Author(s): Jacobsson L, Merdasa F
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Abstract This article describes the traditional concepts and treatment of mental disorders in the Oromo areas in western Ethiopia before the revolution in 1974. There are three traditional cultural influences operating: traditional Oromo thinking, the Coptic church and the Islamic culture. One important element in traditional Oromo thinking is that each person is believed to possess an ayana, which is a special divine agent that can descend upon people, but also means a person's character and personality. In the traditional Oromo society, the Kallu is the religious leader who, through an ecstatic ritual technique, can investigate the causes of the disorder and advise what to do. Mental disorders are generally explained as resulting from disturbances in the relationship between people and divinity. The second important cultural element in western Ethiopia is the orthodox Coptic church, which usually looks upon mental disorders as possession by evil spirits, which are thus treated by specially gifted priests and monks by praying and giving holy water or eventually exhortation. According to Islamic teaching in the area, mental disorders are caused by evil spirits sent by God to punish the unfaithful people. Some Muslim sheiks treat mental cases with prayers, but herbal remedies are also used. There is a great intermingling of these different cultural and religious elements and people attend different healers and religious leaders more depending on the reputation of the person than on cultural and religious affiliation.
This article was published in Acta Psychiatr Scand
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals