Hunting the Haunts in the Hills of Hanoi
Inside the Ancient Rituals of Cape Town’s Sangoma Healers
“I remember one monk said to me that this is fate. Meaning my fate has a connection with the spiritual world. It seems like I was chosen by a supernatural power.”
I am standing inside the arch of a long-abandoned Christian church nestled into a forest in northern Vietnam, and those are the words of the professional ghost hunter I’m with, Hong Nam. Opening doors into tribes and treasures alike. In this case, the treasure is this relic of a church and the ceremony that I’m about to witness.
The Mythical Fortress of Masada
Standing amidst the blood and gore of the several ritual animal sacrifices I’m watching occur concurrently in this Cape Town township, it could be easy to pigeonhole a sangoma ceremony as a one-dimensional, brutal manifestation of animist faiths in Africa.
The New Face of Civil War
Finding long lost fortresses is the cornerstone of any adventurers DNA. On the coast of the Dead Sea lies the remains the palace complex of Masada, a mythical set of structures that is only bested by the legend of its inhabitants.
The Judean rebels who fought against the Roman empire barricaded themselves within protesting their subjugation. When the Romans finally over-ran the walls (you need to see this video to understand how outlandish that is) the rebels made a pact. Live free or die -- two thousand years before the American colonists.
Domestic conflict used to be defined by warring factions within a political state. A clearly defined 'us vs. them' dynamic in which parties could align with the side that best served their interests -- whether that be short or long term. The face of globalism has shifted that paradigm. Now, external actors, either sovereign armies or proxy mercenaries, are getting into the game without rebuke from a unified international body.
What does that mean for modern conflict? In the past, it was not unusual on my adventures to see the brutal face of contained civil war. Today, I see myriad micro-world wars where it is possible to run into Latin American mercenaries in African wars.