Indilinga: African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems

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Notions Of Mental Illness By Vhavenda Traditional Healers in Limpopo Province, South Africa

J Mufamadi, T Sodi


This article is based on a study that investigated the notions of mental illness by Vhavenda traditional healers in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Specifically, the aim of the researchers was to understand and describe these traditional healers’ representations of the causes of mental illness, including the diagnostic and treatment methods that they use to help their patients. A phenomenological research method was followed in order to capture and describe mental illness from the perspective of the traditional healers themselves. Eight traditional healers, who were selected through the snowball sampling method, were asked to participate in the study. The study found that factors like heredity, witchcraft, sorcery and disregard of cultural norms were found to be some of the causes of mental illness. In some cases, mental illness was interpreted as an invitation to some people by their ancestors to become traditional healers. The study also found that traditional healers follow a logical and culturally congruent system to diagnose and treat patients who present to them with what is considered to be mental illness. In this regard different diagnostic procedures and treatment methods are used. The limitations associated with the study are also discussed.

Keywords: Divination bones, traditional healer, mental illness, Vhavenda.

AJOL African Journals Online