Experiencing Ritual: A New Interpretation of African Healing by Edith Turner, William Blodgett, Singleton Kahona, Fideli

By Edith Turner, William Blodgett, Singleton Kahona, Fideli Benwa

Experiencing Ritual is Edith Turner's account of the way she sighted a spirit shape whereas engaging within the Ihamba ritual of the Ndembu. via her research, she offers a view now not universal in anthropological writings—the view of thousands of Africans—that ritual is the harnessing of non secular power.

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Personal helper spirits of the patients themselves were now unknown. It was only healers who could claim tutelary helper spirits, and these spirits might form a chain in the healer's genealogy in a h n d of apostolic succession. It seemed that everywhere in Africa indigenous doctors had been improving their techniques during these years, gauging well which cases would respond to African treatment and which would not, and were curing a greater proportion than formerly. Perhaps owing to lack of laws and control, there was a chance for these slulled people to experiment, develop, become more sure in their spirit work.

H e returned and proudly displayed a bunch of herbs (Figure 9). " he asked Benwa. " The plant is said to leap unexpectedly out of The Medicine Quest for the First Ihamba 45 Figure 9. Singleton displays a bunch of herbs. the ground like a mole, for no special reason. The disease leaps out of the patient in the same way; the "no reason" adds the sense that there would be something nonrational about the cure. The cloth bag from the basket was hung on the tines of the chishinga. Singleton saw to it that his mongoose skin pouch was ready on the basket, with the tiny finger horn tucked into the mouth of the pouch.

This not only jogged my intellectual appetite, but I began to want to hear that singing again, to stroke the soft hair of the babies. All my children were gone from home and lived hundreds of miles away. It seemed a great idea to do a restudy of the Ndembu. I seriously wanted to get back to ritual and religion, to get closer to the emotional roots of the people, to sense them and perhaps at last to describe them for what they were. I was fit and decided to go; a friend supplied me with her son as helper-greater love hath no woman than this, for he seemed to become a fifth son of my own, although I didn't look after him very well.

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