White Sangoma

words by Chris Ntombemhlophe Reid

“I‘m an instrument of spirit”

Sangomas are the traditional healers of the South African people. Since ancient times these men and women have been responsible for the physiological, psychological and emotional as well as the spiritual wellbeing of their community – treating the human condition. They live their lives in service to the ancestors, as instruments of spirit to help the people.

No sangoma wants to follow this path but is called to it. This calling is known as ukuthwasa, which can be interpreted as “the sickness of the calling” or “the blossoming” and is literally a sickness of spirit. A thwasa or trainee is apprenticed to a sangoma for up to several years, passing through a rigorous training involving dreaming, searching and trance, which connects them firmly to spirit and gives them a thorough grounding in herb lore and techniques in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In addition they become versed in the ancient ancestral ways and traditions, upholding and passing on this ancient knowledge. These are the shamans of Africa, the ones who dream the way.

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