By Kutloano Kunutu
Pic by : Kutloano Kunutu
With the ever increasing number of break-ins happening to student digs in Grahamstown, it is not surprising that people have become more open to suggestion and considering other methods of protecting themselves and their property. One of the suggestions going around is the use of uMuthi, bought from iSangoma, to protect your house from being broken into.
PJ Waugh is a Rhodes student who has heard about car oil mixed with chicken blood as a kind of uMuthi used by people to protect their houses. He says the mixture is poured around the house to make what he calls a “perimeter of spiritual protection”. So we’re all asking ourselves, “Does it work?”
Penny Bernard, lecturer in traditional medical anthropology from the Rhodes Department of Anthropology, says, “[I am] aware that [the use of uMuthi] is regarded as an acceptable way to protect oneself.” In the context of Zulu traditional medicine, she explains there is a ‘medicine’, called iNtelezi, that protects one not only from house break-ins, but against anything one would need protection from. She explains that although iSangoma can give students iNtelezi to use, iSangoma’s main role is to identify the problem and then prescribe uMuthi, which almost always includes intelezi.
The specialisation of making and distributing iNtelezi lies predominantly with herbalists. Bernard also explains that the use of intelezi needs to be done in a ritual setting and, while one can simply buy intelezi and essentially perform a DIY ritual, it works better if the ‘sprinkling’ of intelezi is done by – who Bernard refers to as – someone who is spiritually empowered to do the ritual.
In the Xhosa/Eastern Cape context of traditional medicine, Michelle Cocks, Senior Research Officer at Rhodes University, has done research on the use of iNtelezi, the plant which, essentially, serves the same purpose as iNtelezi in the Zulu context – protection.
She explains that, although people do buy iNtelezi in liquid or potion form, which she says, “is very often crushed or mixed with water,” from healers which tend to be more potent, especially towards human beings. People also plant iNtelezi in their gardens and, at times, on their roofs like in the Transkei to protect their houses from snakes and lightning.
The use of iNtelezi, Bernard says, is the use of uMuthi in a more magical sense, “invoking spirits to protect a site”. Having used iNtelezi herself to protect her family and her home with unusual but successful results, she advises people to try using iNtelezi for protection to see how it works for them. There is no denying that crime is on the rise, even in Grahamstown, and maybe a little African magic is where it is at.
Located in Bathurst Street, tucked inside Crafters Court shopping centre, you will find the Super Star Herbalist Shop. Simply walking into this store feels mystical and exciting in itself. It specialises in African uMuthi, boasting a large stock of various special charms and potions. The walls are lined with trays of interesting-looking herbs and roots, and there are beads and dream-catchers dangling from the low-slung ceiling. If you’re interested, this curious little shop is definitely worth a visit.