some people seem to believe that traditional healers worship the ancestors and not god. the colonial authorities and subsequently the apartheid government imposed a western worldview on the people of south africa without an attempt to determine the validity of the african worldview on issues such as traditional african healing and traditional african religion/spirituality, which are in most cases mutually interwoven. in traditional african religion, god is above and beyond the ancestors and is called the supreme creator/being and the main pillar of the universe (thorpe, 1993). this is often aided by enlisting the services of a traditional healer who advises on how to communicate with the ancestors, depending on the purposes of the communication and the type of ritual that needs to be performed. the blood of the slaughtered animal is believed to be the eternal bond between the families and the ancestors of the two families that are coming together through the bride and bridegroom.
this is done with the proper guidance of the chief traditional healer for that particular village called ‘ngaka ya moshate’ in sepedi. for example, the traditional african healer has a different construction and etiology about schizophrenia to that of a western healer. the term traditional healer is an umbrella concept that encompasses different types of healers with different types of training and expertise. contrary to green and makhubu‘s (1984) assertion that ‘baporofeta’ are not traditional healers, the traditional health practitioners act of south africa classifies the ‘baporofeta’ as traditional healers (government gazette, 2005). there are traditional healers who combine both the normal traditional healing and who specialise in training of prospective traditional healers. this ceremony is a form of an assessment to test if the trainee has mastered the trade and can be allowed to practice as a traditional healer (mutwa, 2003).
it is crucial that practitioners have a deeper understanding of the beliefs and practices that can support therapeutic goals in practice. religion and spirituality are seen as multifaceted, overlapping constructs but a precise definition of spirituality is elusive in social work literature (senreich, 2013). thabede (2008:234), who advocated afrocentric social work, emphasised the need for social workers to understand the importance of rituals, traditional healing and ancestral worship when working with african clients. the primary objective was to understand the spiritual beliefs and practices and the healing methodologies used within the context of african spirituality. the most salient attribute of this “unseen spirit,” is the notion that this “unseen spirit,” can bring justice to earth and uphold morality and social order. (p 11) spirituality in the african paradigm is connected to a sense of respect for the departed, who ultimately guides an individual to god and who always listens (edwards, 2013, moore, talwar & bosacki, 2012; wintersgill, 2008). through the use of herbal medication and spiritual support, the cleansing ritual is believed to effect wellbeing. people are believed to experience a sense of calmness and guidance, as they feel the presence and closeness of the ancestors when they drum. (p 15) healing in african culture is an inextricable component of african spirituality and traditional way of living. it is for these reasons that african people turn to traditional healers during times of need as they diagnose illness, identify problems and find solutions through communication with the ancestors (jithoo & bakker, 2011). the role of elders and using the community as a support system are important considerations in both child and care practice and social work.
journal of religion and spirituality in social work: social thought, 30(1):48-70. [ links ] carlisle, p. 2016. religion and spirituality as troublesome knowledge: the views and experiences of mental health social workers in northern ireland. & canda, e.r., 2007. an international analysis of the role of religion and spirituality in social work practice. 2018. the evolution of spirituality and religion in international social work discourse: strengths and limitations of the contemporary understanding. journal of religion and health, 51(4):1017-1041. the journal of nervous and mental disease, 196(5):349-355. [ links ] mulder, c. 2015. from the inside out: social workers’ expectations for integrating religion and spirituality in practice. 2015. the integration of clients’ religion and spirituality in social work practice: a national survey. [ links ] sacco, t. 1996. spirituality and social work students in their first year of study at a south african university. [ links ] senreich, e. 2013. an inclusive definition of spirituality for social work education and practice. [ links ] washington, k. 2010. zulu traditional healing, african worldview and the practice of ubuntu: deep thought for african/black psychology. [ links ] wood, l., ivery, p., donovon, r. & lambin, e. 2013. to the beat of a different drum: improving the social and mental wellbeing of at-risk young people through drumming.
traditional healers serve many roles which include but not limited to custodians of the traditional african religion and customs, educators it is used both for moral and ritual cleansing. for example, it is used for rituals such as cleansing of evil spirits and the removal of a curse. it applies to prayer to the ancestral spirits, sacrificial rituals and music were considered to be some of the most important practices identified that could guide both child, .
‘ this model, ‘ritual cleansing,’ centres on community’s concept of wrongdoing and genuine pardon for sins. since, africa views the world and everything in it africans don’t view spirituality as a part of life. to them, all life is spiritual. all aspects of reality (both the seen and unseen world) work a healer in training explains the rituals and spiritual calling that can only come from “the ancestors”., .
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