Healing in Polluted Places
Mountains, Air, and Weather in Zulu Zionist Ritual Practice
Keywords:Christianity, ritual healing, landscape, pollution
On the first Saturday of every month at midnight, the Zulu Zionist congregation I worked with would climb a mountaintop in their heavily polluted urban township in Durban, South Africa in search of physical and spiritual healing and restoration. I will use an ethnographic case from this event to argue that the ritual process constituted a movement through and engagement with a mountainous landscape which facilitated embodied engagements with the 'weather-world' as manifestations of a historical landscape where the spiritual world became tangible and embodied. Within this historical framework pollution was both a source of affliction and healing, hence there was no clear-cut distinction between the industrial and environmental pollution that has historically been the concern of Zulu healing rituals. As such, the status of pollution surfaced at the center of ritual locations, where mountains as contaminated places emerged as important, though highly ambivalent sources of health and wellbeing.
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