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Health care workers believe that diseases occur because of a natural phenomenon, and the weaknesses of mankind. These practioners advocate for the treatment of diseases by using scientific methods and technological know-how. However, these techniques are always in conflict with the cultural beliefs of certain communities and the cause of the specific illness. These processes also conflict with the manner in which people of these cultures believe on how to treat a disease, and who should conduct the practice. On this basis, health care workers must undergo some training processes that will enable them identify with the various cultural beliefs of the people they associate with (Collins and Burns 2007: 38) .
If a medical practioner is able to identify a cultural belief of the patient, then the patient will trust the doctor. Once there is trust, then the health worker will discharge his or her duties in an efficient manner. During the interactions between a patient and a medical doctors, differences in cultural believes normally emerge. For instance racial believes, socio-economic status, gender and ethnicity are always present in any social interaction, including medical interactions (Loizzo 2012: 61). For a medical practioner or health care worker to fully understand these elements of culture, and how they shape an individual’s belief in illness, they have to obtain this kind of information from their various patients.
This paper analyzes the different types and origin of supernatural illnesses. This paper will discuss how a particular cultural belief contributes in the emergence of a disease, therefore shaping the health status of an individual. In meeting this objective, this paper will discuss specific cultures in Africa and Asia. This paper takes a stand that cultural believes of an individual plays a great role in shaping their health status.
Supernatural Causes of Illness in Asia:
India for example has a population of about 1.8 billion. Due to their population, India has a diverse cultural believes that is brought about by different racial, linguistic, physical and religious practices. Religion and culture plays an important role in shaping the day to day affairs of people. For instance the Indian health care system exists because of a coexistence of different traditional believes that center on health. For instance there are traditional medical beliefs referred to as the Siddha, Ayurveda, and the Unani traditions (Wayland 2003: 487).
These traditions are passed by words of mouth, and they are in existence for over long period of time. These traditions affect the religious lives of Indians, and the science of astrology plays a great role in explaining some religious practices and attacks. For instance, a sick person will attribute their sickness to a super-natural factor. For instance they believe that cancer is a sign of bad luck, witchcraft, or ill fate (Bernal 2002: 51). To seek treatment against cancer, these people will visit their religious leaders and offer sacrifices to their gods. The intention of these actions is to chase away demons that bring about the bad luck. Or witches who are responsible for the disease.
On this note, they believe that in case they want to heal, then a religious leader must play an important role of interceding for them. In India, bathing is a religious practice. On a daily basis, people from India bathe in a running water, to symbolize purity. They believe that water cleanses them from any dirt, and spiritual uncleanliness. They are not satisfied by wiping, or soaking. To them, this action is an abomination, and it does not purify any one from their sins or dirt. On this basis therefore, patients who bound on the bed cannot practice this ritual (Sau 2005: 5326). They therefore believe they are unclean, and that is the reason of their illnesses.
Diseases such as urinary cathetes and colostomies arise because of uncleanliness. On this note, people suffering from these diseases feel that they are unclean, and cannot pray to their gods. To be well, they have to undergo the cleansing rituals performed by priests, and this includes bathing in running water. Indians believe in re-incarnation, and an individual’s past life will always haunt him in the next life. This believe greatly shapes how the Sikhs and the Hindus view the emergence of an illness. To them, a disease arises because of Karma. That is the actions of an individual’s past life. For instance, if an individual in his past life was a thief and a murder, then in his next life, the same person will suffer the consequences of these actions (Wayland 2003: 489).
To treat these diseases, they have to lead a holy and repentant life. They also use traditional medical system to create drugs. This system is referred to as the Ayurveda, and it involves the use of spices and herbs to treat diseases such as cold, heart ailments and congestion. To treat anemia, Indians believe that the best medicine is butter which is stored under an iron utensil (Bernal 2012: 51). In my own opinion, these religious and supernatural believes of illnesses do not help them in any manner to improve their health status. For instance cancer does not arise because of witch craft, but because of unhealthy conditions of life. And the best treatment is not prayers and offering of sacrifices, but attending chemotherapy sessions and medical checkups.
In Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, people believe that supernatural causes contribute to a great extent in the emergence of diseases. For instance people of the Hmong tribe believe that the spirit of an individual is the guardian spirit of the individual. His or her spirit plays a great role in ensuring that the person does not suffer from diseases (Wayland 2003: 493). Frightening the individual will result to frightening his or her spirit and this will cause diseases. The Hmong also believe that failure to offer sacrifices and paying homage to ancestors will also result to the emergence of diseases.
This is because the ancestors will not protect them against evil spirits who will seek to enter their bodies causing illnesses. To protect themselves, the Hmong will offer sacrifices to their ancestors. They will tie bracelets to their older children, and a white yarn on the wrists of their small children (Bernal 2012: 65). They believe this will help in chasing away evil spirits preventing them from possessing the bodies of their children. Other forms of treating illnesses include rubbing the skin of the sick person with eggs. They do this when they suspect that an illness is causes by wind, such as cold or flu. They believe that by rubbing the skin of individual using eggs, they cause the evil wind to go away. This as a result frees the sick person from flu or even cold.
Supernatural Causes of Illness in Africa:
In Africa, diseases such as AIDS, cancer and mental illnesses are believed to arise because of curses from the ancestors, or witchcraft. For instance amongst the Luo and the Luhya ethnic groups of Kenya, diseases arise when their ancestors are angry with them. This occurs because of failure to perform certain spiritual rituals such as offering of sacrifices. For instance, diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or even albinism are a communication from the gods that they are angry with them (Adams 2012: 24) . When such kinds of diseases occur, then the victims must perform traditional rituals so that they may get well. This includes offering sacrifices of going into isolation to meditate and repent on their crimes.
When they ignore these rituals, then these tribes believe that their ancestors and gods will resort to a stricter punishment against them. On this basis, diseases, was a reminder to them that a superior spiritual being exists, and they must pay homage to the spirits through certain rituals and sacrifices. In Western Kenya, diseases arise because of breaching the traditional norms of the society, referred to as the taboos. Going against these norms means disrespecting the ancestors, and who are the guardians of these traditional beliefs. The spirits will therefore punish people by sending to them inherited diseases such as sickle cell anemia, albinism, and other chronic diseases such as Aids, and cancer (Cole 2007: 62).
Amongst the Luo, they have a concept referred to as “chira”, meaning the symptoms of a disease that arise out of breaching the taboos and norms of their traditional believes. The symptoms of chira include constant headaches, in ability to bear children, albinism, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other incurable diseases. On this note, they believe that these diseases arise out of displeasing the ancestors, and are therefore a sign of punishment (Cole 2007: 42). Some communities in Nigeria, such as the Yoruba attribute mental illnesses to evil activities of witched, sorcerers, and even ancestral spirits. To them, they believe that a witch can affect the mental status of an individual, causing mental illnesses. They also believe that ancestral spirits play a great role in causing an individual’s mental illness. If it comes from their ancestors, then the person under consideration is a sinner.
To heal, he must pass through various traditional rituals such as offering of sacrifices, and fervent prayers to appease the ancestors. If the illness comes from witches, then there is need of a traditional healer to exorcise the demons that cause the illness. These healers have the capability of using charms, and casting of spells in the process of treating the sick individual. The Ibos of Nigeria also belief that some diseases are caused by witches, through implanting an object into somebodies body (Yankah 2004: 185). They do this through a distance, and to heal, the victim requires a medicine man to remove the objects from the individual’s body. To the Ibos, it is impossible to cure these illnesses, and only traditional medicine men can provide the solution. Symptoms of these illnesses include loss of weight, diarrhea, constant headaches, and stomach aches.
In conclusion, this paper manages to address the issue of superstitious believes and diseases. This paper identifies various cultures in Africa and Asia, and thereafter identifies the types of diseases they believed were caused by supernatural forces. There exists a number of similarities in their believes. For instance, in Asia and Africa, chronic diseases such as AIDS, and cancer were caused by a curse from the gods, or witchcraft. They saw such kind of an illness as too serious, and the only cause therefore is that the person suffering from the disease is a sinner, and therefore the gods are punishing him or her for their sins.
This paper manages to highlight how these people went about in curing their illnesses. On most occasions, they used rituals and charms for purposes of curing their diseases. For instance, this paper gives an example of the Hmong tribe in Cambodia. In this tribe, women took bracelets and tied them on their children for purposes of protecting them against diseases caused by evil spirits. On this note therefore, this paper manages to achieve its objective of explaining how supernatural believes shape the health status of particular cultures.
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