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Observations placeholder

Laubscher, B J F – The schizophrenics and epileptics who are ukutwasa and the rites associated with the Abantubomlambo



Type of Spiritual Experience


These experiences are almost identical to those of the Australian aborigines

A description of the experience

B J Laubscher – Where Mystery dwells

During my investigations I came across many cases of schizophrenia and epilepsy who claimed to have been ukutwasa. Relatives readily accepted these claims since these conditions were endowed with blessings rather than the malevolent influences of witchcraft magic. It is easy to understand how the traditional pattern of belief, deeply rooted in the mind and carrying with it the guardianship, protection and wisdom of the ancestral spirits, could well up during exalted moods, and also in hallucinations of hearing during the disturbance of brain function with its consequent psychological disorder of thought.

A schizophrenic patient or an epileptic in an exalted mood could hear voices, see visions, and feel omnipotent in mood elevation, and so live the pattern of traditional spiritistic belief ….The voice so often calls him to the hills, where he would find the plant that could cure all ills, and give him the magic elixir of life, and thereby master all the evil powers of witchcraft.

The following description of the rites associated with the Abantubomlambo is quoted from my book Sex, Custom and Psychopathology :-

"With many native doctors or diviners in training however the ukutwasa may be manifested by being called to the River ukubizelwa ngumlambo by the River People. The doctor may stay forteen days or more with these people underneath the pools. This is where he is taught the secrets of the medicines and gains much wisdom about the hidden mysteries of life. When he returns after several days, with many roots, barks and other herbal medicines and claims to have been with the River People, they know that he has obtained much knowledge and is a wise man. He is not questioned about his sojourn 'neath the deep pools, for if this is revealed he will be called again and killed. Thus his mysterious training underneath the water remains sealed throughout his life.

The people merely accept that he has been there because he displays the gift of looking into the future as well as bringing to light hidden things of the past, giving love-charms, healing the sick, telling where stray and stolen cattle may be, knowing the wishes and secrets in the minds of others and, above all, speaking to the departed ancestors. His sojourn with the mysterious River People is like a journey to a distant world, indeed to a treasure house of knowledge, and thus his reputation as a doctor or diviner is greatly enhanced.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps







Hearing voices