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 ways she sighted a spirit shape whereas partaking within the Ihamba ritual of the Ndembu. via her research, she offers a view no longer universal in anthropological writings—the view of hundreds of thousands of Africans—that ritual is the harnessing of non secular power.

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After being cured of his ihamba, Benwa became an Ihamba doctor himself. He assisted in the first ritual of the two I saw, actively engaged in the task of taking out the tooth. Soon the day of the Ihamba was upon us. At this stage we did not know the villagers and their problems very well, and learnt as we went along. 30 The Field Context of the Ihamba Rituals We discovered that Singleton and Fideli had a patient with an ihamba tooth wandering in her body. They were going to treat and cure her in this daytime ritual.

Such an object is the tooth that afflicts the Ndembu sufferer. ") Further, we see not only how the genres that ritual employs are multiplex as regard to the five senses but also how ritual requires its particular range of traditional elements to be linked in special combination in order to be effective. In the case of Ihamba, all the following elements were indispensable: the patient, the doctor, medicines, tutelary spirits, participants, the particular social state of the community, singing, drurnrning, dancing, "words" or deep outbreaks of grievances, divinatory propositions (questions put to the spirit), shrine, spirit-objects, ritual paraphernalia, and ritual performance itself with its impeded form and delayed climax.

He put the leaves he held into his mouth, chewed them, and spat the juice on Kamahasanyi. . He was building up suspense. . With a smile he took over. . He pronounced. . he said firmly. . he shouted. . singing with a sad smile" (pp. 168-72, 292-93). Singleton had the same natural firmness. Singleton, Fideli, and Vesa (D12, Singleton's brother-in-law, whom we discovered was an apprentice doctor) gathered together a small hoe, a long hollow wooden rasp (aptly termed a "stridulator" by Victor Turner), complete with a new reed for playing it, a small tin can containing honey beer, a small well-worn bag made of cloth, another small pouch made of mongoose skin containing nsomu medcine (Turner 1968, 28) the ingredents of which are described below, a very small horn from a blue duiker antelope, just large enough to fit on a finger, tucked into the string tie of the skin pouch, and an ax.

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