Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tales & myths: Two ways to the Sapitwa Underworld

Mulanje mountain taken when I was in a minibus as it drove past
If there is one place in Malawi that has been mysterious for centuries and the cause of many myths and tales, then Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mulanje mountain is the one.
So many tales have been told about Sapitwa ranging from ancestral spirits somehow providing free meals to some allegedly covering those who trek to forbidden areas without following rules, with a white cloth.
White is the colour of the dead in ancient Africa and somehow meaning the chosen person has joined the spiritual or astral realm.
Ancestors of this ancient land believed that “spirits” or what others call ghosts always appeared as white as paper.  They also believed that the female ones always covered their hair with a veil because it would supposedly move like a snake which sounds like an African version of the Medusa tale which is quite laughable.
It is said such women never cut their hair and it formed into primitive dreadlocks.
Now civilization and Christianity among others came to Africa so this brief article is not an attempt to verify or justify tales and myths of this ancient land called Malawi, but to in a little way share some oral history  and it’s tales the way many learned people do online with tales and myths about ancient Egypt including tales about “pagan” Osiris (Ausar), Isis (Aset) and Horus (Heru).
It’s history and gone but globally so much is documented about ancient times but not much about Malawi except for some Mbona stories and research. For some reason, myths and tales about Sapitwa have been excluded making all that is written sometimes appear half-baked.
For unknown reasons, mountains globally have myths and tales attached to them and many are fully documented online. The same has been done about Sapitwa but the part about its ancient healers and rituals has been erased from history by unknown people.
In this ancient land now called Malawi, healers claim Sapitwa was the source of the 4 winds, mainly North, South, West and East which were said to be involved in rainfall and the drawing of the primitive ancient African cross.
Now this ancient African cross is now drawn with ufa woyera (white maize flour) which in ancient times could have been mapira (sorghum) but since there is no information posted online from our experts I will repeat what those of Sapitwa say.
African cross with maize flour but couldn’t get it straight

Now it is this African cross which was like a key to the so-called underworld of Sapitwa which today we could call the astral realm for lack of a better word.
In ancient times, the Sapitwa healers believed that 4 positive male spirits charged the right side and that three negative female spirits charged the left side and together that made a total of 7 pulling each other to create light which to them was like the sun or lightning.

Another is a circle with an African cross in the middle to symbolize the mythical elderly man with white hair and a beard who’s said to have been appearing at Dziwe la Nkhalamba (swimming pool for the elderly) centuries ago and somehow providing free clothes which were usually robes gathered from rocks there.
Face of the elderly one attempt

The entrance and foundation in the tales was said to be a white rock whom ancestors of this land believed was at Dziwe la Nkhalamba.  In such myths and tales, the ancient priestesses were the ones who were believed to guide souls to their destiny.
I’ve attempted to re-create some drawings I saw with some Sapitwa healers but basically in their primitive and now “pagan”  beliefs they thought souls enter from the south and approach two ways.
One was to the right and the other to the left and in between was an upright serpent spirit whom they claimed was the spirit of a king.
What I saw as people might be souls but I’m not sure 

In some other ancient African cultures, it was believed when some kings pass on they become the upright cobras, black mambas or the python which in their tales would also be drawn upright as to them these spirits spoke like human beings.
Now in their primitive beliefs, they thought when a soul gets to the two ways, the serpent spirit in the middle would chose which direction they should take.
On the left was a monster with horns and fire and scary eyes while on the right there was a tunnel and bright white light. It is this black tunnel which some believe could be a black hole into the so-called astral realm but no research has been done to verify this tale so it will always be a myth.
Now that serpent spirit had a name which for now will remain hidden just like the name of the so-called  mythical veiled woman of Sapitwa.
There are so many myths and tales in Malawi but the problem is none of those expected to document it bothered doing so.  It’s not only ancient Egypt that had tales and myths about their “pagan” past and those who research and document ancient Egypt include learned people of different religions.
So it’s wrong to say Malawians should not document their ancient history for history purposes…..the past is gone forever and many have adopted the new ways so no harm can be done!
It doesn’t make sense to keep on hearing about the pharaohs of Egypt or the Dogon of Mali when we have our own.  Soon I will list the names of all ancient “chiefs” of this ancient land now known as beautiful Malawi.
For most of us Africans Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) remains Almighty and the only God who reigns forever and ever.  But if one is to accurately document history it must not be censored and erased because it’s gone forever….that is why it is history.



Thanks to the uneducated healers of Sapitwa who live in the village in Mulanje for telling me their nthano stories since 1998 and allowing me to publish them now since there is nothing online.

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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.

.....watch this space.


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