Throwing the bones

Candice Nolan / Mar 25, 2019

Throwing the bones


I went to see a traditional healer/Sangoma today. I kind of stumbled upon her while out on a housing story. It was a rather strange happening. It was ethereal. Not scary at all. Nothing like I imagined.

Besides, had it been left up to my imagination, I might never have happened on her at all. She was on her hands and knees, polishing her red front porch (which we call a stoep in South Africa). Her home was right across the way from a massive white tent, pitched to play host to some dignitaries for a sod-turning ceremony.

She was explaining how her biggest worries were that the rains brought a deluge which flooded her tiny back yard. Her backyard was home to two tin structures, called shacks. These were her tenants. Concrete barriers had been built to stop the water flooding the tiny apartments.

And then she pointed to a third shack, right in the middle. This was her surgery, she explained. “I’m a traditional healer!”, she proclaimed proudly. She invited me inside. The heat was oppressive, more inside than out. Through the curtain into a tiny room with a type of shrine lined with candles. My eyes were drawn to the tortoise shell which seemed to enjoy pride of place.

She made a guttaral noise. “Excuse me? What’s that?”, I exclained, quite taken aback. She mumbled something about her ancestors. Uncomfortable, I asked her what the bones are saying about our country’s future. She grabbed a bag and chucked them on the sheep skin on the floor.

An old 50 cent coin rolled out in the mix of shells and bones. I noticed a bullet casing. She told me I was very lucky. That I live too much in my head and that I would meet up with a near on collision. She also said that great fortune awaited me in the coming days. She told me that I sleep well.

Strangely, she said that my gogo (grandmother) gave me numbers in my dream. And I awoke unable to recall the numbers. I assumed she was talking about lotto numbers. I do not play lotto and I had no such dream. She looked expectantly at me, awaiting confirmation. I nodded yes. She repeated the bit about me being lucky. She prophesied that I would call her in a few days time to confirm this.

She showed me her traditional healer certificate and a type of passport which she called a travelling document. They carried the logo of an eagle landing/pouncing, ringed by the words “The Professional Herbal Preparations Association of Inyangas (PTY) LTD. She is very proud of these documents, and keeps them safely tucked away under her mattress.

I was curious as to why she would need a travelling document, eyeing the beaded tail switch hanging on her wall. In South Africa, Sangoma’s are also known as the pejorative “witch doctor”. A consequence of our colonial past. Marrying the too, western and African, conjured up images of a witch riding a broom, travelling to some curious destination.

She was right about me living in my head. The brain harmonics lady told me that I’m disconnected from my body. I often bump a toe or trip over carpets in my headlong quest into the future. I’m not sure if she’s right about me calling her though. Time will tell.

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