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Ukuthwasa refers to the process of being called by ancestral spirits to be a diviner (sangoma) in the female Xhosa community of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. In the initial stage of this process, most diviners experience a trouble (inkathazo) characterized by numerous disruptive symptoms and emotional states: frightening dreams, visions, psychic experiences, extreme pain sensations, madness, anxiety (umbilini), fainting fits (ukuxozula), and reclusiveness.

From both a religious and a psychological point of view, ukuthwasa is not the same as being possessed by alien spirits. In ukuthwasa, the spirits merely talk to the diviner rather than possess her; there is no physical or spiritual manifestation or bodily intrusion, only ancestral spirits supplying information by speaking through the soul and body of the to-be sangoma.

Traditionally, the emergence ...

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