Healing among the Zulu center around uMvelinqangi (God), the amadlozi (ancestors), nature and a person’s connection to these spiritual forces in a deep and profound manner. This person is called a traditional healer within the Western concept of specialists. The traditional healer has always been a person of great respect in the community, a medium with the amadlozi (ancestors) and uMvelinqangi (the first Creator). Traditional healers connect with the presence of uMvelinqangi (the First Creator) that exist within the universe and eradiate the expression of that which operates in opposition to uMvelinqangi. The healer either presents substance in the form of medicine or provides a healing environment (divination) for
uMveliqangi to be fully expressed within the sick person and community. Persons who visit the traditional healer are required to engage in specific communally beneficial ways following in one’s effort to restore order and balance within self and the community. Because uMvelinqangi exists within everything, the healer must simply connect with the universal force to manifest the full power of uMvelinqangi. This process will empower the ill person (or empower the powerful collective presence within the person) while concomitantly over powering the destructive forces outside of the person. Throughout history traditional healers have played a plethora of roles within Zulu society, such as:
(1) Diviner/priest, accepted medium with amadlozi/abaphansi (ancestral shades) and the uMvelinqangi (First Creator), religious head of society, prominent at all major umsenbezi (rituals);
(2) Protector and provider of customs, sociocultural cohesion and transformation, legal arbiter at public divinations, ecologist and rainmaker; and
(3) Specialists in preventive, primitive and therapeutic medicine including the use of traditional pharmacology (Edwards, 1987).
According to Buckland and Binger (1992), Zulu practitioners of divination, sorcery, and healing
fall into the following categories:
1. Sanusi – A sorcerer, who can be male or female but is generally male; the title is sometimes applied to a healer.
2. Izinyanga Zokwelapha – A healer.
3. Izinyanga Zemithi – A specialist in tribal medicine.
4. Izinyanga Zezulu – A weather worker.
5. Sangoma – A counselor or diviner; usually female sometimes male.
Edwards (1987) suggests that there are three broad overlapping categories of traditional healers in South Afrika i.e. inyanga (traditional doctor/herbalist) isangoma (diviner/counselor), and umthandazi (faith healer). For this discussion, we will use these three categories of healers.
The inyanga is usually a male who has gone through a period of training with an accomplished inyanga for at least one year. Izinyanga/ Inyangas typically use amakhambi (herbal medicines) for immunization, tonic and preventative measures, body cleanser, laxatives, etc.
When amamkhubalo (herbal medicines) are used for umsenbezi (ritual), color classification of the medicine and time of day and season of administration become significant.
The colors of the medicines are imithi emnyama (black medicine), imithi ebomvu (red medicine) and imithi emhlophe (white medicine). Amakhubalo (herbal medicine) is organized according to color are:
1. Ubulawu – A liquid medicine used across all colors.
2. Insizi – Powdered herbs, roots or animal medicine that is always used as a black medicine to pull out an illness.
3. Intelezi – A liquid medicine used as a white medicine to render free from imperfections often after sickness is taken out with a red or black medicine.
Here we see that the Zulu operate in harmony with nature and the universe, and that various aspects of color contain the power for healing. To further illustrate this harmonious relationship with nature, there are certain herbs that are extracted only in the morning, day, evening or night.
It is believed that the full healing power is manifested at specific universe time periods and one must approach that herb at the proper time that uMvelinqangi has bestowed upon it with its full power.
The next traditional healer is called isangoma. This healer is usually a woman who shares knowledge of medicine with the inyanga (herb doctor). A person is chosen by the spiritual realm to be a sangoma after an ukuthwasa (life transforming experience). It is during the ukuthwasa
(transforming experience such as a seizure or near death experience) that the person communicates with entities of the spiritual realm that inform her/him what s/he needs to do. Following the experience, the person goes to study under an accomplished isangoma who diagnoses illnesses hrough communicating with the amadlozi (ancestral shades). Buckland and Binger state:
The sangoma divines using a set of objects that have special meaning or energy. After an apprentice spends time with an established sangoma, s/he begins to develop her/his own style…collects a bag of oracle bones…from animals or other materials…in twos, representing male and female (1992, p. 77).
The roles for an inyanga and a isangoma remain distinct and complimentary. The sangoma is consulted to determine the etiology of a problem. After the cause of an illness has been determined, then the sangoma refers the person to medical treatment from another practitioner. Both the inyanga and isangoma are part of a public imisebenzi (ritual) and the Nomkhubulwane ceremony for girls. Nomkhubulwane is the first princess and the daughter of uNunkulunkulu (the Great Grandfather). The Nomkhubulwane ceremony is a rites of passage ceremony that functions as a reintroduction in the Zulu community to assist with addressing the AIDS crisis that is occurring in South Afrika. The traditional healers not only inform the girls of their purpose in life, they also help the girl know how to maintain good health. In this case the traditional healers are curative and preventative. Since there is a high premium placed on being a virgin, the healers imisebenzi (ritual) serves to influence and reduce the rate of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) while providing insight into food selection, preparation, and consumption. The third traditional healer has evolved recently with the influx of people moving from the rural to urban areas. The umthandazi (faith healer) has become an intricate part of the
combination of traditional Afrikan religion and Christianity. They are found primarily within the Zionist and Apostolic churches of the cities. The umthandazi has the ability to prophesize, heal and divine using prayer, holy water, baths, enemas and steaming baths.