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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Uniqueness of Nguni Mediumistic Divination in Southern Africa
Author:Hammond-Tooke, W. DavidISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Southern Africa
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3556991
Abstract:Mediumistic divination is unique to the Nguni, as all other Bantu-speakers in southern Africa used a fairly 'objective' divinatory system involving a set of four incised bone tablets, or an assortment of astragals, shells and other objects (or a combination of both). Also, unlike non-Nguni, Nguni diviners were predominantly women. They were called to the profession through a life-transforming, ancestor-sent illness ('thwasa') characterized by psychological and physical symptoms. The article discusses the nature, and possible correlates, of these differences. It is argues that the form of Nguni divination is connected with three related aspects of Nguni social arrangements that disdinguish them from other southern African Bantu-speakers, namely the presence of strong patriclans, the conceptualization of the ancestors as a transcendent, undifferentiated collectivity, and the marked subordination of women. In addition, there is evidence of both the borrowing of certain aspects of the San trance dance, as an appropriate expression of female tensions, and, especially among Cape Nguni, of the concept of divinatory animals. This San influene is much less evident among the Zulu. The importance is of appreciating the essentially selective nature if cultural borrowing is emphasized.