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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Ditapelo - Prayer Services

Ditapelo held by Bethlehem City of Christ Church in Zion

This Ditapelo service was held as part of a Sunday service that had started in the customary way . It took place in August 1978. After a short Sunday service it was announced that we were going to pray at a member's home where there had been a great deal of trouble. For example the children who were educated,were refusing to look after their family. We then left in procession with the men at the front, then the baptized women, followed by the unbaptized women and the children. The drum was carried on the back of a bicycle and as we moved through the village we sang hymns while the drum was beaten, and members danced.

When we finally arrived near the home (it was at the far end of the village) the leader (Mookamedi-the Vice-Bishop) came to the front and led with his prophecy stick (a palm frond). He led the singing and we all fell into single file in the above order. He led us around the kgotla outside the man’s house a few times in a "zig-zag," fashion,  and we then entered a rondavel at the back of the yard which had been newly smeared with cattle dung.

Processing through the village, singing hymns  and dancing to the beat of a drum carried on the back of a bicycle

Drum on the back of a bicycle

Family awaiting arrival of Bethlehem Church to conduct the Ditapelo Service

Baruti at the front followed by women and children

Following these words of comfort and Bible readings, the congregation moved into the lolwapa where there was more room to dance.

There was a table with a candle stick to the left of the door. Everyone then took up their usual positions i.e. the men to the left of the altar by the door, baptized women to the right of the altar. The Moruti (Vice-Bishop) stood behind the altar with Mma Mookamedi sitting on his left, and the main men to his right. The owner of the home then stood up and formally told everybody things were wrong at his home and he was glad they had come to help him.

The service was conducted by the Vice-Bishop of Bethlehem who drew parallels between the Church as Jonah and the home as Ninevah. He said that if like Jonah, they had refused to help, they could have been punished like Jonah. Most of the Bible readings and preaching were directed towards comforting the owner of the home by telling him that God will never desert him.

The men, led by the Mookamedi, danced in one line and the women led by the Mookamedi's wife danced in the other and the lines wove in and out of each other. Next the family were put in the middle of the dancing circle and were danced around. The Prophets began to receive Moya (the Holy Spirit). Mookamedi could “see” that a sorcerer had buried a horn of sorcery in their yard to bewitch them and this was causing the problems. The sorcerer was even present at the service.

After that  the family were all prayed upon by the Barapedi (Prayers) Then the rest of the congregation - the unbaptized first, then baptized women and children, and then the men. (The Mookamedi had announced that sorcerers should keep outside as when they were touched by the Barapedi, they would be apprehended.) First  one Moruti and then another then two together (the latter included the Mookamedi) prayed on the head, shoulders, back, chest and stomach of each person, their hands were trembling as they did so with the healing power from Moya.

This special service as with traditional medicine, healing is aimed at repairing the obviously broken family social relationships, reassurance is given with the special prayers to make those who are suffering feel stronger to face their problems. The difference is that the protection is believed to be granted by God rather than Badimo (the Ancestors)

Inside Bethlehem Church, announcements were made and a collection was taken. People who wanted to join were put in the centre, but the Mookamedi warned new members that they should only join if their parents agreed, as if they joined they would not be allowed to use traditional medicine, only the Holy Water which “quarrels” with traditional medicine (i.e. attracts lightning when mixed with it in the same house or kgotla e.g. this had happened at the kgotla of the Malome (maternal Uncle) of one of my informants.) Therefore if they Joined without their parents’ consent, they would discredit the Zion Church. which was taken up by all the others. After this the service ended at about 5.00 p.m.

 Moruti started a cheer "Viva, Bethlehem, Viva" which was taken up by all the others. The Mookamedi said he was glad that we had come to that house to pray

Then all walked back to the church in procession singing hymns on the way, entering the church in single file in the same order as entering the kgotla at the home of the troubled family

Mookamedi leads congregation around the kgotla before entering the house and yard where Prayer Service being held

Congregation entering the yard for the Prayer Service, Baruti (Prophet-Priests) and men first, followed by women members and church choir, and then the rest of congregation. The walls of the lolwapa (yard) had been freshly smeared and decorated. The service started in a rondavel in the yard, then spread out into the lolwapa for dancing, prophesying and praying (healing).