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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The transmission of knowledge in South African traditional healing
Author:Thornton, RobertISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:South Africa
indigenous knowledge
traditional medicine
External links:https://doi.org/10.3366/E0001972008000582
Abstract:'Traditional healers' ('sangomas') in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, are organized in 'schools' around a senior teacher ('gobela'). Healing is understood by its practitioners to be a profession, not a religion or even a spiritual exercise. Healers actively assess the effectiveness of their healing methods, transmit their knowledge to each other, and evaluate each others' performances in ways that stray far from the mere transmission of 'tradition'. Clients are likely to pay 'sangomas' as much as they would medical doctors for their services, which are not limited to the medical. Their practices can be divided into roughly six 'disciplines': divination, herbs, control of ancestral spirits, the cult of foreign 'ndzawe' spirits, drumming and dancing, and training of new 'sangomas'. The status of 'sangoma' is achieved through an arduous process of teaching and learning through which the student or initiate is simultaneously 'healed' and educated to become a member of the profession that coheres around these knowledge practices. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]