Among the Healers









Introduction : Recognize Spiritual Healing



Breakthrough to Healing






Experience of Power



Imparting of Power



Praesence of Spirits



Idea of Communitas



Patterns of Healing







pp. xiii-xiv spirits

p. xiii

In Zambia, “drum rituals” are “acts of great sensitivity and skill, directed toward mysterious spirits, akishi.” {/nkisi/ in Kongolese}

p. xiv

Zambian “medicine people drummed and sang, making a loud and beautiful noise to arouse the spirit. They danced to invite the spirit.”

p. xv spirits are real

One could sense the attention in the shamans' voices and feel the presence of those whom they were calling. … Now …, I noticed … : spirits were present and they were real. … Accordingly, from that time onward … I not only sang and danced along with the people but I also prayed with them”.



Introduction : Recognize Spiritual Healing


p. xix healing power is from a spirit-helper

healing is provided by a power or spirit helper coming to assist a willing person … . It is that power or spirit that works through the healer … and takes away … the source of the trouble.”

p. xx how the authoress was healed once

I go to an Inuit healer[ess]. She spreads her hands over my head, just once, collects the headache right out of it, and tosses it away. I immediately feel great.”

p. xxi persons who read about miraculous healing can become healers themselves

The material in this book is presented so that by honoring other healers, we may approach the sacred ourselves. … Once readers have assimilated something of the grand partnership in healing that is secretly joined throughout the world …, then the idea of actually doing it will come to readers and they will realize that it is quite possible.”

p. xxii connectedness of souls throughout the universe

the completion of the gift of the experience … is the opening to another person, the communication of the spirit, and the connection of the soul with other souls. The human being with its soul can reach another, and this is part of the connectedness that runs through the universe. There has always been a connection of all things with all things. … This is the recognition of what has been called the law of mystical participation.”

pp. xxii-xxiii energy, power, and spirits

p. xxii

spiritual healing has occurred … as … : healing with energy,

healing with power, or

healing with spirits”.

The energy section shows how individuals avail themselves of a … real gift that they may actually feel in the hands, hands that sometimes develop such heat that the whole body experiences a boiling sensation. … Disease is felt as a spiritual substance that the hands often have to pull out, sometimes with a great effort and a shout”.

Power is a sensation mightily arriving …, flooding out from the gods or God. Occasionally people get a sense of a reservoir of power that is available to us all, that is always there … . …

p. xxiii

Where human interconnectedness is most strong … is when people talk about some force or spirit … being in the “Zone.”

{This human interconnectedness of being in the “Zone” is known in Quakerdom as a “gathered meeting”.}

Spirits tend to be insistent : they take the initiative, they … deposit one in an unfamiliar vocation {viz., the vocation of spirit-mediumship}. They are sometimes visible, they often speak; they choose a person {to be their spirit-medium}, and a person does not choose them. … . … a budding healer finds a spirit … demanding to have its headquarters there for the sake of the sick and for the sake of the survival of the human faculty of spirituality. One sees great drama in the willingness of a healer to help with the healing, agreeing even to possession rites {i.e., to the mortal spiritual healer's becoming possessed by that spirit} if these will only help the healing. For the sake of the sick, healers will undertake tricky shamanic adventures with dangerous flights and struggles with {ostensibly} evil spirits.”

pp. xxiv-xxv the chapters of this book

p. xxiv

Chapter 1 tells the story of the village cure in Zambia. A real spirit is present. … The next five chapters give stories dealing with the five questions :

What is this thing called 'energy'?”

What does healing power do to people?”

How is healing power transmitted?”

What are people's experiences of spirits?” and

What is the experience of communitas {communion of the saints}?””

p. xxv

The array demonstrates the psychic unity of humankind, and it confirms that the forces through which the healers communicate their benefits are real powers and real spirits. … There seems to be a chain of living power, originating in spirits and brought into play in healing events. The spirits first endow the healers with experience, the events follow … that have power in them. … The stories deal with the facts of a mysterious connection betweem conscious beings everywhere.”



Breakthrough to Healing


p. 2 the tooth

[The woman-patient] was feeling a tooth gnawing inside her body. It continually wandered about inside, making her life a misery … . … . … for persuading the tooth to come out … dead forefathers in their spiritual state could help”.

p. 3 a dream of the authoress's (on the night just prior to the noma ritual)

I dreamed I saw a long hill. Running from the top to the bottom of the hill I saw a high wall, dividing it. … Halfway down the wall was a door, a very heavy door – something I had seen in former dreams, and it had always been closed. … Now it stood slightly ajar … . I pushed hard, and it opened a little more, so I was able to slip through”.

pp. 3-4 noma ritual

p. 3

his drum, ngoma, a tall African bongo, … he set upright. He fetched a flat basket, containing … a musical rasp, an axe, and a hoe, and … placed the basket on the top of the drum. The …

p. 4

contact with the drum dedicated it to the coming ritual …, also called an {a} ngoma, like the drum. … . … we set off into the low scrub to look for herbs – that is medicines, yitumbu … . … We sang … with bass continually sounding the fourth harmonic below and … rasp softly sussurating”.

p. 5 “mother tree” of the ritual

an African oak, the “greeting” tree, the “mother” of the ritual. Inherent in … this oak, was … the power to bring together a herd of animals. … [The healer] addressed the spirits in the tree. These entities were [his] dead ancestors who had previously practiced the Ihamba ritual. From that moment onward in the ritual, [the healer] was informed in his task by the spirits of his father … and others. They would guide him to the herbal trees and send him discernment during the ritual.”

p. 5 further nomenclature-alluding substances ritually collected there in Zambia {Kongolese ritual substances likewise have nomenclature-based referents}

the __ part

of __ plant

in order to __


blessing tree”

give us … [divine] blessings”


Congo pepper”

kill the germs”


thorn tree”

catch the … spirit”


broom [tree]”

sweep … [toxic] substances” away


African oak”

gather a crowd of people”


coco plum”

draw people to it”


double-leaf plant”

bring out the afterbirth”


sighting tree”

make … [the spirit] come in sight”

root bark”

soap [plant]”

stop … [the spirit] from escaping”

forked sapling”

bitterwood [tree]”

make the… [spirit] drop out”


no-reason plant”



falling-leaf tree”

[cause the spirit to] fall off”

p. 6 momentary dizziness as a sign of spiritual attaiment {This may occur also in the context of reading the ritual conjuration in its original language (as it did with me once, while reading an interlineal text in Kongolese).}

I drank some of the leaf tea. For a moment my head swam, then after a minute my senses cleared.”

{There is a Kongolese initiatory brew having a similar effect (of momentary dizziness).}

pp. 6-7, 9 music & dancing in the Ihamba rite

p. 6

The drums began with their rapid threefold beat. The men called for a couple of [iron implements], and soon the

p. 7

iron's deafening syncopated clink compelled our hands to clap, starting an effect like strobe lights … . We all responded in plangent … harmony. …

p. 9

[The curer] danced the antelope, speeding back and forth, bent forward with his arms stretched in front like forelegs, belling his song … .

{cf. animal-style dances in curative caerimonies by curers of, e.g., Bushfolk of the Kalahari}

Now the onlookers danced forward … . [The woman-patient] was in the middle of them, and sure enough, she was shaking well, swaying deeply from side to side.”

pp. 13-15 recitations in the Ihamba rite

p. 13

Our forefathers in the grave have heard my words.”

p. 14

While the percussion thundered, they sang keeningly, …

Where does the elephant come from?”

{This may be intended, by way of allusion to the elephant's tusk, to the ihamba ('tooth').}

p. 15

[The exorcist] called to spirit, “... if you really are in there trying eat this person, come out!””

p. 17 apparition of a spirit while it was being exorcized in the Ihamba rite

I saw with my own eyes a giant thing emerging out of the flesh of her back. This thing was a large gray sphere about six inches across, something between solid and smoke, a kind of globular ghost. I was amazed – delighted.”

{An alternative (to the understanding of such apparition's being an actually troublesome ghost) may be that it was a divine being who took the [faith-confirming] opportunity afforded (by the mortal practitioners') faith that it would be possible (through elaborate traditional ritual involving material substances having nomenclature-allusions to praeternatural qualities) to induce a ghost to appear while it was being exorcized. If their were some other elaborated ritual occasion (likewise involving material operations with nomenclature-allusions) than exorcism (some occasion involving, e.g., intentional glorification of divine beings), a deity might put in an appearance by emerging from some other person or object (such as the oft-witnessed emergence of deities from temple-idols, such as in traditional temples in India). The emergence is more a confirmation of the deity's delight with the generality of ritual operations (enhanced with rapid-tempoed music) concerning nomenclature-allusions, than it (any such emergence) is any confirmation of any hypothesis about the deity's own particular nature. [written Mar 20 Wed 2013]}

p. 20 medicine to control a spirit

We get the dripping medicine from a plant called 'leaping out quickly.' It prevents the … [spirit] from hiding in the fingernails. …

The medicine is to stop … [the spirit] coming out of her body and going into someone standing around.”

p. 22 [quoted from Harner 1980, pp. 116-7] material evidence of a captured spirit

If you ever viewed the film Sucking Doctor [Pomo Doctor, in “V2012SA”], which shows the healing work of the famous Californian Indian shaman[ess] Essie Parrish, you saw a shaman[ess] pulling out intrusive power.

But Western skeptics say that the the shaman is just pretending to suck something out of the person, an object that the shaman had already secreted in his mouth. … The fact that the shaman may then bring out the power object from his mouth and show it to a patient and audience as … evidence does not negate the nonordinary reality of what is going on … in the shamanic state of consciousness.”

{Here, the “shamanic state of consciousness” referred to is the fact of the shaman's having theriomorphic spirit-helpers (whom his personal spirit-guide recruited and converted to his assistance during his dreams) who, when they see the supposed material evidence of spirit's having been extracted, will thereby understand that such spirit is to remain outside the patient thenceforward, and who will therefore intervene to make sure that the spirit be kept out of the patient (including perhaps their extracting the spirit out of the patient themselves if it did not emerge for the patient, or if it already returned into the patient).}

Harner 1980 = Michael Harner : The Way of the Shaman. San Francisco : Harper & Row.

V2012SA” = “Out of the Vault 2012 : the Spirit of America”

p. 23 a shamanic curer's psychically sensing a sickness-form

[Pomo shamaness of California, quoted from Harner 1980, pp. 127-8] “Way inside of the sick person …, there is something. It [the shaman's psychic vision] is just … seeing through something – … [bodily] tissue …, you could see through … . That is just the way I see it inside. I see … and can feel it with my hand – my middle finger is the one with the power.”

[Zambia] “ “I've seen … the Ihamba … .” …

When an Ihamba goes into a [medicine-]horn, you feel it vibrating.””


Edith Turner : Among the Healers : stories of spiritual and ritual healing around the world. Praeger Publ (an imprint of Greenwood Publ Grp), Westport (CT), 2006.