Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964623 | Print ISBN: 9781412936361 | Online ISBN: 9781412964623| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Medicine Men and Women
Katherine Olukemi Bankole
From the earliest of times, Africans have conceptualized a special class of individuals (men and women) as having evolved to interpret, address, and eradicate the experience of disease. These communally based individuals worked in pursuit of optimal health. They were responsible for protecting people from physical and spiritual harm. They are known as traditional healers or priests, shamans—medicine men and women. Traditional healers come from a wide variety of ethnic/ national backgrounds and often cultivate specific areas of expertise. They are the professional doctors within communities who are guided by God through the orishas (divinities) and the ancestors. They are often believed to channel the spirit of the ancestors for assistance. This entry looks at their training and practice, as well as their role in different African societies. Because of the great responsibility within the role of traditional healer, medicine men and women were wholly accountable to the communities they ...