Sangoma – South Afrikan Spiritual Healers

OAH: Greetings Sister Keketso, firstly I would to thank you for granting OAH this interview. It is an honour to be conducting this interview with you. Please introduce yourself for our readers.

T.S.H: My name is Keketso Motale I am a Traditional and Spiritual healer. I am an African woman born of Batswana Tribe (originally from Botswana) and Basotho. I am the grandchild of Seleke Israel Motale, Difedile Agnes Motale(born Pitso), the great grandchild of Matsholanku Pitso(born Mokgothu) and MMamontshonyane Motale(Born Kodisang) and I am the direct descendent of Basootho people from Lesotho my maternal grandfather is Moloi Isaac Lebesa and grandmother Mmamahole Historina Lebesa(born Mokoyjo I come from the Bakwena BaMolopyane Clan (the Crocodiles from the Molopyane Clan), Bataung Ba ha Molete(the Lions of Molete Clan), Bahokeng Matodi Mahoane(The winds from the Matodi Mahoane Clan), Bataung Ba ha Ramokgele(The Lions from the Ramokhele clan), Bataung ba ha Hlalele (the Lions of the Hlalele clan). I am a descendent of the Basia and the Bafokeng(the cats and winds). I first found out in 2002 that I had a calling to be a healer, but fully realised it a few weeks afterwards what it really meant for one to be a healer. My embracing a calling to be a healer stemmed from the fact that throughout my life there were things that didn’t make much sense and I felt I had a responsibility to give back in terms of the support I was given by my friends when I was going through difficult times. Therefore this was a natural transition for me.

OAH: What is the indigenous name for a person such as yourself?

T.S.H: We’re called Sangomas, Mathuela, Amakhosi, Inyanga, Ngaka Moporofeta, it’s just one name translated into different languages.

OAH: Please explain to us what is it exactly you do?

T.S.H: I do readings, provide spiritual and emotional counselling and dispense African traditional medicines.

OAH: When we think of traditional healers, we tend to think of elder people. Can you tell us how old you are, and does age have a bearing on a person’s quest to become a T.S.H (Traditional Spiritual Healer)?

T.S.H: Since being traditional spiritual healers is not a choice, you are chosen by your guides and ancestors and one can be called at any age. In the olden days people would slaughter a goat or sheep and request that their desire to train to be a Sangoma accepted.

OAH: What inspired you to be a T.S.H?

T.S.H: Since it was not among my life ambitions to become a healer, it was the process of accepting the manner in which one views being called to be a healer that influences and determines the kind of a healer one becomes. Personally for me I felt honoured that my ancestors saw me worthy of carrying their names and continuing their work. It is a vote of confidence because it means, according to them I was compassionate, empathetic and kind, because being a healer means being humble before the people who walk through our practice rooms seeking help. It also means one becomes a bridge between the living and dead as one speaks on behalf of their clients to God and their ancestors by asking my ancestors to communicate with theirs.

OAH: Take us briefly through the process of becoming a T.S.H

T.S.H: We are called to be healers in different ways; some are called through illnesses that affect their ability to function well in a society, others through many deaths in the family, loss of jobs, and other misfortunes. The way I was called to be healer was different, I went from being a person who was told they had a calling to be a healer, to a person who was called directly as my ancestors. They suddenly made their presence know too me few weeks after I had episodes that deeply disturbed me. I would start screaming and crying for no particular reason, and as this happened more frequently I eventually found myself communicating with them. They then were able to tell me exactly what they wanted and the processes they wanted me to follow.

OAH: How long does this process take?

T.S.H: The process for one to become a healer depends on the ancestors. It may take from between 3 months to 7 years as the training sessions differ due to the varied kinds of healing gifts you are to attain. I have been through 2 training sessions the first, taking 5 months living at my trainer’s house while I was studying and unemployed. The other session took exactly 3 months. However I am still yet to conclude the spiritual healing training aspect of my healing with a ceremony as I am already practising as a Prophetess (a spiritual healer). Currently I am busy with the process of allowing them to guide me through the process of fetching actual ancestors who live in the rivers, oceans or caves that are called Abalozi in Shangaan, Dingwana in Southern Sotho, Makhosi in Zulu. There are other ancestors who live in small beaded containers who speak through whistles. The healer’s job is to translate the message of the ancestor to the client. This is considered the highest form of a healer as not everybody has those Ancestors.

OAH: Are there noticeable difference in the roles of the man and the woman in the life of a T.S.H?

T.S.H: There’s no difference. A man might have dominant female ancestors and woman dominant male ancestors. In other kinds of traditional healing a man may be referred to as Gogo (which means the grandmother) and woman called Mkhulu (which means grandfather). During the training sessions men and women are treated the same.

OAH: Tell us a little about your guides and ancestral spirits.

T.S.H: I will give you their names, but I will not describe them fully in terms of their personalities as I think that would be a bit invasive for them. Their names are Mahlal’Entabeni (the one that resides in mountain who is male), Unkunzimalanga (The great one that resides in the Waters who is also male), Udlozana (the little ancestor and he is male), Ndoro (a crocodile in the Ndawu language) and Masosote (I don’t know what that means but it is also in the Ndawu Language). Then there’s my wonderful, humble and kind great grandmother who is my principal ancestor. She brings with her MahlalEntabeni, Udlozana and the great water ancestor, the principal water ancestor we call either the king of waters or the owner of the water ancestors. She also comes with my other great grandmother who guides me in terms of other aspects of my healing which are related to spirituality, my relationship with God and me preserving my cultural traditions. To be honest I do not know the names of my other ancestors and guides as I forget their names but I know what they represent, there are just too many of them. I also have baby ancestors who are very generous and yet very strict. They are the ones who give me my gifts to help people who have fertility problems; they help me with working with little children. These are my favourites and when I go to the place in the caves dedicated to the little angels, I have to buy them sweets, biscuits, cheese puffs and all the nice things little kids love.

OAH: Do you have a special diet? And if so why?

T.S.H: My ancestors’ stance on any kind of seafood is serious as I have water spirits, therefore anything that resides in the waters I cannot eat. When I do go to the rivers or oceans they make their presence known by appearing the form of a fish, crab and frog. No milk products or milk for the simple and plain reason they said not to. Traditionally when a parent has been told not to do something you are not allowed to ask why as that is a sign of disrespect. I do not eat pork and its by-products because it is considered dirty and it dirties ones chest and blocks visions and dreams. Traditionally spiritual and traditional healers prepare their own food and do not buy prepared food from restaurants as they are considered impure and unclean. It is the instructions of the ancestors that you do not eat food prepared by other people.

OAH: Explain the importance of dress and the use of your scarf.

T.S.H: Since being a traditional and spiritual healer means one is a custodian of cultural traditions one needs to present their self reflecting the respectability of the work one does. For me personally I am not allowed to wear anything that shows my knees and shoulders because it is believed those are the areas where Abogogo sit. If I do not wear things that cover my knees they become sore so and the same thing happens to my shoulders. Even though I do not always cover my head because Sangomas do not cover their heads when singing or working as we wear beads on our heads because I am a Spiritual healer it is important to cover my head as it is the tool I use when I do my reading and it is also a sign of obedience towards my spiritual guides who have showed me the clothes I am supposed to wear when I am praying or working. Let me give an example, I have this tendency not to wear my headscarves and capes when I communicate with my guides because I am too lazy to get up from my straw mat and go to my wardrobe to fetch it, so I was told by my ancestors to wear my red cape and headscarf because only wearing my ancestral wrap was not enough.

OAH: What implements do you work with and explain their individual purposes.

T.S.H: Most of my consultations or readings include counselling sessions as I am always guided by my ancestors, who would tell me whether the chosen path of the individual I am consulting with is the correct one or not. Through communicating with the person I am also able to establish which path they should be embarking on. One of the reasons people come for a consultation is because they are unable to find peace in their life and it is my responsibility to guide them through the process of finding that place of solace.

OAH: Do you do this work with economic gain in mind? If not why?

T.S.H: No I do not do it for economic gain. A lot of people come through my door is because they want solutions to their financial problems and expecting them to pay before you can help them is a bit unfair. However, this gets me into trouble because my ancestors take that as disregard for the work they have given me to do in order to make a living. Since I am unable to dig out my own herbs I buy them, also the candles which I use on a daily basis for prayers in my practice room. I need to have candle lit each and every single day as a lack of it is perceived as darkness by my ancestors therefore they need to be in a properly lit room.

OAH: What are the most frequent requests made by people seeking your service?

T.S.H: There are general ones, people seeking work, cures or relief from illness, fertility problems and financial problems.

OAH: How do you view death, both physical and spiritually. And how important is death and the use of blood in what you do?

T.S.H: Like everyone else, death is a loss of a life and if it is a loved one, just like a normal person I go through the grieving process. However a traditional and spiritual healer is not supposed to grieve for long because the spirit of a person transcends the physical into the spiritual sphere. The way I deal with death is influenced by my spiritual side because I believe that we are given an opportunity, purpose and the time frame to be alive in this world and fulfill that purpose. Therefore, it is up to each and everyone to be a true expression of our self so that we can honestly follow our life’s path. When the time comes for one to die, it means their time to be on this earth has passed and they cease to have any influence in the physical life. Even though I am one of the culprits I feel it is unfair to those who have passed onto the other side for us to hold on to the notion of them being physically alive when they are spiritually so.

I cannot actually say death is important but it is the proper burying of our dead that has a huge significance as proper rituals need to be followed in making sure the deceased joins his/her ancestors therefore a cow has to be slaughtered and the skin would be used to cover the coffin as originally people were buried in cowhide. The cow hide is seen as a blanket for the dead. As the coffin descends, traditionally ones African totem is said in announcing the arrival of the deceased into the other side by laying their spirit to rest.

OAH: If you do use blood, then what then is your view on the value of physical life?

T.S.H: Slaughtering in traditional healing and culturally is seen as atonement and sacrifice to the ancestors, as we believe blood represents life which we spill to honour our ancestors and to invite them to come forth to hear our pleas even to thank them. You should recall one does not have 2 or 3 ancestors but has a lot therefore when one slaughters a sheep it means our immediate ancestors can invite our great- great grandparents who have different gifts and skills that are able to make certain things possible. I do use sheep’s blood, goat’s blood, cow’s blood and chicken blood for cleansing because it’s like a sacrifice and these animals are used to negotiate and ask for a better life. I do use the blood for cleansing my clients and myself when I have different ceremonies.

OAH: Are T.S.H’s allowed to marry and if so must it be to someone whose life is directed similarly to yours?

T.S.H: There are a lot of healers who are married and being healer does not make us less human. But since our lives have limitations it is advisable for one to marry one who has a gift, they may not be practising healers but they need to have a deeper understanding of what being a healer comprises of.

OAH: Give us your views on sex and sexual relations?

T.S.H: When you are a traditional or spiritual healer there are rituals that need to be performed when one enters or preferably before they enter into a relationship. These rituals comprises of telling the ancestors of the presence of someone new in your life and your relationship with them. When one is not married before you have sex with your girlfriend or your boyfriend they need to give you silver and shiny money to get permission to have sex with you since you are a healer. If one becomes a healer after they were married, a goat will have to be slaughtered to marry ancestors from both sides of the family and the husband would even have to pay a dowry to also marry the ancestors.

OAH: Do you see a difference between religion and spirituality?

T.S.H: In my opinion spirituality can exist outside the confines of a religion. Religion is an organised form of spirituality that prescribes to a certain set of rules. And just like any organisation there would be a leader and a person who is identified as epitomising the values of that particular religion. Religion is external whereas spirituality is internal.

OAH: In the Caribbean we often attribute spiritual work as work of the devil and something to be shunned. What would you say to this?

T.S.H: Well I respect other’s beliefs and opinion and their right to have it. It is when they try to impose them on me that I start to have a problem. If the same people who claim to be Christians say the same thing I would then question their belief system because in the bible the very same Jesus they worship walked in on people who were just about to stone a woman accusing her and said to them let the person who has no sin be the first one to cast a stone and nobody did. I know I do not worship the devil and my work and other people’s unfounded opinions and judgments mean nothing to me. It is the very same people who sit on their high pedestal that walk around believing that they are invincible in the eyes of the lord that are the furthest from him

OAH: Talk a little to us on your ideology on the God concept, Christ and Jesus?

T.S.H: I am a spiritual being and do believe in God but I do not believe it is only through Jesus we can pray to God. I go to an African Interfaith church which upholds our African beliefs and the significance of Ancestors bringing clarity to the role they play in our everyday life. Ultimately one could never tell me doing the work of my ancestors is evil because they are the same people who have made me go to church, so that I can realise each and every single person that walks through my door has the chance of getting the help they need. I am taught to humble myself in the eyes of God and ask him to guide me through their process of healing. Ultimately, people need to realise that even in the 10 commandments they say honour thy mother and your father, not only when they are alive. Therefore I believe our ancestors serve as a bridge between us and God. And my interpretation of the bible is congruent to my belief system. The God I bow my head to if he was truthful he would not want me to disregard the wisdom and knowledge of my own parents.

OAH: Has the introduction of Christianity affected South Africans as it pertains to spirituality and the T.S.H?

T.S.H: This has affected South Africa and the rest of the continent as we have allowed people to tell us how we should view ourselves. South Africans and Africans are deeply spiritual people. Throughout the years out forefathers were guided and lived long and healthy lives because we were not ingesting the amount of drugs, and fatty foods we do now, and we had much more respect for our natural resources and this earth that feeds, nourish and heals us. I have seen a lot of people shunning our cultural beliefs with dire consequences some even resulting in deaths. In the olden days rituals were followed when someone had a child out of wedlock now it is has become a norm to have children out of wedlock. I recently lost a friend who had a calling to be a healer but because she didn’t want to heed to her calling she went to a church and they told her to burn all the things she had acquired and was using for her ancestors and a few months after that she passed away after spending time in a hospital.

In the olden times mental illness or psychological disorders were uncommon, now you find people suffering from depression, anxieties and hypertension. This has become very common among black people in the younger generations because of the shift in the belief systems. Traditional healers have been stigmatised and people have ceased using traditional and herbal medicines which do not have side effects and are using chemical medicines that have side effects that could be fatal.

OAH: Can someone’s life be influenced by a T.S.H if the person does not believe in the workings of a T.S.H?

T.S.H: There are people who do not believe in the working of a healer and who would refuse to listen to anything that is related to that, people only believe when the issues they have are not getting resolved by means they are used to. My hairdresser was telling me a while ago how her sister got so ill that even the doctors could not establish what was wrong with her. She did not believe in witchcraft and even in traditional healers, her daughter also got so ill and she could not get out of bed. It got to a point where she realised she had nothing to lose, she finally agreed to go. She could not believe the things that were removed from her car and how much better she felt after consulting a traditional healer. Therefore, like anything else we need to have faith in order or certain things to work.

OAH: Are their different degrees of attainment for T.S.H?

T.S.H: In traditional and spiritual healing it’s either you are a healer or an initiate which means you are still going through the process of healing. Since this is a process that is guided by one’s ancestors and guides who are considered chief diviners a certain amount of respect needs to be shown by everyone whether you are still an initiate or Gobela (which means one who is bowed to, basically meaning the teacher). Traditional and Spiritual Healing is completely different from other spheres of healing because even the training process is guided by ones ancestors. Ancestors and Guides speak to the initiate by means of dreams or during an episode whereby through the initiate they would tell the Gobela what next step should be taken. If you as a Gobela are stubborn when told by the initiate they go to him/her directly. Therefore there are no different degrees of attainment.

One of the mistakes people make is that when they become Gobelas they work but do the work of ancestors through experience and not guidance and lay their own laws which has seen a lot of people moving from one place of training to another and still not completing their training.

OAH: What level are you?

T.S.H: To my ancestors I shall always remain a young child who needs constant guidance, therefore at the moment I call myself my ancestors and guides initiate for I do not bow to anyone but them. I have trained twice first for 5 months and the second time for 3 months (which, had I listened to my guides would have taken a month but I felt there was still much to be learned by remaining longer at my trainer’s house). Even though I have trained in the aspects which were most troublesome in the eyes of my guides they do not consider me a fully fledged traditional and spiritual healer. At the moment I’m in the process of concluding the spiritual aspect of my training with a ceremony. I have had one in the caves but I also need to have one at home.

It is with my utmost hope that I will conclude everything by next year so I can be settled however this is going to be the most difficult process because one needs to be the epitome of humility, compassion and submissiveness, this basically means I would have to transcend my physical being into the spiritual world.

OAH: What is the importance of what you do to today’s world?

T.S.H: We are living in a world whereby my people have adopted the Western Way of life by shunning their own traditions and culture. And this causes a lot of restlessness because one could never find peace when they are not fully embracing their whole being and identity. How do you express yourself honestly when you do not know who you are? Each and every tribe has a manner and a way of welcoming a new born child into the family and introducing the child to the ancestors of the family. However, we are living in a world whereby to have a child out of wedlock has become a norm and proper rituals are not performed. Therefore, I have become a custodian for my cultural traditions when people come to me because they are ill or having issues I make sure they go back to their roots and sensitize them to the importance of being true to whom they are. Ultimately half of the problems we have in life are caused by our denial to face our demons and by us insisting on living a life that is not our own. We continue believing had we not made certain decisions we would have a better, but it is essential for us to realise that we do not have any other life besides our own and we cannot be something else besides the best of who we are. The question is then asked, if one looks at their lives themselves and sees something they do not like how are those people supposed to build healthy and loving relationship with other people? Our relationships are an expression of who we are, they do not add on or reduce anything and we could never give love when we do not have it within us and even if someone gives it we would not be able to recognise it because it is something unfamiliar.

OAH: Give us some tips for the spiritual self healing to practise on a daily basis.

T.S.H: One of the most important aspects of our spiritual well-being is consciousness and finding our own voice and learning to synchronize it with our thoughts without fear. We need to be present in our own lives and we need to fully experience life. When I say we need to be present in our own lives I mean we need to allow things to have an impact on our being. We have this tendency of saying we will be fine because that’s what is expected of us, but we do have a right not to be fine with a lot of things that happen in our lives. We need to devise ways of allowing adversity to teach us lesson about ourselves. If we view and turn problems and diversity into our friends we are allowing them to teach us about ourselves. We need to continuously evaluate our lives and never be scared to ask ourselves honest questions; are being true to ourselves or we are allowing people close to us and even society dictate to us who we should be. Let us stop judging ourselves so harshly when things don’t go our way, when people betray us or disappoint us in some manner. I have a mantra “Had I know better I would have done better”. We need to learn to forgive ourselves on a daily basis, and to know when to let go.

OAH thanks you my sister for this very insightful information. We are also asking interested persons to check out Sister Keketso’s online store on Facebook.

Keketso Motale

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7 Responses to “Sangoma – South Afrikan Spiritual Healers”

  1. Elias Vusi
    29. Nov, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    Mhmm, this is awesome.Educating indeed: the Ancestor-God-issue well said, on the food-issue also u’ve highlighted a lot however on the pork issue: I’m still failing 2 perceive the motive behind it’s dirtiness, I believe this animal seems 2 contain something special against the bad-thing, I wonder if any 1 has observed that.On the “Caribbean-issue” also thanks 4 the comment, if really these r demons: then I personally think I’m in love with them;I thought demons take lives away, put people in2 troubles strangely on the work u’ve alluded on u didn’t mention any of thess work so I guess if he Caribbean-issue is anything 2 go by then these Demons r wonderful because the instill life.Informative, Makwande Ndlodlo..

  2. Marc Rebuck
    21. Mar, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

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