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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Medicines and herbalism in Malawi
Author:Morris, B.
Year:1989
Periodical:The Society of Malawi Journal
Volume:42
Issue:2
Pages:34-54
Language:English
Geographic terms:Malawi
Central Africa
Subjects:Chewa
ethnobotany
traditional medicine
medicinal plants
Traditional medicine
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/29778616
Abstract:The author discusses herbalism in Southern Malawi by exploring the meaning of three cultural concepts that have special significance to Chewa speakers: 'mankhwala' (medicine), 'asing'anga' (a general term for traditional healers), and 'maula' (divination). The folk taxonomies of rural people in Malawi have a utilitarian bias, and do not make a rigid dichotomy between plants and medicine. An examination of Chewa plant classifications is followed by a discussion of the three kinds of 'asing'anga' of Malawi, the village herbalist, the market herbalist, and the doctor-diviner. Village and market herbalists sell medicines, follow empirical methods, are little concerned with disease etiology and are not mediums. The author presents a list of medicines available in market stalls and their prices. Diviners (usually men), as well as using herbs, also practise divination, and have to deal both with the 'symptoms' of a disease and with the 'instruments' of affliction. The author examines divination methods and gives an account of a typical divinatory rite which he recorded in 1979-1980. He concludes that herbalism and divination are inextricably linked in the Malawian therapeutic context, and that to neglect either the empirical or the religious aspect of Chewa ethnomedicine would be misleading.
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