Muthi And Mystery At The Faraday Market

Muthi And Mystery At The Faraday Market

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Deep in downtown Jo’burg there is a fully fledged traditional market that boasts a host of natural, and sometimes supernatural, ingredients and materials used to solve people’s problems. From physical illnesses to spiritual rituals, enchantments to spells covering a spectrum of needs, the Faraday Muti Market has it all.

The Traditional Consultant I visited specialises in herbs and remedies for predominantly spiritual and supernatural effects such as: sharpening your intuition (R300), lucid dreaming (R300), love potions (400), luck potions (400), courage and fearlessness, which is a favorite with suspected criminals apparently, (R600) and cleansing of the body (R150). The cleansing is a local favorite as it drains out most of the unhealthy build up in the body and leaves you feeling fresh and energetic. 

At first glance it looks messy, unhygienic and wrong but once you relinquish yourself from your preconceptions and open your mind you will see that it is just one huge natural pharmacy with independent pharmacists there for consultation, advice and medicine for all your health and domestic needs. Most of the shop owners burn incense to ward off evil spirits and for a place that has so many dead carcasses and animal skins hung out to dry, you’d be surprised that you find very few flies there because they have natural remedies to keep the insects away too.

The market is mostly run by Zulu speaking people and a few Sepedi speakers and the people who come here call it “The Traditional Hospital”. Just like any other hospital, you can’t just simply go there and start pointing at some weird stuff and asking a million questions. The general rule is if you don’t know what it is, then you’ll have to tell the healer your ailment and the traditional doctor will whip you up a concoction that consists of herbs, spices, skins, bones and animal flesh…just to name a few ingredients. The prescription is handed to you with some general instructions on dosage and warnings.

For a vast amount of people, this is the only medicine they’ll ever need. They have knowledge that isn’t in any books or online, but rather passed down from generation to generation. There is a lot of secrecy surrounding their methods and remedies cause they feel like you have to earn this knowledge by attending courses held by the elder doctors in the rural areas before one is worthy of their ways and customs.

The herbs being used are only from indigenous plants (a leaf here, a bark there and a root there) with healing properties. The animals (such as monkeys, lions, eagles, snakes, armadillos, crocodiles) claws, teeth, shells, limbs and organs are prepared to a powdery substance that is mixed with some of the herbs in order to make various medication. A lot of the preparing and grinding is done beforehand and you’d only get it as a powder or dried out. The mixture of ingredients is done after consultation, as you wait. There are 4 main ways of ingesting the medication; drinking, eating, smoking and as an enema for quicker effect. Animal skins are used as mats, furniture covers, clothes, and general arts and crafts, thus making full use of the animal rather than letting any go to waste.

It may not be your cup of tea but that isn’t to say that any of this is inhumane or ineffective. The remedies have been used over centuries and although it can’t be disputed that for serious injuries you should go to an actual hospital, you might just find what you’re looking for to cure your next spell of winter flu at the Faraday Market. 

Photos by Jono Wood

by Tshepiso Nkoe
We explored the underground Faraday Muthi Market in search of what it's all about.


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