THE SANGOMA – The African Shaman

Sangoma wearing traditional beaded Sangoma head dress.

The Sangoma – Zulu Shamanism

All across Southern Africa including South Africa the traditional healing practices of the peoples are still respected and used today. The name given to the Shamans or ‘traditional healers’ of many southern African tribes, including the Zulu, is Sangoma or isiSangoma as they are known in plural. They are called as many Shamans are through out the world by the spirits, which in this case are ‘the ancestors’ who choose to work with them as Sangoma. Without this calling a person cannot become a Sangoma as the Sangoma’s work is so intimately linked with the ancestors. So if the presence of the ancestors ‘calling’ (UBIZO in Zulu) is not there in the person’s decision to become a Sangoma, the person will not be able to work properly or be considered sincere in their work. There are many Sangomas in South Africa today who follow their calling to be a Sangoma and honour the way of the their ancestors and mentors, and the Sangomas who have gone before them; this is known as the Sangoma teachers lineage and is an important part of becoming a Sangoma.

Humility and respect is a huge part of the Sangoma practice; especially to the ancestors, mentors and Sangomas who walked with the Sangoma during training, guiding and helping them deepen their understanding of their calling and their communication with the ancestors. Zulu Shamanism or the work of the Sangoma is relied on by thousands of people in South Africa. The Zulu people and other tribes, including the peoples of European descendants continue the practice of requesting guidance from and honouring their ancestors. This spiritual practice is facilitated or aided by the traditions of the Sangoma who as many other Shamans acts as a bridge to the world of spirit. Sangoma’s are also called to work with the land, animals and the environment. They are responsible for the welfare of their immediate community and all that’s in it. This means receiving messages from the land itself and the ancestors which live in the land. Within Zulu Shamanic practice this includes many spiritual beings which live in or abide with sacred places in the land such as sacred hills, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, caves, stones and forests which are all over South Africa. Shamanism has been part of the practice of Africa for as long as time records. Some of the most remarkable cave paintings exist in South Africa depicting the people’s earliest Shamanic practice. All of the tribes of Africa no matter their migrations have practiced Shamanism and the honouring, ritual or reverence for their ancestors in all their forms.

This work continues today with the many Sangomas in South Africa, many who struggle with the on-going western influence and demands; or just dont have access to the rest of the world and therefore are not recognised for what they contribute to their communities, the land and the holding of sacred knowledge.

It is our hope with this website and the access to information… that this will change and better understanding about the Sangoma tradition will be achieved.

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