Shamanism for me is deeply connected to the earth and the medicines of the earth, especially the plant world and its medicinal and spiritual allies. Shamanism is animistic – acknowledging the spirit of the plants.… More
Thokoza, I greet you old ones!
In my Mpande – or mystical school – of Thokoza, the “bones” we use to do our readings or “Bhula”, are shells (amagobolondo). In other Mpande’s you may find a variety of “Bones” such as specific animal bones (amathambo), dice, coins, keys, domino’s or any object that the Ancestors have shown you to add.
The Ocean is our mother. All life came from her waters. She circles the earth and birth mountains. Deep in her body live many of our relatives – fish, shellfish, crabs, dolphins, whales, sharks…… From the largest whale to the tiniest tiny critter. Many carry shells on their backs and live in them. These are grown and built over time, inside the ocean, and absorb all the energy and power of the sea and the life of that creature.
When we collect shells as medicine or for oracles (bhula) we must understand their origin and the memories of the ocean mother they carry. Water touches everything and is in all things, so we can access all information through water and especially the power of the oceans.
Each one has a unique shape purpose and message.
Bless them with ocean water and dream into their memory and messages.
When we collect any shells, bone or any medicines – plant, stones, soil , water etc, it is important that we do so with prayer and respect, offering snuff (fine tobacco) in exchange, asking permission.
When you collect your “Bones”, sit with each one, smudge them or clean with smoke from Imphepo, and ask the ancestors to reveal to you the life of this creature and the message it carries. Im my Mpande, we use specific shells for specific meanings, such as the large “Cowrie” to show an ancestor, pointed shells to indicate something that needs urgent attention or an “attack”, round black shells for altars, “Umsamo” or “Ukhamaba”, beer pots. The ancestors may show you various shells and meanings so pay attention.
when we “read” the bones, I always say – the bones read us – the form an energy pattern of what is going on in our life, and with that show us the ceremony or resolution that we can utilise, to help us shift the scenario and open up new outcomes.
To book an online bone reading please reply in the comments below.
I promised quite some time ago to post more on initiation. Here I share some information on my experience as a Westerner in an African Linage.
The word twasa is derived from twasa which means ‘the light of the new moon’ or from “Ku mu thwasisa” meaning ‘to lead to the light’. Our title as Sangomas is “Gogo” meaning one (grandmother) who leads you by the hand. The ceremony is a transformation of you as a person, from your old way of being, to a totally new being dedicated to the healing work with the ancestors. You take on a new name and identity and become part of a family or lineage of healers who stand behind you, and support you in your work. You are taught a new way of being. The twasa is training, strong healing & protection, and initiation. The initiation ceremony is the culmination of your work / training, when you step into your power and role as a healer in society.
It is said that by receiving a calling to heal, you are possessed or embodied by an Idlozi – a healing spirit or a “Star”. This may be a specific ancestor from your lineage, or a few spirits and or guides. You will know this.
‘Ukuthwasa’ (make new) and healing (ukwelapha- to treat) indicates that the Twasa ceremony is a healing and rebirth. Your twasa may be the opening of your way to do this healing for others, or it may be just a healing for you, and your ancestors, and not translate into a practise. This depends on the spirit or Idlozi that calls you, if you are embodied by an ancestor who was a healer, and wants you to continue the healing work, or if you are embodied by a “sick” ancestor who is suffering and needs healing. The healing work on our own lineages – especially with issues like unexplained illness, misfortunes, racism and separation – is ongoing, and with your living as well as deceased ancestors – making restitution.
It is Important in African lineages to understand which Spirits or ancestors call you and need healing – as they are linked to specific Impandes. You cannot for instance us Impande “A” to heal a calling by “Spirits B” – the need to go to the right Impande. In Thokoza you can be called by a foreign spirit that is not family per se, but one which your lineage may have wronged. Also, this Mpande works with water, and with herbs and ceremonies of the Nguni. So, we do 2 separate imitations for the Ndau & Nguni – using different muthi’s and rituals.
If it becomes clear you have a different calling and needs herbs and healing from another lineage – you either need to be handed over to that lineage or do another initiation. This is often why there is misunderstanding of especially westerners becoming sangomas, as it is seen that only African people can be called by African spirits. We may include herbs and rituals from your ancestors as we are guided and may use herbs or medicines from other traditions we are trained in. (In my personal Impande, I include North & south American ritual and medicines, as well as some north European wisdom form my ancestors.).
Initiation follows a calling to do something specific – and it opens the way for us to achieve that, and connects us to the ancestral or spirit world, opening channels and teaches us how to manage and work with these energies and flows. A calling to become a healer manifest through various channels.
My personal calling manifested in 2 ways: The Nguni (Swazi) called me with dreams of being stalked by lions. The Ndau (Shangaan) called me by way of mental illness and undefined physical sickness. Days before my twasa they also took my voice. In my own lineages (I descend from Afrikaners, a mix of Khoi, Dutch, Irish, German & French), from the time I was a child, I experienced signs of premonition or psychic ability, as well as a strong interest in herbal medicine, interest in African culture, all gifts that are strongly demonstrated in my maternal line. I believe the calling to the Thokoza Lineage, arrived as my ancestors in Mpumalanga had violent interactions with these tribes, and that needed restitution. I am guided by the grandmothers, and protected by the grandfathers, my father and brother who are all in spirit.
During the twasa you must complete and demonstrate 4 tasks to become a healer:
(With thanks to Zanemvula)
Some of these will be easier for you than others. The ones that come naturally is your talent. The ones you struggle with, will require you to work hard to master them.
Humility & Respect (hlonipa): (Dealing with your pride, arrogance and selfishness). Operating from your heart, not your head, demonstrated by service: cleaning up and helping where you can without being asked to do so, not sitting around and waiting for it to be done for you. We walk on our knees in the ancestor’s house, we kneel and clap when we ask for something, we give gratitude, we walk barefoot on the sacred earth, we respect the indigenous customs and the sacredness of the earth, we work together as equals. We wear sarongs at all times. We behave in a quiet and respectful manner, don’t complain and do as we are asked. Our helpers here are the Earth and the medicines of Umhlonitswa and Umhlaba.
Courage: (dealing with your fear and guilt) demonstrated by your courage, not being in fear, and taking responsibility for your healing. Learning that you are supported. Helpers: water. Medicines of Umhlonyana and Insiswa (bitterness).
Power: Accepting your true identity and purpose. You cannot be given power if you don’t have humility or courage – the power is not yours. It is the power of the ancestors that work through you. Your ability to act. Ability to quiet your mind and listen. Helpers: Wind. Medicines of Isibaha, Lebake (Lions ear) & Isindiyandiya.
Transcendence: (using your gift and powers for the higher good of others) your ability to navigate the spirit world. Finding your light. Ability to channel the healing energy of the ancestors and spirit guides, receiving visions and knowledge. Hearing the ancestor’s guidance in the “Bhula”, being able to go into trance or embody the ancestors, intuitive knowledge of medicines, ability to guide lost souls and ancestors that need healing. Helpers: Fire. Medicine: Ubulawu, Imphepu, Tobacco (snuff).
The pledge is a “lobola” or dowry to enter the lineage and family. Every lineage has its own guidelines on this. In previous times many animals were given but in modern times much of this has been translated to money or goods. Ndau usually also requires white chickens and Nguni red chickens, goats and cows. There is a specific role for the African tradition of blood sacrifice to the ancestors.
Western Culture & African Culture: In western society we also had the old traditions of a “dowry” as well one of sacrifice. (Often this was the first fruits of the harvests offered to the spirits of nature to ensure the next harvest). This was mainly abolished due to the influence of Christianity and the true meanings were lost or corrupted. (With the spread of Christian traditions in Europe many of the pagan traditions were incorporated and changed. This also happened in the Americas & Africa). Slaughtering for Ancestors however does not exist in the same way as in the African Traditions. This is where it can become tricky or confusing – when western people initiate into an African lineage. You may be asked to honour the customs for both the African family calling you as well as your own ancestral lineage. This will depend on the type of healing you need to do for your ancestors in your twasa.
Training & teachings:
During the twasa you will undergo all the healing rituals that we practise in our lineage so that you can experience and learn them. You will also use various muthi’s. Traditional Training is usually hands on and by oral transmission. It requires you to spend time with your Baba working beside them treating patients and asking questions. Learning the rituals and ceremonies and muthi plants takes time and dedication, as well as learning what your specific gift and calling is and how to practise that. We are lucky nowadays that we have good reference material & books on plant medicines, and we can buy muthi at markets. Each Inyanga / Sangoma should in fact be harvesting in the area they live, fresh medicines their ancestors guide them to use. These can include traditional medicine from other traditions as well and sangomas have been incorporating many western herbs such as fennel, liquorice root etc as well as herbs form the rest of Africa, America and Europe. Tinctures and other forms of preserved herbs like teas are also becoming popular. Prepared ranges of muthis are available.
We say the training is mainly done by your ancestors. Your spirit guides. Once you have done an initiation you are open to the voices of the ancestors who guide you in using all your knowledge and ancestral wisdom.
Progression as a sangoma:
It is up to you and your ancestors how many of these steps you will complete and how long it will take and how much you learn. Each of these steps have a separate pledge or lobola. In African traditions family members some to and support the ceremonies in performing the ritual specific to that family. For westerners this does not always happen as we are being initiated into a “foreign” culture and practise that is often not understood. I have found that during our initiations Gogo always invited many other sangomas to stand in as “family” and we practise the Nguni traditions of Nomsemane’s family in the twasa. (Gogo’s Name is Gladys Dlamini – from the Swazi lineage).
I believe however we are all Africans – born of this land – and the healing work is open to all. It is important that when you come to the twasa you know who your ancestors are , on both sides up to at least your grandparents, have an idea as to which of them may have practise some form or healing or had some special knowledge or skill, and what their likes, dislikes and customs were – or what they liked to eat, drink and enjoy. It is also important to know what trauma or sickness they had and what healing they need – as you will stand in for them during your twasa to heal this.
These items are placed on the altar to attract and feed them during initiations. We also offer items to the African lineage we work in , such as beer and snuff and we learn the traditional prayers. We also add our own customs from our heritage, so you may find that some Christian and other spiritual traditions are also included. (Gogo is a Shembe. Gogo’s first husband was from Indian descend and she often burns incense on her altar and people often turn up with a gift of incense to her, not knowing why…..)
Progression & Ceremonies in training:
- Receiving the calling and being identified as a healer. This may be indicated by a period of sickness confusion or “bad luck”, with no logical explanation.
- Accepting your calling and opening the gate to your twasa. Report to your home altar your agreement to do the work.
- Naming and connection to various ancestors, spirits and elementals i.e. water. The start of your apprenticeship .
- Sangoma Initiation / training – healing and cleansing. You take on the identity of a healer and continue your process of training. You wear the colours of your lineage / Mpande and wear your top robe over both shoulders as protection.
- Mtuntu – Inyanga / herbalist basket – you receive your basket with basic muthi and tools to do your This may be followed by your Gate Ceremony
- Gate ceremony – Homecoming or going home ceremony – you now go out under your Baba’s home to your own family home to practise – you go home with all you need to practise and consult as a healer – you may still need the guidance of your Baba
- Graduation: “Potula or Porula”. This is a family celebration of your achievement. Usually family and community are invited. Standing in your own power as a healer, building your own Indumba (healing hut) etc. you may now wear your robes over the shoulder and you receive your Shoba and drums from your cow.
- Secret ceremony of Umsala Umzathi. This is a test you will pass before your graduation.
- Opening your Makosini, Indumba or healing hut.
- Lobola Mpande: learning the deep traditions of the lineage and how to perform initiations – becoming a trainer and elder in the lineage. You will receive a root or branch form your Baba’s Impande to plant at your indumba – carrying on the family tree and altar. Indicated by adding black beads and robes and colours of your choice.
If there is one plant every traditional healer should use as Muthi, not just in prayer, it is Imphephu !! It can be used for many ailments and is a powerful plant medicine.
I recently visited a farm in the Freestate (!) that makes essential oils. I was surprised and delighted to find that they have 3 indigenous essential oils on their shelves, Imphephu – (Helicrysum Odoratisimum – Southern Africa) (Helicrysum Italicum – Europe) Umhlonyana – Wormwood, Artemesia Afra) , and Cape Chamomile!
I thought I knew a lot about Imphephu, but I was surprised to find out that the Oil is 40 x (forty times) stronger that the Australian Tea Tree oil in antibacterial and wound healing properties !!
The oil , and the plant, when you steam with it or inhale the smoke, is used for pain, fever, depression, anxiety, burns, sunburn, hypertension, poisonous bites, flu, malaria, insomnia, headaches, herpes and various other things. It is also said to help for Tinnitus – ringing of the ears, if you rub the oil behind the ear,
You can visit the website here to order some of this miracle oil! Look under products – indigenous oils. www.higlandessentialoils.co.za
Im am posting below again some of the amazing info on this plant, by the late Tr Dr Rui Carvalho.
Common names: kooigoed, sewejaartjie (Afrikaans); everlastings (English); phefo-ea-loti, toanae-moru (Southern Sotho); imphepho (Zulu); phefu, isicwe (Xhosa).
Introduction: There are no words to fully describe the value of this African plant to mankind. Words such as phenomenal, extraordinary, outstanding and life-saver all put together still fall well short to describe its value and healing properties.
The African Helichrysum species is perhaps the most widely used medicinal plant in Southern Africa. In the eastern parts of South Africa, no other plant compares in popularity to imphepho and with good reason. The plant forms an integral part of African traditional medicine and it is used from the Cape Province northwards. Seldom is so much offered by such an easy-to-grow plant. Its uses include nutrition, medicine, insect repellent, ornamental and spiritual.
The true medicinal value of the African Helichrysum species is only now being unveiled by science. New discoveries of its extracts point to a powerful herbal medicine with antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, a possible cure for tuberculosis and herpes amongst its other many medicinal uses.
Derivation of name and historical aspects: There are over 600 species of Helichrysum occurring worldwide, with 245 found in southern Africa. The word Helichrysum is derived from the Greek “helios” meaning sun and “chrysos” meaning gold, referring to the colour of many of the flowers of species in this genus.
Distribution: The Helichrysum species are widely distributed in Southern Africa.
Plant parts used: The roots, twigs flowers and leaves are used.
Medicinal uses: The African Helichrysum use is often linked to the distribution of this plant. Medicinally, the roots, leaves, stem and flowers are used for a variety of complaints and ailments. Depending on the species and distribution area, the uses include: angina pectoris, backache, bladder conditions, coronary thrombosis, coughs, colds, circumcision wounds, eye complaints, fever, festering sores, heart “trouble”, “heart weakness”, hyperpiesia, influenza, insect repellent, kidney diseases, painful menstruation, prevention of infection, rheumatism, urinary tract infections, virility and wound-healing.
Externally, infusions may be applied as an antiseptic wash, for rashes, marks, skin spots, fungal ailments and the whole leaf as a wound dressing.
For HIV/aids patients, imphepho tea is a must. Because of its beneficial activity on the liver and its antiviral, antibacterial, antibiotic and antifungal properties, it improves well-being, clears the skin and to a degree protects the patient.
For Europeans, the Helichrysum ranks as one of the most ancient and valuable healing plants. Helichrysum is said to be more antiinflammatory than German chamomile, have more tissue regenerating than lavender and more cicatrising (helping the formation of scar tissue) than frankincense. The oil of Helichrysum has been found to generate tissue, reduce tissue pain, help improve skin conditions, circulatory function, prevent phlebitis, help regulate cholesterol, stimulate liver cell function, reduce scarring and discoloration. It is anticoagulant, anticatarrhal, mucolytic, expectorant, and antispasmodic. It has been known to help in improving certain types of hearing loss.
Active ingredients: African Helichrysum species contain flavonoids, sesquiterpenoids and acylated phloroglucinols. Helichrysum odoratissimum is rich in an essential oil, with α-pinene and α-humulene as main compounds.
Pharmacological effects: Pain relieving, antiinfective and antiinflammatory activity has been reported for several African Helichrysum species. Proven antimicrobial activity provides scientific evidence for the traditional use in wound dressing. Strong antiviral activity has been shown in in-vitro research.
Hello Thokoza! I will be discussing some of these plants in the upcoming workshop.
People are generally very interested in plants that change our mood and perceptions – why is this? Ubulawu means to find a white path or to be enlightened. Some plants used for this by Indigenous healers are Synaptolepsis Kirki, Sylene capensis, Elephantorrhiza Elephantina, Agapanthus, Helinus integrifolius (soap plant), Rhus paucifloris , Hippobromus Paucifloris, Maesa Lanceolata, amongst many. Mixes vary from region to region and Cultural group.
Disclaimer: Information in this article is given for general interest only, and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Extreme care must be taken when using plants as they can be very toxic. Always consult a professional when using medicine.
Synaptolepsis Kirki – African dream Root – UVUMA UMHLOPE (Z)
Sylene capensis – Xhosa Dream Root – UBULAWU (Z)
Synaptolepsis – Uvuma Umhlope – Magical: used to give Luck, courage & strength.
“White Light”. It is added to the “uBulawu or dream mix” for twasa’s (initiates) or patients with spiritual sickness. The roots are said to encourage clear visions, trance states and mental clarity in dreams. The root is also said to allow communication with one’s ancestors in the dream state, leading to visionary and prophetic dreams. People who have worked with this root, have also noted an increase in wellbeing and happiness the day afterwards. Relatively little research has been done regarding uvuma-omhlope, but we do know that it includes several completely novel alkaloids, including kirkinine, a powerful neurotrophic. Neurotrophics encourage the survival of nerve tissue and help to repair and regrow nerve cells.
HOW TO PREPARE: Uvuma-omhlope can be purchased either in chunks or powder form. Either one can be used to make a tea. The preferred method is to put about 1 Tbsp. (up to 300g) of dried root powder in 1-2 cups of very hot water for five minutes, strain and then drink about an hour before bed.
Sylene Capensis: This is a popular dream medicine and assist with Divination. African Dream Root, Undlela Ziimhlophe (White Ways/Paths), Ubulawu. USE: For the induction of powerful, visionary dreams. This beautiful plant, and its root, are regarded by the Xhosa people of South Africa as a holy teacher plant. They call the root undlela ziimhlophe (which translates to ‘white paths’ or ‘white ways’), and they use it to induce vivid and prophetic lucid dreams, especially during the initiation ceremonies of shamans. It’s said to induce lucid dreaming, is that it is specifically linked with communication with the ancestors. The chemistry of S. capensis is unknown, but it appears to contain saponins (soapy – foams) , which would explain both the unique reaction it has with water, and its dream inducing effects. The Xhosa say that if one keeps a question in mind before going to bed, one of the ancestors will appear in a dream and provide an answer.
HOW TO PREPARE: Use in the morning, before breakfast, as the alcaloids take a long time to travel through the blood stream. The Xhosa prepare Silene capensis by powdering the root and drinking the powder with water on an empty stomach. 1 Tbsp. (up to 200 mg) of powdered root is sufficient for inducing vivid, divinatory dreams. Mix a half of a teaspoon of dried Silene capensis powder with a half a cup of water. mix a heaping tablespoon of dried root powder with two cups of water and blend until a froth forms. consume the froth until you feel bloated and may burp.
Boophane Distichia – Bushman Poison Bulb. INCHOTA (Z)
The name Boophane is derived from the Greek bous, ox, and phone, death, referring to the poisonous properties of the bulb. The specific name disticha means leaves erect in a fan shape.
Magical: It is hallucinogenic and is said to help you see your “enemies” & problems. It is very poisonous and should not be used by novices. The Khoisan people believed this bulb has the power to transport the dead through the doorway of the spirit to the life hereafter. It is often reported that people see “dead ancestors”. Boophane is highly poisonous and the line between a trance dose and a fatal dose is extremely fine; absolute precision is required. The healer medicates the patient with a minute quantity of Boophane and then sits them in front of a blank white screen. Once the medicine has taken effect, the healer asks the patient what s/he sees on the screen (hence ‘bioscope’) in order to analyse their imaginings. From here the healer induces vomiting in the patient to purge the Boophane, hopefully along with their troubles.
Uses and cultural aspects: Boophane disticha has many medicinal uses, for example the Bushman once used the poison for their arrows, and traditional healers use it to treat pain and wounds. The outer covering of the bulb is applied to boils and abscesses. Fresh leaves are used to stop bleeding of wounds. The plants are known to be poisonous to cattle and sheep.While Boophane is widely used in the treatment of psychological troubles, it also has powerful physical healing attributes and is used by traditional healers to treat circumcision wounds. The scales of the bulb are wrapped around the circumcised penis to reduce the pain as well as to sterilise the wound It is well known in medical circles that the alkaloids in Boophane are extremely effective painkillers. Boophane might also be taken orally as a painkiller in the form of a weak infusion, but the dose could prove lethal if administered by anyone but a highly trained healer.
Preparation: Warm scales are applied to sores. About a slice of bulb is boiled in 5 L of water and small amounts given as tea. A few of the dry bulb scales can also be added to hot water to make a tea. NB – IT IS VERY TOXIC.
Cannabis Sativa / cannabis Indica: Dagga: Nsangu (z) “Santa Maria”
Cannabis Indica (originating from India), Cannabis Sativa (Originating in Africa) Cannabis Ruderalis or Hemp (originating in China).
Magical Uses: It is a scared plant teacher to the Hindu and Rastafarian people. It is used to communicate with God. The plant is not a hallucinogenic, bit it is pshyco active i.e. having an effect on the mind mood & psyche. In rituals connects people in community and harmony and opens the heart. It allows us to hear spirit and brings creative visions. This plant can be easily abused and is not recommended recreationally for young users (under 20) as it has a permanent effect on socialisation and emotional maturity. People suffering from anxiety and psychosis should use this plant with great care. The THC molecule is responsible for the plants “side effect” of making you “high” or stoned.
Medicinal Uses: This plant has more uses than can be described and there is almost not a medical or mental conditions that it is not useful for in some way. Its and age old folk and traditional remedy and was used amongst woman for pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms, amongst men for sexual enhancement and strength in general etc. Cannabis oil is becoming well known for treating cancers.
The plant has over 90 chemical compounds, besides THC – which binds with THC receptor in our brains and produces the effects. The question is – for what purpose does this plant grow in nature and produce THC? Who is this for? Besides bees and maybe birds, animals don’t utilise it due to its bitter/sour taste. The seed may be eaten by birds (it is very nutritious and high in amino acids). Thisplant seems to have been created for Humans. The pant itself has no use for THC and it is not utilised by any animal (Unlike the Jaguars in the Amazon who have been seen to eat the Ayahusca vine).
Plant part used: The flower buds are used where crystals and resin (hashish) of THC can be found.Leaves are also used and is useful to steam with for acne, skin conditions and tonics. The seeds are eaten. Indica has a more profound effect on the mind and body and is used more for sedation and pain. Sativa has a more uplifting effect on the minds and is used for depression. Hemp is used to make textiles, rope, building material and numerous other items. This plant has low toxicity and does not pose a threat for overdose by itself – the user with merely fall asleep. The plant is still illegal to cultivate in SA but many efforts to legalise it is underway. Van Wyk. Medicinal Plants of SA. P 66-67. The Benefits of Marijuana. Joan Bello.
Datura Stramonium – Thorn Apple / devil’s Weed. Datura Brugmansia – Moon flower (Floripondio) Umhlambavuta (X)
** Please note that this is a very dangerous plant and should not be played with. The Afrikaans name is “Malpitte” – “crazy seeds” and it can bring about permanent states of mental disturbance and psychosis. It contains atropine which is used in some heart medications and motion sickness patches – but it can bring about heart attacs if not used with care.
Magical: The seed, leaves or flowers are sometimes mixed with other medicines to bring about visions – but the visions are very disturbing and upsetting and dark. Floripondio is sometimes added by sorcerers to Ayahuasca brews.
Medicinal: The best way to use it is as tinctures of leaves & flowers in very small amounts. It can also be extracted in oil. Datura leaves contain alkaloids that are the source of all its therapeutic and healing properties. Dried parts of datura are largely used as a sedative or an anti-spasmodic. history of causing severe discomfort, delirium, stress, and even death, and is therefore not used very extensively. Datura is ideal for the treatment of asthma. The leaves are burnt and the fumes are inhaled to take in the antispasmodic properties of datura. Traditionally, datura leaves were rolled and smoked to improve the symptoms of asthma. Datura fruit can be used to treat specific types of malarial fever.
The leaves of a Datura plant can be used for relieving the various heart problems. They can be used for treating palpitations, hypertension, distress, and various aortic disorders.The juice extracted from the leaves of the Datura plant can be used to treat earaches. Putting a few drops of the oil in your ear can help suppress ear infections. Traditionally, Datura effects have been useful for the treatment of impotency or as an aphrodisiac. The seeds from ripe Datura fruits are removed and dried. These are then added to cow’s milk and boiled to obtain the extract of the Datura seeds. Datura seeds can also be used to make a preparation for the treatment of baldness. The oil extracted from the Datura seeds can be applied on the bald patches to stimulate growth of hair. However, this juice is highly poisonous and should not be consumed in any way.
Parts of the Datura plant can be used to intoxicate and sedate a person in pain, helping them relax. This is a very effective pain reliever and is used for patients battling chronic disease or severe physical injuries. Precautions/ Side Effects/ Warnings: As mentioned earlier, some parts of the Datura pant are extremely poisonous and may cause eventual fatality. Hence, caution must always be practiced when using this plant for treatment purposes.
Helycrysum Odorata / helicrysum Petiolare: Everlasting – IMPHEPU (Z)
The African Helichrysum species is perhaps the most widely used medicinal plant in Southern Africa. There are over 600 species of Helichrysum occurring worldwide, with 245 found in southern Africa. The word Helichrysum is derived from the Greek “helios” meaning sun and “chrysos” meaning gold, referring to the colour of many of the flowers of species in this genus.
Magical: communicating with the ancestor spirits. Dreams, protection.: It is said that this was the first medicine shown to the African people. Once they began to use it, it taught them about other medicines. It is used as a “smudge” to cleanse a person and call in their ancestors. It is used in prayer and ceremony as an offering to the ancestors and spirits. The smoke can be sedative as well as euphoric when inhaled.
Medicinal: The true medicinal value of the African Helichrysum is only now being unveiled by science. New discoveries of its extracts point to a powerful herbal medicine with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, a possible cure for tuberculosis and herpes amongst other medicinal uses. Also used for diabetes & depression.
Helichrysum is said to be more anti-inflammatory than German Chamomile, have more tissue regenerating than Lavender and more cicatrisant (helping the formation of scar tissue) than Frankincense. The oil of Helichrysum has been found to generate tissue, reduce tissue pain, help improve skin conditions, circulatory function, prevent phlebitis, help regulate cholesterol, stimulate liver cell function, reduce scarring and discoloration. It is anticoagulant, anti-catarrhal, mucolytic, expectorant, and antispasmodic. It has been known to help in improving certain types of hearing loss.
Medicinally, the roots, leaves, stem and flowers are used for a variety of complaints and ailments. Depending on the species and distribution area, the uses include: angina pectoris, backache, bladder conditions, coronary thrombosis, coughs and colds, circumcision wounds, eye complaints, fever, festering sores, heart trouble, “heart weakness”, hyperpiesia, influenza, insect repellent, kidney diseases, painful menstruation, prevention of infection, rheumatism, urinary tract infections, virility and wound-healing. Infusions may be applied externally as an antiseptic wash and whole leaf as a wound dressing. Infusions may be applied externally as an antiseptic wash.
For HIV/aids patients, imphepo tea is a must. Because of its beneficial activity on the liver and its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties, it improves well-being, clears the skin of marks and to a degree and protects the patient. It may also be applied externally on skin for rashes, marks, spots and fungal ailments.
Pharmacological effects: Pain relieving, anti-infective and anti-inflammatory activity has been reported for several African Helichrysum species. Proven anti-microbial activity provides scientific evidence for the traditional use in wound dressing. Strong anti-viral activity has been shown in in-vitro research.
Leonorus Leonotus (Lion Tail) Leonorus Nepetifolium (Lions ear) – Wild dagga – uTswala Benyoni (Z)
Leonotis leonorus also known as Lion’s Tail or Wild Dagga is a member of the mint family of plants. has narrow leaves, tends to be more perennial and has smaller balls of flowers. The flowers are bright orange. Wild dagga is not a small plant. Plants can grow as high as ten feet and one of the main features is the bright orange flower that appears in summer. “Klipdagga” is a lion plant with heart shaped leaves.
Magical: Traditionally it is explained as a great ally for courage and deals with the many itchy diseases created by fear. It is also used for epilepsy, and the fear it brings with it.
Medicinal Uses: They have always been a popular medicine especially for children and are used for a whole range of off colour conditions. Many traditional uses of Leonotis leonorus have been recorded. The foliage is commonly made into a medicinal tea, which is favoured for the hypnotic focus it gives. The leaves or roots are widely used as a remedy for snakebite and also to relieve other bites and stings. Decoctions of Leonotis leonorus leaf or root have been applied externally to treat boils, eczema, skin diseases and itching, and muscular cramps. Leonotis leonorus extracts are also used to relieve coughs, cold and influenza, as well as bronchitis, high blood pressure and headaches. Leaf infusions have been used to treat asthma and viral hepatitis. Tea is also used to treat headaches, bronchitis, high blood pressure and the common cold. Leonotis leonorus can be chewed, taken as an infusion or as a bath for eczema it has given great results.
The Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English make a tea of the flowers for a soothing cough and as a cold remedy. This tea has also been used for the treatment of jaundice, cardiac asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest ailments, bronchitis and epilepsy. The Zulu and Xhosa make a strong brew of the leaves and use as a poultice for snakebites. The leaf is also smoked in the treatment of epilepsy and partial paralysis. It is known that a tea of leaves and flowers used to be drunk daily by the older generations for water retention, obesity and haemorrhoids. The Hottentot tribesmen use Leonotis leonorus for several different medicinal purposes and to promote euphoria and exuberance when smoked. This species is also important in Chinese/Vietnamese medicine as a euphoric, purgative and vermifuge. Twigs added to the bath water give relief to muscular aches and pains, itchy skin and eczema. A strong brew can be dabbed onto sores, bites, bee and wasp stings. It is said to also help scorpion and snake bites.
Leonotis leonorus is also much respected in the treatment of animals. The Tswana, Zulu and Xhosa make a strong brew of leaves, flowers and stems to use as an enema in sheep, goats and cattle. This brew is given to animals with respiratory problems and applied as a lotion to sores on stock and dogs, and as a wash for wounds, scratches, bites and stings. A few chopped leaves are tossed to chickens with diarrhoea and this has proved to be a quick and effective treatment.
Flower essence: For those who lack willpower, who are easily influenced, who seek pleasure to fill the emptiness, who run away from painful situations and who are prone to addictive behaviour patterns or substance abuse. This flower essence assists in bringing meaning, purpose and strength of character. This is a good remedy for emotional pain.
Contraindications: Not recommended for use by pregnant women. Not recommended for woman wishing to fall pregnant. Adverse reactions: First time users may experience dizziness, nausea or sweating Precautions: Treatment should be continued for one week. If symptoms persist, additional or alternative therapy should be sought.
Preparation: 1 table spoonful of chipped dried herb (10,0g) added to 3 cupful’s (500 ml) of boiling water, boil for 10 minutes, allow to cool overnight, strain and use clear liquid for both internal and external use. If fresh material is used, 3-4 young twigs (leaf and stem) are boiled with one litre of water.
- Dosage: Internal use: To be taken two to three times daily.
- Adults: Half a cupful (.90ml)
- Elderly patients: Quarter of a cupful (.45ml)
- Children 6-12 yrs.: Quarter of a cupful (.45ml)
- Children 2-6 yrs.: Two teaspoonful’s (.8ml)
- External use: the decoction may be applied to the affected area using a clean cloth.
Dioscorea dregeana Common names: Wild yam isidakwa (Zulu)
The Zulu name ‘isidikwa ‘ means ‘drunkard’, referring to the reported effects that it may have.
The Zulu use the large tuber as a sedative in the treatment of epilepsy, hysteria, insomnia and acute psychosis. It is also used topically for scabies. In ancient times, it was used as a general anesthetic to enable fractures of the limb to be manipulated and stabilized by traditional bone-setters.
The plant contains natural hormones – oestrogens etc. – and is used to make creams to treat Menopause as a hormone replacement. Dioscorea dregeana is sometimes combined with Boophane disticha for the purpose of divination. However, human deaths have been reported after the use of the plant as famine food or as medicine.
This species is reported to make a person ‘mad drunk’ and it has been used in poison bait to destroy monkeys by boiling mealie cobs in water with the root.
This Dioscorea, due to its toxicity, is often planted to eradicate moles (intukuzi) in the fields and home gardens. It is often planted together with crops, especially root and tuber plants, such as amabhatata (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato) and amadumbe Colocasia esculenta, coco yam).
The fresh tuber is generally taken orally as a weak decoction, with an adequate dose resulting in sleep within 20–30 minutes. Be very careful as an overdose can lead to paralysis and death!
Do not use this plant without professional help.
Fully Booked Thank you !!
Traditional Healing with Indigenous Plants – a basic workshop on how to use plants as “muthi”.An introduction on some of our Indigenous Plants and how they are used in healing both spiritually & physically, by Sangomas & Traditional Healers. We work with some ceremony and meditation as well as some discussions on the plants.
Everywhere the bright orange Flowers of Aloe Ferox and Leonotus Leonoris (Wild Dagga) can be seen now – reminding us of our inner Fire and Inner sun – and signalling that they are here now to assist us with our winter colds and ailments.
Always wondered what that plant is used for and how healers learned how to use them??
Come join us for an introduction on how to connect with plants and learn their medicines the way shamanic cultures have done for ages. Learn the basics of some of our rich treasure of Indigenous plants and how they are used by Sangomas for medicines. I look forward to sharing with you all. This is an introduction level workshop.
• Understanding Traditional Healing and the use of traditional Plants for medicine
• Basic techniques on accessing in information from the plant spirit themselves
• Basic Guidelines in healing, diagnosis & treatments
• Plant list of plant uses and preparation
Date: Sunday 3 July 2016
Time: 08:30 am for 9:00 sharp. We complete at about 5 pm.
Cost: R 650 with electronic emailed notes. R150 extra for printed & bound notes.
Venue: Rivonia, Jhb.
The notes as well as directions to the venue will be mailed to you on receipt of payment.Full day workshop with refreshments (Herbal Tea, organic coffee, biscuits, rusks & fruit). A 50% cancellation fee will be retained if cancelled in less than 48 hrs before the workshop – thank you for understanding.
Bring: Your workshop notes, notebook & pen, pillow & light blanket, a lunch dish to share like a salad or bake. An item to add to the central altar like a flower or leaf from your garden, a stone, a crystal etc.
It is very interesting to look at the differences in the sacred geometry and the colors of the Shipibo and Nixi Pae medicines – the sacred energies, vibrations and songs heal on their own unique level – medicine is not medicine – the influence of each region, specific plant, its songs (icaro ) ect is unique.
The Shipibo (Peru) use tobacco in their ceremony and the Huni Kuin (Brazil) use Hape – a form of tree ash / tobacco mix they consider to be the Daughter of the AYA-huasca. Each type of medicine – the various cactii and other sacred teachers – all have their “signature” colors, patters and sounds and spirit working in its unique way – one can learn a lot by observing this.
I came across another good article today on the power of African Herbs. You can read the original article here: http://www.arabella.co.za/2013/08/27/5-top-performing-african-medicinal-herbs/
I have copied some of the article below: Please note that African Ginger – “indungulo, isiphephetho”, is threatened and protected, as it is being over harvested. I had to replace the image, as the image they used in the original article is not African Ginger.
African ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus) is localised to Mpumalanga and the Northern Province. It is one of the most frequently used medicinal herbs in South Africa’s informal sector and is fast becoming endangered. The rhizomes and roots are dried and crushed into powder or tablet form and used to treat myriad health issues, from coughs, colds, asthma and flu to candida and menstrual cramps. Online stores such as AfricanDrugs.com retail the product worldwide.
Thokozani Bogogo ! Greetings!
Today I want to share with you another interesting article I came across on this site: http://www.capechameleon.co.za/printed-issue/issue-24/cover-story/ It talks about the Calling to become a healer and also mentions white Sangomas.
WORDS Silvia Zanardi
One can find them all over South Africa. They work behind closed doors, in dark rooms surrounded by shelves filled with medicine bottles, ground herbs, animal bones and goat’s and cow’s hair. They are known as ‘sangomas’ – traditional African healers who specialise in treating people’s spiritual and physical diseases by looking into their past and future, and connecting them with the ancestors.
Meet Noxolo & Dabulamanzi
Noxolo and Dabulamanzi are traditional sangomas from the Xhosa lineage practising in Overcome Heights, a township in Cape Town. Clients seek their help to remedy relationships or financial problems, to bring back lost lovers or to heal from painful illnesses. My colleague, Mélodie and I decided to visit Noxolo and Dabulamanzi for a traditional reading and we were surprised to find Noxolo and Dabulamanzi wearing casual clothes. We had expected them to be in their traditional clothing. ‘We are not supposed to walk through the township with our traditional clothes on,’ explains Noxolo. ‘We only wear them during work,’ she adds.
By throwing a mix of animal bones, shells, coins, dice and dominoes, sangomas can read into the past and the future of their clients.
Photo: Silvia Zanardi
On arrival at Dabulamanzi’s house, they immediately dress for the session and adorn themselves with red and white beaded necklaces, bracelets and colourful skirts. We take off our shoes and enter the room barefoot. For the reading, Mélodie kneels down next to them and Noxolo starts shaking a little bag full of shells, bones, coloured stones, dice and dominoes. ‘I am calling the spirits of the ancestors and asking them to allow me to read into the soul and the life of this woman,’ the sangoma says. As she throws the bones onto an animal-skin rug on the floor, Dabulamanzi starts telling Mélodie about her life, her family and job opportunities. She explains the mysterious significance of the dice and bones: ‘Depending on the face shown by the dice, I know what my client is struggling with, which can be love, money, family, jobs or bad luck. The dominoes tell us more about love relationships and the animal bones show us what has happened in the past of the client and what we can suggest she does.’
Most of the animal bones they use in rituals belong to cattle that have been sacrificed by their teachers during initiation ceremonies. Usually, the initiation process consists of three different steps. During the first step, a chicken is sacrificed and its blood is collected for use in a mixture with traditional herbs that must be ingested by the student. Feathers are then used as a decorative headdress. For the second step, a goat is sacrificed by cutting its throat and allowing the blood to empty onto the sangoma. During this process, guests beat drums, sing, dance and go into a trance-like state to feel closer to the ancestors. Finally, for the third step, a cow is sacrificed but only when the sangoma is going to leave his/her teacher’s town and practice on his/her own.
Not anyone can become a sangoma. ‘You do not choose to be one, you have to be chosen,’ says Dabulamanzi. ‘The calling of the ancestors reveals itself through prophetic dreams or illnesses that can be healed only by training as a sangoma. And if you don’t answer the call, bad luck and pain can destroy your life,’ she continues. Noxolo has just started to practice as a sangoma: ‘I have waited almost 20 years before starting to train with my teacher, and up until that point, my life had been hard. My husband used to beat me. I knew that the ancestors were calling me since the age of 13 because I could foresee the future in my dreams. In the beginning, I didn’t want to listen to the voices, but one day, my grandmother came to me in a dream and asked me to start training as a sangoma. In that very moment, I decided to follow the calling and become one.’
Photo: Silvia Zanardi
Noxolo and Dabulamanzi ascribe people’s physical pains to spiritual diseases. Not all kinds of illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer can be healed through herbs though. ‘Sometimes clients get to us when it is too late and we can’t do anything for them. In those cases, we suggest they go to the hospital or even call an ambulance,’ says Noxolo. Western medicine and traditional African healing, as Noxolo and Dabulamanzi state, can coexist. On the one hand, the treatment by a sangoma is precautionary and encourages a connection with the spirits of the ancestors, which is therapeutic for health, while modern medicine fixes emergencies.
John Lockley is one of the first white men, in recent history, to become a fully initiated sangoma of the Xhosa lineage, the tribe that gave us Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. ‘According to my traditional elders in the Grahamstown area, I am one of the first in recent history (since apartheid) to finish the training and become a fully initiated Ligqirha inkulu (senior sangoma),’ he says. He spends half the year in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape and the other half travelling around the world to heal people’s spiritual diseases by focusing on dream interpretation, ancestral connection and meditation. People interested in traditional African healing invite John to run workshops that help people connect with their dreams and ancestors. ‘Becoming a sangoma in the Xhosa tribe involves many different stages of initiation. They range from three, five or even seven different ceremonies. Once someone has completed all the different stages they are known as “Ligquirha inkulu” – senior sangomas – who can then train and apprentice others. I have attained this position,’ says John.
While in Amsterdam on a work trip, I interviewed John Lockely via Skype: ‘African history, culture, traditions and spirituality are sacred, since Africa is the country where we all come from. This is why a lot of people are interested in African culture and instinctively want to get in touch with it,’ he says. On the other hand, sangomas and traditional African healers are often associated in the west with black magic, killing and voodoo. John gives an explanation for this in his blog: ‘Sangomas are professional priests and healers, but just as certain individuals in the Christian priesthood and western medicine may occasionally bring their professions into disrepute, so do individuals in the sangoma fraternity. Traditionally, sangomas are healers and bonafide sangomas would never perform negative acts, they work with honesty and integrity.’ John’s viewpoint is supported by organisations like Traditional Healers Organisation (THO), which trains and certifies traditional health practitioners therefore helping to enforce credibility. National Coordinator of the THO, Phephisile Maseko, explains: ‘We also assure the values, quality of treatment, efficacy, safety and ethical standards of member practitioners – empowering healers of Africa to heal the continent.’
‘When people are more connected with their own spirits, there is less of a desire to destroy or put down one another. I don’t intend to bring Xhosa or South African shamanic culture to the West as such, but rather to use its essence to help people connect with their own ancestors and spiritual traditions.’ – John Lockley
John started training in Grahamstown after having suffered from a serious illness for seven years. ‘I fell sick during the apartheid era, so I could not ask for help from a traditional sangoma. Only at the beginning of Mandela’s government, did I meet my teacher, during a tour into the township,’ he says. John was studying clinical psychology at Rhodes University at the time, but from that day on, his life changed forever. ‘When people are more connected with their own spirits, there is less of a desire to destroy or put down one another. I don’t intend to bring Xhosa or South African shamanic culture to the West as such, but rather to use its essence to help people connect with their own ancestors and spiritual traditions. I help people physically and spiritually connect with their own blood and bones, for we all belong to the same big family of human beings.’
Chris Ntombemhlophe Reid
Chris Ntombemhlophe Reid is a white traditional sangoma. He received the ‘calling’ in 1991 and graduated as a sangoma in 1993. Since his graduation, he hasn’t worn shoes. No matter where he goes and no matter the season, Chris walks barefoot, wears traditional Xhosa clothing and about twenty animal hair arm bracelets. ‘Each one of these bracelets is made of the skin and the hair of the animals I have sacrificed to the spirits,’ he explains as he sits on the terrace of his flat in Cape Town. ‘We sacrifice animals like chickens, goats and cows to celebrate the birthdays of fellow sangomas, special dreams or to initiate aspiring sangomas into their new spiritual path,’ says Chris.
Photo: Silvia Zanardi
Chris realised that he was going to become a sangoma in the former Transkei, when he first met his mentor in Pondoland. ‘It was 1991 and I was hiking in Pondoland after having had my right leg plastered for several months because of a bad fall during a party in Johannesburg. Before becoming a sangoma, I lived in Johannesburg for a long time. I worked as a model, I drove beautiful cars and even snorted cocaine. After that almost fatal fall in which I broke my leg, my life totally changed,’ Chris says. While recovering from his leg injury in Pondoland, he came to know the sangomas of the Dlamini clan of the Amapondo and he spent three years with them, living in the forest and forgetting about the modern and privileged life he had before. ‘I was in the right place at the right moment. When I met my mentor, I knew that I was going to find my true self by joining the spirits of my ancestors.’
The family of ‘ancestors’
Who are the ancestors? Are they the same for everyone? Are they white, black or coloured? ‘We all belong to the same big family, made up of blacks, whites and coloured people. That is why anyone can be called by the ancestors. We, as human beings, are the result of thousands and thousands of lives that came before us,’ explains Chris.
Chris says that being called by the ancestors means having bad dreams and waking up at night feeling so bad that you have to change your life. ‘That’s why no one cares if you are white, black, gay or straight,’ he explains. Chris started having his first revealing dream after meeting his mentor in the former Transkei. He dreamed about being in a forest, surrounded by candles and black people who were playing African drums. ‘That deep sound echoed in my mind also when I was awake, so I went to the sangoma I had met and spoke to him about what was going on inside me. He went into a trance-like state and started to talk about my life, my mother, my father, me being gay and the bad luck we had in our family,’ says Chris. ‘It was in that very moment that I understood my life was going to change and that I would become a sangoma,’ he adds. Chris Reid and John Lockely are both proof that sangomas feel comfortable in the modern world. They illustrate how true healers must take their lives down a spiritual path and continue to spread the powers of healing.
Thokozani Bogogo. Greetings dear ones.
I have just returned from a visit to Peru & Bolivia where I underwent my 3rd level, or Alto Misayog initiation into the Order of Inkari – an Andean mystic school. It has been a truly mystical and magical journey into some of the most sacred and mystical sites of Peru.
I learned the 5 most important qualities of a spiritual Master: Humility, discipline, knowledge, Action (work) and wisdom. Humility is to know what you are. It is not to put yourself or others down but to recognise your gifts and those of others. Discipline is to manage yourself and your energy in a good way and to increase your knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is to learn as much as you can so that you can help others and grow your power. Action is to put in use what you have learned for the higher good of all. Wisdom is to know when to help others and when not, and to do it with compassion and love.
I want to thank my master Regis Llerena, our guides and hosts: Kutcho, Apu Runa (Raoul Lezama), Simon Myburgh, Juan & Luis Quispe, the team at Casa de la Gringa and all the ancestors and Apu’s for this magical time. I am hoping to share some of this healing work and ceremonies with you in the near future. Details will be posted.
Some of the magical sacred sites we visited: Machu Pichu, Lake Titicaca Bolivia: Islands of the Sun & Moon. Amara Muru the inter-dimentional door of wisdom near Juliaca, Peru. Fertility temple near Puno, Peru. Sacsayhuaman near Cuzco, Peru. Ollantaytambo, Peru. Killarumiyoc. Urubamaba & Pisac. Cuzco – San Pedro market, a great place to shop and eat and have fun !
Thokoza all. Greetings !
When I started this blog I promised to post a bit more about imiti / umuthi / muthi / energetic plant medicine. To use muthi properly you need to get instructions from a traditional healer who knows the plants well and how to use it properly. You also need to understand that the plant is not only chemical compounds, but also has energy and spirit. They physical and energetic properties work on different levels.
Many people experiment with muthi and either have no results or negative results. They get muthi from websites or people who sell it without knowing its proper preparation or applications. For some muthi’s, there are cleansing rituals one must perform before using the muthi. Muthi must be harvested and prepared correctly and also blessed and prescribed correctly. The same plant that occurs in different regions may also not be used for the same purpose everywhere as it depends on the sub species and climate it may grow in. In one part the bark may be used and in another part the roots.
Traditional African medicine also has both “magical” and “scientific” properties. That means that medicinal herbs are not only chosen for their “active ingredients” to be ingested but also for their vibratory resonances. In other words: African traditional medicine is also “vibrational medicine”.
In Southern Africa all traditional medicine is called Muti. Muti can be anything from a charm worn against evil spirits to a herbal concoction against stomach bloating. A spell cast by magical ritual would also be called “Muti”.
Medicines are not necessarily ingested but can be worn around the neck in pouches, strewn around the house, burnt as an offering or applied in many other ways. It is clear that the African tradition does not only subscribed to the materialist Western notion of the “Active Ingredient” which means a pharmacologically active substance that could be isolated from the traditional medicine.
African Muti also influences the etheric and spiritual forces. It is based on Millennia of shamanic experience, handed down to the disciple in a long and involved initiation and learning process called Twasa-ing.
Any person to become a Sangoma must get the calling from the spirit world first which can manifest in dreams or even unexplainable sickness or other traditionally recognised signs. All proper sangomas are intuitives of the highest degree.
Some samples of general muthi that is used are shown below: the healer will prescribe a muthi and a method of administrating after reading the bones and divining what the issues is that needs to be addressed. Sometimes muthi can also be enhanced by spells, symbols or stones.
Warning: this site does not prescribe any muthi or advocate use of muthi without supervision or administration by a qualified traditional healer.
Ntabazimi – fights negative energy raises positive energy
Makhanyakude – shine from far
Sbagga – dispels negaitivity
Nhlanhla emhlope – opening closed paths
Mwelela (means “valley” in Zulu) – continuous perseverance
Godide – renewal of all things (Body, Mind, Spirit)
Salt: fights negativity beyond the borders of normal Muti
Chili – dispels tokoloshe (nasty little entities that torment people)
Mini Mini – attracts everyone to the person wearing it
Thokoza Kehla, thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog and subscribed. I apologise for the absence of posts. It sometimes happens in a healers life that one has to go inside and search for wisdom and also deal with ones own issues.
I came across this article on the WHO website and thought it may be a thought-provoking article to share with you. I have been looking at how s treat mental Illness and other so-called medical problems. It is a rather long post so I have edited it and have not posted the references. You can read the full article on this link:
Clinical practice is the process of evaluating conditions of ill health of an individual and its management. The treatment guide used by traditional health practitioners (THPs) in general and diviners in particular, varies greatly and depends on the THP’s own knowledge and skills, as well as the nature of the patient’s illness. Satisfactory healing involves not merely recovery from physical symptoms, but also the social and psychological re-integration of the patient into his/her community.
In African traditional medicine clinical practice, THPs personally assess patients in order to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease using their clinical judgement. The THP – patient relationship typically begins with interrogations through case-history taking and recourse to basic diagnostic procedures such as divination to determine the cause of the patient’s complaint. Once the primary causes of the ailment are determined, the THP then prepares medicines, which may be derived from medicinal plants, animal parts or minerals.
The THP’s own experience, added to the accumulated knowledge handed down by their ancestors, allow the THPs to offer cheap, but effective remedies for treating the main ailments that afflict the populations of the African Region, such as malaria, stomach infections, respiratory problems, rheumatism, arthritis, sexual dysfunction, anaemia, parasitic infections, mental problems, bone fractures and conditions requiring midwifery services.
TRADITIONAL MEDICINE AND HEALTH CARE SERVICES
In African TM, health care delivery includes curative, apprenticeship (training), promotional and rehabilitation services. These services are being provided through tradition and cultural philosophy for example ubuntu philosophy. The philosophy requires a THP to provide health services under a “humanityfirst” consideration and not for material gain. There are many philosophical terminologies in African culture, used to describe a THP as a person of high standing in a community, open and available to serve others, when they need health care services.
Ubuntu philosophy requires THPs not to provide services for material gain. THPs are therefore obliged to provide health care services to their patients without demanding any charges. This taboo imposes on the practitioners a strong code of ethics in the provision of health care services to which they should always abide. This places a huge responsibility on the THP/ individual to demonstrate a high sense of “professionalism” and integrity in the discharge of their work. A THP, who believes in ubuntu strives to provide health care services according to the tenets of the taboo.
Examples of African traditional medicine practices that are recognized by almost all communities in the African Region include general traditional health services, traditional midwifery, bone setting and mental healthcare. Traditional health services that are not often recognized by all communities and governments include divination and circumcision.
Diagnosis is a key part of African traditional medicine. This entails a systematic quest for answers to the origins (immediate cause) of a particular disease to determine, who or what caused it (efficient cause), and why it has affected a particular person at a particular time (ultimate cause). In situations where divination is utilised, diagnosis may comprise of a combination of observation, where the patient’s physical symptoms are noted, and patient self diagnosis, where the patient reports their problem to the THP. Where necessary, the impressions of other family members regarding the patient’s illness may also be obtained. The process of divination will then involve such techniques and beliefs as the casting of divination objects, extra-sensory perception or ability (clairvoyance/ telepathy) or interpretation of dreams and visions.
Satisfactory healing involves not merely the recovery from physical symptoms, but also the social and psychological reintegration of the patient into his/her community. Treatment is comprehensive and has curative, protective and preventive elements. Moreover, treatment can be either natural or ritual or both, depending on the cause of the disease. The mode of administration of medications includes, among others, oral ingestion, steaming, sniffing of substances, cuts (the African traditional medicine form of injection) and/or body piercing (the African traditional medicine form of acupuncture).
Another aspect of clinical practice of African traditional medicine are norms and taboos. These belief systems account for the widespread acceptability of THPs in the communities they serve.
In the African context and traditional medicine practices in particular, food taboos are a set of rules developed to control the dietary habits of humans. They ensure that people abstain from consuming certain foods and drinks for reasons, which may be religious, cultural or hygienic. They also give directions as to how certain foods may be prepared. The origin of these prohibitions or restrictions varies from one community to another.
Because of the limited access to antiretrovirals (ARVs) many people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs) rely totally on African traditional medicines for treatment. Also, several cases of bone fractures and psychiatric disorders are treated by THPs using traditional medicines. In respect of curative services, the efficacy and potency of herbs are very real in traditional health services provisions.
THPs also provide preventive health care. The experiences they accumulate, are transferred to their successors from one generation to another through apprenticeship.
Some African countries are locally producing traditional medicines used for various diseases such as chronic diarrhoea, liver disorders, amoebic dysentery, constipation, cough, eczema, ulcers, hypertension, diabetes, malaria, mental health and HIV/AIDS in order to improve people’s access to medicines. This will enhance the process of integrating traditional systems of medicine into the healthcare services (6).
Types of Practices/Services
Traditional health services cover many areas including general traditional health services; bone setting; traditional midwifery and traditional mental health services.
GENERAL TRADITIONAL HEALTH SERVICES
General clinical practices are services provided to clients by non-specialised healthcare providers. The general THP manages conditions such as malaria, stomach infections, respiratory problems , rheumatism, arthritis, sexual dysfunction, anaemia and parasitic infections.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The African concept of disease and medicine is the foundation of traditional medicine treatment. Unlike the situation elsewhere, in countries of the African Region, medicines have a personality and potent living force. For example, the management of neurosis is markedly different in Africa than elsewhere. African THPs make use of divination to unravel the mental and psychological problems of their patients. Divination therefore plays a significant role in the treatment of neurosis and helps re-trace a patient’s life from its metaphysical past to how it interplays with the present and future.
The THP provides for a link between a patient and the patient’s own social, cultural and intellectual environmental background.
Studies have shown that the number of common mental disorders recorded among patients consulting THPs is twice as great as that recorded for those attending a primary health care clinic. The most common symptoms presented in both settings, were fatigue, obsessions, worries about physical health and depression. However, people who seek traditional medicine treatment are more likely to have chronic complaints and to have seen several doctors.
Midwifery is a health care profession in which providers give prenatal care to expecting mothers, attend the birth of the infant, and provide postpartum care to the mother and her infant.
Midwives are autonomous practitioners who are specialists in a low-risk pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum stage. They generally strive to help women have a healthy pregnancy and natural birth experience. Midwives are trained to recognize and deal with deviations from the norm (9).
A midwife may practice in any setting including in the home, the community, hospitals, clinics or health units. Many traditional midwives live in rural, and often isolated communities. They may work at considerable distance from health facilities and are often older mothers; many are post-menopausal. Many midwives are also herbalists, or specialize in other traditional healing practices.
A bonesetter is a practitioner of joint manipulation. Before the advent of chiropractors, osteopaths and physical therapists, bonesetters were the main providers of this type of treatment. Bonesetters would also reduce joint dislocations and re-set bone fractures.
Another aspect of bone setting is spinal adjustment, which is a variation of a procedure known today as spinal manipulation. Records show that this form of treatment has been in existence since the time of Hippocrates and ancient Egypt and was passed down through the ages by families of bonesetters. The modern form of spinal manipulation techniques have characteristic biomechanical features, and are usually associated with an audible “popping” sound. In countries of WHO African Region, traditional bonesetting (TBS) has been practised for centuries (14).
Training and promotional services
Apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners to acquire some skill. Most of this training is done on the job while working for an employer, who helps the apprentices learn their trade, in exchange for their continuing labour for an agreed period of time after they become skilled. Theoretical education may also be informally involved, via the workplace (14).
Although years of colonial rule repressed African traditions, culture, norms and taboos, African traditional medicine has survived to date. Traditional medicine practices have since been passed from one generation to another through training and apprenticeship. Grooming trainees to understand diseases, diagnostic procedures, medicinal resources and preparation of the required prescription and administration of the medications, requires appropriate theoretical and practical training methods.
The training and promotional aspects of African traditional medicine prepare practitioners to be responsible, accommodating, hardworking, good listeners, as well as having a sense of pride of themselves and their tradition and culture – the ubuntu philosophy.
In the African context and ubuntu philosophy, rehabilitation is carried out as a family or community duty. Traditionally and culturally there is no system of skills development for disabled people leading to employment. Instead, the family and the community are responsible for the rehabilitation of the disabled person. This situation gives the disabled a sense of belonging, creating an accommodating way of living through tradition, culture, norms and taboos. Every disabled person is regarded as part of the family or community and is supported to lead a functional life.
The African philosophical clinical healthcare practice is the bridge between people’s well-being and life. It is the practice that is embedded in the tradition, culture and taboos that are still relevant to the way of life of Africans. In order to maximize health care coverage there is a need for formalization of traditional health services through the integration of traditional medicine into health systems. This calls for enhanced collaboration between practitioners of conventional medicine and traditional medicine for the benefit of the people in the WHO African Region. This realization is in line with the principles of the Regional Strategy. The aim of the Strategy is to contribute to the achievement of health for all in the Region by optimizing the use of traditional medicine and one of its principles is institutionalization of traditional medicine. This includes the development of mechanisms for collaboration between CHPs and THPs in areas such as patient referrals and information exchange at local level.
The future of African traditional medicine is bright if viewed in the context of service provision and increase of health care coverage, economic potential and poverty reduction. The increase of health care coverage will be achieved through collaboration and partnerships between THPs and CHPs which is already happening, particularly in the area of traditional medicine research. When a large number of scientifically evaluated traditional medicines become available, local production will be scaled up and this will improve access to medicines for the population. This in turn would reduce the cost of imported medicines, increase countries’ revenue and employment opportunities in both industry and practice. In addition, the African Region will be able to grow medicinal plants on a large scale as resources for research and local production. Industrial processing of locally produced medicines will require packaging and marketing thus contributing to poverty reduction.
Regulating Sangoma’s & African Shamanic Practises.
Today’s post was inspired by the “bad press” that Sangomas or traditional healers sometimes get because of many charlatans and unqualified practitioners, who damage the reputation of the genuine good healers.
There exists a regulating body (bodies) that aim to unite traditional healers and regulate the practices to some kind of acceptable standard, with a code of Ethics, and issue certificates of competence. They also provide some training. Traditional healers can register here and complaints can also be lodged by the public against bad practice.
Below is an extract from the websites with links if you want to visit them.
THO – Traditional Healers Organisation: http://www.traditionalhealth.org.za
Mission: THO is an organisation that organizes, trains and certifies traditional health practitioners. It fights for member’s rights to practice the tradition of healing. We also assure the values, quality of treatment, efficacy, safety and ethical standards of member practitioners. Empowering healers of Africa to heal the continent.
Qualities of a competent Traditional Health Practitioner
- Good Healer
- Having good mentor ship
- Well trained
- Loving and passionate
- Ethical practice
- Good values
- Preventing diseases
- Leadership in the community
- Honest, Courageous and Decisive
THO target both initiated and non-initiated traditional health practitioners which among others include; herbalists (Inyangas), Sangomas (Diviners), Umbelethisi (Traditional Birth attendants), Iingcibi (Traditional surgeons) and Izangoma Zomkhaya. THO capacitate healers in all their specialities.
The THO organizes about 29,000 traditional health practitioners in the country and has networks in some parts of Africa. We are passionate about preserving our proud tradition of healing. We hold knowledge about tradition and healing of all different kinds of traditional health practices and share this knowledge through our training programmes. Some of these training programmes have been accredited by the Health & Welfare SETA (Accreditation Number- HW592PA0400064). We are now certifying 10 different specialists in traditional health practice.
The Certificate of Competence ensures every patient that this practitioner has completed training and passed assessment and is capable of healing the patient in an ethical, efficient, safe and hygienic way. We believe that traditional health practitioners play a key role in the community by caring good values and concerns for others and also take leadership in community development.
Our Values: Professional freedom, Dedication, Ubuntu, Responsibility, Compassion, Integrity, Transparency, Accountability, Collective effort, Excellence, Solution-focused, Collaboration and Cooperation, Knowledge protection and preserving, User-Centred, Gender sensitivity, Acceptance, Learning and Experience
ANHA – African National Healers Association: http://www.africannationalhealersassociation.org
- In short, the African National Healers Association was founded in 1989. The African National Healers Association is registered as a non-profit organisation in South Africa under Section 21 Act 61/73 and Reg. Number [89/0529/08].
- The African National Healers Association has over 2000 members, including a number of allopathic doctors with interest in traditional healing methods.
- The African National Healers Association has served as consultant for numerous Academic Institutions as well as private companies in numerous research, Educational-and Traditional medicine development projects, including the hosting of the Eight Fact-Finding Workshop on behalf of the Producers of the S.A. Traditional Healers handbook, Published in 1997.
- The setting and maintaining of mandatory standards of traditional healing in South Africa through Cultural Heritage.
- Establishing a working relationship with private organisations and companies with the like-minded objective of promoting traditional medicine and traditional healing in South Africa.
- To develop and manage knowledge-and management systems in South Africa.
LEGISLATION CONCERNING TRADITIONAL PRACTITIONERS
A number of issues regarding Traditional practitioners in South Africa needs to be addressed in order to understand better understand the Legislation governing it. A bill drafted to regulate the practice of traditional practitioners was tabled before Parliament in 1994 and passed in November 2004. The bill was signed as the traditional health practitioners act 35 of 2004 in February 2005. (See Government Gazette 27275, Dated 11 February 2005.) Bill 20 of 2007 makes provision for the health practitioner’s council and the following groups will be covered:
- Inyangas (herbalist or traditional doctors)
- Sangomas (diviners)
- Iingcibis (traditional surgeons)
- Umbelethisi (Traditional birth attendants)
- Abathandazis (faith healers) are excluded.
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Dreaming and Dreaming medicines: (African Herbal Medicine)
This post is prompted by a strange dream I had last night. I had a restless night and battled to fall asleep, so at about 2 am I took some Valerian Root tablets and it seemed to do the trick, but this plant also has the reputation to bring you “interesting” dreams. Dreaming is seen as a very important part of ones training as a Sangoma, as often the ancestor spirits will visit you in your dreams bringing you messages and information or teachings on how to do things. They can also bring you warnings and help.
In the dream I had last night, I was wearing a traditional robe and was visited by a black man – who spoke to me in my native language – which is unusual. He asked me a very interesting question – the answer to which I will ponder in the next few days. I felt as if this may have been a spirit from one of the lineages I was initiated into.
Dream interpretation is important for guiding one’s spiritual journey. As an initiate you would report your dreams daily to your trainer and talk about the messages therein for you. Of course for us to dream – we need to sleep – and quality sleep brings quality dreams. Below I mention some medicines that can aid sleep & dreaming.
In Africa we have an interesting dream plant called “African Dream Root” (Silene Capensis). It is added to a mixture of foaming herbs we call “uBulawu” that is given to initiates to dream about their ancestors and be able to talk to them. The powdered root is said to be the ingredient that brings the dreams and visions. The African Dream Root is also said to aid “Lucid or awake” dreaming. The root is also used as a “lucky” medicine (muthi). The root can also be taken as a tea.
Before one uses this muthi, one must be cleansed for it to have maximum effect, so that your channels are open and not blocked by negative energies that can keep your dreams stuck. When I look at “shamanic” websites or ethno medicine websites selling this root online – without proper instructions – it worries me as the cleansing beforehand is very important. The medicine is not just in ingesting the plant material, but also in respecting the spirit of the plant medicine. In the sangoma traditions cleansing will traditionally be done by steaming a person with special herbs that cleanses, protects and uplifts them and opens them up to spiritual energies. A muthi like “ubulawu” will never be used if you are not “clean”.
Other African herbs that have a sedative and calming effect and can be used to aid rest, sleep and dreaming are: Sceletium Tortuosum (Kanna) (contains the mesembrine alkaloid), Psoralea Pinnata (umhlonitshwa) it works as a homeopathic type medicine and works on the emotional level rather than the physical level.
Another plant is African Griffonia. (West Africa) It contains 5-HTP that helps to elevate mood. I also mentioned Imphepho in my previous blog for its sedative properties. (Helichrysum odoratissmum).
Sometimes uVuma Umhlope (Synaptolepsis Kirki) is also used in the uBulawu mix. The African Sea bean (Entada Rheedii) is said to have magical uses in lucid dreaming and is often worn as a charm.
Important note: This Blog does not contain medical advice. Please take care when using these medicines and always seek expert advice. You may have unexpected reactions to the ingredients and some of these medicines can be toxic to the liver and kidneys in large doses or with prolonged use. They are also contra-indicated in pregnancy and should not be combined with SSRI, MAOI, or other psychiatric medications, cardiac medications, alcohol and cannabis.
Safe sources for obtaining medicines: If you want to try out the medicines for the first time and are not experienced with them, I suggest you try medicines that have already been processed and can be bought in health stores or from reputable suppliers. Do not buy the raw ingredients and try to make it yourself if you do not have experience in this. Below are some good sources of safe supplements. Please read the instructions for use and contra indications on the sites – if there aren’t any then I would be weary of ordering from them. Any site selling you medicine should also be willing to give you information on where they source their plants from, have a permit to harvest if they wild harvest and be willing to share their manufacturing info in terms of health & safety regulations. They should also be registered to some regulating body.
Big Tree Nutraceuticals – http://www.bigtreehealth.com/
Herbal Africa – http://herbalafrica.co.za/
Medico Herbs – http://www.medicoherbs.co.za/
Phyto Green – http://www.phytogreen.co.za/
Imphepho – Africa’s Sacred Herb. (Helicrysum Species/Everlasting/sewejaartjies/kooigoed)
One of the first Muthi’s or herbal medicines I learned to use as a Twasa (initiate) was this sacred smudge and medicinal herb. It is said that Imphepho was the first medicine that was shown to the healers. When they started to use this medicine, it guided them to find and how to use other medicines and so they started to learn about herbs. It is a very powerful plant and its medicinal uses are the subject of scientific study. It is the most widely used medicinal plant in South Africa. The word Helicrysum is derived from the Greek “Helios” meaning Sun and “chrysos” meaning gold. Most of the flowers of this plant are a golden yellow colour.
When medicine plants are harvested it is very important that it is done in a respectful and sustainable way. When entering the area where one intends to harvest muthi – you must always ask permission of the guardian or grandfather – which may be a very big or old tree growing nearby. Before a plant is cut or dug out – it must be asked if it agrees to be muthi (medicine), and one must explain to the plant what and for whom it is needed. Making muthi starts with how and which plant you take. Two of the same plants may grow next to each other but only one of them may be right for muthi. Traditionally some imphepho, snuff, tobacco or a red or white bead is given as an offering or exchange to the plant spirits when harvesting medicines.
Imphepho has many uses. The smoke of the herb is used as a sacred incense or smudge used to call the ancestors in and invoke trance states, cleanse energy and as an offering when praying. The smoke is also sedative. Traditionally Imphepho is burned on a potsherd when offered to the ancestors. Medicinal uses of the plant include antiseptics, insecticides, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving (analgesic). The parts of the plant used are mainly the leaves, stems and flowers and sometimes the roots.
New born babies are washed in Imphepho to cleanse and protect them. The herb is stuffed in bedding for both humans and animals to repel insects. Wounds are washed with infusions of Imphepho to clean and sterilise them and a dressing of leaves are placed on the wounds. The smoke is inhaled for headache. Tea is made from the leaves for fever, coughs, colds and flu and also to cleanse the liver and kidneys. In woman’s health it is used for menstrual pains.
An aromatherapy / medicinal oil extract is now becoming available. Medical research has shown that this plant has huge potential for medicinal uses as a possible cure for Tuberculosis and herpes. For HIV patients Imphepho tea is a must. We have already mentioned its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties in treating as well as preventing disease. It also has a positive influence on the liver, bladder, heart and kidneys. It can also be used to clear the skin. A wash can be made for wounds, rashes, spots, skin ailments and fungal infections. It is also regenerative when used on scars. It is sometimes added to the steam bathes used by sangomas to cleanse away negative energies and to protect.
The plants are usually wild harvested and platted in garlands or tied in bundles before drying. You can buy it on almost every street corner and at any medicine market. Some varieties have been domesticated and can be found at nurseries for planting in your garden.
There are about 245 species in Southern Africa. (600 worldwide) The most popular ones for muthi (medicines) are ones growing near rivers, water or on mountains. The most common ones harvested for medicine (all referred to as imphepho) are nudifolium (mostly used for medicinal purposes), petiolare, cymosum and odoratissimum (mostly used as incense).
Important note: This Blog does not contain medical advice. Please take care when using these medicines and always seek expert advice. You may have unexpected reactions to the ingredients and some of these medicines can be toxic to the liver and kidneys in large doses or with prolonged use. They are also contra-indicated in pregnancy and should not be combined with SSRI, MAOI, or other psychiatric medications, cardiac medications, alcohol and cannabis.
Medicinal Plants of South Africa: Ben-Erik van Wyk.
People’s Plants: Ben-Erik van Wyk.
Medical Articles: Articles published in J Ethno pharmacology: Department of Botany: University of Pretoria. South Africa.
Imphepho Essential Oil – http://www.highlandessentialoils.co.za/html/helic.html
Muthi and Myths from the African Bush – Heather Dugmore.
Our Ancestral spirits.
The calling to be a Sangoma or shaman is believed to come from various ancestor spirits and your direct ancestor spirits. I want to write very briefly here about the various kinds of spirits that can be part of a shamanic calling and become your guides or possess you as you do the work of the ancestors.
In the Southern African Traditions your direct family ancestors will call you to be a healer. It may be the spirit of a deceased ancestor who worked as a healer before they passed on and want you to become a healer. In some traditions this is the only way you can be called and thus the idea that white people cannot become a Sangoma, as we don’t have Sangomas in our lineages, whose ancestor spirits can call us.
In West African Traditions like Yoruba, one will be diagnosed with a spirit sickness or calling through an oracle and you will be carefully observed to see which Orisha or nature spirit manifests it characters through you. You will then become a healer trained to work with the spirit of that Orisha i.e. Ogun or Yemanya.
In the Thokoza Sangoma lineage that I was initiated into – one can be called by a “foreign” spirit in addition to your ancestral spirit. You can read more about this in the previous article I posted on Thokoza Sangomas. Transmission and Embodiment of History in the Thokoza Sangoma Tradition. Basically what this means is that a spirit whom your ancestors were in conflict with or harmed, can possess you and call you so that you can facilitate a resolve to the conflict in your work as a healer. In the Thokoza lineage one is initiated into the Nguni & Ndau ancestor lineage in addition to your own. There was a war between these tribes and the spirits of the dead, “Indiki”, possessed the warriors, and the spirits continued to possess families of the warriors down the generations. Thus you, as part of this generation, can be called to be a healer of this conflict.
This is how I came to be initiated. It is interesting that my (white) ancestor who lived in the same area as the Ndau in Mpumalanga/Mozambique – was part of the war of Nguni and Ndau many years ago and himself killed many of these warriors. When I became sick it was diagnosed as a sign of a calling to become a healer and be part of the reconciliation between people and healing of old wounds. In addition my great grandmother in the same lineage as the previous ancestor, was a farmer and medicine woman who worked with herbs. It is my belief that white people when they came to this country, learned the local traditional medicines and cures of the indigenous people, that became our own. So in a way she was an Inyanga. (The San Bushmen people who were the first people in Southern Africa also passed on many of their medicinal knowledge of plants and methods of healing on to the “Bantu” tribes who later arrived here.)
It is my belief that many white people walk around with “karma” of their ancestors who were part of the wars against the indigenous tribes, and who killed many warriors and have become influenced by the spirits of the dead. This “karma” has been passed down the generations until someone receives a calling to heal this. As white people in Africa nowadays we do not have specific means of initiation or becoming a healer, (other than Christianity or some of us may remember our Celtic or Pagan roots) so we take on the traditions of the foreign spirits that call us. In the end we all share a common ancestor that originated in Africa.
Some of the Ancestor spirits: (The information below may not be very clear, but it is not formally recorded much other than by oral tradition, and I am still trying to get a full picture from the various explanations I have been told. The below are mainly about the Nguni/Ndau ancestors.)
Inzunza: This is the water spirit that inhabits dams, oceans, rivers etc. They serve as guardians of the water world which is one of the gates to the spiritual world. These ancestors are very powerful and usually show themselves through dreams. (Sometimes confused with Ngernza)
Ngernza : the mermaids and other tribes belonging to the water world. ( sometimes confused with Nkanyamba or with Mndawe spirit).
Indiki (umndiki): the spirit of a person that passed away through violence. This spirits roams the earth as they cannot enter the afterlife due to the blood they have over them. Once it has been cleansed it is entered into the spiritual world through the river and reunites with family, and then forms part of the ancestors that are healers.
Indawu: Indawu is the Zulu Male ancestor’s reffered to as Amakhehla, loosely translated to old men/grandfathers. These ancestors are linked to the Abalozi ancestors (whistling ancestors) and they sometimes tell a person to go to the river and come back with a python.
uMndau (Ndau) (Mandawe): Spirits of the male Ndau tribe warriors. They originate from Mozambique, Malawi and Swaziland. Their healers mainly use ukufemba as their medium of healing. They are also seen as great and ancient ancestor spirits by some and to be higher than the Nguni.
Nguni (MA Nguni / umNguni) – ancestors of the Nguni Tribe.
Thokoza, thank you for reading my blog. Please contact me for comments or questions.
Thokoza! Today I would like to share again an article I found about the lineage I was initiated into. It is not my own. You can see the full article here.
The thokoza sangoma tradition has its origins among the Swazi- and Shangaan-speaking peoples of southern Africa. The thokoza tradition differs from other sangoma traditions in South Africa in that its adherents are possessed by non-lineage or “foreign” spirits, in addition to family ancestors. These spirits are referred to as Nguni and Ndau.
According to my informants, the Nguni (Ndwandwe people [Harries 1994 and Wright 2010]) spirits are the spirits of dead Nguni warriors who invaded Mozambique under Soshangane in the 19th century, as well as the spirits of Swazi and Zulu warriors who died in similar conflicts. On the other hand, the Ndau are a people living in western Mozambique near the border of Zimbabwe, many of whom were killed by Nguni/Shangaan and Swazi warriors in the 19th century. This period of conflict in southern Africa has come to be known as the mfecane (Hamilton 1995).
History of Nguni and Ndau Spirits
The oral history that my informants possessed all traced the Ndau-Nguni conflict to Mozambique, rather than an event that happened in the region that is now known as Mpumalanga and Swaziland. They referred to the region of this conflict as “Nsapa”.
All of the thokoza sangomas I interviewed indicated that the spirits of the dead entered the bodies of their killers, and were inherited by their descendants. The spirits caused suffering of those who were afflicted by them, as they had not received the proper burials and funerary rites. As a result the spirits had to be appeased, which was done through the embodiment of the spirit and its identity through spirit possession and training as a sangoma.
Appeasement and the Embodiment of History
People afflicted by Nguni and Ndau spirits usually manifest a calling sickness, during which they become ill, whether it be physically or mentally. In some cases the spirits start manifesting and possessing an individual before they enter the training process, as indicated by two of my informants, Gogo Thembi and Gogo Dingaan. They are usually diagnosed by a sangoma, who they may be led to through dreams, intuition or social networks.
Once training commences the initiate becomes possessed by their Nguni and Ndau spirits on a daily basis. They assume the identity of their Nguni spirit, and are referred to by its first name. They have to follow certain taboos, many of which would have historically been followed by Nguni and Ndau peoples, such as the avoidance of eating fish. The attire worn by thokoza sangomas reflects the cultural identity of these spirits and the material culture in general is comprised of items associated with Nguni and Ndau people historically. In Mangweni, red beads were worn for Nguni spirits, while white was used for Ndau. Hiya’s, which are cloths with designs of animals and celestial bodies on them signified Nguni spirits, while njetti, a cloth with purple or red chevron markings, was used for Ndau. According to Gogo Manzana, Njetti originates in Mozambique, while hiya’s are modern subsititutes for the animal skins worn by Nguni people. In this sense, the modern identity of the initiate is replaced with the historical identity of the spirit.
Possession by Nguni and Ndau spirits was markedly different. Possession of a sangoma by an ancestor is known as hlehla. The purpose of hlehla is to bring out the ancestors so that they can embody themselves, deliver messages, greet other sangomas and gain recognition from other sangomas. During hlehla, the sangoma is said to be completely taken over by his or her ancestors. In Nguni hlehla, the possessed sangoma roars loudly, dances furiously, sings Nguni/Zulu songs and greets other sangomas in the Nguni language. During the greeting, the ancestor states its name and surname, the name of its father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The remainder of the greeting is unique to each mpande (sangoma lodge). The father refers to the teacher of the sangoma, while the grandfather refers to the teacher’s teacher and so on. The possession indicates that Nguni are very warrior like, and thus reflects traits that they were historically associated with.
Ndau possession on the other hand involves dancing on the knees and arms, with the head facing down. The language sangomas spoke when possessed by these spirits was Ndau, which is similar to Shona. As with Nguni, possession, Ndau spirits would also state their lineage when greeting. Despite the more introverted nature of Ndau spirits, they were generally depicted as being more dangerous than Nguni spirits. Tata Ndlovu exclaimed that they had the capacity to destroy entire families in acts of vengeance if they were not appeased.
The final rite of dealing with this inherited history is the graduation ceremony of a thokoza sangoma. This occurs over three days, beginning on a Friday afternoon and ending on a Sunday. The Nguni part of the ceremony involves the sacrifice of a goat, and the sangoma has to undergo arduous tests in order to pass. The Ndau part of the ceremony, known as parula (potula), involves the sacrifice of white chickens, and occurs at a river. The graduation ceremony can be compared to both marriage and funeral rites, whereby the spirit becomes settled and incorporated into the ancestral lineage of the thokoza sangoma and thereby heals an inherited historical legacy of conflict.
Historical knowledge concerned with conflicts in southern Africa during the 19th century is transmitted through the embodied practice of spirit possession by thokoza sangomas. The bodies of thokoza sangomas becomes the site in which this history is inherited and contained. In order to deal with this history, thokoza sangomas manifest and acknowledge spirit identities that their family ancestors came into conflict with historically. The incorporation of these identities into the sangoma’s own ancestral lineage is believed to lead to appeasement, healing and the personal reconciliation of past conflict.
Hamilton, C. 1995. The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
Harries, P. 1994. Work, Culture and Identity: Migrant Labourers in Mozambique and South
Africa, c. 1860-1910. London, Berkeley: Currey University of California Press.
Newitt, M. 1995. A History of Mozambique. London: Hurst & Company.
Taylor, D. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press.
Wright, J. 2010. “Turbulent Times: Political Transformations in the North and East, 1760s-1830s.” In the Cambridge History of South Africa Volume I, edited by Carolyn Hamilton, Bernard K. Mbenga and Robert Ross. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress. pp. 211-252
Liam Keene is a Masters Research Scholar in the Archive and Public Culture Initiative at the University of Cape Town
I would like to post an Article I came across on Shamanism in South Africa. It is not my own. This information is not from my lineage, but a general article about Sangomas. I have deleted the images. To see the full article & images go to: http://transpersonalpsychology.co.za/shamanism-in-south-africa/
Transpersonal psychology takes interest in the ancient wisdom of Shamanism. Shamanism as a practiced healing system originated around 4,000 BC. In South Africa, archaeologists have discovered rock art believed to have originated from the San culture around 3,300 BC depicting what is known in San culture today as “the Great Dance”, a shamanic trance dance used in healing, hunting, and relieving societal tensions.
Traditional healers in the Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele, Sotho, Venda & Tsonga traditions are called: Sangomas, Mathuela, Amakhosi, Inyanga, Ngako or just Gogo. Traditional healers perform a holistic and symbolic form of healing, embedded in the beliefs of their culture that ancestors in the afterlife guide and protect the living.
Sangomas have many different social and political roles in the community: divination, healing, directing rituals, finding lost cattle, protecting warriors, counteracting witches, and narrating the history, cosmology, and myths of their tradition. They are highly revered and respected in their society, where illness is thought to be caused by witchcraft, pollution (contact with impure objects or occurrences) or by the ancestors themselves, either malevolently, or through neglect if they are not respected. For harmony between the living and the dead, vital for a trouble-free life, the ancestors must be shown respect through ritual and animal sacrifice.
Becoming a Sangoma is a calling and ignoring such calling leads to a very difficult life and in some cases, even death. Sangoma undergo ukuthwasa, a period of training including learning humility to the ancestors, purification through steaming, washing in the blood of sacrificed animals, and the use of Muti, medicines with spiritual significance. At the end of ukuthwasa, a goat and/or sheep is sacrificed to call to the ancestors and appease them.
Sangomas work in a sacred healing hut called Ndumba, where their ancestors reside. They wear specific cloths to please ancestors and they summon the ancestors by burning a plant called Imphepho, dancing, chanting, and playing drums.
- possession by an ancestor,
- throwing bones;
- interpreting dreams.
Sangomas will give their patients Muti, medications of plant and animal origin imbued with spiritual significance, often with powerful symbolism, for example, lion fat is given to promote courage. There are medicines for everything from physical and mental illness, social disharmony and spiritual difficulties to potions for love and luck. Muti can be drunk, smoked, inhaled, used for washing, smeared on the body, given as enemas, or rubbed into an incision (ukugcaba).
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.”– Ancient Indian Proverb
“We are the Ancestors, what we do and who we are matters. We are at a pivotal moment in time, we can change the future of the planet even with one breath.”…Otter Woman Standing. (Robbie Warren).
What is an African Traditional Healer or a Sangoma?
As an African Traditional healer, African Shaman or Sangoma, there are various roles that you can be called to. In my lineage and some others, I was trained in a number of roles, and the roles sometimes cross over.
A Sangoma is mainly a spiritual healer that is consulted by anyone with any issue be it health, money, work, social, family or love problems. They are sought out to consult the oracle of the Bones i.e. to read the Bones and divine what is causing the problem and how it can be corrected. The Sangoma may apply various methods in restoring mental, physical and spiritual health and balance. I will write more about that in future posts.
The different healers or healing roles.
Sangoma – meaning “from the drum” – a drum person. One who works in a trance state and communicates to the ancestors on your behalf, calls in the spirits and uses their assistance in divination’s, reading oracles such as bones and diagnoses what may be the cause of your illness. A Sangoma is able to access and use the energy of “umbilini” for divination’s and healing. It is similar to “Kundalini”, “Chi” or life force. This energy is accessed in trance states which can be spontaneous or invoked by drumming and dancing. They are also trained in the use of magical aspects of muthi (medicine) to cast “spells” for healing, luck and protection .They are also trained in reversing bad spells or bad luck. They also clean people and their ancestors to facilitate healing and harmony. In my opinion a Sangoma’s work is mostly about cleaning up. We are always cleaning away hindrances in people’s lives that prevent them from thriving.
Inyanga – A medicine person that mostly heals physical ailments, but also mental or spiritual illness, with plant medicines (Muthi). A moon person. They learn many rituals around harvesting and preparing muthi or medicines. The rituals are connected to nature cycles and energies such as the full moon cycles and seasons and when is the right time to collect and prepare certain medicines. They also learn about the power places in and on the earth and where certain medicines can be found and will be protectors of these secrets. Sometimes known as a witch doctor if they work dark or harmful magic.
Witch Doctors – The term is sometimes used as slang for Sangomas or Inyangas. In certain tribes there are witch doctors who are allowed to live outside the villages and work their magic. They are warned that if anyone in the village comes to harm or if the village is harmed, they and their whole house will be burned to death.
Prophets – They heal with water rituals, holy or blessed water, candles & prayer and through “washing”. Washing can mean washing or cleansing with muthi, baptism, or washing in the rivers or oceans. They are called by very specific dreams and visions.
Sanusi – the higher aspect of an Inyanga/Sangoma – one who works to ascend or uplift the spiritual energies of a group, nation or land, and direct them. A keeper of wisdom and seer of higher or hidden things. Keepers of traditional history, culture, art, myth, legend and music. Keeper of sacred artifacts and talismans. Holds knowledge of sacred sites and the spirits that dwell there. Can access the deep medicine in the earth and on the planet. Communicator with plants and animals and spirits. (Credo Mutwa: Song of the Stars / Zulu Shaman).
Thokoza. Thank you for reading my blog. Please contact me if you have any questions.