Rituals of Healing

By Barbara Thompson
Friends of Usambara Society, Tanzania (formerly Stanford University; University of Iowa)

Mahunda Malaku with her divination drum, Yaka peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois. 

The performance of specific curative prayers or songs is also a means of dealing with problems of individual and communal well-being. As a result, sound, music, and instruments are vital to ritual performances and processes of healing. Certain instruments such as drums, rattles, or bells are played as an integral part of the entire ritual process. In many areas sound and music have their own supernatural powers. While some instruments may be used to call forth beneficial spirits who will begin a process and make it effective, other instruments, such as this Yaka slit gong, are used to announce the arrival of spirit forces in the village. Instruments may be prayed to warn the uninitiated to seek shelter from the approaching spirit beings, or they may recreate the narratives and sounds associated with the spirit world.