Traditional healer

Would you go to a traditional healer for help, or would you think twice about it? Tandeka Bafo took the plunge.

As part of our editorial team's assignment to explore the alternative and complementary health sector, I was asked to go see a traditional healer. My first thought was: why me?

As a young, black Xhosa woman I was very sceptical and, to top it all, I don’t believe in traditional healers.

I travel to work by train and have heard some interesting stories from fellow commuters, who say that they have had doctor's certificates from traditional healers and that they expect their employers to understand where they are coming from.

Miracle cures
On my way to work I pass street vendors handing out pamphlets in which some traditional healers claim that they have a cure for Aids, can bring back a reluctant lover, make you an instant millionaire overnight and heal various ailments. But there is one catch - you may need to pay thousands of rands for your miracle to happen.

Do these practices really work or is it just another money-making scam? Can a certain ritual, herb or suspicious-looking powder really work? Trying to keep my scepticism in check, I made an appointment to see a traditional healer. I was given a date and time and told to bring along some money.

What to expect
If you are a female, you need to dress appropriately, which means wearing a skirt and a headscarf to show respect.

When I arrived at the premises, I expected to find a rundown place, or a back room at the end of a dark alley. To my surprise the premises were clean and in good order. The room where the consultation took place was also a pleasant surprise. It was like any other doctor's surgery - the room was clean and the healer's medicines and herbs were neatly packed on a table in containers and jars. Before entering the room I had to remove my shoes.

The consultation
We sat on a mat on the floor and the traditional healer took out a small brown leather bag, holding dice, sea shells, bones and a coin which he would be using to tell me about the past, present and the future. He shook the bag and told me to blow softly inside the bag, after which he threw the contents out onto the mat.

He then proceeded to use his itshoba (a stick fly whisk) to point at each of the different objects and interpret its meaning in my life. As he interpreted, he said 'Siyavuma' (I agree), asking me to agree with him.

I mentioned to him that I have not been feeling well and he gave me a sachet filled with grey powder. His instructions were to drink it with water twice a day. It would help to cleanse my system.

The verdict
After the session I remain a sceptic and still have my doubts about consulting a traditional healer. But, when all is said and done, traditional healers are going to be a part of our medical fraternity and it's your choice whether you believe or don’t believe. The choice is yours.

For the record, I didn’t use the grey powder. I paid R20 for the session – prices vary from traditional healer to traditional healer.

(Tandeka Bafo, Health24, February 2008)

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