FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is a Sangoma?
Sangomas are traditional healers found in the Bantu tribes of southern Africa. A Sangoma is a type of African doctor, a ritual specialist, a wounded healer, a shaman, a mediator, a negotiator and a diviner. Some Sangomas will specialize in one area only. Most prominently they serve as a link between this world and the world of the ancestors. Aided by this collaboration they diagnose and treat clients.
The word “Sangoma” translates loosely as “off the drum” and refers to the use of drumming as a means to enter trance. In the past this term used to refer to one specific kind of doctor, but in South Africa it has come to collectively refer to all traditional African Healers. Although I will continuously refer to myself as a Sangoma in this blog I am in fact a Mungoma, a type of ritual specialist found in the Shangaan tradition in Botswana.
To this day people in Southern Africa visit Sangomas more frequently than medical doctors.
Which lineage are you a part of?
I have been initiated into a Tswana-Shangaan Sangoma tradition in Botswana: the Majoye lineage, although my teachers were taught by a number of different people.
Is a Sangoma a fortune-teller?
Some Sangomas might have a predictive aspect to their work, but few will call it the core of their practice.
A bone reading is primarily a diagnostic tool. It offers a multi-layered view of the clients’ life considering a range of factors, seen and unseen. My readings focus on your current situation and show how you got there, which routes are open to you and what the most obvious outcome in the light of that information might be. It takes into consideration your state of well being, your environment and other outside influences and energies that impact you.
Why are you a Sangoma?
Becoming a Sangoma is not a choice, it’s a calling. It’s not a course that you take, but a long and often painful initiation process.
My calling came in my early twenties when I developed a variety of strange symptoms and illnesses. I visited many different doctors, homeopaths, psychologists, psychiatrists and a range of other healers over a four year period but couldn’t find relief.
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, had never had any contact with Sangomas and felt frightened by them and what they represented. At a time when I really had nothing left to lose a friend told me about a man who was practicing as a Sangoma nearby and out of desperation I made my first ever visit to one.
It turned out to be a life-changing event for me. He diagnosed the “calling-illness” meaning that my ancestors were calling me to do their work, and shortly afterwards I went to Botswana where I stayed for the length of my initiation.
How can a white person be called to become a Sangoma when it is an illness subscribed to Bantu tribes of Southern Africa?
My ancestors docked at the coast of Africa almost four hundred years ago. It’s no surprise that by this time, this continent is drenched in my bones. In the words of Lourens van der Post, speaking about Carl Jung:
“He told me repeatedly, as well as recording the view in several of his books, essays and letters, that the nature of the earth itself had a profound influence on the character of the people born and raised on it. He could not define it. Nor was there any scientific means by which he could prove it. Yet he maintained that, for instance, the German national character could not have developed as it did had it not also been an expression of the nature of the dark soil of Germany, even without any definite cultural process to encourage them, would have acquired, in time, some of the fundamental aspects of the German character just because of their nourishment and participation in the nature of the earth of Germany. He stated, using the most improbable parallel accessible to him, that even a remote Siberian aborigine brought to settle in Switzerland would change out of all recognition and in time become a good, solid and respectable Swiss citizen!”
- Lourens van der Post, speaking about Carl Jung in his book “Jung and the story of our time”.
In my tradition, divination and diagnosis is done by means of a bone reading. The client is seated on the ground opposite me. A short interview follows after which I will literally throw a collection of small objects on the ground. I will then proceed to lay out the meaning to the client.
A bone reading tracks the natural cycles inherent in every living thing. It can be likened to a weather prediction: the bones draw a picture of the patterns a specific person carries in them, and lays them out to be analyzed by the doctor.
After a diagnosis has been made I might suggest a course of treatment. My treatments are made up of local herbs and plants that are administered mostly through a course of baths or steams, but treatment varies from person to person.
What is the role of the Ancestors?
Speaking about our ancestral connection in an African context is a multi-layered concept. On the first level it refers to you, as you are the current incarnation of your ancestry. Secondly it refers to your direct lineage: parents, grandmothers and grandfathers. More broadly speaking it refers to all those who came before you and those that come after you (your unborn children).
In one aspect your ancestors are outside of you, just like your father is separate to you. In another way they are also inside you, just as your father’s blood runs through you.
If we follow our ancestral lineage back we are related to everyone alive today, and if we follow it even further we are related to every thing on the planet and in the universe.
When working with our ancestral connection, we are working with our connection to everything around us and how we are placed in the world.
“Ignoring the possibility of other inter-relationships (even distant ones) among ancestors, an individual has a total of 2046 ancestors up to the 10th generation, 1024 of which are 10th generation ancestors. With the same assumption, any given person has over a billion 30th generation ancestors (who lived roughly 1000 years ago) and this theoretical number increases past the estimated total population of the world in around AD 1000. (All of these ancestors will have contributed to one’s autosomal DNA is concerned: this excludes Y-chromosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA.” – (ancestors – wikipedia)
Do I have to believe in the world of the ancestors in order for the treatment to work?
No. You don’t need to believe in medical science for a pain-killer to take away your headache. The same goes here.
Are most of your clients black?
No. There are many Sangomas living in townships who are easier to access than I am, living in town.
Secondly, when visiting a healer, most people want to consult someone they feel can relate to them and understand their background and their culture. As an example:
I once went to go see a highly revered Sangoma near the border of Botswana. During the reading (which was conducted by means of a translator) I mentioned that I had no interest in having children. The old woman almost had a fit. She felt certain that this was some form of witchcraft that had been perpetrated on me. In fact, it was a clear indication that we had very different worldviews, and that she couldn’t understand where I was coming from.
Sangomas have a bad reputation.
When you consult with someone you consult not only a specific methodology but a person. If that person has hatred and fear inside of them they will have bad intentions with you.
Sangomas with bad intentions are as prevalent as medical doctors with bad intentions, in my opinion. Those who work in the medical profession are often bought by pharmaceutical companies and push drugs and medicine onto people that they don’t need, give operations that aren’t require, all of that riding on the back of greed.
The point? Make sure that you are visiting someone who is reputable, do your research, and if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.