All over the country we are seeing hashtags calling for one or other so called ‘western practice’ to fall. We can rest assured that one ‘western practice’ – that of medicine – has no chance of taking over from traditional practice as it is estimated that there are as many as 200 000 indigenous traditional healers in South Africa compared to 25 000 Western-trained doctors. Traditional healers are consulted by approximately 60% of the South African population, usually in conjunction with modern biomedical services.
Traditional healers – Sangomas or Inyangas – in South Africa are practitioners of traditional African medicine.
They fulfill different social and political roles in the community, including divination, healing physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses, directing birth or death rituals, finding lost cattle, protecting warriors, counteracting witches, and narrating the history, cosmology, and myths of their tradition.
These healers are effectively South African shamans who are highly revered and respected in a society where illness is thought to be caused by witchcraft, pollution (contact with impure objects or occurrences) or through neglect of the ancestors.
“I feel that us Xhosa people can teach people all over the world how to reconnect with nature, how to reconnect with the ancestors,” says John Lockley.
John Keith Kelly Lockley (born 1971 to an Irish mother and a Zimbabwean father with British ancestry) is a South African who was initiated as an igqirha, a traditional healer or sangoma of the Xhosa people.
Lockley was born with the mark of the sangoma on his face – a band of white birth skin around the eyes.
Lockley completed an honours degree in clinical psychology at Rhodes University in 1997.
In 1997 in post-apartheid South Africa he met Xhosa sangoma Mum Gwevu in the Joza township in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. Mum Gwevu says she had foreseen his arrival in a dream. He was trained as a sangoma in the Eastern Cape townships, serving a 10-year apprenticeship with Mum Gwevu which he completed in 2007. Mum Gwevu gave him the Xhosa name Ucingolwendaba, which means “messenger”.
Lockley also practices and teaches yoga and Zen Buddhism.
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