oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Dreams and medicines : the perspective of Xhosa diviners and novices in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Volume 5 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1445-7377



Based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in the Eastern Cape, the paper explores the interconnections between dreams (amathongo, amaphupha) and medicines (amayeza, imithi, amachiza) as aspects of the Xhosa diviner's culture, knowledge and experience. Background information is provided in the introduction, inter alia, on the Xhosa patrilineal clan (isiduko), divination (imvumisa, evumiso) and religious and cultural change. The ability to dream, inter alia, of the ancestors and medicines, is central to the diviner's intuition and professional stock-in-trade, which are part and parcel of a religious healing tradition. Examples of dreams involving the ancestors (iminyanya), diviners, clients and medicinal plants are presented and analysed in relation to relevant case material. The ritual significance of dreams is explored in some detail. The distinctions between diviner (igqirha lokuvumisa) and herbalist (ixhwele), and between medicines and charms (amakhubalo), receive attention in the section on medicines. The underlying purpose of traditional Xhosa religious ideology is discussed in the conclusion.

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