Traditional African healing is perhaps the oldest and most distinctive therapeutic system in the world. Primarily, this holistic health care system involves a plethora of aspects which include spiritualism, divination and herbalism.
Interestingly enough, Ancient African healing methods started to blossom even before the Western civilization managed to record their own histories. As a culture, the African civilization antecedes all known written records which make it relatively challenging to ensure actual dates or knowledge during particular periods.
Medical practices and knowledge through ages were passed down through oral traditions from within one tribe, clan or family to the next generation. As a matter of fact, it is believed that every region in Africa at one time in its history had a form of traditional medicine that is deeply connected to their specific cultural context.
Ancient Africans believed that humans are comprised of many degrees of being which work conjointly to keep everyone at full health and if any of these components are imbalanced, the person will suffer physical and spiritual diseases. In other words, Old Africans characterized diseases to be social or spiritual disorder of someone’s internal or external being.
Historically speaking, Ancient Africans classify their traditional healers into two specific categories particularly the Sangomas and Iyangas.
The Iyangas are known to be herbalists that are well-adept in the medicinal combinations of regional plants whereas Sangomas are thought to be spiritual healers which connect with ancestral spirits to heal their patients.
At present, the term Sangoma is used popularly for both titles of iyanga and sangoma and more often than not, a sangoma executes both duties as a healing practitioner.
Interesting Facts about Ancient African Healing
- The Edwin Smith papyrus and Papyrus Ebers are considered to be the oldest written medical literature. It was believed to be written before the Roman or Greek empires.
- Traditional African medicine utilizes a myriad of spiritually curative medicines which are made up of nothing more sinister than minerals, zoological composed properties and botanical formulas.
- Muti killings are circumstances in which traditional African healers murder people in the hopes of harvesting of body parts which will be used as ingredients into medicine.
- Medicines that were made from muti killings are believed to help someone develop their ability to be successful in politics and business as well as protect them against war and improve their agriculture.
- Several historians believed that Imhotep who was a priest of Egypt is considered to be the first known physician in Africa. It is thought that he wrote the “Edwin Smith” Papyrus which is consists of over 90 anatomical terminologies and described 48 injuries.
- Imhotep was also responsible for diagnosing and treating more than 200 diseases including arthritis, gout, gallstones, appendicitis and tuberculosis.
- A South African Law which was passed in 2007 legally recognized iyangas and sangomas as traditional health practitioners for the purposes of midwifery, herbalism and surgery.
- Getting healed to either a sangoma or iyanga meant much more than just rehabilitating from physical illness as Ancient Africans believed that it also means rediscovering the meaning of life.
How do traditional African healers diagnose their patients?
In most cases, traditional African healers used a variety of diagnosis that include questioning, touching, dream interpretation, divination and observation to determine the disease and the healing process which needs to be employed.
Who are the victims of the Muti killings?
The victims of the Muti killings often consist of young or elderly male and female. They are primarily killed by removing their labia, eyelids, lips and scrota.
What is Mutis?
Mutis is responsible for preparing and sourcing spiritually curative medicines that will be utilized by either the sangoma or iyanga on the healing procedure.
What happened to ancient African healing?
While traditional African healing is still practiced by some tribes, most regions in Africa have banned the act due to its association with witchcraft.
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