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What is ancestral calling?

Ancestral calling Ubizo according to Southern Africa  Nguni people is an awakening to one’s purpose called on by our ancestors. It is usually to be a healer Sangoma, though healing is just one of many reasons for this calling.

Amadlozi or Vadzimu are ancestors of the Nguni people. Ancestors are summoned for help. They’re considered  as custodians of our lives. According to gogo Nokulinda Mhize a young sangoma, they’re various types of ancestors and spirits that exist within the bloodline of Southern African people.

Ancestral calling is not chosen, it chooses you. It is then up to the person to accept the calling or reject it. In accepting the calling the person will go through an initiation process called Intwaso in Xhosa which means “spiritual emergence”. In Zulu the initiation process called  Ukuthwasa meaning ” to emerge as a healer”.


What is mental health?

WHO defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every person realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to give to his or her community.

Types of mental health issues include Anxiety & Panic Disorders, Depression, Eating Disorders, Bipolar Disorders,  Substance Abuse & Addiction, schizophrenia among many others.

Mental well-being is just as important and critical as physical well-being. Most of us struggle with some aspect of mental health at some point in our lives ranging from mild to severe. Whilst some people are relatively able to ‘cope’  with the vicissitudes of life, others need help when struggling with for an example depression and or anxiety.

Ancestral calling and/or mental illness?

It is usually difficult to tell whether an individual is struggling with mental illness or needs to heed an ancestral calling. Psychologists and Psychiatrists also get it wrong as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders they rely on is heavily western.

Some symptoms like Schizophrenia which presents itself according to DSM-5 with symptoms such as hearing voices, hallucinations, aggression, abnormal behaviour among others are similar to symptoms of someone who may have an ancestral calling hence creating a lot of confusion.

Fortunately as more people learn that healing has not always been linear or western,  there’s more collaboration among traditional healers and psychologists/ psychiatrists in working together towards a common goal, healing.

It is important for professionals to acknowledge  limited knowledge, skills or understanding in-order-to help the patient best i.e further referral until the ‘right’ treatment for the patient is found.

This is sometimes a tedious and painful process like in the case of gogo Dineo Ndlanzi’s calling. According to her it took a lot of trial and error to eventually find out what was ‘wrong’ with her.

It is therefore necessary for any person or family struggling and confused on whether they have an ancestral calling or mental illness to  engage and be open-minded towards finding solutions.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ancestral calling?

Sighs and symptoms of Ubizo vary from person to person depending on calling. Some of the symptoms recorded or testified include but are not limited to the following;

  • Constant vivid dreams for an example some people have mentioned seeing a snake speaking to them in their dreams
  • Extreme physical illness that medical doctors struggle to understand, diagnose and treat
  • Mental confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Hearing and seeing ‘things’ ( hallucinations)
  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Social isolation
  • Restlessness
  • Violence
  • Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene
  • Aimless wondering
  • Eating poorly

It is also believed that if you have the calling ancestral spirits may cause obstacles in individual’s everyday life together with various family problems.

It is important if you suspect you have an ancestral calling or know of a close family member who may have the calling to start enquiring.

Ask tough questions to those who can help. This is usually a very vulnerable period in a person’s life so trust is key as sadly they’re people who exploit vulnerability for their own profit.

They’re various resources one can explore, from speaking with close trusted family members to researching via internet if access is not difficult.

Online they’re  emerging young Sangoma’s like Gogo Nokulinda Mhize who is disrupting the traditional understanding of a Sangoma, challenging status quo through online healing. She consults via Skype among other channels if physical consultation is impossible or difficult.

Other Sangomas who’re also raising attention online and offline are Gogo Moyo who has a  YouTube channel as well Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi who is the   founder of  Institute of Spiritual healing .

Dreams: What are dreams and what do they mean? Gogo Moyo speaks

Can mental illness and ancestral calling co-exist?

An in-depth interview conducted in Mpumalanga(2010)  with Zulu traditional healers, about 60% said that psychosis is not necessarily a mental disorder.

An example is hearing voices which some traditional healers linked to instructions to accept the calling as a healer. They also said mental psychosis can also be attached to the healing process when you’re going through Ukuthwasa( the initiation)

However there also was an acknowledgment that mental illness due to a genetic component not ancestral calling existed.

Generally a person can have an ancestral calling and struggle with mental illness, they can also have an ancestral calling and not suffer from any mental illnesses.

The reverse is also true, they can suffer from  a mental illness exclusively without it being attached to an ancestral calling. Proper consultation, diagnosis, assessment is necessary by trained and experienced people.

What help is available for mental health-related issues?

Mental health has been a long neglected issue that affects people daily. It is encouraging that though we still have a long journey ahead conversations around mental health issues are becoming more mainstream, helping in reducing stigma and ignorance.

Help is available for those struggling with any mental health issues like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and drug abuse etcetera. It requires for the person reach out or speak to someone trusted.

In South Africa they’re organisation like Lifeline, Childline, SADAG ,FAMSA  just to mention a few that offer free telephone and face to face counselling.

They’re also various trained professionals in government or private sector that also help with mental health issues.

Healing is not also always  logical and linear, they’re different ways to healing that have existed for centuries.  I do not advocate for any one particular model of healing or prefer one to another.

People are complex and one size fits all does not work as history has proven. The need and importance of understanding diversity has resulted within the psychology field in investing in diverse and different approaches to the field.

It is important to research, be informed and try treatment options that best suit you.