Saturday, November 30, 2013

African Myths & Tales: Born of the ocean, fire and spirits

She stands with a bright presence, her veil covering her dreaded long hair as her wide eyes stare blankly at those who visit her and seek guidance.

Her name is hidden, her colour blue like the deep ocean and the origins of her sad mythical story a mystery. 

She’s said to be the subject of a few people’s wild imagination but a reality for those few who claim there is life in the so-called astral realm of Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mulanje mountain.

This cannot be verified as this author has never been to the claimed astral realm of Sapitwa but is willing to document some tales and myths of this ancient land ignored by many historians and writers who write off as "irrelevant" some ancient African “priests” and “priestesses” today known as traditional healers of Sapitwa.

These were the men and women; some who were celibate and responsible for “nsembe” sacrifice offerings at Mulanje Mountain of mapira sorghum among others during ancient times for various reasons so go the stories.

It is believed in ancient times such “priests” and “priestesses” who were also like “fortune-tellers” predicting the future and giving advise on the way forward whenever there were calamities among other things, worked closely with kings of that ancient land.

If there is one thing in Malawi that has not always been documented then that must be the myths and oral history of some of the Sapitwa healers of this ancient land.

Others trek to what they call “Kuba” in Mozambique and many sacred places in various ancient lands guided by what they claim are “royal spirits” and “guides”.

Most of their rituals and beliefs have been kept secret and close to their hearts for centuries as they were forbidden to boast or let themselves known to society so they claim.

They are also not allowed to charge for their services but they have been receiving tokens or gifts no matter how small or big from those who seek their services. 

These healers also claim to leave some of the money given to them by those seeking help at Sapitwa as a token of appreciation to their “spirit king.”

It is believed that whoever accidentally finds themselves in the forbidden areas and takes or steals the money will face the wrath of the "spirits."

Some of the money “patients” or “clients” chose to give them is left at the rock where this female “spirit” is claimed to appear near a waterfall.
One of many Sapitwa rocks

The claimed spirits of the mountain are said to also appear in water and hence some of the beliefs that a royal Napolo serpent spirit causes flash floods when it relocates from the mountain to the nearest water body.

Mountains and water bodies are also believed to be a source of rain and various herbs and healing algae.

It’s also in water especially oceans where some healers are believed to be taken by a “spirit” for 3 days and to come out like a flood with an earthquake to resemble an expectant woman in labour giving birth.

The so-called flood is believed to represent the water breaking and the earthquakes, the labour pains to symbolize the re-birth.  

Within all these myths and beliefs it’s the re-birth ritual that some of these healers of this ancient land called Malawi played through numbers and female and male energy.

They believed in 4 positive male “spirits” and 3 negative female ones to create their sacred number of 7 spirits which they claim pull each other to create light.

They also believed female healers use male spirits hence most dealing with mizimu (spirits) and that male healers use female energy if they’re using the magical narrow necked gourd locally known as nsupa which is dressed with beads around its “hourglass” waist.

Many magic stories and tales have been told about these nsupa gourds including claims that they somehow talk and that the sing’anga healer somehow uses his mortal powers to make it move, but in reality, its power is believed to be sourced from demons and not from Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) or mortal beings.

There are also myths and tales of mortal beings in Mozambique somehow being put into fire to come out stronger?

To be continued……


  1. Love the post :)

    Your work sounds fascinating to me.
    ....Could i maybe email you?
    All the best from London

  2. Thank-you very much Joanna and yes you can email me.


Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star. this space.