Friday, December 27, 2013

Myths & Tales: Does Maat look like Hamerkop (Nantchengwa) bird?

It is said online that the Maat of ancient Kemet was associated with the seven cardinal virtues, the keys to human perfectibility, truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order.
When looking at a Maat image on, one cannot help notice what looks like a human being with outstretched hands and wings. 
Some websites also talk of the seven virtues and “42 admonitions of Maat” being guidelines of correct behavior and the standard against which the soul of the deceased would be judged in their beliefs.
Those who lived in accordance with the Maat principles were guaranteed some kind of reward in the afterlife after their version of the judgment of the soul.
Now looking at the image of the woman figure with one leg bent reminds some uneducated Sapitwa healers of a Hamerkop known as Nantchengwa in Malawi. It’s quite an ugly looking bird with a triangle shaped head and a cry that seems to shriek when flying by.
It also doesn’t fly steadily, kind of staggering then flying straight like the Maat image gliding high in the sky like an airplane unlike other regular birds like the crow which seem to use more energy.
Some Sapitwa healers claim the Hamerkop known as Nantchengwa in Malawi when flying has one leg which looks lame, I think it’s the left.  They also claim that it represents the two ways in their so-called underworld with one leg stretched out in one direction and the other bent in another direction.
However the unofficial online Wikipedia says the “Hamerkop, also known as Hammerkop,HammerkopfHammerheadHammerhead StorkUmbretteUmber Bird,Tufted Umber, or Anvilhead, is a medium-sized wading bird (56 centimetres (22 in) long, weighing 470 grams (17 oz)).
“The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name. It ranges from AfricaMadagascar to Arabia, in wetlands of a wide variety, including estuaries, lakesides, fish pond, riverbanks and rocky coasts inTanzania.
The Hamerkop, which is a sedentary bird that often show local movements, is not globally threatened and is locally abundant in Africa and Madagascar,” partly reads the Wikipedia.
It adds that the strangest aspect of Hamerkop behavior is the huge nest, sometimes more than 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) across, comprising perhaps 10,000 sticks and strong enough to support a man’s weight.
“The birds decorate the outside with any bright-coloured objects they can find. When possible, they build the nest in the fork of a tree, often over water, but if necessary they build on a bank, a cliff, a human-built wall or dam, or on the ground.
“A pair starts by making a platform of sticks held together with mud, then builds walls and a domed roof. A mud-plastered entrance 13–18 centimetres (5.1–7.1 in) wide in the bottom leads through a tunnel up to 60 centimetres (24 in) long to a nesting chamber big enough for the parents and young.
“These birds are compulsive nest builders, constructing 3 to 5 nests per year whether they are breeding or not. Barn Owls and eagle owls may force them out and take over the nests, but when the owls leave, the Hammerkops may reuse the nests. Snakes, small mammals such as genets, and various birds live in abandoned nests, and weaver birdsstarlings, and pigeons may attach their nests to the outside.
“At the finished nest, a pair gives displays similar to those of the group ceremonies and mates, often on top of the nest. The clutch consists of 3 to 7 eggs that start white but soon become stained. Both sexes incubate for 28 to 30 days. Both feed the young, often leaving them alone for long times; this unusual habit for wading birds may be made possible by the thick nest walls. The young hatch covered with gray down. By 17 days after hatching, their head and crest plumage is developed, and in a month, their body plumage. They leave the nest at 44 to 50 days but roost in it at night until about two months after hatching,” reads the unofficial Wikipedia.

There are also many legends about the Hamerkop.
It is known in some cultures as the lightning bird, and the Kalahari Bushmen believe or believed that being hit by lightning resulted from trying to rob a Hamerkop’s nest. They also believe that the inimical god Khauna would not like anyone to kill a Hamerkop.
According to an old Malagasy belief, anyone who destroys its nest will get leprosy, and a Malagasy poem calls it an “evil bird”. Such beliefs have given the bird some protection,” adds the unofficial Wikipedia.
Scopus, a database of abstracts and citations for scholarly journal articles, received its name in honor of this bird, as the Hamerkop is renowned for its superior navigation skills.

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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.