Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sangomas and muti... more superstition!

A sangoma is a witchdoctor. The sangoma is a highly respected guy, and if he can’t help you then nothing can. At least that’s what a lot of people still believe in South Africa. Once my wife's old maid got sick it was not even an option to go to a normal doctor, only the sangoma could help! It is easy to judge all sangomas as quacks, but I’m sure they have some tricks up their sleeves that can actually help. Maybe they’ve got some herbal stuff that can ease a cold and some other lightweight things. Help them once with a sore throat, and they believe you can cure everything… then you can start milking the cow. Sangomas are rich! Very rich!!

I see a parallel between the sangomas and the gurus in India… they are incredibly wealthy. A friends parents once knew a guru in India and had close contact with him. He died, but they kept contact with his family and got invited to stay with them in India whilst they were on vacation. Coming there they were brought into the slum areas, and they were already regretting that they accepted the invitation. However when the shabby looking gate opened, a whole different world was revealed. The ground outside the house was marbled, and the house was a pure luxury resort! No need to tell, they enjoyed the stay immensely. The gurus are incredibly wealthy, like the sangomas. The only catch for both of them is that they have to stay in the poor areas… coz that’s where they got the support and can accumulate their wealth. Small sacrifice.

Sangomas can some times prescribe you some really weird stuff. The best example is the health minister of South Africa. Although not titled a sangoma, she is in the same line of profession and a “sangoma wannabe”, and in the very sangoma elite! AIDS apparently is an easy fix! You just have to put some extra beetroot and garlic into your diet, that’s it!! The good thing about this prescribed medicine is first of all that it is natural with no synthetic additives. Second you can get it in all the grocery stores around, and some people might even find it in their own back yard. Third, and the best part: the prescription was given blank through the media to every naughty guy around and in dire need for exactly that medicine… and you pay nothing for the prescription!! What the hell are people paying millions upon millions in AIDS research for?!

AIDS is a big deal here in South Africa! Where you find high numbers of HIV positives or AIDS victims, you will also find a high consentration of Sangomas. Naturally the Sangomas are getting very experienced and very good in these particular areas. When you do a lot of research within a field, then the remedy will eventually be discovered by some smart guy. It’s like: "search and you will find…"! No harder than that really. And, all roads lead to Rome… and the paths to the cure of AIDS did indeed go different ways. If you do experience some distress because of AIDS you can simply find yourself a young virgin girl and rape her. This prescription is of course mainly targeted at men. A pure virgin will cleans you and drain the AIDS from your body very efficiently, and it’s not a terribly unpleasant medical treatment. This is a broadly used and accepted prescription among top Sangomas and can thus be called the highway…

Then you got the more every day kinda medicine – muti! Muti means “magical medicine”. I've been very lucky to observe part of the early production process of muti. It started a few days before, when a young humpback whale got squeezed out from the family pack and killed by tigersharks. The carcass of the whale was washed ashore in Sodwana Bay where I was diving at the time. For a few days the carcass was lying there for scavengers and germs to do its worst under the stinking hot sun. The smell alone was an unforgettable experience. The stench alerted the lokal village and Sangoma about the newly arrived raw material. The Sangoma immediately sent out his assistants to collect the "gold". A whole village of people were cutting out chunks of fat and grease and meat. They were using bags and baskets, or in true African style balancing the chunks on the head with slimy stuff dripping all over. The villagers were of cause motivated as this would eventually become life saving muti for their family and friends.

My wife told me how the ultimate “raw materials” are collected. When she was a young school kid two kids disappeared on the way home from school. The two boys were found in the woods a couple of days later with all
their vital organs removed from their bodies. This was a typical muti-kill. To serve the masses you must be ready to sacrifice a few, that is always a leader's dilemma... or a Sangoma's!


Anonymous said...

I think that the writer is not literate. He has no understanding of what knowledge is. Knowledge has no boundaries, and has no limits. Sangomas are part of this world, and they exist in different ways in different countries and cultures. They use different symbols and expressions based on their cultural experiences. At the end of the day, every human being is either going to work for 'good' or 'eveil'; whether they are a sangoma or a lawyer, or a teacher etc.

Sangomas have different levels of knowledge, experiences etc, and so they will not all practice in the same manner, nor will their practices have the same levels or results. No sangoma is God, therefore, no sangoma can heal all illnesses or provide solutions to everyhting. Sangomas are human, therefore, they are not perfect. What cannot be disputed is that they can access information and experiences which others cannot. Sangomas are a threat to those who view knowledge selectively and are afraid of things that they can have no power over.

Jonny said...


Well said!!! Must confess I've read up a bit more on the sangoma stuff since this... You nailed it! Still a weird cultural thingy for me though!!!

Anonymous said...

I go with your first take Johnny. Sangomas are primarily concerned with pacifying and communicating with what they call ancestral spirits. Nyangas are the herbalists but sangomas have jumped on that bandwagon too. Ancestral spirits talk to them all right. The only thing is they are not really the spirits of their ancestors. They are old spirits who knew their ancestors and can imitate them. They give power and healing at a great price. Any long term study of a Sangoma's patients will reveal that they do not end up healthy, wealthy and happy.

My advice, stay well away from these guys and continue to expose them for what they are!

Anonymous said...

é estar entre SANGOMAS.