The Calling

Towards the end of last year SAFM had a fascinating discussion on ‘the sickness of the calling’, and a week later we received an email from one of our Ulwazi subscribers directing us to a site that focuses on African traditional healers – so it seems the universe is calling out for a story on sangomas!

The idea of being called to duty is not unheard of, but it’s not normally taken in such a literal sense. In some instances when people become ill or experience troubles or inkathazo, a sangoma will diagnose the sickness of the calling. The ‘illness’, which can include frightening dreams, fainting fits and madness, is said to be caused by difficult ancestors, and the ‘cure’ is a grueling sangoma training, or ukuthwasa, which integrates ‘difficult’ segments of the trainees personality. The theory behind it is not dissimilar to psychology students who undergo compulsory personal counseling in order to deal with their personal issues while they are training to become psychologists. And while a pyschologist’s training may be emotionally very taxing, physically the sangoma’s training is much more intense, with initiates waking at 03h00 every morning, not being allowed to sit down during the day, and having to drink the bile of slaughtered chickens! The process of ukuthwasa is not for the faint-hearted!

Click here to read a fascinating account of the process that the initiates follow in becoming sangomas.

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