MASERU – Nowadays many people in Africa are skeptical about ancestral callings because this area of spirituality has been misused, misinterpreted and commercialised by many.
For Maqoli Loke this was the only way to save her life and regain some peace of mind at a very tender age.
Now 38, Loke is among the few people that lead a life way different from their peers due to the unusual dictates of the spiritual “calling” they received at a young age.
She was only 11 years old when she encountered an “ancestral calling” that forced her to drop out of school, abandon her childhood and follow the lonely path to be initiated and trained towards becoming a sangoma.
When she was nine and in standard four, she says used to hear voices and see things only visible to her which visions scared her so much that she considered fleeing to a far away place in the hope that all these would disappear.
But as a minor, she had no such means and she continued feeling trapped because her experiences were not based on objective reality therefore even her close family members wouldn’t comprehend, let alone understand what she was going through.
She used to communicate with her long-departed grandparents but none of the people she lived with would ever believe her.
In some dreams and visions, her ancestors would instruct her to get some training to become a sangoma.
As each month passed the visions became more intense while the voices only she could hear grew even louder
In her dreams, she says she was shown places where her beads and all the paraphernalia of resources she would need in fulfilling “the calling” were kept and strangely when she physically went to those places in the morning she would find all the things she would have seen in her dreams.
She recalls one of the scariest dreams she ever had during her childhood was being ordered to go to initiation school by her ancestors before she could start pursuing her “calling”.
Loke says she decided to ignore the dream but the defiance send her to her sickbed.
Since none of her family members were familiar with the dilemma, they believed she was bewitched and sought assistance from different doctors but none of them could cure her or determine what exactly was wrong with her.
During the first months of her being sickness she found herself isolated from her peers who were also no longer comfortable playing with her because often, out of nowhere, she could either collapse or just run away from something she alone could see.
It became clear her problems were psychological or spiritual.
Born in a Christian family, Loke’s family was confused by her situation and her mother, a devout Christian, asked her fellow congregants to help by praying for her.
Little Loke continued to live a life where her family was always on its toes and thanked God if a day went by without any scary scene happening to her.
Peace departed from the family as they lost hope in the life of their little girl because of the emotional, spiritual and psychological struggle she had to endure on a daily basis.
She notes the predicament took its toll on her studies as she failed standard four and only did standard five when she was 11 before dropping out of school in the middle of the year. Loke says she saw no use proceeding with her education as her ‘sickness’ could just erupt at any time.
Her father, who was working in the South African mines then, brought with him back home different native doctors of different nationalities but none of them could help her.
Desperation breeds desperate measures so the family decided to consult a sangoma who told them she has an “ancestral calling” which, if unheeded without further delay, could cost her life.
Loke notes the sangoma did not give her any herbs but simply send her back home ordering her to follow the ancestors’ orders that would be send to her in her dreams.
“From the beginning of my ‘sickness’, I would have dreams which include seeing myself getting into a river but coming out dry with beads around my wrist, angles and neck.
“Sometimes I would see a big snake that I normally see even during the day, and see my late grandmother ordering me to go to a certain sangoma to get my healing,” she states.
Loke notes that even though she and family were aware of what could be happening to her, they still delayed some processes that were supposed to be done. The family skeptical family even dismissed the dreams that she had until she got very sick and could not get out of bed.
“I looked death in the eye and I was so sick that I even wished I would just die so that at least I would rest,” she recalls.
She endured several bouts of sickness until she turned 14 and finally took a decision to pursue her “calling”.
Loke says while she lay on her death bed, she asked her family to take her to the lady sangoma she saw in her dreams and miraculously upon her arrival there, the lady said she was expecting her and she was all of a sudden healed and was able to walk on her own again.
She was then left under that care of the lady who was supposed to mentor her to become a sangoma but the mentor forced her to go to initiation school as a first step in her “calling”.
Initiation was as hard as she had expected since her classmates comprised women and girls older than her.
“While my friends were playing, I was busy training to be a sangoma. The life I lead was way different from that of my peers and very different from the life I aspired to lead,” she reminisces.
She adds that while her friends were thinking of school and boyfriends, she was busy thinking about her training and learning about herbs and healing people.
“Prayer was the only thing that saw me go through each day’s challenges with success but, most importantly, I was a child and did not understand what was actually happening with my life. I was naïve with so many personal dreams and eager to achieve much in life,” she says.
She notes her training took almost a year until she was later released to her family to lead the life of a sangoma and a healer.
Loke notes that besides being able to foresee individuals’ future, she is able to heal people from various maladies and protect them from evil spirits.
She graduated into a fully trained sangoma at the age 15 at which age she had to balance her calling with the remnants of social life that she had left.
Having grown up in a rural area community, Loke was married at the age of 16 and remains happily married and blessed with two sons.
Yet it never rained but it poured for Loke because while she was now relaxed believing her suffering had ended and her career as a sangoma would pay off, another misfortune struck.
She started suffering from severe tooth aches to the extent that she could hardly talk.
None of her remedies or herbs could heal her, how ironic for a well-known healer and, instead, she started seeing other visions.
This time she heard in the dreams that she had yet another “calling” for which she needed to be baptised at an apostolic church and only thereafter would she be healed.
“Knowing the suffering ancestors can bring to those who defy them, I joined an apostolic church and got baptised,” she says.
Loke now prays for people, and can prophesize into their future using the bible while healing with muti. She is now among the rare type of traditional doctors in the country famous for using both muti and the bible to heal the sick.
She notes that she strongly believes the muti works only with God’s permission which is why before she consults with a patient or use her muti, she asks “God for guidance in ensuring that the herbs and muti work and heal”.
“I am a doctor that heals, and strictly heals,” she states, noting that traditional healers with an ‘ancestral calling’ have been tainted by practitioners who get tempted to abuse muti which includes destroying people’s lives and even killing people.
She said the calling for traditional medical practitioners has become questionable because of people who tend to get into the practice without a calling but because they want to fleece people of their hard-earned money.
Among this category also includes those who have lived their lives irresponsibly but when they get sick they run to the practice claiming they have a calling.
Malefetsane Liau, a cultural and tradition leader, notes that having a calling even though it’s rare, is not new in African traditions.
A person can be able to foretell the future and heal people because of the calling they have from God, while others are trained to do so.
He emphasises that people can also become sangomas or follow certain callings without actually having the calling but after only having undergone strict training on how to prophesize and heal people.
Liau further notes that as much as genuine traditional healers are there, genuine calling has been tainted by people who have lost their ways and misuse the calling that was supposed to be sacred.
He said the other thing that tarnishes the sangoma calling is people who use muti to kill or harm others while the purpose of the calling was to protect the bearer and help others through their spiritual journeys.
“I for one am a sangoma and discovered my calling way back while I was a little boy.
“When we were given school work, I used to get it all right and gave all my classmates a hard time because I used to forsee the school work that the teacher will give us beforehand,” he claims.
He adds that people used to believe he was a psychologist in the making as he was able to read other people’s minds and intentions.
However, he notes that he managed to finish his studies and acquire a qualification in science but despite his scientific knowledge and qualification in science, he believes a ‘calling’ is from God and each person is given a different calling from others.
“We all have callings and talents, the difference is how each of us uses them,” he noted.
Pastor Fani Manyathi from Heaven’s Way Church noted that the calling, especially for sangomas, is not accepted from the bible’s point of view.
Instead, Manyathi says, such powers are from evil spirits whose intentions are to distract people from following and serving God.
He says sangomas get their powers from the “ancestors” and the Bible is against serving or praying to the departed.