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Traditional Healers in Southern Africa

Mariana G. Hewson, PhD
[+] Article and Author Information

From the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio. For the current author address, see end of text. Acknowledgments: The author thanks Constancio Chirindza, Susannah Chirindza, and Souliman for serving as translators and Thomas A. Lang for help with manuscript preparation. Grant Support: In part by the Swedish International Development Agency. Requests for Reprints: Mariana G. Hewson, PhD, Division of Education, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195.


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1998;128(12_Part_1):1029-1034. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-128-12_Part_1-199806150-00014
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One task of medical anthropologists is to search for similarities and differences among cultural conceptions of illness and healing.This search may identify common, if not universal, characteristics of healing and effective patient care. This paper describes traditional healing practices in southern Africa as related by six traditional healers. Despite the seemingly exotic nature of their practice, the traditional healers' underlying strategies (probing deeply into the psychological, spiritual, and social contexts of illness and using healing ceremonies and natural medicinal preparations) seem to be effective in certain circumstances. Perhaps more important, these strategies can leave both patient and practitioner with a sense of connection and satisfaction. A study of these strategies reveals some general qualities of the healing process that are more apparent in the absence of sophisticated technology.

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