The Bambara of Mali, who are sedentary agriculturists, number about two million and are the most important ethnic group in the country. They are gradually being Islamized, but retain many animist beliefs. Their traditional medical care system possesses a heterogenous group of practitioners who have either an animist or an Islamic culture reference. The traditional medical care system of the Bambara was studied and an evaluation of the quality of its practitioners made on the basis of a survey conducted in 128 villages over an eight-year period. During the study, patients, traditional practitioners and modern health workers were interviewed and their attitudes towards one another recorded and analyzed. Certain categories of traditional practitioners have a definite constructive role to play in a modern health care delivery system. Others, however, have had a long history and high incidence of charlatanism. Legitimatization of these categories and their incorporation into the modern health care system is not recommended.