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Sangomas, Shamans and New Age healing in South Africa - 05 Agnieszka Podolecka - Rebirth



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Sangomas, Shamans and New Age: the Hybridity of some Modern Healing and Esoteric Practices and Beliefs in South Africa - Agnieszka Podolecka

There are certain aspects in sangomas’ work that match those of shamans:

  •  sangomas communicate with spirits and deities,
  •  they can be possessed and use the possession for the benefits of their community,
  • they know herbal-lore and prepare their own medicines,
  •  they use drums to communicate with the spiritual world and they use psychic powers in their work.

All these abilities are learnt during the apprenticeship and the learning process is finished by an exam-initiation. This is a moment when a person of profanum turns into a person of sacrum.  Sangomas also emphasise the importance of the initiation:

  • they finally, irrevocably accept their calling, change their life from free will to the submission of spirits,
  • they enter a closed circle of those who possess sacred wisdom unavailable to mundane people.

According to Berglund, sangomas experience a symbolic death and re-birth, a symbolic experience of shamans in many cultures. In pools, sangomas often have visions of a woman giving birth or suckling and such a vision is connected with death and re-birth symbolism.

 My sangoma informants explained to me that sangoma’s initiation is a death ritual but not in terms of a physical death; it is a death of old habits and old way of life. It does not require ‘ascending to hell’ or long-lasting seclusion but passing the examination which proves that they have been accepted by ancestors. The acceptance of ancestral guidance changes learning twasas into teaching sangomas.

They accept a new life, a new role, in which they are both servants and co-workers of spirits; they live where spirits ask them to live and fulfil sangomas’ tasks according to the spiritual guidance but at the same time they spiritually rule their society and they have rights to demand help from spirits.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps