles, the leopard represents intuition, instinct, and harmony with nature and the spirit world. As John Lockley writes, "A leopard warrior is a spiritual soldier who mirrors the natural world and directs their gaze inward to answer the call of their spirit." With Leopard Warrior, he brings us an inspiring call to action—showing how we can bridge the barriers that divide us, embrace the gifts of our ancestors, and reclaim our rightful place as compassionate caretakers of our world.
“Humbly, gracefully written, and unforgettable!” —Light of Consciousness
“Enchanting debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“A beautiful invitation to open your eyes and heart to whole new worlds of shamanic healing and spirit. A reminder to trust your dreams and inspiration, and to love, dance, and awaken to mystery.” —Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart and A Lamp in the Darkness
“Leopard Warrior is a truly remarkable account of the initiation of a white male in South Africa into becoming a sangoma. This is quite a sign to be entrusted with these deep ancestral mysteries. John Lockley shares a wealth of stories that will bring tears to your eyes as well as inspire you to want to learn more. The exercises he provides are simple yet transformative. This book is brilliant!” —Sandra Ingerman, MA, author of Soul Retrieval and Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life
“This is a curious but quite extraordinary story—a modern ‘hero’s journey’ where the author reaches fulfillment as a Xhosa sangoma. Pursued as a warrior leopard might on its survival routes, this book is brimful with imagination, risk-taking, adventures of the mind, and integrity. At the core of it, there is indeed a wisdom beyond the ego, not just of ‘the ancients’ and ancestors, but also of now, of the heart, of the dream, of the creativity of natural things, and of Ubuntu (humanity). It is in many ways a promise for the individual in community, a poetry of life itself for everybody.
Grounded in storytelling skill and daily practice, this is a narration through philosophy and ritual in action. John’s passion and questions fill his writing. The five words coming to my mind at his heart’s core: energy, humanity, dreaming, action, and importantly, harmony. They belong in each of us.” —Seamus Cashman, Irish author of The Sistine Gaze: I Too Begin with Scaffolding; founder and former publisher at Wolfhound Press
“In our time, many non-tribal Western people are now experiencing strong dreams in which they are invited to return to the shaman’s ancient spiritual path of direct revelation. The South African-born John Lockley is one such person, and his fascinating story provides us with evidence of how the tribal ancestors of his land are recruiting ambassadors outside of their lineage who can spread their wisdom and healing traditions into our troubled world. Lockley is one of those who receives messages from the spirit worlds through dreams, visions, and divination so he can serve as a bridge and give these messages to us. In Leopard Warrior, John Lockley lifts the veil between ignorance and wisdom and reveals how those called to the shaman’s path live in the liminal spaces between the shadowlands and the light. From my own experience, this is quite an adventure.” —Hank Wesselman, PhD, anthropologist and author of The Re-Enchantment: The Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder, the award-winning Awakening to the Spirit World (with Sandra Ingerman), The Bowl of Light: Ancestral Wisdom from a Hawaiian Shaman, and the critically acclaimed Spiritwalker trilogy
“John Lockley is a white man that can dance! And he plays the skin drum like he was born to it. This is an extraordinary tale of a middle-class South African who had the dreaded African ‘calling sickness.’ To heal, he went through years of rigorous traditional African spiritual training and ritual sacrifice. With great eloquence and sensitivity, John relates his wild journey, which takes him from his life as a Zen student in the East, to his mystical studies in Ireland, to eventually becoming an African sangoma. He combines his life's work of spirit hunting in the brave and profound teachings he calls The Way of the Leopard.” —Craig Foster, award-winning South African documentary filmmaker of the films My Hunter’s Heart, The Great Dance, A Hunter’s Story, Cosmic Africa, and The Animal Communicator
“The stars moved and shifted to call John Lockley to the path of The Dancing Healer, to carrying on the sangoma tradition. While working with my teaching partner Antoinette Spillane and me, we could see his warrior's heart, respect, and dedication to the earth-based and ancient culture of healing through dance, movement, voice, music, and sacred ritual. John safely opens the door into the unconscious and the dreamtime using an embodied tribal structure that has been tried and tested for thousands of years. This work is vital, for ourselves, our families, and the changing heart of the planet.” —Lani O' Hanlon, Irish author of Dancing the Rainbow: Holistic Well-Being through Movement
“This is a lovely and important book. In it, John Lockley describes his chronic illness and loneliness as a young white man in apartheid South Africa, and how this suffering was given meaning in the sangoma tradition of the Xhosa people. It follows his long apprenticeship and initiation, as well as his struggles to communicate this way of healing in a traumatized world. John seamlessly combines his years of Zen practice with his calling as a sangoma, and he uses them together to live in the service of others. The book is written with gratitude and without pretension; it is a reminder of the great commitment required for the path that has chosen him, and of his determination to be a builder of bridges between all that divides us. I was deeply touched by it. Camagu, Cingo, Camagu!” —Antony Osler (Dae Chong, Osho), South African human rights advocate; author of Stoep Zen: A Zen Life in South Africa, Zen Dust: A Journey Home Through the Back Roads of South Africa, and Mzansi Zen
“John Lockley has surpassed all of my expectations in his new book Leopard Warrior. I run a non-profit that is dedicated to the conservation of indigenous cultures and their wisdom. When I was first approached John for one of our events, I held my usual prejudice against my own people, white people, who call themselves ‘shaman.’ Because there are so many people who do this when their sole training is a weekend workshop.
It took me nearly a year of investigating John’s credentials to host him at an event, and it is with deep gratitude to spirit that I said yes. I have watched John’s sincere dedication to the sangoma traditions manifest before my eyes, and since reading his book, I realize the deep sadness, commitment, and pain he has endured to become a white sangoma in the Xhosa tradition. His humbleness and deep regard for his teachers shines out on every page and the deeper understanding of the rich spirit and ceremony of his people may bring the shaking to your soul. This book is masterfully written along with the ancestors and dreams that guide his own spirit. I often felt deeply the emotional ride it was for him to triumph in his calling.” —Patricia Turner, founder of Tierra Sagrada, The Sacred Earth Foundation
“From apartheid South Africa to Korean Zen temples and Xhosa sangoma ceremonies, John Lockley takes the reader on a ride deep into the bright heart of Africa while teaching us how to connect to our blood and bones along the way. This is a unique story of a unique man's experience bringing ancient African traditions into the modern world and embodying his name: ‘a bridge between peoples.” —Charlie Morley, author of the bestselling Dreams of Awakening
“Like the Buddha, John was called to leave a privileged life, drawn inexorably into rigorous training in Xhosa shamanism and Korean Zen meditation. His gorgeous writing invites us to come along on his extraordinary journey, taking a deep breath of Zen as we feel the heartbeat of our shared humanity—of Africa, our ancestors, and Mother Nature as a doorway into our true nature.” —Trudy Goodman, PhD, founding teacher of InsightLA
“It was when I was researching about intercultural communication in post-apartheid South Africa that I came across John Lockley’s work. I asked myself a question that many black South Africans have: How can a white man become a Xhosa sangoma? That question is answered in this book as John describes his personal experiences undergoing traditional Zen training and a sangoma apprenticeship. In detailed, easy-to-understand language, John has painted a picture of ‘Ubuntuism’ in post-apartheid South Africa. I find it very important as we are still grappling with issues of transformation in South Africa.” —Dr. Hleze Kunju, PhD, isiXhosa linguist, Sol Plaatje University, Northern Cape, South Africa
“Before I met John Lockley, I heard him in a dream, drumming non-stop. The next morning, meeting him for the first time in waking life, I knew he was the real deal—a Xhosa sangoma. In this wonderful and readable book, John builds a bridge to an ancient tradition of depth, compassion, and mystery. Through his stories and lessons, you will discover the Xhosa path of connecting to a deeper sense of humanity, healing, and heartfelt awareness.” —Robert Waggoner, author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self
“This is a rich and absorbing account of how a white South African found meaning and his life's work in an indigenous spirituality from the Xhosa tradition. John's story is an inspiration for all who attempt to live consciously in the world of dreams, ancestors, and magic. If you wonder about how a modern man can authentically embody an ancient spirituality in the contemporary world, don't miss this important book.” —Tom Cowan, author of Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit and Yearning for the Wind: Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul
“Beautifully articulated and evocatively expressed. This is a captivating autobiography of one man’s remarkable journey from affliction, suffering, and pain in racially torn South Africa to healing, redemption, and spiritual attuning through an intriguing combination of Zen Buddhism, African healing spirituality, and Irish ancestral inspiration. With deep and respectful sincerity for the wisdom and generosity of his healing guides, John offers simple and effective ways in which seekers of healing can honor their ancestors, listen to their dreams, and bring about a transformation of self” —Dr. Penny Bernard, PhD, anthropologist at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa