Sunday, March 22, 2015

This weeks blog is on the basic mechanisms of healing used by various Sangomas

There are several Bantu groups in Southern Africa. The Nguni are the majority and comprise the Zulu, Swazi, and Xhosa, all of whom speak a similar language. The others include Sotho and Tswana (who also have a common language,) Venda, and the Tsonga (who speak Shangaan.) The shamans of both groups are called sangomas and inyangas. The key to their healing states is the ability to harness the yoga principle of Kundalini energy. Zulus describe this energy as the Umbilini, the San peoples call it Num. All Southern African tribes believe in an internal snake that is feminine that is connected to not only spiritual power but also sexuality and fertility. When  sangomas get possessed by the ancestral spirit their bodies will often shake and perspire from the heat generated by the sudden and profound movement of this energy.
The Nguni, especially, use drumming and dancing to induce trance and channel the ancestors. All Bantu healers obtain information from their spirit guides through the mediums of dreams and the divining bones. A sangoma may see a plant in a dream that she will later dispense to the appropriate patient. Possession or spirit mediumship among the Nguni peoples is usually overt, whereas amongst the others it is more often implicit rather than explicit. However, there is much overlap among the different tribes and drumming and possession by ancestral or guiding spirits are common to all groups. Trance channeling or spirit mediumship, however, is more part of the Nguni custom. 
The two essential principles for their healing are the power of  placebo and distant healing facilitated by invoking the help of guiding spirits.

Distant diagnosis and distant healing have been used by the Bantu peoples for thousands of years. Their healers are also able to manipulate the power of belief and faith, or placebo.  Placebo is a basic tool for the sangoma.  In Western medicine, randomized, controlled, double-blind studies are conducted to test the true pharmacalogical action of a drug, unimpeded by the placebo effect or the patient’s belief that the drug will work.  We know that the patient’s “Inner Healer” is able to cure many maladies if there is a strong belief in the treatment being administered.  This is especially true in cases of spontaneous remission from so called “incurable” diseases, where studies have shown that... 
the one overriding common denominator was a powerful faith or belief, usually based on a strong spiritual or religious foundation, that all would be well.  

While Western doctors are focused on eliminating the placebo effect, sangomas are masters at enhancing it using their powerful rituals and their charm, calm, confidence, competence, loving attention and charisma.  Displays of "magic" such as diagnosing the problem without being told, handling fire without being burnt or extraordinary dancing fetes enhance this effect. Placebo is also augmented with ceremonies, rituals  and plant medicines, or muti. The muti is always prescribed with a heavy application of attention, intention, and affirmation, which have now become part of our modern, integrative, or holistic, approach.  Indigenous healers are usually highly influencial and powerful people who are able to enter the cosmic field and invoke the help of the spirits for healing. Naturally, when the ancestors are invited to help with the healing, the remedy goes beyond placebo and would be called distant or remote healing. Double blind studies have shown this mechanism to have significant merit.

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