It had been explained earlier that the Witchdoctor was the sole source of order and justice within the area and that much of his work was to act as an arbitrator between people. I had been told that the Witchdoctor worked with seeds that he shook and placed in a matrix of columns labeled with things like home, relationships etc and that the spread of the seeds provided the answers. This way the Witchdoctor could say it was the word of spirit and thus pass on his wisdom without becoming part of the decision.
When the Witchdoctor arrived, apologising for being late, we settled into a private area to talk. I now know what an international meeting must feel like for every question and answer had to be translated from English to French, French to Malagasy and vice versa. It was a very long meeting!
The Witchdoctor was still relatively young, for a Witchdoctor anyway, and I asked how he had become a Witchdoctor. He said that at the age of 13 had become interested in the work of the village Witchdoctor and had asked to learn. He was then taught until the time came for him to take over. I asked him if there was ever anyone he couldn’t treat and was told that he would always try to help but if he couldn’t there were others he could go to for advice. Very similar to me referring a client when I knew that someone could do more for them, or asking my guides for help if referral was not possible.
Throughout our time together the Witchdoctor and I shared explanations of how we worked. He told me that he worked with the spirits of his ancestors and so understood immediately when I said that I too worked with spirit helpers although not those of my blood ancestors. We also discovered that we both used plants in our healing and as we shared we found more and more similarities in our ways of working.
At one point the Witchdoctor seemed puzzled and it was explained to me that he knew he did Malagasy magic but he couldn’t understand that what I did was also Malagasy magic, but that I wasn’t Malagasy.
The Witchdoctor had kindly brought with him what he referred to as his artefacts and which we might call our tools and much to my surprise he allowed me to handle them as he explained their purpose. He showed me the sikeli, the tiny black seeds, that he scatters to find the answers to problems, the healing needed or the advice sought as well as a large hard, leathery seed shaped like a tongue which he uses to speak to his ancestors.
Amongst the artefacts was a crocodile’s tooth and he explained that this gave him strength. In much the same way that we might call on our own power animals he would call upon the strength of the crocodile. There was also a piece of crystal that he used to give him clear sight and a small shell that provided protection for extraction work. He was very amused by the fact that I use black tourmaline for this, a stone he knows but which serves no role in his healing work.
Whenever I travel I always pack a couple of pendulums as I usually meet someone to whom I am able to gift one. Here I was once again, in a strange country with a need to gift a tool that might be useful, therefore it was one of the ways I work with a pendulum that I chose to share more with the Witchdoctor. Initially I asked if any of the translators present had any pain and was told no, but that the Witchdoctor did.
I asked which area of his body this pain was in and hands were vaguely waved over his lower body/legs. I asked if it was his knees and was again shown the vague area so I asked permission to work. This was given and so holding the pendulum over his right knee, the area I had been drawn to I asked it to show me the site of the pain. Straight away it swung and it was wonderful to see the look of amazement on the Witchdoctor’s face as the problem was found straight away. He then explained that he had pain in his knee and that had been why he had been late. As I could feel energy flowing I then asked if it was alright for me to continue working. I wasn’t sure if it would be culturally acceptable to use my hands directly and as I was still holding the pendulum allowed the energy to flow through it, focusing it into the area identified until the energy stopped flowing.
I then explained that I would like to give the pendulum to the Witchdoctor in thanks for his sharing his work and artefacts with me. At this point we observed the Malagasy tradition of thanking each other profusely and parted company each having learnt from the other.
The next day I was told that after I had left the Witchdoctor had been saying how impressed he was with me. He had walked from the room, to reception saying ‘No pain, no pain’.
(This post is part of a longer article published in Indie Shaman Magazine)