Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Maidenhead Banker now a 'Witch Doctor'

After a ceremony in which he endured significant hardships a 32-year-old from Maidenhead, Thomas Heathfield, has graduated as a Sangoma, reports Thabisile Khoza.

The process to become a traditional tribal healer culminated at Mangweni village near Komatipoort, in South Africa's Mpumalanga province, where he was given the new name, Gogo Mndawe. He kept himself isolated from all family and friends in the initiation period until he was able to prove himself in a series of tests which included a three-day mission to find an animal’s bladder and other body parts secreted in the nearby landscape, then performing the ritualised drinking and vomiting of goat's blood as onlookers ululated in an open-air twasa ceremony.

Lungile Tsetse, Gogo Mndawe and Gogo Dingani (l-r)
Three months were spent living rough in the bush, wearing traditional robes and hunting for animal parts. During training he would sleep for 4 hours, waking up every day at 2.30am to perform a ritual dance called kuhlehla, creating a spiritual trance. He also learnt about the uses for different herbs and divination through bone throwing.

Mr Heathfield only quit his job as a freelance consultant offering advice to banks on risk and information security in February this year, when he made the unusual decision to convert as part of what he described as a 'spiritual awakening' guided by his friend, Lungile Tsetse, who was a regular visitor to Berkshire.

Initially he had difficulties with the local SiSwati language, explaining, "It made me dig deeper and deeper to summon the will power to do things I never thought I'd be capable of."

"Some people might see this as a weird decision... Now I’m living in the real world more." He added, "there was a period of learning to renounce control, to think less and do more. Before, I was paid to ask questions but here, questions aren't important. It's about doing things without asking."

"This is a completely different cultural practice, but we are happy that our son managed to combine it with ours," commented his mother, Ally, who also attended the graduation.

Rachel Dalton suggests if you're desperate to escape the furiously competitive world of corporations and finance, it couldn't provide a greater contrast.

Yet as Jim West provocatively argues, to go from 'eating babies' to drinking goat's blood "isn't as big a stretch as you might imagine." The lutheran reformist obviously isn't fanatical about voodoo economics!

However, it was more of a personal quest to find himself a wife after a decade of being 'unlucky in love', according to Adrian Shaw.

Mr Heathfield described his plans to stay on for a couple of weeks with his trainer Gogo Dingani and her husband at their home in Mangawe, Zimbabwe (where over 500 Sangomas of different ethnic backgrounds have been accredited by the Traditional Healers Association), before moving to a thatched house in Cape Town where he will get married and set up a clinic to start his active vocation as social worker and psychological counsellor among traditional community.

Elsewhere Stephanie Hegarty investigates the charlatan healers and other 'shady characters' who promote Sangoma by preying on vulnerable individuals seeking greater belonging in hyper-mediated westernised culture - people who exist in both modern and traditional societies.

Over at Shaman Tube they notice the growing trend of Europeans undertaking the practice of Sangoma as it becomes 'big business' following legalisation after the Apartheid period.

Meanwhile Mike de Kock celebrates the 'feeling of oneness' befitting multi-cultural visions of 'a proper rainbow nation' as he encourages gamblers on Africa's richest horse race to make their predictions using any method they might be familiar with - though noticably not form or pedigree.

1 comment:

  1. banker becomes witch doctor. no change there.


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