THE GIFT OF AFRICAN ANCESTRAL HEALING PRACTICES

African ancestral healing practices are is an art and/or science depending on one’s perspective. To the practitioner, it is the science and art of providing holistic health care services using tools readily available to him – divination, spiritualism, and herbal medicine, among others. It is to be cherished, nurtured, and protected from the uninitiated.

Its mysteries, determined by the culture, religious background, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of the community to which the practitioner belongs, cannot be exposed with only adepts being privy to its secrets.

Traditional healers, like medical practitioners, are not a homogeneous group. The term “traditional healer” is an umbrella concept that encompasses different types of healers with different types of training and expertise. Wellness professionals can come in the form of; a therapist, coach, medical practitioner, priest, or other spiritual guides.

These traditional healers and those seeking healing make use of wholesome practices like singing, chanting, drumming, intrapsychic strengths, and consultations. Today, most of these practices have not been incorporated into western medicine for mental health wellness and despite being proven to be effective.

The journey of healing begins with figuring out what to do, first of all acknowledging that there is a problem and deciding to do something about it. Figuring out what to do lays the foundation for the healing to come.

Awareness that we inherited this healing will support our African-centered healing informed framework for the well-being of black people. In African traditional healing, this became the beginning of a series of healing sessions.

While it’s true that black people inherited trauma and some wounds, we also inherited healing and well-being. These healing practices have been passed down from generation to generation, we cannot forget them. Issues relating to mental health were handled with calming routines, that promoted mindfulness.

Your healing journey begins when you figure out what to do, you can decide to seek therapy, consult with friends, join support groups or get a coach. Figuring out what to do captured how healers and seekers of healing consulted guides and came up with steps for reclaiming health. Whatever it is you decide to do, right there at the point where you decided, your healing began.

Ancestral herbal medicine is but one part of the plethora of specialties in African traditional healing practices. Different plant parts such as roots, leaves, barks, and seeds are used to treat various ailments based on a thorough knowledge of indigenous plants and the steps necessary for turning such plants into drugs. Herbal medicines are intended to promote health and prevent disease. Western medicine is geared towards symptom management and seldom resolves the root issue of dysfunction.

Practitioners are usually well versed in the selection, compounding, dosage, efficacy, and toxicity of the herbal mixtures. However, ancestral herbal medicines and healing practices were derided by classical western medicine because of poor quality control and safety, lack of standardization, secrecy, lack of documentation, etc. Attributing to the racist decisions towards cannabis prohibition.

These negatives notwithstanding, ancestral herbal medicine provided acceptable and functional levels of health care where other choices were simply unavailable. It sustained the community and kept them healthy.

Today, it can be said that the practice of ancestral herbal medicine exposed western medicine to the medicinal use of various plants. Indeed, African traditional herbal medicine was a gift to the ancestors and is a greater gift to modern medicine.

Sacred rituals were also a prominent part of the African traditional healing practice of which there are three categories: Common remedies, which did not require rituals were available to all and sundry. In these types of remedies, everyone in the family knew what herbs to use to treat burns. Everyone knew what leaves and barks to boil and use as sauna in the treatment of malaria. These were readily prescribed free of-charge.

Then there were remedies handed down from mother to daughter or father to son. These remedies were considered gifts from the spirit world and were jealously guarded and transmitted, by careful grooming of recipients, within and among the family. Some of the abilities include bone-setting and delivery of new born babies.

Finally, there were remedies that could only be performed by priests or specialists healers. These specialists and priests undergo rigorous training periods and initiations, within specific social and religious contexts that require ritual actions to enhance their practical knowledge and experience.

Sacred rituals can take various forms. In some cultures and religions, food and drinks are places on road crossings by traditional healers as ritual offering to some divine being for the manifestation of some blessing, favour or action. These sacred rituals can also be performed by river banks and other location depending on the particular favour or healing being sought. The beings to which the sacrifices are offered can be ancestral spirits, lesser spirits or the supreme being – the first among equals. Other ritual offerings can include supplication, dance, praise song, eulogy or threat.

The ritual of threat is quite interesting as it says, for instance, “if you (the being whose favour is being sought) do not heal me, who then would perform other rituals for you?” Some of these rituals are recommended by the priests or healers as condition precedent before the favour being sought can be granted. They can also be performed by the supplicant alone or in company of the healer.

The ancestral African society was communal. Things were done in common and everyone watched out for everyone else. This communal attribute flows in healing processes where the sick is accompanied by family members to the traditional healer. The company can act as support or as witness to the activities.

African Americans, as prominent members of a marginalised group, continue to be affected by the very traumatic past events of slavery. This state of unwellness manifests in substance abuse, unresolved grief and anxiety, among others.

The ancestral African traditional healing is not only practiced in Africa, it can be found, in various incarnations, wherever Africans were taken as slaves.

These practices help temper the adverse negative effects of inherited generational trauma experienced by descendants of slaves. Generational trauma expresses itself in the structural determinants of health, which are economic/social policies that affect income, working conditions, housing and education.

Practically, the remaining vestiges of ancestral African traditional healing, even in the diaspora, still remains a gift that keeps giving.

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