Healing traditions of the Indigenous South African people part 1

Traditional healers

Healing traditions of the Bantu people

As with the healing traditions of indigenous people all over the world, South Africa has its own “shamans and medicine men”. The Bantu people have a tradition of Sangomas and Inyangas. These are the two main kinds of traditional healers among these tribes.

Sangomas are often female spiritual healers. Wellness is approached holistically. Often the whole family attends the consultation. It is accepted that sickness is often related to relationships and the environment, both physical and social.  Sangomas often consult their ancestors.  Special clothes and beads are often worn for the ritual. Singing, dancing, and drumming are often done during a healing ritual in order to connect with the ancestors.

A Sangoma will also often “Throw the bones”. These bones are often from sacrificed animals, but the bag of “bones” can include stones, shells and other objects. These items like tarot cards, have significance by themselves or about the way they fall next to each other.

Healing traditions in the San tribes

The San also have shamanic healing traditions which include raising energy which they call n/um, this is much like the Chinese “Chi”. n/um is often achieved in an altered state of consciousness. The San conduct healing sessions which include a trance dance or healing dance. These rituals are generally carried out at night. They are conducted with female participants sitting around a fire singing healing or medicine songs. They clap and create a rhythm with drums and rattles.” Men dance in single file in time with the rhythm of the singing and clapping.

Offerings are made to animal and tree spirits. The dancing is intense. The participants often dance themselves into a trance. This trance transforms the healer who reaches the altered state of consciousness which they call Ikia. In this state, the healer places his hands on the affected person and “sucks “the evil out of their bodies. These healing rituals often continue until sunrise when the energy reaches fever pitch then abruptly ceases.  After a healing dance participants collapse in sheer exhaustion which takes a day to recover from.

 Take by mouth

The San also use a wide variety of oral remedies made of plant or animal material. The skin is often cut and the remedies are rubbed into the body. Smoke from smouldering twigs and dung is often inhaled. Ritual wearing of animal parts or beads is believed to make the wearer strong and potent.

These rituals are from time immemorial and are conducted right up to today. Local indigenous people have great faith in their traditions.

See also South African medicinal plants. Indigenous South African Healing Part 2