Traditional Healing in the Contemporary Life of the Antanosy People of Madagascar
AbstractTraditional healing among the Antanosy people of southeastern Madagascar requires medicinal plants used by highly trained ombiasa (shamen). Given the influence of globalization, we hypothesized diminishing reliance on traditional medicine among the Antanosy. We studied a community and its healer’s views on the current value of traditional medicine compared to past decades and relationships between western medicine and traditional healing. Methods included interviews with ombiasa community members and participant observation. Traditional healing remained important. The numbers of ombiasa and apprentices were stable. Traditional and western medicine were complementary, providing the advantages of both without sacrificing traditional culture. Ombiasa linked the living to the ancestors who strongly influence contemporary Antanosy life. Without the ombiasa and their traditional knowledge of medicinal plants, people’s link to their ancestors, and the ancestors’ influence on the future, would disappear along with the plants essential to traditional healing.
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