Recent years have not only seen a gradual increase in the number of people who are connecting through spirituality but also embarking on a journey of self-discovery that sees them exploring different ways of life. With numerous people being trained in and initiated into traditional African healing methods, there is a need to extend education on what African indigenous practices entail to demystify some common myths that have caused many to shun away from these.
The scrutiny that has been experienced throughout African history has withered down the sense of self-identity that many find themselves relating more with those of other nations, and not their own. You’ll be provided with an overview of how the realization of one’s self-identity can be understood through the role of traditional practitioners and their inclusion in discussions that centre on Africans.
Further to this, the reintegration of indigenous healing practices and restoration of the significance of accepting ancestral callings–even at a young age–will be briefly discussed.
Reconciling the Self with Identity
Many indigenous African practices have undergone scrutiny, to the point where the people who are meant to apply these practices have alienated themselves from them. The discriminatory classifications that many of these indigenous practices have experienced over the years have created a misconceived perspective of how they are demonic and cannibalistic, where they have suffered years of derogatory subjugation.
The imposition of Western religious views on African people has been a major cause behind why people of the diaspora find the practices of the West to be more acceptable than those of their forefathers.
To revive the practices of Africans, it is important to first look at what misconceptions have been created around them, and how these can be demystified. The irony is that healing practices and resources are often borrowed from those of indigenous African people, while they are packaged as produce of the West.
When considering how May 25th is Africa Day, but this isn’t as widely celebrated as most holidays visible on our calendars, we get an idea of how much alienation there is to commemorating African unity. People have become more prone to embracing what is universally acceptable, over what carries historical meaning for who they are.
Traditional Healing as a Realm of Connection
For years, African people have acknowledged the existence of spirit guides, particularly within their ancestry. In fostering connections with deceased family members, some people find that they aren’t just able to communicate with those who have passed on, but they can receive, understand, and relay their messages).
As an attempt to suppress the application of indigenous healing modalities, The Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957 may be referenced as a source for the alienation of black South Africans from the practices of their forefathers, which impacted the distortion of the essence of these practices. While the Act was intended to curb witchcraft, it also directly impacted those who used their spiritual gifts for the greater good of others.
While traditional healing isn’t recognized as a remedial practice like consulting a doctor, those who consult traditional healers do so to seek divination that will help them introspect. At the surface level, it’s easy to diagnose conditions or ailments, but with traditional healers, this goes a step further to explore what might be ailing from within. Too often, generational distresses are continued within lineages, where it doesn’t immediately become apparent when this is the case. This is why you find that some people even become miserable because they lack the knowledge of their ancestry which is an important navigation point for self-discovery.
Western ideologies have stripped African practices of the sanctity of being relevant to those who apply them. Not only has it misconfigured the identity of the being, but it has also expanded on reasoning in distorted or incomplete views. These result in the myths that cause people to despise what connects them to who they are.
May 8th is currently being petitioned by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) to be officially recognised as Ancestor’s Day. As a process that has been ongoing since 2021, this shows just how lengthy African transitional processes of inclusion tend to be. This also alludes to the journey of acceptance of African practices by younger generations, as this imposes on the knowledge they receive and its accuracy or distortion.
Re-emergence of Traditional Healing Practices and Initiations in Young Generations
Initiation is often seen as the coming of age, where an individual gets to relate differently to themselves and others, through the practices they learn. These practices can be seen as a doorway to self-discovery because the initiate is sometimes caught in unfamiliar circumstances that render the need for divine intervention. With a rising number of younger initiates, it is no surprise that this indicates the reinforcement of past practices for contemporary life.
Not only does having more younger healers benefit those who seek their counsel, but it also ensures the sustenance of these practices. This is not limited to relating with the youth but also brings ancient traditions within the modern framework so that they can be understood instead of demonized. Facilitating connection with the spiritual heritage of Africans is a chance to also reintegrate the acceptance of African indigenous practices.
Dayimani, M. (2022). Calls for government to recognise 8 May as Ancestors Day. News24. https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/calls-for-government-to-recognise-8-may-as-ancestors-day-20220513
Nkonki, A. (2023). Call for the government to recognise Ancestors’ Day. IOL. https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/news/call-for-the-government-to-recognise-ancestors-day-d04d0b7f-9708-4941-aaff-5cebbb779c25
About the author:
Nonkululeko Kubheka is a professional, academic, and creative writer, who is passionate about topics relating to leadership in Africa, decoloniality, African spirituality, socioeconomic conditions, and mental health. She is a member of the Activate! Writer’s Hub 2023 cohort, and her writing experience dates as far back as 2012, where she has been freelancing as a professional writer since 2021.