The Practice of Holy Water Therapy for Mental Disorders and other Conditions: at St. Michael Church Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Ethiopians tend to emphasize supernatural explanations for illness, especially in the case of mental illness. The most common indigenous therapy is the use of holy water. Despite some recent studies on indigenous therapy, there has been little exploration of the interface between mental health and religion in Ethiopia. Thus the primary purpose of this study is to systematically explore the process of holy water therapy for mental disorders at Shinkuru Michael one of the principal traditional therapy centers in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. This research project used a descriptive study methodology, which is derived from and could be classified as a sub-branch of the qualitative approach. Non probability purposive sampling methods were used due to their appropriateness in dealing with sensitive issues related to mental illness. Data was collected from nine participants through in-depth interview, participant observation, and informal interview. Primary and secondary data collection methods were also used to gather additional data. All data were organized thematically and analyzed using thematic analysis. The study found that the nature of tsebel therapy demands the individual’s active involvement in fasting, prostration, Emnet (use of holy ash) and worship, for it to be effective. A wide variety of patients frequently made use of tsebel since it has a dual nature, being considered as an effective preventive measure and also as a cure, for mental illness and other diseases. Thus, based on the research, one can conclude that since the religious establishment plays a major role in the treatment of mental illness, there is a strong imperative for a certain amount of re-education, awareness raising and the promotion of cooperation among religious healers at tsebel/holy water sites, and mental health practitioners of every kind of health care system.



mental illness,indigenous therapy