Natural and Supernatural: Intersections Between the Spiritual and Natural Worlds in African Witchcraft and Healing with Reference to Southern Africa

  • TS Petrus
  • DL Bogopa


For generations, African beliefs and practices regarding witchcraft and traditional healing have been located at the intersection between the natural world and the supernatural world. Despite the impact of both colonialism and, in the contemporary context, modernization, the complex interplay between these worlds has not been reduced. The interaction between nature and religion, as a facet of culture, has long been a subject of inquiry in anthropology, and nowhere is this more evident than in the study of African witchcraft and traditional healing. A distinct relationship exists between witchcraft beliefs and traditional healing methods. This relationship brings these two aspects of African culture together in such a complex manner that it is difficult to attempt to understand the dynamics of African witchcraft without referring to traditional healing methods, and vice versa. In this paper, the authors outline the various ways in which African witchcraft beliefs and practices, as well as traditional healing beliefs and practices, interact within the nature/culture domain. This interaction will be conceptualised in a Merleau-Pontian sense, focusing on the indeterminacy of the natural and supernatural worlds. In its presentation of an essentially anthropological case study focused on southern Africa, the paper draws on various ethnographic examples of African communities in the southern African context. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, Volume 7, Edition 1 May 2007

Author Biographies

TS Petrus
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Port Elizabeth, South Africa
DL Bogopa
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1445-7377
print ISSN: 2079-7222