September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

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Dathi
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September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Dathi » 31 Aug 2010, 11:50

African Druids: Sangomas, Inyangas, Fetish Priests and “Witchdoctors”.

Introduction

This “Seminar” has gone through many forms in the months I have been dabbling with it. It has been a useful learning quest too, mainly highlighting how little I actually know about the topic. I’ve tried a thematic analysis, an anecdotal collection, a factual report, an ethnographic summary and several other approaches. Each has gotten bogged down in details, or sidetracked by less core aspects. With a deadline approaching I figured that a sort of compare and contrast approach based on roles is the easiest. Even since first writing this intro, things have changed. What follows is more of an index on the topic, rather than a seminar. I apologise for my laziness, there is just so much info out there!

A useful starting point would be to list the typical roles associated with Druids, and seek out similar activities within African traditions. Some connections are easy, others are less obvious. As the month unfolds, and if there is any interest, we can drill deeper into any of these aspects of anyone wants to.

I had hoped to embed some video clips, but this is not possible. There is plenty of vid material on this topic of the web. Some is patronising or simplistic, but I like these Al Jazeera “Witness” clips as they seem balanced and comprehensive. They give a bit of background and context for what follows.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqsHBsPMcng
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRVjsEnRMD4

In the same way that the “What is a Druid?” question evokes many answers, a similar profusion applies to “Witchdoctors”.

The Druidic tradition (in a historical sense) spanned many countries and eras. In a Neo-Druidic sense, the term embraces an even wider range of countries, philosophies and beliefs.

Likewise with “Witch-doctors”. Africa is a big place, with over 3000 tribal / linguistic / ethnic groupings. It would be a lifetime’s work to attempt to document and codify all magical / spiritual / cosmological systems from the continent. By necessity, this will be a mere scratching of the surface, mainly limited to aspects of West and Southern African magical practice. (Here is a link to somebody who has tried this. A VAST amount of related material: http://www.shikanda.net/african_religion/index.htm ).

Even at this early stage there are challenges. I have used the term “Witch-doctor” several times, and would be having some reservations about this. The term is often used as a pejorative, and does not capture the range of roles under discussion here. A more acceptable term may be “Traditional Healers”, but even this does not suffice. I could be bland about it and refer to “Spiritual Practitioners” but even that does not cover all angles. I have seen a few comments on the internet that “Witch-doctor” is a colonial term used in the context of missionaries or colonial governments wishing to stamp out African spiritual practices. This does not accord with my understanding. As explained to me by a Sangoma, the term refers to Doctors against witchcraft in the same way that a western cardiac or orthopaedic surgeon counters heart or bone problems.

Generally speaking, the terms “Witch, “Magician” and “Sorcerer” in an African sense are deeply negative, and refer to evil-doers of the worst sort. Known as “Mchawi” or “Mfiti”, these are practitioners of magic (Mtagati) for evil purposes.

See this example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7523796.stm A quick internet search of the key-words “Muti Murders” will give you thousands of cases of such evil magic. The fate of such evil-doers was (and occasionally, still is) not pleasant. Execution by bludgeoning, burning, being thrown off a cliff, being stitched up in a wet bull’s skin and left in the sun to suffocate as the skin contracts, being tied to an ant-heap with honey smeared on them, half-buried head first for scavangers to feast on, or having a stake rammed up them, are all documented.

So, just to summarise, good witch-doctors (Sangomas, Inyangas, Mgangas, Sing’ asingas, Fetish Priests etc. ) are generally beneficient people, whilst witches, sorcerers and magicians, tend to engage in quite nasty practices. This seminar focuses on the “good guys”.

Some formal (legal) definitions of different roles are set out here (I'll get back to this. These definitions are from a controversial proposed bit of legislation which had nasty implications for both good and bad practitioners http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/mpum ... onbill.pdf ):

”Igedla” means a person who knows and uses muti either to cure, protect from evil spirits, etc or to cause damage, suffering, harm etc. without ukuthwasa and does not foretell the future as an inyanga

“Inyanga” means a person who uses muti to cause harm, damage, suffering, bad luck, cure diseases, protect from evil spirits and uses mixtures shells, coins, bones,etc. to foretell the future of people, identify witches, perform spells for good and or evil purposes.

“Witchcraft” means the secret use of muti, zombies, spells, spirits, magic powders, water, mixtures, etc, by any person with the purpose of causing harm, damage, sickness to others or their property.

“Wizard”means any person who secretly solicit or uses muti, zombies, spells, spirits, magic powders, water, mixtures, baboons, etc. for the purposes of causing harm, damage or suffering to another.
sangomaaddy.jpg
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Some Parallel or Similar Roles & Activities.

Lore-keeper / Historian
Key to both cultures is that of the oral tradition. Just as Bards and Druids were the repository of ancient lore, so it is in Africa. Indeed the role of Praise-singer can be found in both Celtic and Zulu tradition.
Possibly the most famous Sangoma in this respect is Credo Mutwa who has done much over many years to document, explain and perpetuate Africa lore. http://credomutwa.com/about/biography-01/

Creative Artist
Just as the Bardic grade of OBOD emphasizes creativity and the exploration of cultural activities, so too is this part of the African tradition. This can be physical art (see carving in link: http://realstoriesgallery.com/gallery/h ... ani-mkhize and this site about Ndebele art: http://www.courtney-clarke.com/Ndebele.htm ) as well as drumming, singing and poetry.

Judge / Detective
I comment on this from both sides of the fence; both from the perspective of investigating the murder of an alleged Witch being tied across train tracks, and from using Sangomas to help hunt down bombers and arsonists. Generally, not pretty stuff. “Smelling out” is the process of a Sangoma going into a frenzied trance for the purposes of identifying a malfeasant. The fly whisk replaces the Druidic staff or wand in this process.

This book is good: "Zulu Thought-Patterns & Symbolism”
http://books.google.ie/books?id=9mdimVC ... navlinks_s

It may seem strange to some readers that the following Act should exist in this day and age, but well it needs to “G Crim Code 315(1) The trial by ordeal of sasswood, esere-bean, or other poison, boiling oil, fire, immersion in water, or exposure to the attacks of crocodiles or other wild animals, or by any ordeal which is likely to result in the death or bodily injury to the proceeding is unlawful”.

A detailed study on the legal aspects of African magic is here: “Witchcraft or Statecraft”: http://www.georgetownlawjournal.org/iss ... /Tebbe.PDF

Magician
In this context I am referring to “good” magic. The best explanations of this may be found in James Frazer’s concept of “Sympathetic Magic” (See here for Golden Bough, thanks to Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext03/bough11h.htm )

Frazer proposes two kinds of magic; that of the “Law of Similarity” and that of “The Law of Contact” and both of these may be seen in African magical practice. An essential element of Sangoma practice is the aura of drama, suspense and mystique associated with consultations, rituals and rites. Even a visit to a Sangoma / Fetish priest’s hut is enthralling and creates a sense that “special things happen here”.

Examples of similarity magic are seen in rain or fertility creation sessions (e,g, rain dances and harvest rituals) whilst contact magic is seen in fetishes and sacrifices.

One aspect to both African and Druidical magical practice is to transfer something (a wish or desire, or illness or malaise) into another object and then to dispose of it by fire or water. Commonly an animal may be sacrificed, certain parts eaten, and the remains ritually disposed of. In this way a problem is disposed of as the Gods / Spirits are appeased, revered or “replenished”. Pouring a libation reflects this process too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pqBh0QM ... re=related

Dolls, carvings and poppets are often used in contact magic. See here for a useful collection of such ritual objects: http://www.lotzdollpages.com/lafwest.html
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These gentlemen carry a talisman around their necks. The "muti" inside the pouches renders them bullet-proof. I was once involved in a protracted law case involving such bullet-proofing procedures. The case ended up being a bizarre instance of cultures at odds with each other. Western legal systems have little capacity to deal with "magic" being tendered as proof of criminal intent!

Story-teller / Teacher
Apart from the role of training new Sangomas, Sangomas are great story-tellers, and use illustrative tales to explain lore, law and traditions. A “must read” book for anyone interested in such tales is “Indaba, My Children” by the afore-mentioned Credo Mutwa http://books.google.ie/books?id=ocZaJMc ... &q&f=false . A contemporary Western translation might be “Listen Up, kids”. Great stuff here on African cosmology, lore and tradition.

See here for a MA thesis on: Sangomahood and narrative: http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/ ... tation.pdf

More on the training of Sangomas etc. to follow. Here is a useful set of introductory insights:
Mautse Valley of the Sacred Sangoma
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO63BL2w ... re=related

Consultant / Advisor
As in the Celtic tradition of Druids advising their rulers, so it is and has been in Africa. An example of this was seen in 1998 when (the then) President Nelson Mandela was stung by bees. A consulting sangoma subsequently advised that a feast should be held to right matters with upset ancesters.

But it is not only rulers who seek out such advice. The attached advert lists a range of typical advisory services a Sangoma may offer.
sangomaflyer.jpg
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Healer / Therapist
Much like the healing role of an Ovate, both Sangomas and Inyangas (Ingangas) provide healing for ailments physical and spiritual. Malaise and illness may be brought about by both natural and supernatural triggers. Often a dual approach to treatment is required resolving issues in both the spiritual and ancestral domain as well as the “here and now”.

Matters psychological or spiritual are normally the remit of the Sangoma, and indeed some Sangomas are also Clinical Psychologists. DHP members in related healing professions may find this dissertation of interest. http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/ ... sequence=1

The “Traditional Healers Organisation for Africa” has a wealth of information on various aspects of these activities and supports proper training, registration and best practice for traditional Healers. Several categories of healer are recognized;: Diviner, Herbalist, Traditional Birth attendant / Umbelethisi, Traditional Surgeon (performs circumcision on initiates), Faith Healer, Sangoma, Igedla, (uses muti to cure ailments caused by evil spirits), Umkhiphi Wengoma (Advisor), and Mporofiti (no idea).

In South Africa the profession is governed by the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, 2004,
http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/legislation/ ... /act35.pdf

Some related resources
Short clip of a healing ceremony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au398F40Gxw
Debate on the health efficacy of traditional healers: Sangomas: Problem or Solution for South
Africa’s Health Care System http://www.nmanet.org/images/uploads/Do ... /OC261.pdf
And another: The Sangoma and the MD: The clash of Western Medical Science and Traditional Medicine in South Africa
http://www.up.ac.za/dspace/bitstream/22 ... (2004).pdf
A reasonable summary here (with an explanation of various roles): http://www.hst.org.za/uploads/files/chapter18_99.pdf

Herbalist
Herbal remedies are the speciality of Inyangas. There are several sources of ethno-botanical studies on the web and these may be visited for further details. “Muti” is the generic word for traditional Southern African medicine. Defined legally as ““Muti” means any mixture of herbs, water, wollen cufs etc, used by wizards, igedla, inyanga, African Churches, Foreign traditional Healers, etc for the purposes of curing deseases, helping others who come to consult to them for whatever purposes and including causing harm to others or their properties.”. See here for a basic Zulu / English Medical guide: http://www.wolfescape.com/WebPages/ZuluDict.htm

Apothecaries supplying medicinal herbs and other preparations are found in even the smallest of African towns. The most famous of these is here http://www.southafrica.info/travel/cult ... museum.htm

Remedies for all manner of complaint are to be found. In some cases traditional African herbal remedies have been pharmacologically investigated and found to contain substances similar to mainstream Western drugs. Of course this is an area of great interest to the pharma industry as traditional medicines may hold the keys to the discovery of “Wonder Drugs”.

Fairly basic overview of some medicinal plants: http://library.thinkquest.org/C007016/h ... lants.html
National Reference Centre for African Traditional Medicines: A South African Model
http://www.sahealthinfo.org/traditional ... lpart1.pdf

A very famous guy was Khotso. http://www.flickr.com/photos/booksa/2266891486/ Although very wealthy, he had no locks on his house, nobody would dare to rob him. Once, after some severe flooding a 44 gallon drum of money was washed away. Nobody touched this until he retrieved it.
He preempted Viagra by his invention of Ibangalala (that which prevents “sleep”) and I quote from somewhere on the web "In the 1970s, the late Khotso Sethuntsha of Kokstad - South Africa's most famous witch doctor and a millionaire as a result - produced a powder claiming to rejuvenate sexual potency which he called Ibangalala. Samples of the powder were analysed by industrial chemists and the University of Witwatersrand's department of botany. The scientists were baffled by Ibangalala, they were unable to prove its composition or how it worked. Sethuntsha, however, offered his clients simple proof of its effectiveness. He was then 90 years old, had 23 wives, 200 children and eight more on the way."

More about this amazing character: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-01-25- ... stery-tour

BUT, and this is a big but…. There are also serious issues with traditional medicine. See this detailed report on the topic: http://www.gaiaresearch.co.za/trads.html

I don’t know enough about the clinical stats to enter this debate, but I do have personal insights into part of this. Some “Muti” is highly dubious. In West Africa I came across a situation whereby children would be brought to our hospital “in extremis” after being treated by traditional medicines. Many died, and this was not from malaria or the original fever or disease. It was from being poisoned through the treatment. Typically, treatment was administered by enema i.e. potentially huge doses of toxic herbal potions were being administered. The problem was this. No matter what the efficacy of any active ingredient in particular leaves, bark or roots was, there was no control over the concentration. Seasonal variations may have been an explanation. Thus optimum, weak or lethal potions may have been delivered. Symptomatic treatment was the only option without precise knowledge of what "active ingredients" were at work.

Our solution was found by using this book (a Chrismas prezzie!) : http://www.amazon.com/Medicinal-Plants- ... pd_sim_b_1
We spread the word that if anyone gravely ill attended the hospital, their relatives had to bring samples of the ingredients (preferably leaves) of the traditional remedy. In this way we could ID the active ingredients of the poison and the Doc could attempt to reverse the toxicity with an appropriate antidote. This book saved many lives! The introductory video clip describes a similar "arrangement" being made between Western and traditional medics.

My personal feeling is this. Undoubtedly there are excellent traditional herbal remedies. Many plants have substances which work for a range of conditions. But cooperation between Western and African knowledge systems is needed to obtain the best results from such substances.

Here are some interesting studies for the “herbologists” amongst you:
http://www.academicjournals.org/ajb/PDF ... t%20al.pdf
http://www.fao.org/docrep/t9450e/t9450e0f.htm
http://old.iupac.org/publications/pac/1 ... 5x0653.pdf

There are conservation issues too, as this Unesco report on balancing conservation with the use African medicinal plants shows. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0009/0 ... 96707e.pdf

Useful work is being done by several ethno-botanical research gardens.
http://www.sanbi.org/
and here http://www.bcb.uwc.ac.za/envfacts/facts/traditional.htm

Diviner
Sangomas are famous for “throwing the bones” to divine the future. The bones are not the only means of establishing the future or the causation of events, but are certainly the best known. Each Sangoma has a collection of bones and other items which have certain correspondences. Some are generic whilst others have a unique meaning imparted by the Ancestors. As with a Druid's Crane Bag, the bones (Izintambo) and other items used by a Sangoma have a sacred status. You can buy your own here: http://www.rrtraders.com/Crafts/wichdr.htm

Sheep knuckle bones, cowrie shells, dominos, semi-precious stones, animal teeth are common items in the medicine bag. It is not only the correspondences and configuration of the bones that aid the divination process, but also the voices and advice from the spirit world (Lidloti).

Short clip demonstrating bone “throwing” in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhPcAq5p ... re=related
(Part of a series of clips – quite good)

Visionary / Shaman
A key role of both African and Celtic Shamans is the journeying into “other worlds” to meet with spirit guides and take notice from the ancestors. Accounts of such activities from both cultures. Entering into an altered state of consciousness and recounting the encounters in obscure speech. One is reminded of Diogenes laertius “Druids make their pronouncements by means of riddles and dark sayings, teaching that the gods must be worshipped, and no evil done, and manly behaviour maintained”. Drumming and animal totems are also common. Familiars and animal guides (with shapeshifting) are documented in both traditions.

View this clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij8GLRDgU_k

Priest
Fetish Priests have the ability to communicate with specific deities and other ancestors. This clip shows one in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofmXtcQ2ZQo
The white powder is myrrh, and the pungent aroma, together with the noise, action and visual effects make for a dramatic experience. Enough to “wake the dead” as we might say.

There are a vast number of African gods. For details of over 150 of them, visit “Godchecker”:
http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/afri ... _gods-list

As with Celtic pagan practices being blended seamlessly with Christian / Catholic rituals in modern Celtic countries, so it is in Africa. The Western / Christian God has often been incorporated (individually or jointly) into the panoply of African deities. Especially in Southern Africa it is not uncommon for Sangomas / Inyangas to incorporate / merge Christianity into traditional activities. In fact, not just Christianity, but other Abrahamic faiths, and several African Doctors have Islamic or “Zionist” beliefs underpinning their activities.

The “Zion Christian Church” is an interesting blend of both cultures (Overview here, although a bit polemic: http://www.tkm.co.za/doc/zcc.html ) The ZCC (or “Bush Baptists, as they are commonly and incorrectly known) is probably the largest church denomination in Southern Africa and would share many superficial similarities with modern-day Druidry (outdoor ritual in circles, use of staffs and other ritual implements, herbal healing, blue, green and white robes, pentagram symbolism, divination etc.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug5Nt8vT ... re=related

Trauma of ritual murder in Venda. A pastoral care approach: http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/ ... tation.pdf

Training
Both Druids and their African counterparts undergo (underwent?) several years of rigorous training during which traditional lore, relationships with the other-worlds, herbalism, rites and rituals, divination and other mysteries are studied. Progression through different grades is attained by passing “tests” and marked by various initiation ceremonies. A key difference is that anyone can chose (at least now-days) to become a Druid, whereas one needs to be “called” to be a Sangoma.

Many of us here at DHP have described feeling a call of some sort, and “finding a home” in Druidry. This is a bit similar to that of a Sangoma. Although several Westerners have undergone the “Kutfwasa” (training and initiatory process – Swazi) as a “Litfwasa” (Apprentice or trainee) there is some debate as to whether a Westerner can truly become an African Sangoma.

The argument is that Sangomas are connected to the African spiritual or ancestral world which no White person has a nexus with. A flavour of this debate is here: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 189H460337
A story about the process is here: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 360C594654
And an interview with an initiate here: http://20-somethingincapetown.blogspot. ... white.html

OK, that's it for starters. More topics to address if anyone is interested include HIV/AIDS, training & education, shamanism, lore, cosmology and symbolism, several personal experiences, legal aspects etc.
Ultimately, we may end up with some areas that may be worth incorporating in our personal practice.

Salani kahle!

Dathi
:owlhorn:
Seminar. September 2010: African Druids? Sangomas, Inyangas http://www.druidry.org/board/dhp/viewto ... =2&t=36777

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Seminar. October 2012: Druids & Bushcraft viewtopic.php?f=326&t=41256

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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Ade Sundog » 01 Sep 2010, 15:49

Really intresting Dathi , thank you :shake:
:sun:

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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Dathi » 05 Sep 2010, 10:34

Aspects of Traditional healing

The first post gave an overview of African healing, magic and spiritual practice. This follow-up looks particularly at the work of Inyangas (Ingangas, Ngangas etc.). uMuti (medicine, particularly from a tree or bark) is the stock in trade of this profession. iNtelezi refers to plant substances which also have a magical, ritual or spiritual function. uBulawa refers to herbal / plant concoctions which clear or open the mind.

Similar divisions may be seen in Irish folk medicine, and even in our druidic herbs. Dr Patrick Logan has documented such cures in a brilliant little book: http://www.appletree.ie/cat/books/7676.htm As he notes “Folk medicine was long practised in Ireland and has still not completely died out. The great mass of the population had no access to a doctor, for many the local wise woman or bonesetter was the only hope. But folk medicine, particularly before the rise of medical science in the nineteenth century, was always a curious blend of common sense and nonsense. Practical observation, and natural cures, went hand in hand with useless and often dangerous remedies.” Thus actual pharma-botanical cures went alongside charms and rituals. See here for more details on specific cures: http://www.longfordgenealogy.com/history/h6.html

Vervain is a good example of all three categories (uMuti - pharmacological, iNtelezi – ritual spiritual, and uBulawa – clear “sight”) http://nettle.wordpress.com/2007/06/18/vervain/

There is a huge African pharmacopeia. This online shop seems good, I have used it as a partial resource for this section and there is a wealth of information here: http://www.thebotanicalsource.com/index.htm

This blog has details with photos of several plants. http://herbsforafrica.blogspot.com/

See here for an interesting paper from the SA Medical Journal in 1973: http://archive.samj.org.za/1973%20VOL%2 ... nstein.pdf

See here for examples of the variety of healers and their cures: http://moralfibre.co.za/shortclick/2010 ... annesburg/

It is great to see official support to conserve and develop both plants and knowledge: http://www.durban.gov.za/durban/discove ... hi_nursery
Here is another excellent project (with details on plants): http://www.zandvleitrust.org.za/art-zvn ... 02008.html
Way back I established a small scale uMuti garden. It was slow to take off, but on a brief visit a few years later I was pleased to see the garden flourishing with a wild profusion of plants, and being judiciously used.

See here for a well researched and informed directory of “malaises” and treatments: http://scc.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/archive ... .sflb.ashx

Means of administration or ingestion

See this illustrated page for details: http://bbg.org.za/tradheal.htm
Also, this useful site from Wits University: http://web.wits.ac.za/PlacesOfInterest/ ... /Izangoma/
Bema Smoking or taking snuff. Instangu / Dagga (Cannibis sativa) is widely used, but can cause problems: http://www.times.co.sz/index.php?news=13407
Geza External applications (a bit like the “lustral bath”).
Gquma Inhalations and facial sauna.
iZituobo Poultices or herbal compresses.
mGaba Sub-cutaneous implantation - small incisions are made with a sharpened knife or razor blade. The muti is then brushed over the cuts to introduce it rapidly into the blood. This technique is often used for “bullet-proofing” or “sithlulamanye” (Beat the others).
iNncinda Tasting the muti - often performed ritualistically to treat mysterious allergies and epilepsy, chorea, apoplexy, etc.
uKuchatha Enema or colonic absorption - can be used to relieve constipation and for cleansing of the lower bowel, also employed in cases of inflammation of the organs of the pelvic cavity and for the spinal column. Can be very dangerous and is responsible for many mortalities.
Wokuphalaza: Emetics - can be used to induce vomiting. Such vomiting can expel both “bad spirits” (Sympathetic magic) or as a physical cleansing.
:owlhorn:
Seminar. September 2010: African Druids? Sangomas, Inyangas http://www.druidry.org/board/dhp/viewto ... =2&t=36777

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Seminar. October 2012: Druids & Bushcraft viewtopic.php?f=326&t=41256

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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby D'Arzhur » 05 Sep 2010, 20:39

Very very interesting Dathi and so many links to explore :applause: :applause: :applause:
I have worked in an African museum and was fascinated by the "medicine man" powders etc...lots to learn in this wonderful continent !
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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Bracken » 06 Sep 2010, 11:14

I'm giving this very informative seminar a big bump till the stickying is sorted.

Dathi, I'd be really interested in hearing more about the court case you mentioned. Can you talk about it?
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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Dathi » 12 Mar 2011, 19:30

Nice one!!!

"Defender of Sacred Sites"

"Rituals aren’t empty things. They’re the Earth wisdom of hundreds of generations of wise people."

http://mg.co.za/article/2011-03-11-defe ... cred-sites

More:
http://www.theecologist.org/how_to_make ... ulule.html

And a YouTube clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqEgMaLYngI
:owlhorn:
Seminar. September 2010: African Druids? Sangomas, Inyangas http://www.druidry.org/board/dhp/viewto ... =2&t=36777

2011 LI
Seminar. October 2012: Druids & Bushcraft viewtopic.php?f=326&t=41256

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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Canu Taliesin » 17 Sep 2011, 15:53

Hello Dathi, there are very clear similarities in the bardic traditions of these lands, Celtic and Germanic (both due to their Indo European roots) and some of the singer traditions of Africa. Being the vast continent it is, and havng so many thousands of unique cultures within the wider language groupings, we obviously must be careful with generalisations. But, with that qualifier, take a look at the Bantu language traditions. The very clear use of heroic ideals in their praise poetry, the potent abilities of various skilled imbongi to direct and condition group awareness, the obvious power of some of these individuals as channels and vectors for ancestral influence: all these attributes are also found in the historic bardic traditions of the Celtic nations. Professor Geoff Opland has already made insightful comparisons between the Anglo-saxon skop and the Xhosa imongi. It's not such a massive leap to translate that comparisson to Wales and Ireland. You may find it easier to find ethnographic data for further comparisson in the historical texts of these traditions. The medieval bardic schools were after all the direct inheritors of what you could call the golden age of druidic culture.
There will be no further admissions to the work this cycle. Thank you. CT

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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Dathi » 17 Sep 2011, 19:32

Greetings there,

Yup, there are so many parallels and the more you dig, the more you find.
Thanks for the link to the Prof, I did a quick Google and found some interesting stuff that he penned. Some reading to be done.

Regarding praise singing / poetry.... The African approach (Nguni) is uncannily similar to Welsh / Irish Bardic honorific poetry.

I'm no expert in this field - just basing these notes on first-hand understanding (Which may not always be right).

Praise names are important. us Westerners have a Surname, but an African (sort of) equivalent is the Isibongo, commonly mistaken as just a surname, but actually much more significant. The name of lineage / achievement / prowess can capture so much more. And the isibongo can be used in incantations for malicious purposes. The parallell with Bardic satire is very similar.

There are some great examples in this book.

http://books.google.com/books?id=n_gAfW ... ry&f=false

Praise singing in action here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EAL1mj6bjM Sure, these praise singers even dress like a "Bunch of Bards" :damh:

Regards,

Dathi
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Seminar. September 2010: African Druids? Sangomas, Inyangas http://www.druidry.org/board/dhp/viewto ... =2&t=36777

2011 LI
Seminar. October 2012: Druids & Bushcraft viewtopic.php?f=326&t=41256

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Re: September Seminar: African Druids Sangomas, Inyangas

Postby Canu Taliesin » 17 Sep 2011, 21:24

I think the most striking parallels are the very defined uses of praise. Coming from the Welsh tradition, I can see many similarities in how the names of ancestors are transformed and developed as passed on through the izibongo. Although the Zulu example is closer to that of the Welsh in that the praise song is almost always pre-prepared and commited to memory in as fixed a form as possible. There is clear alliteration and what we would call cymeriad creating chimes between the line beginnings of certain passages. But the main parallel is the use of an embodied, traditional persona during performace, not only as a dramatic tool as in the western sense, but as a way of conveying a very specific archetype, markedley similar in most Nguni dialect traditions and the Welsh. it's fasinating stuff. I know someone just completed a PHD thesis at the University of Wales exploring this very topic. I've read passages and it gives much food for thought. The same cultural phenomena arising in traditions with almost no direct link. African traditions are supposedley very far removed from the Indo European. Maybe not so removed after all.
There will be no further admissions to the work this cycle. Thank you. CT


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