oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Becoming a Xhosa healer : Nomzi's story

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



This paper presents the story of an isiXhosa traditional healer (igqirha), Nomzi Hlathi (pseudonym), as told to the first author. Nomzi was asked about how she came to be an igqirha and the narrative focuses on those aspects of her life story that she understood as relevant to that developmental process. The material was obtained from a series of semi-structured interviews with Nomzi, with some collateral from her cousin, and synthesised into a chronological narrative presented in Nomzi's own words. The aim of the study was to examine her account of her unfolding experience within three hermeneutic frames. The first is the isiXhosa traditional account of what it is to become an igqirha, a process initiated by intwaso, an illness understood to be a call from the ancestors, and guided by messages from the ancestors in dreams and other symbolic communications. The second is the perspective of Western Clinical Psychology on the cognitive, emotional and behavioural disturbances that characterise intwaso. The third is the perspective of transpersonal psychology on the nature and development of shamanic healing gifts, as understood from observations of such practices in traditional societies across the world. As the narrative of Nomzi's story is quite long, this paper presents her narrative as well as the methodology which gave rise to it. The interpretative review of the material from each of the three perspectives is presented in a second paper.

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