Grade 6 - Term 4: Medicine through time

Isangomas and inyangas are the two main types of indigenous or traditional healers in South Africa.


Isangomas are spiritual healers and are often women. They are people who diagnose illness.

People often visit the sangoma in family groups but sometimes they go alone. The reason for this is that the sangoma does not see people as inpiduals but rather sees them as part of a community.

People’s sickness is often related to their relationship with other people. People can also become sick because they are having problems at home or work. This is the reason why sangomas look at the environment that people live and work in to find reasons for their illness.

Sangomas also look at social factors that could make someone ill, as well as the physical symptoms. This way of looking at illness referred is called holistic. When sangomas diagnose illness, they listen to their ancestors. When sangomas are listening to their ancestors, they may put on special clothes and beads.

They may use dancing, singing and drumming during a healing ritual. The ancestors speak through them.

Last updated : 27-Feb-2018

This article was produced for South African History Online on 27-May-2011