Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Atikevodu: Medicine and Spirituality in a Gorovodu Community of Southern Togo

Department

Anthropology Department

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Disciplines

Medicine and Health Sciences

Abstract

Trans-State public health institutions such as the World Health Organization are increasingly recognizing the importance and potential of indigenous knowledge of plant-based medicines. The administration of herbal plant remedies is frequently embedded in culturally informed religious contexts through which illness and healing are understood. This paper explores the intersection between spirituality and plant medicines in an Ewe Gorovodu community in Southern Togo. Atikevodu medicine is highly adept at treating a multitude of illnesses including blood bourne diseases, infectious diseases, and mental illnesses. Here, healing and illness are as physical as they are emotional, psychological, and spiritual, with many originating in sorcery or witchcraft. Priests diagnose illnesses and treat the individual as a physical-social subject, materially through the application of herbal plant remedies and non-materially through mediation with the Gorovodu spirits. Spatially, the village's sacred forest houses the spirit-fetishes and is where medicinal herbs and stored and administered. Through this agency and space, material and non-material, faith, ritual, and science are holistically integrated. Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with head priests who acted as key informants and participant observation in healing rituals and community ceremonies. This presentation concludes by raising significant issues regarding the cultural boundaries surrounding plant-based medicine and the role of medical anthropologists in translating indigenous medicinal practice into biomedical science.

Conference Name

American Anthropology Association 111th Annual Meeting

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

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