Healing and Consciousness.....


Alliouagana Garveyite
Healing and Consciousness in
African Tribal Medicine

By George Davis, American Griot

To the mind of the ancient African the universe was filled from end to end with the visible and the invisible. And it was the invisible that made things move, and it was only unto each consciousness that invisible and visible things were revealed. How else could they be revealed? What else could make things move? Only the invisible, and so it was the invisible that was all-powerful.

The Akan of Ghana called the invisible sunsum. The Mandinka of Gambia called it nunee. We call it spirit. Sickness and health are invisible. They are part of the indwelling invisible. They are spirit. One aspect of spirit was horrible; and it is well represented by some of the fierce-looking masks on display in "To Cure and Protect: Sickness and Health in African Art."

The masks were used in tribal dance to depict the aspect of spirit called dis-ease - tuberculosis, malaria and leprosy, sleeping sickness, seizure and infertility were thought to be forms of dis-ease. The mask could help bring these invisible dis-eases, these un-easinesses of spirit, to consciousness in all who participated in the dance. The frenzy of the dance heightened the consciousness. It was in consciousness of spirit, that diseases had to be cured; and so there are also carvings in the exhibit which are intended to bring consciousness of the healthy aspect of spirit, or rather to keep it in consciousness.

In the exhibition are bronze carved human figures dressed in regal clothing. They were used to maintain consciousness of youth, strength, energy, comeliness, intelligence, inner peace, and sublime joy. Statues used to maintain consciousness of the invisible power of health were not used in frenzied ceremonial dance. They had places in various parts of everyday life. They embodied the normal, healthy spirit of everyday life. This was the primary function of art in tribal life. Whenever the invisible power of health had to be evoked there were divining rods topped with delicate birds, which could act on the indwelling spirit more forcefully than a modern placebo.

And there is a woven diviner's bag in the exhibit. It must have once been filled with herbs that did for ancient Africans what chamomile (sedative), Echinacea (anti-infectant), ginseng (energizer) do for us now, only more. The diviner's bag was for carrying herbs. Herbs were stored in calabashes with complex compartments and stoppers. It was the individual, intangible, invisible power of spirit, in each of the herbs and plants that made each affective against an individual kind of dis-ease of spirit. There was a binding unity of spirit (group-consciousness of spirit) that made health and dis-ease a communal affair, and in spirit the living was bonded to departed ancestors. Departed ancestors could well be the cause of dis-ease of spirit, especially when traditional ways had been violated or suspected to have been violated by the person or someone closely connected with the person in whom the spirit was dis-eased.

Healers tried to connect with people who had in the past faced challenges of spirit, especially death, the ultimate challenge, because death marked a change from being inspirited flesh to being all spirit, but not pure spirit. Only God, the supreme spirit, was pure spirit. Living people could create disease in others. A man from whom something had been stolen could dis-ease the spirit in the thief. Tribal justice was connected by spirit to health of individual lawbreakers and/or their families. A jealous person could dis-ease the spirit in a rival.

Love was connected by spirit to health, and each person was connected to all others. Everything was connected. Religion (appealing to the spirit) and medicine (soothing of the spirit) and dance (evoking the spirit) and games (enjoying the spirit) were indivisible. Living people could help maintain a healthy spirit in others. In fact, health in all was dependent on the consciousness of spirit in each, and the spirit of each was dependent on consciousness of the holistic, communal spirit of all.


Interesting article but I hope no one uses these methods of tribal medicine nowadays. Time zips along after all.


Thankfully, I live in a country with a pretty developed level of healthcare and I never face such practices. Today we can even use surrogacy services. Read about them on this link. What are your thoughts on it? I just heard that some people find this practice unethical.