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1 - Healing (and Harming) Specialists

Plural Medicine in Angola and Kongo

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 February 2021

Kalle Kananoja
Affiliation:
University of Oulu, Finland
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Summary

This chapter begins with a discussion of concepts related to health and illness in West-Central African societies. It then focuses on the plurality of African healing specialists in the region. Some of the African healers treated everyday occurrences of illness with natural remedies and could be referred to as herbalists. Other healer-diviners focused on treating social ills or so-called diseases of men. Besides offering herbal remedies, their methods often included religious rituals and ceremonial practices. Such activities were often scrutinised and investigated by the Inquisitional commissioners in Luanda. The activities of herbalists, on the contrary, rarely led to denunciations to the Portuguese religious or secular authorities. In West-Central Africa, African herbalists, healers and diviners were the primary source of healing knowledge and power. The imagined powers of individual healers were made manifold by their mobility. Mobile healers offered the possibility of new cures, both spiritual and medicinal.

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Chapter
Information
Healing Knowledge in Atlantic Africa
Medical Encounters, 1500–1850
, pp. 26 - 49
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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