PHOTO ESSAY: Homecoming for a new sangoma
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The umgoduso (homecoming ceremony) takes place when an initiate returns home after completing the rituals to become a sangoma or igqirha (traditional healer).
The initiate is trained by a diviner, who leads all the rituals.
Ncumisa Mntonga from Cofimvaba, a town in the Chris Hani district municipality in the Eastern Cape, about 79km east of Queenstown, started having bad dreams and financial challenges in 2012. Things got worse for her in 2013.
She consulted a sangoma who told her that her misfortune was because she had a calling to become a sangoma. If she refused to accept her calling, her life would be adversely affected, the sangoma said. When she agreed, Ncumisa’s name was changed to Zamalwandle. Her training took two years. During this time, sexual relations are forbidden because it is a time of purification.
After completing the training, Zamalwandle was sent home for her graduation ceremony. Her initiator and fellow initiates accompanied her to the graduation.
At home she was welcomed by her family and a goat was slaughtered as a sign that she has cleansed herself.
As part of the graduation process, Zamalwandle had to go and sleep next to a river or the ocean and ask her ancestors to be present at her graduation ceremony.
She was accompanied by her initiator, initiates and family members. The ritual is not performed at just any river but at a river or a place near the sea that comes to the initiator in a dream.
It is believed that the ancestors live close to rivers and the sea.
On the second day of her graduation, she visited the river, where another goat was slaughtered.
Alcohol and tobacco were taken as offerings to the ancestors.
On the third day Zamalwandle made a journey to the sea, where she spent two days.
Another goat was slaughtered to ask the ancestors who died in the sea and those who died on the road to be part of the ceremony.
On the fifth day, Zamalwandle returned home. Another goat was slaughtered at her home to welcome her and the ancestors who came with her from the river and the sea.
In the early morning of the sixth day - the graduation day - two cows were slaughtered. Normally only one cow is slaughtered but Zamalwandle dreamt that two cows needed to be slaughtered.
The slaughtering of animals is the most important part of the ceremony.
Cows must bellow when slaughtered, and goats must bleat, otherwise it is taken as a sign that the sacrifice has not been accepted and the ceremony cannot continue. In isiXhosa, the expression, engakhaliyo iyayekwa means if it does not bellow you must leave it.
After the slaughtering, Zamalwandle was given an itshoba (a stick made of an ox’s tail that was slaughtered and is decorated with white beads) by her father, and an isidlokolo (headdress) was placed on her head.
After receiving the itshoba, she is officially an igqirha (initiator). She is allowed to train initiates and to begin practising as an igqirha.