Spiritual or social phenomenon: A cultural analysis of amakhosi possession in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Pharos Journal of Theology. 2015;96(1)


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Pharos Journal of Theology

ISSN: 1018-9556 (Print); 2414-3324 (Online)

Publisher: Africajournals

Society/Institution: Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa

LCC Subject Category: Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Religions. Mythology. Rationalism: Religion (General) | Philosophy. Psychology. Religion: Religions. Mythology. Rationalism: Religions of the world

Country of publisher: South Africa

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Luvuyo Ntombana ( University of the Free State )
Siphiwo Meveni ( University of the Free State )


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 6 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

This paper examines a strange behaviour associated with a spirit possession called amakhosi which has recently been prevalent in the Eastern and Western Cape. These behaviours were reported by various newspapers and community radio stations, where learners were said to mysteriously climb school walls with their bare hands, groaning violently and intimidating teachers and other learners. In some instances, these occurrences were said to have brought learning to a standstill. Media communications reported that teachers were seriously concerned about a growing trend of children purchasing traditional medicine called amakhosi that makes them behave strangely. Individual interviews, group discussion and observations were conducted in selected schools in Mdantsane Township, East London. The main aim was to ascertain the meaning of amakhosi, the aim for acquiring them and its significance to those who acquire them. The findings of this study suggest that amakhosi is both a spiritual and a socio-economic phenomenon which mostly involves the youth from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds who are struggling in identifying their roles and positions in postapartheid South Africa. The main recommendation is that this amakhosi phenomenon needs a holistic approach and not just interventions by church leaders and traditional healers.