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Observations placeholder

Simone, Nina - Sees her deceased father



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Nina Simone

Autobiography: I put a spell on you

[Millie] wouldn't say anything more. She just bundled me and my luggage into her car and we drove off. We went to a part of the city I hadn't seen before and stopped outside a little house. Millie took me into the house and made a call, and a little while later an ordinary-looking man came to the door, dressed in a neat, grey suit.

He was a witch doctor. Before I lived in Liberia I thought African witch doctors dressed in bizarre clothes and carried skulls on sticks around with them, but that was just the result of ignorance and western prejudice against African medicine. I knew enough about Africa by now to understand there was nothing weird about tribal medicine or what it could do. But I was still puzzled about why I had been brought to see this man. Millie told me she had known there was something wrong as soon as I got off the plane but she couldn't tell what it was, so she'd called in an expert. The tribal doctor – this ordinary-looking man - took some small bones out of his jacket pocket and squatted down on the floor. He tossed them in the air and studied the pattern they made when they landed. He didn't say anything, just sucked on his teeth a little, then picked up the bones and threw them once more. Silence again.

Finally he looked up at me and spoke. He said: 'Who is this Person on the other side who loves Carnation milk?' Daddy. I turned to stone. Carnation milk, a little sugar, vanilla, and a beaten egg, every day for months until the wound in his stomach healed and he could take solid food. I was four years old and I made it for him every day. He was talking about Daddy. He described how my father looked, tall and so thin, the clothes he wore. And other - private - details. Daddy, for certain.

"The medicine man said: 'Whoever this man is, he's a doctor now and he can help you from the other side, but you must forgive him for something he did while he was here.' I just nodded, I couldn't speak. Then the man told me the ritual I had to obey in order to reconcile myself with my father. I had to stay in the house for three days without seeing or speaking to anybody; I had to put my hair in a wrap, not smoke or drink anything, and lie in bed with a tin of Carnation milk under my pillow for those three days. I had to pretend my father was sleeping in bed with me. If I obeyed the ritual everything between us would be forgiven and Daddy's spirit would be with me again. Once he was sure I understood all his instructions the witch doctor picked up his bones, shook my hand and left. Millie paid him some money and went away to look for a tin of milk. She found one, gave it to me and left.

I did exactly as I was told. I lay in bed picturing myself as a little girl and imagined Daddy there beside me, the two of us asleep in each other's arms, a child and her father. No one disturbed us - Millie made sure of that - and after three days I awoke and felt a weight leave me.

It was a distinct physical sensation, as if I had lost half my body weight in one sudden moment. And the next instant I saw my father: I am not allowed to say how, because the tribal doctor swore me to secrecy, but he was there in front of my eyes for a short while and then he left. His spirit remained in the room with me and has stayed with me ever since. From that third morning to the present day my father's spirit has been watching over me, and when he knows I need to feel him near he comes around and makes sure I know he's there.

The source of the experience

Simone, Nina

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps