Before you decide to use Korobela or Bheka’mina you might want to think of the health risks associated with these love potions, warns a traditional healer. While many South Africans turn to these products for their bedroom and love woes, it often comes with a hefty price tag.
Lesego Moeti (40) from Kuruman in the Northern Cape tells Health For Mzansi his uncle may have been bewitched by a woman. “He was behaving like a rabid dog around her. He moved to Cape Town with her and abandoned his children,” he recalls
The alleged cause? Korobela, a love muthi that many believe can be used to place a spell on someone. A practising sangoma from Pretoria, Oratile Sethibelo (24), says she too believes in this, but it strips people of their dignity.
“There are two ways to do it. You either feed it [Korobela] to your partner, or by having sexual intercourse,” she explains. “What happens afterwards is that your partner starts to see you as attractive again, and they focus on you. But the downside of it is that your partner becomes very, possessive and jealous because now. They are no longer themselves because they are being controlled by this herb.”
Meanwhile, Mase Mookapilo (30) from Kimberley says she would never use the spell given its negative history. “I don’t believe that you have to use things like that to make someone fall in love with you. Also, I don’t really like the idea of someone being obsessed with me. That means they have no freedom to love me because they are in a spell.”
But what exactly is Korobela?
Korobela or Bheka’mina Ngdewa are “love potions,” or herbs perceived to bind lovers explains Dr Zukiswa Mvoko, a traditional healer based in Gauteng. She tells Health For Mzansi that Korobela can relate to physical, psychological and spiritual aspects.
Mvoko is the spokesperson for the SADC University of African Medicine, an organisation aimed at restoring the dignity of indigenous healers, indigenous knowledge and herbal medicines.
Mvoko is also known as Gogo Majola. The trained sangoma explains that Korobela is a tool used “to convince and manipulate a person to be what you want that person to be.”
She adds, “Korobela is something that is beyond the physical eye. It is not just a one way street where you can mix the herb and benefit, instead it destroys the other person.”
How is the African love potion perceived?
Korobela is much more than a powder found in a muthi shop or traditional healer/sangoma. Traditionally and culturally there are accepted rituals that exist for building love connections with married couples. “These rituals are not korobela, they are the alignment between the ancestors of the married couple and also build relationships.”
“When we do not understand the intensity of why two souls connect, perhaps it is more of a situation where the ancestors of those partners have been chosen to be together. In English they would call this twin flames or soulmates,” Mvoko says.
Korobela use has been perverted by many with the addition of various bodily fluids which some believe may increase the potency of the spell. “[Some] women will use their nails, saliva and blood. Those fluids are used for him to become obedient. For him to listen to you; for him to agree to everything you say.”
Let “real love” in, babes
Perhaps being in a position where you must manipulate another is not real love, Mvoko ponders. She says, “This person does not know that this has been done which is why the results will not always have a happy ending. When your partner finds out their reaction may be violent. When someone is given Korobela this could lead to be obsession.”
She reveals that you should brace yourself for some extreme changes in behaviour once a person has used Korobela. “They either become too much or they become a shell of their former selves,” she says.
“Somebody who used to be very active, somebody who used to be very intelligent, who used to love to explore and do things, who used to be proactive and do innovative stuff, they change.”
Its use may also have severe health implications on the recipient.
“There is this thing, isilwane, that comes in and consumes your physical state. Now your lover is experiencing chest pains, stomachs because they have eaten something that is foreign and now lives in their body.”
“Psychologically, others will start losing it somehow, they live in denial. One moment they are this loving person and in a split second they are angry, like they have bipolar disorder. That is because their soul is trying to negotiate where they stand.”
Mvoko warns that Korobela should not be used. “The concept of Korobela has been misused, the moment you chose to have someone under your spell then that is wrong.”
The use of Korobela may lead to the development of lifestyle disease including diabetes and hypertension. In some cases the use of the herb may affect your sexual reproductive health, Mvoko notes.
Ancient healing practice
In African medicine, sangomas have a bigger role to play than merely casting love spells, “doing” penis enlargements and finding lost lovers, Mvoko believes. Traditional healing is multifaceted and makes use of sacred practices including the use of indigenous medicine and the contact of ancestors in the spiritual realm.
“Indigenous medicine should be the key point of approach, and the Western should be the alternative. The way it has been done is the opposite, we need to correct that mindset,” she explains.
“Western medicines and powders come from plants. The plant comes first, then from the plant, you take the leaves or whatever, you grind them, you add whatever and then you have produced a pill. Why are we then thinking that the key lies in the Western Medicine? The key is our indigenous herbs. Indigenous medicine should be our lifestyle.”
According to Afro-American and African studies professor Adam Ashford, “‘muthi’ is thought to be the oldest and most varied of all healing practices.”