Predictions of a Sangoma

Towards the end of of 1996 I was sitting in my office in Johannesburg talking with Rupi, a work colleague. She was telling me something of her family history, the circumstances which brought her ancestors from India to live in South Africa over 80 years ago; and about life for the Indian community under apartheid.
Business district Joburg (Gauteng)
The conversation turned to her personal life and struggle as a young wife to conceive a child. To my surprise, this slight wisp of an Indian woman told me that she had consulted a Sangoma* (whom the Western world would call a witch doctor) about her apparent infertility. I stared hard at Rupi. 

The Sangoma told Rupi her first child, a son, would be born within two years and a daughter would follow soon after. She should stop worrying, relax and live her life. Her dreams would come true. By the time I met Rupi her daughter was about three years old. Did she actually consult a Sangoma about her inability to conceive? That seemed so improbable.

Rupi said she highly recommended this Sangoma and I should go for a consultation. My first response was ‘not on your life’.  From the little I had read about the African Sangoma they were revered traditional healers who after years of training, and probably a calling, were able to summon the spirit of the ancestors to assist their healing work.  But my Western conditioning conjured visions of bones and potions, cowrie shells and dead bats.  

bones and things

            Rupi insisted that I should go, and told me where I could find this Sangoma – not in an out of the way village somewhere as I had imagined, but right in the middle of town, about a 20 minute drive from where we were sitting, in quite a plush part of Johannesburg. I was intrigued.

          Eventually, I summoned up the courage to ring the number Rupi had given me. The voice gave me dates and times when the Sangoma could see me. And so the time came when I was sitting in the Sangoma’s quiet and tranquil office. She looked at me and smiled, perhaps noting the incredulity on my face. This was not what I had been expecting by a long way.
           The Sangoma brought out her paraphernalia and together we made a spread on the small table between us.  She told me I would be returning to my own country shortly, and within a year from now I would be going back to school and would work with women. What? You must be joking, I thought; going back to school at this time of my life, not bloody likely. That was the furthest thing from my mind. That was never going to happen; it was simply unimaginable. I had already been through higher education and had no desire to ‘go back to school’.
Famous last words spoken in ignorance of what the gods had in store for me. 
            A few months before the much heralded 'two nations in concert' event in Joburg, when the Spice Girls met Nelson Mandela and Charles Prince of Wales came, accompanied by Harry, I was back in the UK for about a month. I had no inkling, not even a vague thought or plan, that within the next six months I would be leaving South Africa.

     During that month in London a series of synchronistic events – better termed as ‘the gods at play’ – propelled me, much to my astonishment, to enrol on a post-graduate programme in transpersonal psychology. This was something which had never been part of my thought process at any time, not even on the periphery of my vision, ever. Never saw that one coming.  And as it turned out my first job, on return to the UK just over a year after consulting the Sangoma was at the Women’s Therapy Centre. (Founded by Susie Orbach, the centre was run by women for women)! Well blow me down. 

Rosebank district, Joburg
Whenever I re-tell myself that story, I have to laugh out loud. Rupi’s Sangoma turned out to be a white British woman, originally from Peterborough, with her consultancy in the plush Jo'burg district of Rosebank.  

She was an absolutely brilliant taro card reader.


*The Sangoma, a South African shaman, is a traditional healer. They are highly revered and respected. Their importance to the tribal community is vital, they fulfill duties from healing physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses, directing birth or death rituals.

Related Posts: Back to Africa; Rock and Royality in South Africa


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