Southern Africa

Southern Africa – Application of the term shaman in this vast region of Africa (ranging from desert and semiarid areas to rain forest and temperate zones and comprising the countries of Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Namibia) is controversial since purist scholars restrict shamanism to the locus classicus of Siberia and the Arctic. Nonetheless, Ioan Lewis has convincingly argued that shamanisms exist in Southern Africa and points to examples where possession states are integral to practice for some shamans. The most obvious candidate for shamanistic practice in Southern Africa today is found among the San (Bushmen) of the Kalahari Desert (of Botswana and Namibia), namely, their healing and trance dances. Similarly, the exquisite rock art produced by their ancestors has generated much of the debate about the possible shamanistic interpretation of rock art. This art also draws attention to the intercultural relationship between the San and surrounding Bantu peoples, for example, depicting shamans’ abilities to bring rain to these pastoralists and agriculturalists, and thus illustrates another dimension of the political nature of shamanism. South African healing and anti-witchcraft movements (e.g., Sangoma) have also been considered shamanic. The Zulu writer Credo Mutwa has had considerable influence on neo-shamans internationally.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


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