As a Sangoma, practitioner or priestess of Traditional African Medicine, there are many ways that “medicine” takes form in this particular healing practice, which is based on the honoring of ancestral spirits. The ancient or indigenous way of healing accepts that all issues, imbalances, blocks, gifts, blessings, and successes have a spirit or origin in the spirit realm. One has to seek to look beyond the body and the story of only one lifetime to completely address and heal the issues that are manifesting on the surface.
Not every healer even within this one tradition operates or heals the exact same way. A sangoma’s particular set of guardians govern what medicines or methods are used. Not every illness is treated exactly the same. 2 individuals with a digestive disorder may have different root causes. This is why divination is conducted first to access the story of your soul, your ancestors, and your life on every level (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional).
There is an endless amount of indigenous medicines from South Africa that a sangoma has access to. The Amadlozi (ancestral guardian spirits) of a sangoma are who decide what plant or method is to be used for each individual. One thing I love about the muthi (plant medicines) from this part of the world is that they tell a new story about you or rewrite your story. For example, for a person struggling with getting new opportunities or success, medicines that translate to mean “shine from afar” or “open where it is closed” can be used. Because of this intricate web of storytelling muthi is highly suggested to only be used with the instruction of a healer who knows how to pick, prepare, and honor the spirit of the plant before use. The spirit of the muthi is considered just as much as the physical benefits. A plant that offers spiritual protection from negative energies can also be the same plant that helps with digestion, thus a greater understanding is necessary.
Today, my intention is to share some insight on a few ways I use the medicines in my “muthi bag” in rituals, healing sessions, and ceremonies.
Geza – this is the most common method amongst many if not all indigenous traditions of healing. Geza is a spiritual kind of bath made from a mixture of muthi (herbs). Spiritual baths are cleansing to the aura/chakra or energy field of the body. This offers us a way to cleanse/release, protect, or draw/attract. Geza allows us to be purified in a sacred way using our plant allies for transformation. Depending on the mixture, regular bathing can open up certain channels in the body and help us align with our spiritual selves and spiritual abilities.
Futha – the traditional sauna or sweat lodge the ngoma way. Steaming or Futha is a powerful way to shift life’s circumstances. Inhaling and sweating the mixture of herbs this way releases toxins and stagnant energy in the physical and spiritual bodies.
Phalaza – an intense ritual where a specific mixture of herbs is used to induce vomiting. We vomit the energies or entities that no longer serve us. This method offers a deep shift in consciousness by working the digestive system moving through every chakra and thus clearing or opening the crown (mind) chakra.
Snuff – a mixture of herbs taken through the nostrils. Snuff helps clear the mind, release bad headaches, or open the 3rd eye and helps with meditation. Some sneezing medicines allow illnesses to be released.
Umgaba or Xhensia – a very effective blend of muthi is used in an indigenous style of acupuncture where medicine is applied into the body.
Brews/Elixirs/Infusions/Tonics – are also a method of use for issues for blood cleansing, digestive imbalances or psychoactive journeys.
There are more methods. This post serves as a brief scope into our sacred ways. Much more to come on plant medicines in the future!
In indigenous traditions, a healer with integrity typically only offers medicines or methods that they have experienced themselves unless the illness has never come up but the Amadlozi have instructed them to use it. Thus, a healer has merged with the spirit of the plant in order to also be able to know how to administer it.
Ancestral healing work offers medicines that bring our ancestral guardians’ closer, enhances and strengthens our dreaming, removes curses, attracts love, allows you to see an enemy before attack, helps resolve legal cases, alters our state of consciousness, and so much more. There is seriously a muthi for everything you can imagine.
I not only work with South African medicines but medicines I’ve merged with through my travels, as well as medicines native to American land.
The plants are our allies and have some profound wisdom to teach us about who we are…the Amadlozi know this and are here to guide us to remember.