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FAMILY CONSTELLATIONS: DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM THE ZULU PEOPLE

Updated: Jun 24, 2023


Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt


"The Zulu culture acknowledges the existence of both light and shadow aspects within individuals and families. The Family Constellations Technique invites participants to embrace and acknowledge the shadow aspects, including secrets, unresolved conflicts, and hidden traumas"

The Family Constellations Technique is a powerful therapeutic approach that aims to uncover and resolve deep-seated family dynamics and unresolved traumas. Although commonly associated with Bert Hellinger, a German psychotherapist, he drew inspiration from the rich cultural heritage of the Zulu people of South Africa with whom he shared, for over 16 years, as a missionary. In this article, we delve into the Zulu origins of the Family Constellations Technique and explore how its core principles align with the Zulu traditions.

  1. The Zulu Belief System: The Zulu people have a deep reverence for their ancestors and firmly believe that the past plays a crucial role in shaping the present and future. They understand that the actions and experiences of ancestors can have a profound impact on the lives of their descendants. This belief system forms the foundation of the Family Constellations Technique.

  2. Ubuntu Philosophy: Ubuntu, an ancient African philosophy, emphasizes the interconnectedness of all beings. It teaches that individuals are inseparable from their families, communities, and ancestors. This principle aligns with the systemic perspective underlying Family Constellations, which acknowledges that individuals are influenced by the larger family system in which they belong.

  3. Ancestral Healing Rituals: The Zulu people have a long-standing tradition of ancestral healing rituals. These ceremonies are conducted to honor and address the unresolved issues of the past, allowing the present generation to find resolution and move forward. Family Constellations draw inspiration from these rituals by creating a safe space for participants to explore their family dynamics and gain insights into generational patterns.

  4. Connection with the Ancestors: The Zulu culture places great importance on maintaining a connection with ancestors. This connection is believed to offer guidance, protection, and healing. Similarly, in Family Constellations, participants are encouraged to connect with the energy and wisdom of their ancestors, tapping into their collective consciousness for healing and transformation.

  5. Respect for Elders: The Zulu culture holds profound respect for elders, recognizing their wisdom and life experience. Similarly, Family Constellations workshops often incorporate the presence of experienced facilitators or representatives who embody the role of elders. These facilitators provide guidance, support, and insights, drawing parallels to the Zulu reverence for wisdom and guidance from the older generations.


The Zulu culture acknowledges the existence of both light and shadow aspects within individuals and families. Family Constellations Technique invites participants to embrace and acknowledge the shadow aspects, including secrets, unresolved conflicts, and hidden traumas. By shedding light on these aspects, participants can initiate a healing process, just as the Zulu culture encourages addressing the shadows for growth and reconciliation.

The Family Constellations Technique, popularized by Bert Hellinger, owes its roots to the wisdom and practices of the Zulu people of South Africa. Through their deep connection with ancestors, the Zulu have developed a profound understanding of family dynamics and the impact of unresolved traumas. The core principles of Ubuntu philosophy, ancestral healing rituals, respect for elders, and embracing the shadow all contribute to the foundation of Family Constellations. By acknowledging and embracing these Zulu traditions, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the profound insights and transformative potential offered by the Family Constellations Technique.

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