Sangoma Society

Sangoma Society



Termination of Pregnancy and the Ancestral Realm:

The termination of pregnancy is a medical procedure that has been performed for thousands of years. In Africa, we’ve had surgical and non-surgical practices around this work since time immemorial. This is not a new thing. It is not outside of the realm of our culture.

However, as we understand pregnancy to be something beyond the physical, we also tend to consider the spiritual implications of termination.

The problem with conversations around the spiritual implications related to the termination of pregnancy is that the language around that is not easily translatable. When we say “unomthunzi omnyama ohamba nawe uma ukhiphe isisu,” — it is difficult to translate that into English.

The message of this, beyond the semantics, is that once you have terminated, the spirit of your child continues to accompany you. The spirit also accompanies the father. We’re made up of two bloodlines.

When we terminate a child, their energy, their spirit, continues to grow. So, if you terminate it at six weeks of pregnancy, it’s possible that your child will keep growing. Their spirit then reaches birth age and then continues to grow from there.

Maybe you start realising that there’s something going a little bit strangely three years after the termination. Now, the child is about two years old, hitting the terrible twos and starting to tug at your apron strings to give them some attention. Why would this be happening?

The reason why the spirit of a child would follow the parent in their living life is because that child requires safe passage into the hereafter. This passage is either back to the realm of the ancestors or onward with their journey beyond these realms that we are aware of.

When you conceive, you have come into an agreement with a soul. That agreement predates our existence in this time and realm. It is seldom that one gives birth to, or carries a child or a spirit that they are encountering for the first time.

So, this termination of pregnancy is also the termination of the agreement to carry them forward into the lived realm that we are in now. When we terminate an agreement, there is generally paperwork around that. In this case, it is the ceremony to pass that spirit over.

This is to let them know that they are no longer here, or expected to live and become your child. This is to let them know that they can move on.

The language used around the ceremony of this is often the English word, “cleanse” — it doesn’t really translate well from the terminology that we would use. Ukugeza means to wash. But when we want to infuse that word with ceremony, we use “cleanse.”

But the word “cleanse” implies that something was dirty to begin with. That is not what’s happening here.

At Sangoma Society, we prefer to say “a ceremony” — because this work is ceremony. There is the conversation facilitated before, there is the ceremony of the washing, then the ceremony of celebration that follows that. There are various ways this passing over can be conducted.

It is not only isangoma who can conduct this ceremony. Many families have their own traditions relating to ceremony conducted for a mother following the passing of a child, a miscarriage, or a termination of pregnancy. These ceremonies are very similar but not identical.

In this instance, the ceremony is typically overseen by the matriarchs of the family — your grandmother, mother, sister etc. As long as you know what the ceremony is supposed to be, you are not required to go to inyanga or isangoma.

However, if you find that you cannot really speak to your family about this, or it is not something you want them to know, this is when you can/should contact inyanga.

It’s not a sin. And it’s not against our culture as Africans. We have a deeper understanding of life and we are aware that these things tend to have consequences if we are not acting in awareness of the broader implications of our decisions beyond the medical and physical. ??

This is a snippet of our art installation, Voices and Choices, curated by @MmabathoMontsho for @myrighttochoice — a work that prides itself in respecting the autonomy of them who choose to terminate.

You can watch our installation here

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