More general musings on Sangoma Wisdom
To the sangoma, each helper spirit, foreign or ancestral has a role to play. One may assist the sangoma in divining, another with plant remedies and yet a third may want to come and dance. Others may be able to manage financial and business affairs. Depending on the talent of the spirit the knowledge of the sangoma will vary. Some have more powerful ancestors than others. A sangoma's expertise is reflective of the effectiveness as his or her spirit guides. Usually the ancestor assists the channel with the abilities he or she had when alive. My ancestor who helps with the bones was a sangoma in her previous life.
Although sangomas usually work on the light and not the dark side (as witches do), they are frequently called to consult about problems related to witchcraft. They have to know how to counteract hexes and also have to protect themselves and their homesteads from witches’ antics which sometimes can even involve attempts at poisoning. Sangomas have remedies for their patients and themselves if they are concerned about witchcraft. Witches are known to consult sangomas not only for help but also to uncover their secrets so they can work more effectively against their competition.
Causes of illness include the ancestors, intrusive spirits, witchcraft or sorcery, and energetic pollution or ritual impurity.
Illness can also just be physical without a clear explanation or may come directly from the Creator. Even benevolent ancestors may indirectly cause illness by turning away from their progeny. If the ancestors feel they are being ignored, they may cause harm by omission rather than commission. In feeling neglected they may abandon their loved ones and no longer afford them protection. Sometimes an ancestor may want a loved one to join him on the other side, which can result in sickness. Otherwise they may cause the Thwasa or "calling" sickness to get the future initiate's attention to be a healer.
Malevolent ancestors, and especially vindictive foreign spirits who may have been wronged, can also cause illness, misfortune, accidents and even death for the descendants of those who have wronged them. All these possibilities can be counteracted by the right prayers, rituals, muti and in severe cases animal sacrifices. Ancestors who have turned away can be encouraged to return and defend their descendants against malicious or intruding spirits. In addition the sangoma's helper spirits will attend to the malady. Illness is therefore frequently connected to human relationships between the living and the dead. However, if these relationships are perfectly functional and healthy, the sangoma will look to witchcraft or sorcery and pollution for the cause of the problem. Diagnoses are made with the help of trance-channeling (possession,) dreams, divination and Femba,. There is usually a remedy for any dilemma.
Femba, the equivalent of psychic diagnosis and surgery, is used to get rid of malevolent or intruding spirits or energies that are getting in the way of a person’s progress in life. Houses or dwellings of any sort, farms, garments, belongings, cars and businesses can be spiritually cleansed by Femba. Femba not only involves exorcism of malevolent spirits but can also be a reconditioning of the spirit body to eliminate illness, imbalance, or a block in energy flow.
Author undergoing Femba during his initiation to clear an intrusive entity.