oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Interpretative reflections on Nomzi's story

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



In this, the second of two papers, three interpretative investigations are undertaken of Nomzi's story (presented in the first paper) of her troubled childhood, her dreams of ancestors calling her to become an igqirha (isiXhosa traditional healer), her training by experienced healers, various rituals that were performed at different stages of her life, and her eventual graduation as an igqirha at the age of 61. The narrative cannot be understood apart from the framework of the isiXhosa traditional understanding of intwaso, the initiatory illness, the role of the ancestors, and the manner in which clairvoyant abilities of divination and healing are developed under their guidance. Nomzi's account, however, reflects a considerable modification of the tradition, several features of which she does not seem to understand herself. From a clinical psychological perspective, Nomzi's behavioural disturbances in childhood, as well as her lifelong suspiciousness and paranoia, can be understood as a consequence of an unstable childhood in which there was no secure attachment, nor any adult guidance on emotional regulation of the kind needed to form the basis of a stable adult personality. From the perspective of transpersonal psychology, it seems likely that Nomzi was endowed with a degree of natural clairvoyance, but her development as a healer was impaired by displacement of her paranoid ideation into the role of witch-finder, and her chronic social alienation.

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