Sunday, December 29, 2013

Malawi: Only Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) makes rains...

Took this photo while watching black clouds approach a hill in Blantyre
It is that time again when Malawians look up to the skies in anticipation of good rains needed for growing plenty of maize and vegetables in a country with a mainly agro-based economy.  
With erratic rains in recent years, some farmers are yet to embrace irrigation the way it is done in other countries globally. Not all understand terms like global warming or climate change and some superstitions and suspicions about the innocent elderly prevail in some villages.
I will share with you a Religion feature I wrote on November 7, 2010 and it was published in a local daily newspaper.  Please note that the photos from Menno Welling I’ve used here are for a different story and don’t endorse this one:
Gathering for prayers to ask God for good rains used to be the norm in Malawi several years ago especially when there are dry spells although thanksgiving prayers were not held as often.
Scientific explanations about El Nino or Nina weather patterns and climate change are usually ignored by many while stories of elderly people holding rain in narrowed necked calabashes known as nsupa are somehow more widely believed in rural areas.
Odd stories include sending lightning (mphenzi) and thunder (mabingu) to deliberately harm and kill people. Despite all this superstition, it is a fact that God is behind the whole rain process as evidenced in the Bible with Psalms 147:8 reading, “who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.”
Job 36:27-28 reads, “for he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distill upon man abundantly.”
Other biblical verses among many include Acts 14:17, nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
The Bible also show that God showers rain on everybody with the good example being Matthew 5:45, “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
However, the Bible also shows how rain was withheld for three years and six months with 1 Kings 17 explaining about “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
Another example is Revelation 11:1-14 about two witnesses proclaiming God’s message during 1260 days.  It talks about how they are“the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
“And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
“These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”
This on the other hand is different from so-called local matsenga (magic) beliefs which mostly harass the elderly accusing them of holding rain during droughts or short rainfalls.
Newspapers once reported of an old woman from Thyolo who had her property damaged by enraged villagers who accused her of being a witch and keeping a pot in her house for somehow tying or locking the rains.
Apostle Willie Chaponda, president of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Network when asked said witches cannot be ruled out and there are possibilities some could stop rains using magic.
When pressed further, he cited in the Bible examples of how Moses threw a stick which became a snake and wizards did the same thing although theirs was swallowed by Moses’.
Chaponda also recalled a Chiradzulu elderly man who used magic to produce rain saying such things are accomplished using evil spirits contrary to the will of God.
He stressed that God is supreme and can cancel other evil acts so need to panic or be violent. Questioned about the original Tchopa, rain dance, he answered it was a spiritual dance where afterwards the rain would come.
Historically, deities like Mbona at Khulubvi was known to once release the rain after dancing with a two-edged knife locally known as kandalanga which he would point to the north for hot winds to bring rains and the south for lighter showers.
Drawing on p.30 of Ulendo Series Mtunda 8 Chichewa for Standard 8 book
In 2008, up the Likhubula river at Dziwe la Nkhalamba (swimming pool for the elderly) known for cold water and a rock, Menno Welling, an archaeologist with some Catholic University students after excavations discovered a rain shrine.
This was confirmed by blue beads and clay containers. The deity still remains unknown but some traditional healers insist it is from an astral plane beyond Sapitwa peak of Mulanje Mountain.
Despite these deities, the interesting thing is that our ancestors still believed they were like messengers to ask God (Chauta, Namalenga) for rains because in their eyes it involved the spiritual world and not the material one we currently live in.  Ironically, both Christian and ancestral ways seem to recognize God as the one who makes rain and is the source.
Beer vessel found at suspected rain shrine on Mulanje mountain – Photo from Menno Welling several years ago


  1. Replies
    1. Sorry I've suggest seen this now. Yes I have that book and bought it from vendors in Blantyre. Thanks


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 the Sirius star. this space.