Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Potions and Prayers

Are you a woman afflicted with "bareness"? Or maybe you have a family member who is "bewited"? Do you have things moving in your body? Are you after more "man power" ? Do you need help selling property or attracting business or bringing back a lost lover in 24 hours, no less!? (It seems to take 28 hours to bring back stolen property, however.) Do you need to have bad spells removed from your business or home? I'm not sure if this is the same as "body, house, and property cleansing," but that service is also offered. Illnesses such as cancer, blood pressure, TB, HIV/AIDS, skin problems, body pains, and madness are also on the list.

All of these conditions, and many more, are treated by people who call themselves "herbalist healers" or practitioners of "African, Indian, Arabic and Chinese Medicine." Some of them offer guarantees. The initial consultation fee is 20,000 Kwachas (about $5), but I don't know what the treatments cost. These traditional healers advertise their services in flyers passed out on the streets of Kitwe. The examples I have cited above are direct quotes from these ads.

Dr. Ojaku "has got herbs from Nigeria and in the tropical forests of Africa" and as well he will be "telling you your problems using Spiritual Powers and the Rock." Dr. Organ Lwazi is associated with the "Herbal Joint Research Under World Medical Clinic Research Centre", as is Dr. Isa.

The list of issues for which treatment is offered, as contained in the advertising, gives an indication of what people are stressed about here in Zambia. They seem to fall into three categories: body/health problems, love/relationship problems, and business/economic problems. I suspect that many of the issues in the first two categories are similar to what people might consult doctors and mental health professionals about in the U.S., but I doubt that many of us take our business or financial concerns to healers.

From the lists on the ads, health issues specific to women center on fertility, and men's issues on sexual performance. Particular relationship problems mentioned include dealing with jealousy between spouses or neighbors, getting and keeping lovers/mates, overcoming misunderstandings, preventing your mate from cheating, and getting your boyfriend/girlfriend to marry you. (Zambians seem to favor engagement periods that last sometimes for several years.) Dealing with hatred and 'spells" (witchcraft?) was also featured on the lists. In the area of business and finance, the herbal specialists promise help with attracting customers, selling property, having good luck, finding and keeping jobs, getting promotions, winning court cases, and starting enterprises. The one service I found that related to kids was help with passing exams.

As an alternative to these traditional healers, some churches offer "deliverance" services or ceremonies. These are designed to deal with the same problems listed above, plus such issues as being troubled by nightmares or disturbing thoughts, or being possessed by demonic spirits. They consist of vigorous prayers and "laying on of hands", punctuated by singing and dancing. Some of my students have attended such observances and report that many people are helped by the interventions.

Personally, I'm sticking to "an apple a day" and positive thinking--seems to work for me!

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