Healthcare Paper on Healing Ritual from an Indigenous Culture

Healing Ritual from an Indigenous Culture


Traditional healing practices have been in existence for many years both in the western countries and in Africa. Healing rituals are carried out by medicine men or elders who may have acquired the art from their forefathers and others who have probably undergone initiation through ancestral spirits. They are said to depend on divination as their diagnostic tool significantly (Mpofu, Peltzer, & Bojuwoye, 2011). Accordingly, most people believe that traditional healers worship the ancestors. Indigenous healers use holistic treatments for both acute and chronic illnesses and to maintain health and general wellbeing. Herbs, manipulative therapies, and precautions are used during the healing rituals, to either prevent or heal the ailments. In most cases, healers use plants in tandem with specific ritual. In the traditional African setting, epilepsy is associated with the evil eye and different cultures engaging in different forms of curative rituals.

An essential ritual of an indigenous society is the unique way of healing epilepsy used by the Wangoni people found in Songea. Firstly, they have a specific location where the rituals take place commonly known as a sweat lodge. A sweat lodge is a hut, dome-shaped and made with natural material like tree branches and can be covered using animal skin. The lodge is specifically for prayers or healing rituals; the ceremonies can only be led by elders who know the associated language, songs, practices and proper protocols. If conducted improperly, it has both physical and spiritual repercussions. The epilepsy is believed by some people to be a punishment for disobeying the ancestral spirits (Winkler et al., 2010). For children below the age of two years, a combination of natural herbs and syrup is given during the ritual.

The ritual is conducted by native healers known as shamans who believe that a specific forest tortoise (Manouria emys) can be used to cure epilepsy in adults. The tortoise is slaughtered and specific parts are extracted and mixed with natural herbs and the epileptic adult drinks (Moshi, Kagashe, & Mbwambo, 2005). According to the people’s believes, the person never experiences seizures after consuming the concoction. Also, the healing ritual involves some undertakings such as complete shaving of the entire body by using glass or excommunication of the individual thought to be causing the evil influence. The process involves other traditional practices like singing, dancing, and chanting which all play diverse roles in assisting the shamans.

During the healing ritual, the shamans tend to practice rhythmic drumming which is thought to be effective in inducing a meditative state to enter the spirit world where questions regarding the patient are answered and go ahead for the ritual is given. The drumming and repetitive percussive music and magical crystals are a way to get insight into dreams. Shamans believe that the dreams are mediums of crucial information including messages of healing. The drumming period allows for the shaman to transition between the physical and the spiritual world (Winkler et al., 2010). The drums used are made by stretching of animal-skin over a bent wooden hoop with a handle across it. The songs sung during the ritual are intended to imitate natural sounds and are thought to affect the shift of consciousness and allow entry into an ecstatic daze.

If the epilepsy is thought to emanate from evil spirits, the shamans engage in exorcist prayer rituals and nights of drumming and dancing to drive out the evil spirits. The ritual begins with them practicing a rattling shake which act as a communication process with the shamanistic spirits who provide guidance into the spirit world. The shamans use feathers during such rituals that involve driving out evil spirits because birds are perceived as messengers of the spirits. The shaman also arms himself with a holy sword that is meant to keep him safe from the evil spirits seemingly wandering as he moves through their world.

The shamans offer sacrifices to appease the ancestors and to be allowed to conduct the rituals. The epileptic patient in most cases is laid on a wooden table. The sanctification process includes a sprinkling of animal blood as chanting and drumming go on. The patient and the family are required to provide an animal for sacrifice. In most cases, shamans will give specifications on the type of animal to be brought as a sacrifice. After the healing ritual, for effective and total healing, the patient is required to adhere to certain restrictions, for example, abstaining from alcohol, staying indoors for about 40 days to avoid being seen by the ‘evil eye.’ There are also dietary restrictions laid out by the shaman. The patients are advised to incorporate uncured tobacco, psilocybin mushrooms among others in their diets.


The basis for interpretation of epilepsy in indigenous cultures is the mythical concept of the disease. Healing rituals are in one way or another used to complement Western-style treatment. Despite the civilization and the widespread use of modern medicine, in most indigenous cultures, traditional healing rituals are still high in demand. Most people perceive the neglect of the spiritual aspect of an ailment as the significant disadvantage of western medicine. For most indigenous cultures, rituals are a way of keeping the community in unison with their ancestral spirits.





Moshi, M. J., Kagashe, G. A., & Mbwambo, Z. H. (2005). Plants used to treat epilepsy by Tanzanian traditional healers. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 97(2), 327-336. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.11.015

Mpofu, E., Peltzer, K., & Bojuwoye, O. (2011). Indigenous healing practices in Sub-Saharan Africa. Counseling People of African Ancestry, 3-21. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511977350.004

Winkler, A., Mayer, M., Ombay, M., Mathias, B., Schmutzhard, E., & Jilek-Aall, L. (2010). Attitudes towards African traditional medicine and Christian spiritual healing regarding treatment of epilepsy in a rural community of northern Tanzania. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 7(2). doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v7i2.50877