Every time I hear the drums I start to sweat and get stomach cramps. I hear my ancestors calling me. Our tradition requires a representative from each generation to become a Sangoma, a spiritual healer. Now I feel it is my obligation. My ancestors want me to take the place my mother refused. I feel my past clawing at me. But I do not want this. My name is Normazo, which means struggle in Zulu, and I am true to my name.
‘Mother,” I asked, just before she died. ‘Why did you not become a healer?’
‘Take care daughter,’ she said. ‘Some dreams are not true dreams. If the spirit that gives you your dreams is a roaming spirit, and not a family spirit, that spirit can lead you astray. Healing is not for me. I refuse.’
Who can help me now? Who can I turn to? Perhaps only another Sangoma will have the answers.
So today I’ve come to see Makosi Gugu, our village’s chief healer. She is full of energy. She has big breasts and wears beads and unspeakable things to braid her hair. These jingle every time she moves her head.
‘I help you,’ she says, all loud and confident. ‘We ask the ancestors. They will tell us. They will show us.’
As we approach Makosi Gugui’s sacred healing hut there is drumming and singing from her followers. These rhythms help summon the ancestors; their song is about the bad luck you bring on yourself if you do not accept them. The drums have a strong affect on me. I feel sick and sweaty. Makosi Gugu’s granddaughter joins us; she is training to become a Sangoma. She stares at me with cold eyes as if we are starting a race that she wants to win.
Inside, the hut is hot and dark, and I taste power. The Makosi sits on a large chair with her granddaughter on the floor beside her. I sit on a stool in front of them. As my eyes adjust to the dark I see lined up behind them many bottles containing medicinal Muti; herbs, seeds, oats, soil, pieces of bone, and the feet of chickens. The air is dry and smells of earth. I feel faint.
Makosi Gugu talks loudly to her granddaughter but I can barely hear her.
‘She’s not herself,’ I hear her say. ‘It’s the ancestors coming to her. Somebody in her family, her mother, or grandmother, or somebody, is supposed to take this job. Now she has to take the ancestors, but she don’t let them in.’
Then I pass out and don’t remember anything until I wake up being cradled by Makosi Gugu in the bright daylight outside the hut.
‘What happened,’ I ask.
‘The spirits,’ she says. ‘Your ancestors came. They give you a good hiding. This is no joke Normazo. You become healer or you get sick like your mother.’
I hear the drums and feel their rhythm. I feel my ancestors winning.