US nurse comes to SA to graduate as sangoma

2016-12-01 08:49
Makhosi Nancy Rebecca visited her spiritual grandmother, Makhosi Mata Cindi, in Ladysmith with a group of Canadians. (Supplied)

Makhosi Nancy Rebecca visited her spiritual grandmother, Makhosi Mata Cindi, in Ladysmith with a group of Canadians. (Supplied)

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Durban – After almost a decade of refusing the call to become a sangoma, an American nurse has graduated as a traditional healer at a ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal. 

“All these crazy things that I could not explain were happening in my life. I eventually just gave up the fight and said yes, I will do it,” said Makhosi Nancy Rebecca, originally from Tacoma, in the United States.

In April, the 57-year-old mother and grandmother of two was joined by 21 members of her family who flew down to KwaZulu-Natal for her graduation ceremony. She is presently in South Africa with a group of Canadians who want to learn about African traditional healing.

“Ever since I accepted the calling, there is a sense of peace in my life,” she said.

At the weekend, she visited her spiritual mother, Makhosi Mata Cindi, who walked her through her journey of becoming a sangoma. Cindi has trained seven white sangomas.

Spiritual journey

Rebecca’s journey into traditional healing began in 2000, when she was visiting the Valley of 1000 Hills Hospital with a group of US nurses.

“The intention of bringing nurses was to try and merge the two worlds of medicine. The nurses had a western knowledge of medicine while sangomas had traditional knowledge.”

During her visit, she was overcome by a strange emotion and felt weak. She ignored the feeling and it later disappeared.

Rebecca had been bringing various groups to explore South Africa every two years. They returned in 2003.

“My mother was part of the group and she wanted a bones reading from a local sangoma. That is when a sangoma said I had the calling. I had no idea what that meant. I did not even ask questions about it.”

A group of sangomas singing and dancing
A group of sangomas singing and dancing during a traditional ceremony. (Supplied)

She said she went back to the US and returned to South Africa in 2005. Again she was told that she had the calling.

“So every two years I came down to South Africa, I was told the same thing: ‘you are supposed to be a sangoma’.”

In 2007, when the group returned, a group of sangomas was singing and dancing for them. Rebecca suddenly found herself dancing uncontrollably and fell to the floor.

“I had a vision of a snake deep in the water, then I kind of became the snake. People were saying that I was even moving like a snake on the floor. It was scary.”

Rebecca said when she woke up, six sangomas were holding her.

“I was so afraid, I just wanted to go back home.”

To recover from the ordeal, Rebecca and two sangomas she had become close friends with, visited the Drakensberg.

“We were standing on a hill and then all of a sudden it felt as if someone had pulled me by the ankles into a nearby river.”

The sangomas lit impepho (traditional incense) and prayed for her.

“I still did not want to become a sangoma. I kept saying no because I was scared.”

Rebecca returned to the US and tried to stay away from rivers and not to dance.

‘I just gave up’

Finally, in 2013, after nearly a decade of ignoring the call, she gave in.

“I just gave up and said yes, I will do it.”

Her training began in 2014.

One day she heard a voice telling her she would return to South Africa. She felt scared. A week later she found red and white beads, which are associated with sangomas. To her this was a sign that the ancestors had travelled all the way to America to fetch her.

Rebecca contacted a friend, also a sangoma and spiritual father, Makhosi Cedric Hood. He told her that they were preparing for her ceremony. He gave her assignments to start preparing her.

She is now a qualified sangoma and will return to the US on December 7. She already has clients there waiting for a consultation with her.

“I threw bones for the first time. It is so amazing, I have no fear. I regret not having said yes earlier.”

What amuses her is that she can still not speak isiZulu.

A spiritual gift

Makhosi Hood said he was proud of Rebecca for taking a leap of faith. Hood, 60, from Champagne Castle in the Drakensberg, said he received the calling at the tender age of 11, but only completed his training four decades later.

After his father died, he confessed to his mother that he knew he would become a sangoma.

“My mother told our local pastor and he thought that I had a spiritual gift. They thought that I was meant to become a pastor.”

Makhosi Mata Cindi leads traditional healers
Makhosi Mata Cindi leads traditional healers, including Makhosi Nancy Rebecca and Makhosi Cedric Hood, in song and dance. (Supplied)

Hood found a father figure in the family’s gardener, Joseph Luthuli who was an inyanga, a traditional healer.

“He taught me all about traditional medicines. At the time we lived in Durban and we lived near a forest. Joseph would take me there to harvest and teach me all about plants.”

Hood, who wanted to become a farmer, said his mother only learnt how to drive after his father’s death.

“But there were these little accidents that were happening and they were not caused by her. Joseph told me that my father did not want my mother to drive. He said I needed to speak to my father and ask him to allow my mother to drive.”

At the age of 18, Hood bought a goat and offered a sacrifice to his ancestors. He spoke to his father and asked him to allow his mother to drive.

Hood continued offering sacrifices to his ancestors until he was 40, asking for their protection and guidance. Eventually they told him to stop slaughtering.

He said when Rebecca was in South Africa, she wanted a reading from a sangoma.

“They wanted a reading specifically from a sangoma, so I took them to one. They paid for me to get a reading and the ancestors welcomed me back and said that I needed to become a sangoma.”

Hood said at first he did not want to.

“I was told that in order to break the curse of young men dying in our family, I would have to become a sangoma.”

Hood started his training in 2007, at the age of 51. He graduated in 2009 and is now popularly known as Makhosi Hood or Mahlobohlobo.

Looking back on his journey, he is in awe of how things fell into place.

When Hood is not consulting, he runs a reptile centre in the Drakensberg.

“When people come to see me, they don’t believe that I am a sangoma. What people don’t understand is that we all have ancestors. Some view them as guardian angels but they are not bad spirits.”

Read more on:    durban  |  us  |  culture  |  traditional healer

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