Becoming a sangoma isn’t a decision one makes by choice, but rather a calling by one’s ancestors to fulfil one’s duty in helping others heal.
For Mpho Mopeli, an internal communications adviser at one of the country’s leading companies in engineering consultancy, this was as much a new experience as it would be for anyone.
“I’ve always been an introvert, so a lot of the things I experienced leading up to my initiation were a mystery to me since I was shy to talk about what I was going through at that time. I literally thought I was losing my mind and that this world is just not for me, people just don’t understand me,” she tells DRUM.
As a graduate with a BA in corporate communication as well as an honours degree in strategic communication from the University of Johannesburg, Mpho says dealing with her visions while pursuing her studies took a serious toll on her emotional wellbeing.
“I displayed bipolar behaviour; I had vivid dreams where my guides would give me messages regarding my calling. I was known to be an intelligent child at school but I started experiencing difficulties in my studies. I had constant migraines that medication couldn’t heal,” she tells DRUM.
Her moments of despair didn’t end until she consulted a healer who explained what it was she was going through. “I felt so helpless and defeated because I knew I had a higher purpose but couldn’t put my finger on it until I went to seek help from a healer who later confirmed that everything that was happening to me was because I had been called by my ancestors to fulfil being a traditional healer and prophet,” she continues.
Mpho officially graduated as a songoma in 2013 and says her superiors at work were very supportive of her journey. “I received many well wishes and hugs to motivate me, although I feared what was to come in my initiation process. It felt good to know that there is a level of understanding and open mindedness on the African culture and its practices,” she says.
“My first day back was very weird but interesting. Walking into the corporate space and picking up on so many energies was a challenge at first, but now I can control what I feel. My colleagues welcomed me back with so much love and kindness, nothing much changed thereafter,” she continues.
Mpho also shared some of society’s widely held misconceptions about being a sangoma. “A lot of people think I’m weird, that I can read minds. If I sneeze, burp or even cough, I’m asked what the ancestors are saying. It’s funny. But on a serious note, some of the misconceptions are that being a sangoma is associated with poverty, that you can just wake up and decide to be a sangoma.
“Being a sangoma is a calling one gets. It has nothing to do with poverty or wealth – when you’re the chosen one, you choose to heed the call,” she explains
As a career woman who has fully embraced her ancestral calling, the widowed mother of one says she now focuses on balancing her thriving corporate career with attending to her duties as a songoma as well as spending time with her family. “I focus on my career midweek, during working hours. Thereafter I practice my sangoma work in the evenings and full-time on weekends. Keeping in mind as well that I always make time for my family, I will never book myself to full capacity. I make time to focus on my son and bond with the rest of the family,” she tells DRUM.