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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The missionary and the rainmaker: David Livingstone, the Bakwena, and the nature of medicine
Author:Stanley, BrianISNI
Periodical:Social Sciences and Missions = Sciences sociales et missions (ISSN 1874-8937)
Geographic term:Botswana
About person:David Livingstone (1813-1873)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/18748945-02702003
Abstract:The dialogue between the missionary and the rainmaker found in various forms in David Livingstone's writings needs to be interpreted against the background of Livingstone's relationship with the Bakwena during the late 1840s, a time of severe drought and one in which chief Sechele's repudiation of his rainmaking functions after his baptism threatened the displeasure of the ancestors. Livingstone's recording of the dialogue reveals his indebtedness to the moral philosophy of the Scottish thinker, Thomas Dick, but also suggests that Livingstone remained fascinated by the very African cosmology that his Christian faith and Scottish scientism led him to repudiate. In today's ecologically conscious age the rain doctor's observation that Africans apply medicines to everything, and not simply to humans and animals, no longer looks quite so irrational. In the original manuscript of his 'Missionary travels and researches in South Africa', Livingstone writes that 'we must place ourselves in their position, and believe, as they and homeopathics do, that all medicines act by a mysterious charm.' Notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract, edited]