In Mozambique, traditional healers are more successful and popular than professional doctors. Hospitals and medical supplies are not always available in the provinces, and local people have more confidence in spirits that enter healers’ bodies than in prescription medication from pharmacies. Most Mozambican witchdoctors are members of AMETRAMO (Association of Traditional Medics of Mozambique), which brings together all the healers from across the country and issues them a licence to practise.
To help people, healers call upon spirits who enter their bodies for a short time during a given session. They include spirits of wild animals, fallen soldiers, dead relatives and Biblical prophets.
Usually, when witchdoctors become possessed by spirits for the first time, it occurs unwillingly. The spirits force them to leave all their activities, quit their jobs and start focussing entirely on healing people.
After a spiritual session, doctors give sick people compounds of dried herbs and roots. They may also take them through a variety of wellness ceremonies, such as bathing them in goat’s blood or making special cuts with a razor blade all over their body.
Mozambique has more than 70,000 traditional healers; the professional doctors in the country number only about 1500. AMETRAMO, was officially recognised by the government in 2001 and “Dia da Medicina Tradicional” (Traditional Medicine Day) is celebrated around Mozambique on August 31st every year.
Traditional healer Ropinho Cassuada, 40, near his hospital hut in Mafilipa village, Tete Province
Ropinho Cassuada, 40, during the spiritual ceremony in Mafilipa village. Ropinho used to work in the Bank of Mozambique in Tete town until he was possessed by a spirit, who forced him to leave the job, move to the countryside and became a witchdoctor
Witchdoctor Julio Sardinha Janico, 50, while possessed by his spirit Malecha. Mpandwe village, Tete Province
Witchdoctor Julio Sardinha Janico, 50, performs a spiritual healing ceremony. To take pain from his patient’s body he burned a mixture of drug plants and asked his patient to inhale the smoke. Mpandwe village, Tete Province
Witchdoctor Julio Sardinha Janico sits near an advertisement promoting his services
Robega Alfai, 45, with his triptych portrait, which shows him in everyday life (middle), when he is possessed by the spirits of a lion (Jostino) and a leopard (Gomo). Sometimes both spirits enter his body at the same time
Witchdoctor Rosa Paizone, 45, lives in the Samora Machel neighbourhood of Tete town. Since 1987 she been possessed by the spirit of a dead Zimbabwean man called Chiange
Witchdoctor Rosa Paizone, 45, treats her patient’s mental health problems by bathing him in goat blood. Samora Machel neighbourhood, Tete
Traditional healer Rosa Paizone after the spiritual ceremony
Witchdoctor Arnaldo Rodis, 45, drinks Coke during the spiritual ceremony in Madamba village, Tete province
Witchdoctor Arnaldo Rodis with four of his six wives (from left to right): Lidia, 30, Augusta. 25, Lutina, 26 and Gina, 16. Arnaldo had nine children. He died from malaria in May 2011
Witchdoctor Arnaldo Rodis gives a spiritual consultation to Kadija Giva, 32, who came from Maputo to ask advice on how to achieve a happy marriage
Gafumu Liksongola, 22, a patient of witchdoctor Arnaldo Rodis. During the four months the healer treated Gafumu’s mental health issues, Gafumu’s leg was tied to a wooden pole so he wouldn't run away. All this time Gafumu slept on the ground and ate food given to him by villagers
Kadija Giva, 32, receiving traditional treatment for misfortune. She says she has no luck choosing the right partner to marry. Madamba village, Tete Province
Witchdoctor Eartina Sabo, 50, during the spiritual ceremony in Mpandwe village, Tete Province. Since becoming possessed by a spirit, Masena, 28 years ago, she has dedicated all of her time to curing people. Her husband takes care of household needs, such as collecting water, food and brushwood for the fire
Dizeri Cenora, 67, a witchdoctor and the leader of the Zion Church in the town of Chifunde, Tete Province. For the past 28 years he has been possessed by the spirit Sekane, who he says is one of the prophets from the Bible
Witchdoctor Maria Mponha, 80, shows her AMETRAMO identification, which states she is a healer ("curandeira" in Portuguese). Madamba village, Tete Province
Nifagrese Antonia, 70, has worked as a witchdoctor since 1995. She has the spirit of her grandfather, called Mpampanula, and mainly treats people after crocodile attacks. Dembala village, Mutarara district in Tete Province
Maria Samuere Muyang, 65, the founder of the witchdoctor's school in Maputo, with her students. For the past 20 years Maria has given witchcraft classes to people soon after they have become possessed by spirits. Usually students stay in her house for two years, learning traditional healing practices
Gildo Pedro, 22, is a student of the witchdoctor's school in Maputo. He started his course in February of 2011, shortly after becoming possessed by a spirit. He will spend the first six months learning how to tame his spirit
Students of the witchdoctor's school in their classroom being possessed by spirits
Witchdoctor Erita Botao, 30, was possessed in 1986 by the spirit of a Zimbabwean woman, Isabel, who was killed by Erita’s grandfather. Samora Machel neighbourhood of Tete town
Witchdoctor Siasso Jamo, 45, one of the district AMETRAMO leaders, in his house in Songo town. He has three spirits and has worked as a traditional healer since 1990
Witch healer Antonia Blaundi, 43, smokes marijuana while possessed by the spirit of her father, Antonio. Bairro Azul neighbourhood of Tete town
A traditional healer dances at a new witchdoctor’s initiation ceremony in Tete town
Witchdoctor Elena Jakson, 50, during a spiritual ceremony after the spirit Takawira entered her body
Traditional healer Elena Jakson near her house with her one-year-old granddaughter Marbel
Witchdoctor Luis Janota, 54, from Mufa village. He is the chief of the Mozambican traditional healer association, AMETRAMO, in the Mufa area of Tete Province
Witchdoctor Ropinho Cassuada, about 40, shows the official price list issued by AMETRAMO (Association of Traditional Medics of Mozambique). In Mozambique, traditional healers shouldn't charge patients more than what is stated in this document. Mafilipa village, Tete Province
Witchdoctor Maria Comforme, 38, has been possessed by the spirit of her grandfather, Madala, for the past 18 years. Madala worked as a policeman in Zimbabwe and was killed in a gunfight. Josina Machel neighbourhood, Tete town
Witchdoctors of Moatize town preparing for the healing ceremony
Witchdoctor Fage Chombe, 53, near her house in Samora Machel neighbourhood, Tete town. Fage says that her spirit, Bande, came into her body the day after a family member poisoned himself. She says he was resurrected from the dead as a spirit
People play drums during the witchdoctor's initiation ceremony in Tete town
Dancing during a new witchdoctor’s initiation ceremony in Tete town
Witchdoctor Isabel Recibo, 42, possessed by a spirit of her ancestor, Kalmangira, who was killed during the Mozambican civil war. Chingosa neighbourhood, Tete town
Malawian witchdoctor Sukweya Chikwawa, 34, looks from his window in Moatize town, Tete Province. Sukweya is not a member of AMETRAMO (Association of Traditional Medics of Mozambique) and works in Mozambique illegally
Witchdoctor Flora Antonio, 40, has had the spirit of a shrimp since 1999. She says that every time the spirit enters her body, she feels like someone is breaking her ribs and taking her heart out. Samora Machel neighbourhood, Tete town
Traditional healer Flora Antonio, 40, in her house
Witchdoctor Chimarizen Ranges, 49, prepares for the healing ceremony in his hospital hut. Since 2007 he has been possessed by a spirit, Niagona that prohibits him from doing any work except for healing people. Niapende village, Tete Province
A witchdoctor cuts his patient's hand so he can mix blood with herbs. This practise is used by traditional healers for a range of treatments
Since 1988 Adelina Pacante, 41 has worked with the spirit of a lion, called Joao. She complains that there are so many new witchdoctors in her area that competition for clients is very high. Samora Machel neighbourhood, Tete town
Witchdoctor Sukweya Adamson Chikwawa, 34, from Malawi. He is not a member of AMETRAMO (Association of Traditional Medics of Mozambique) and so works illegally in the town of Moatize, Tete Province
Healer Martinho Marcos, 50, also known as Doctor Yobo, during the spiritual ceremony in town of Manje. He is also a priest of the Zion Church and claims to have the spirit of Lazarus from Bible
A witchdoctor drinks water from the ground during an initiation ceremony to calm his spirit
Traditional healer Jelinha Damota, 30, in her house in Mufa village, Tete Province. Chundiza, the spirit of her great grandfather, entered her body in 2005. There are many witchdoctors in Mufa village, but locals prefer to have a treatment in Jelinha’s house, calling her “the true healer"
Witchdoctor Jelinha Damota, 30, with her son Damota, 8, daughter Laurinha, 4, at Mufa village. Jelinha is the mother of five children
Witchdoctor Paulino Conselho, 52, from Madamba village. His hospital hut was destroyed by a tornado
Witchdoctor Adelaide Jim, 46, from the Samora Machel neighbourhood of Tete town. From 1982 she became possessed by the spirit of her grandfather, Asikuru, who died in Zimbabwe after eating the "rising from the dead" magical medicament. She says that Asikuru's body mysteriously disappeared from the morgue
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