Cleansing in the river: An African renewal

By Lerato Ngwenya

Many believe that how we treat ourselves affects how brightly we shine. If we surround ourselves with negative individuals, or situations, we collect and store energies. For Africans, when this happens, many go to the river to cleanse themselves from this energy, which may manifest as bad luck or problems. The intention of the spiritual river cleansing ceremony is to cleanse all these energies and return to our innate radiance.


Below are pictures from New Canada bridge (Soweto) where a cleansing ceremony is being performed.

Traditional healer Goitsemang Moitlwe is performing a cleansing ceremony for her client in the river with a bucket of mixed herbs Picture: Lerato Ngwenya
Traditional healer Goitsemang Moitlwe is performing a cleansing ceremony for her client in the river with a bucket of mixed herbs Picture: Lerato Ngwenya

Goitsemang Moitlwe, a traditional healer, said the spiritual river cleansing ceremony begins with the traditional healer or church leader by introducing him or herself to the Spirit of the River. When doing this, one must recite their full name, their mother’s full name, and their father’s full name. Others throw silver coins in the river as a way to show respect to the Spirit of the river. Some light candles.


"Once they are granted access to the river, the water and forest spirits are called in. When all spirits are present, the participant will begin his or her own introductions. Following, the participant’s entire body is washed with river water using sacred plants and herbs. During this cleanse, participants wear light clothing," she said.

 One of Moitlwe's student who has accepted the calling, is praying  in her regalia and trying to connect with her ancestors,  Picture by: Lerato Ngwenya
One of Moitlwe's students, who has accepted the calling, prays wearing regalia to show respect and as she connects with her ancestors. Picture by: Lerato Ngwenya

After being washed by the healer, the individual is able to wash their own body, washing away any remaining spiritual residue. The entire time the person is washing, the healer is staying active with the spirits, calling and interacting with them. Once the wash is complete, they must leave the river without looking back. They are led to a private area to change out of their old clothes and into fresh, new items, leaving the old ones behind forever.





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