A visit to a witch doctor in Cape Town

Sunday, January 18th ~ Part 4, Langa, Cape Town, South Africa

Children are the same the world over when allowed to play.

Children are the same the world over when allowed to play.

As you have probably already figured out, between having a very busy schedule and limited Internet service this past week, I have gotten quite behind in my “on the fly” travel dialog. I know I promised to tell you about our visit to the local witch doctor, and I will get to that in a moment, but first…

I don’t want to leave the impression that all of the area is a barrio. It is not. However a good portion of it is sadly what we would consider deplorable conditions in which to live.

One part that did give me joy as well as fascinated me was seeing how many of the local people have used their ingenuity to create businesses for themselves out of very little. Here are a few pictures of local businesses that caught my eye. 

First a barber shop

I loved this combination. The Lord’s chosen revival; A division of Max refrigeration and electrical repairs.


Save your soul and/or repair your appliances???

Car wash

Car wash

A large selection of hair styles to choose from

A large selection of hair styles are listed on the door to choose from

New meaning of a "shade tree mechanic"

New meaning of a “shade tree mechanic”

Fast food

Fast food available here

Sorry, but this one seemed so out of place here


We went past a section of the township where sheep heads were being cooked and sold.

Can you spot the sheep head?

Can you spot the sheep head? It is on a pallet between the woman in yellow and person in center

And an open air market place where meat and produce were available.


Purchase meat raw or cooked on the grill

After spending several hours in the poorest section of Cape Town, our guide took us to visit a local Medicine Man or Witch Doctor.

There are two basic types of traditional healers in South Africa. They are the Sangoma which are diviners and the Inyanga that use herbs.  They are highly revered and sometimes feared for their abilities.

“They fulfill different social and political roles in the community, including divination, healing physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses, directing birth or death rituals, finding lost cattle, protecting warriors, counteracting witches, and narrating the history, cosmology, and myths of their tradition.” ~ Wikipedia

There are in the neighborhood of 25,000 Western trained doctors in South Africa compared to around 200,000 Witch doctors.

“Traditional healers will often give their patients muti—medications made from plant, animal and minerals—imbued with spiritual significance. These muti often have powerful symbolism; for example, lion fat might be prepared for children to promote courage. There are medicines for everything from physical and mental illness, social disharmony and spiritual difficulties to potions for protection, love and luck.” ~ Wikipedia

The man we visited had set up shop inside a shipping container, right next door to the barber shop shown in one of the pictures above. A couple of us entered at a time. As our eyes slowly adjusted to the dimly lit interior, we carefully made our way deeper inside.

Near the back of the room, a small man welcomed us. His accent was strong and he was a little difficult to understand. Two candles burned on a wooden counter. The sides of the room were covered by a huge selection of jars containing herbs and far too many mysterious concoctions.

Witch doctor

Witch doctor

Hanging above us were skulls, seed pods, animal parts, feathers, and leaves as well as many things I could not identify.

After a few minutes where he talked to us, we started to leave to make room for a few more to come inside. He stopped me, and started brushing my head with a bundle of leaves or twigs. I have no idea if he was trying to bless me or remove an evil spirit, but it was a very unique experience.

A blessing from the Medicine Man?

A blessing from the Medicine Man?

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the diversity of faiths and beliefs that we are being exposed to. Even if my thought patterns and beliefs are quite different from some others, I can respect that I do not have all of the answers, can be respectful to their way of life and can often learn something that will improve or enrich my life.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
This entry was posted in Africa, South Africa and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A visit to a witch doctor in Cape Town

  1. Ginny Schaw says:

    Joanne, Wherever your blessing comes from, it is well deserved! I am enjoying your journey. Thank you for sharing.


  2. I agree with your grateful sentiment. We don’t know everything and it’s good to explore other ideas. I wonder what the doctor was imparting with his touch. Maybe he was just opening your eyes a little wider. That is a true blessing. Tracey


  3. Janna D says:

    How fascinating! Such a neat experience.


  4. Fatima De Almeida says:

    I enjoyed very much reading your tour, living in south Africa and in cape Town, I know the struggles of living and the will power of the people to do something for themselves to earn a living. He must have seeing something in you , they do good things.
    Please give any contact you have from him , cell number. I really appreciate.


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