Repository logo

The influence of ancestral spirits on sexual identity amongst traditional healers (izangoma) in South Africa : a discourse analysis.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The main aim of this study was to explore whether sexual identity is influenced by ancestral guides among Traditional Healers (iZangoma) in South Africa. The focus of this study was on iZangoma; diviners who are possessed by idlozi (spirit of the departed who had the gift of healing spiritually) and reach trance states through ingoma (drumming). The research design used in this study was qualitative and exploratory. The sample consisted of five participants who were recruited using the Snowball sampling technique. Participants included three lesbian females, one bisexual female and one transgender man. Four of the participants were Traditional Healers and one was still an iThwasa (undergoing initiation). The Social Constructionist paradigm (discourse analysis) was used to analyze interviews with Traditional Healers. The main findings of the study were that participants defined their sexual identity as a biological or genetic construct, as their culture, their pride, a result of witchcraft or poisoning, as influenced by their environment and ancestors, and also as a misunderstood concept. This study also revealed that dominant ancestral guides can have an impact on the sexual identity of Traditional Healers depending on whether the ancestral guide was sexually attracted to males or females when they were still alive. Lastly, for Traditional Healers, engaging in same-sex relationships seemed more forced or „imposed‟ by ancestral guides rather than it being a choice.


Master of Social Science in Research Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2018.