Friday, December 20, 2013

Sapitwa healers count down to Sirius, new fruit trees.....December 31

Beautiful scenery in Malawi
Somewhere in the mysterious realm of Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mulanje mountain, some female healers are believed to be busy making their sacrifice offerings (nsembe) of mapira (sorghum) and other grains as they count down to Sirius (nthanda yaku m’mawa) and the New Year.

For them, Saturday is always a special powerful day …the day of the hidden veiled spirit woman of Sapitwa and for December 21, 2013 when they are expected to come down the mountain, it is one of the most powerful days till ten days later on December 31 when their very bright star is expected to appear in the North.
My attempt at taking a photo of the cross Sirius on Dec 31, 2012 eish

It’s also a time when they prepare for a new season of planting fruit trees in the continued rainy season of January as the leaves of such trees like avocado and mango are believed to be used for healing some ailments.

Avocado leaves are said to provide iron for the body and increasing the blood count among other things while the mango bark etc is used for some stomach ailments.

Other fruit trees grown in Mulanje in December/January during the rainy season include papaya and banana.  

However indigenous trees were used in ancient times but the contents will not be disclosed as exclusive herbs for healing.

For the healers of Sapitwa, January which comes after their Sirius star symbolizes a new beginning and season.

The star they locally call nthanda yaku m’mawa because they claim it’s a cross from the east which to them symbolizes all that is holy and from their Creator whom they call Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God).

The star is usually expected to appear around the time which would be the stroke of midnight on December 31…like a firecracker ushering in the New Year.

In 2006, it’s said to have appeared for sometime in the west to symbolize a secret event that happened around that period but it was not documented.

However, not much information is available online about this because researchers and experts have not interviewed the women of Sapitwa who have this knowledge although they have existed for centuries.

In Malawi Sapitwa healers are scorned and eyed with suspicion hence some of their oral history being erased from history.

As soon as one female healer comes down the mountain, I will try to interview her and post the information in this blog.

Scientifically on, Sirius in the “constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog – is the sky’s brightest star. It’s very easy to spot on winter and spring evenings.

“Although white to blue white in color, Sirius might be called a rainbow star, as it often flickers with many colors.
Sirius photo taken from Earth Sky website

The brightness, twinkling and color changes sometimes prompt first-time observers to report Sirius as a UFO. But these changes have nothing to do with Sirius. Rather, they are what happens when such a bright star as Sirius shines through the blanket of Earth’s atmosphere.
“The light from Sirius, which often appears fairly low in the sky from the mid-north latitudes, passes through a long column of air before it reaches our eyes. Changes in density and temperature of this air affect the light and cause the flickering and shimmering we see when we gaze at this star. This happens for other stars, too, but it is more noticeable for Sirius because it is so bright, and because it appears low in the sky.
“Sirius has been known since ancient times, and its name signified its nature as “scorching” or “sparkling.” It was associated with the Egyptian god Osiris and other gods. Ancient Egyptians noted that Sirius rose just before the sun each year immediately prior to the annual flooding of the Nile River. Although the floods could bring destruction, they also brought new soil and new life. Fittingly, Osiris, whom Sirius may have represented, was a god of life, death, fertility and rebirth of plant life along the Nile,” further reads the EarthSky blog.
According to a blog posted on The Washington Post, Saturday December 21 is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the “shortest daylight period and longest night of the year.”
“At 12:11 p.m. EST on December 21, the sun appears directly overhead along the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south latitude. With the Earth’s north pole at its maximum tilt from the sun, locations north of the equator see the sun follow its lowest and shortest arc across the southern sky. For the next six months, the days again grow longer as the sun spends more time above the horizon,” partly reads that blog.

In a nutshell it marks the one of the four major way stations on the Earth’s annual journey around the sun and in ancient times it was symbolic with crops with Stonehenge in England being described online as having been  built as “an astronomical observatory with its stones precisely oriented to detect the extremes of the sun’s movement.”

In Malawi, the summer and winter solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes mark the passing of the seasons.
“They fall on nearly the same day each year, with differences of a day or two depending on the year. In 2013 they occur on the Spring Equinox on Sunday September 22, 2012,  the Summer Solstice on Saturday, December 21, the Fall Equinox on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 and the Winter Solstice on  Friday, June 21, 2013,” according to information posted on
So for Malawi the December Solstice (Summer Solstice) is described online as being on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 7:11PM in Blantyre and in locations south of Equator, the longest day of the year is around this date.
For thousands of years, ancestors of many cultures marked the seasons of the year with festivals and their “greatest festivals were the twice yearly solstices.”

And most of these festivals dealt with harvests, grains and crops and of course the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egypt.

According to the unofficial online encyclopaedia, the Wikipedia, when it is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

“For the Northern Hemisphere, at the moment of winter solstice, the sun is at its greatest height as observed from the South Pole. Similarly,for the Southern Hemisphere, at the moment of the winter solstice, the sun is at its greatest height as observed from the North Pole. In the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice is also the Southern solstice and occurs in December, In the Southern Hemisphere this is the Northern solstice which occurs in June.
Depending on one's position on the globe, the December solstice usually occurs on the 21st and the 22nd and the June solstice usually occurs on June the 20th or 21st. However, it is sometimes possible for a solstice to coincide with three different dates,” further reads the unofficial Wikipedia. 

So without much information online about Malawi and it's ancient solstice or the countdown to the new year which is 10 days away, the healers in the villagers say in times of celebration they would among other things prepare thobwa kind of like maheu which many women in Malawi today put in empty used water or squash bottles to sell.
Delicious  thobwa being sold in Mangochi near Lake Malawi

Not so good thobwa...fermented the next day

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.