Friday, January 31, 2014

Ancient Malawi tales: Was Gumulanje the mythical winged destroyer?

Date of Mt Mulanje's existence and who were it’s kings?

Every continent on this planet has an ancient history and myths and tales some locked away in oral stories while others have been made public and well documented thanks to the work of various people including scientists and archaeologists among others.

To date there is nothing online about who occupied this ancient land now called Malawi millions of years ago or more than 2000 years ago.
This blog does amateur research online using websites and the social media to try and investigate information given by some female healers who claim to go to a mythical realm of Sapitwa is how best one can put it.
You see there is the official Sapitwa peak which is on Mulanje Mountain and those who have climbed there have not seen what these healers claim to see.

There has been conflicting research online for this blog with the movements of humanity. One side of mostly human evolution theorists talk of ape-like people evolving and leaving Africa and another of people trekking into Africa from unknown origins.
Charles Darwin was one of the first to propose common descent of living organisms, and among the first to suggest that all humans had in common ancestors who lived in Africa,” reads the unofficial Wikipedia online.

Now a quick visit to titled Africa 200 BC-30 BC shows “the southward movement of the Bantu people has reached full momentum.

This expansion seems to have followed two lines of movement, one to the west, through the Congo forests and down into the Grasslands of Namibia, the other through East Africa and now approaching Southern Africa.
“The hunter-gatherers they encounter are either eliminated or pushed into the denser forests or the more arid areas.  The speed of the Bantu movement is startling.  In the forefront there are probably mobile bands of colonists seeking out the best land, farming it for a few years and then move on to freshland.
Meanwhile, the north coast of Africa has passed into the Roman sphere, either as provinces governed directly from Rome, as in the case of Egypt and the old territory of Carthage, or as client tribes, like the Mauritanians to the west,” reads that BBC website.
Map taken from the BBC website
On the map provided some areas show “Pygmies  (Bantu farmers)” and the areas which is near what is now Malawi there is the word “San (hunter-gatherers).
A quick Google search shows that “the various indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa, whose territory spans Botswana, NamibiaAngolaZambiaZimbabwe and South Africa, are collectively referred to as San, Bushmen, or Basarwa, all considered pejorative to some degree.”

The XAM Ka !Ke website on use the word “Abathwa” for the people of the “/XAM Ka !Ke instead of the term ‘San’ and ‘Bushman’ because they say their ancestors used to call themselves Abathwa.

Rock art and written history is used to verify some information there. In Malawi there are stories in the book ‘The ‘Malawi Lake of Stars’ about the Abathwa/Amwandionerapati (short people) or Akafula settling by Lake Malawi and Sapitwa healers talk of them at Mulanje Mountain in ancient times.
But so far no research available online if these Abathwa were related to the others documented online.
Does it mean this blog is doing something wrongly or has no attempt been made to find out first through some oral stories said to have been passed down from centuries, rock art or archeology? Guidance is needed to enable this blog understand why this is so or to find links if such exist.
But when one attempts to Google Malawi or it’s ancient names around those years, there is COMPLETELY NOTHING or even an attempt to search the territory produces no results.
Again if one does a Google search on let’s say 59 BC, one is bound to read about famous names of history like Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Calpurius Bibulus (known as “the consulship of Julius and Caesar” due to Bibulus’ withdrawal from public view to “consult the heavens” in an effort to invalidate Caesar’s intended legislation), partly reads the Wikipedia.

Gaius Iulius Caesar taken from

There is also information around that period about Berenice IV becoming the queen of Egypt after temporarily dethroning her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes and the “Base year of the Vikrama Era, founded by Vikrama, king of Ujjain in India.”

The English in Malawi Revised Edition Pupils’ Book 6 titled “The Colours of the Rainbow’ on page 7 under “Mountain and Valley” states that the mountains and valleys seen today may not have always been there. 

“There was a time when the Earth had different mountains and valleys.  There was no Malawi then.  There was no Africa.  Some men say that millions and millions of years ago there was probably only one huge continent.  As time passed, it slowly began to break up”, partly reads that book.
It also talks Africa moving when the new continents moved away with the land in the west moving the other way and the piece of land in the middle slipping down to make a valley.
Lower Shire photo taken when I was travelling by bus
“Where that has happened, we call the valley a rift valley.  We know that part of Malawi lies in the world’s biggest rift valley.  This runs nearly 6451 kilometres from the Red Sea in the north through Africa to the Shire Valley in the south.
“Rift valleys are usually deep.  Rain water runs down from the high ground on both sides into the middle.  In this country, the water made Lake Malawi which is 564 kilometers long and 750 metres deep.
“It also made the River Shire which carries water from Lake Malawi to the River Zambezi and the sea.  Because of the water, the land in a rift valley is usually better than most of the land on the high ground to the sides….Zomba and Mulanje Mountain are to the east of Blantyre. Remember they were not always there.  They look as old as time itself,” further reads that book.
Now once upon a time in this ancient land of Malawi centuries ago there were powerful kings who ruled the land with an iron fist so go some tales told by female Sapitwa healers.
This tale involves Mulanje Mountain so experts need to share with this blog what year this mountain came into existence if the above information from that book dated 1975 on the back is accurate.
They talk of a chief called Gumulanje whom they say had specific hand symbols which he used to try or condemn people. In Myths and Tales he is the one who “owned” that mountain in oral stories just like myths and tales connected to other hills and mountains.
All the ancient kings then were believed to have African Wine Kettle gourds (nsupa) for self-protection in their rituals.  And each of these chiefs had one goat horn among others say various healers in their tales.
Gourds photo taken from the Internet
The nsupa before kukhwima (strengthen or ripen) magical rituals is a harmless container used for storing herbs and oils.
Various shaped gourds were also used for drinking alcohol including beer and wine made from a combination of plants that look like tea leaves, sugar cane and bitter stuff like lemon among other stuff according to some other Mulanje-based healers.
In this generation some healers claim to use tea leaves as herbs for stomach problems but this blog has not verified if it is scientific.
Now of the ancient chiefs, Gumulanje also known as the destroyer was also a feared chief believed to have used magical powers during conflict where people would somehow disappear when fighting.
When Gumulanje passed on, the people of the area in their belief system viewed him as a god who had passed on to the mythical astral realm of Sapitwa because for them kings with their royal blood were believed to be near Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) so they went through them to sent requests in their beliefs add the healers.
4 winds ancient African cross drawn with ufa woyera (maize flour) 
They also claimed that during a flood, the kings hid their most precious things including stones and treasures at the top of Mulanje Mountain at Sapitwa.
To date there is no information online about Gumulanje but for some healers of Sapitwa, he is said to be a winged creature responsible for the destruction of all bad and evil things and known as the destroyer in their myths and tales.
They describe his name as meaning gumula (destruct) so interested researchers in that area with access to funding can investigate by collecting various oral stories in the region.
This can be easier when compiled from generations of ancient royal families and their ‘high priests’ or priestesses today in Malawi grouped together with various asing’anga (healers) who still claim to make nsembe (sacrifice offerings) at Sapitwa on Mulanje Mountain.
NOTE: This blog will continue story-telling through oral stories told by some Sapitwa healers as one way of giving a platform to the voiceless and to those women of history especially the nsembe ones who have never been interviewed or written about so that their oral story is archived through this blog.  Thank-you for reading.
M'manga Mudzi tree growing out of an anthill in Mulanje

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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.