Thursday, January 9, 2014

Myths & Tales: Seeing with eyes of an African heart?

Took this photo when travelling to  Mulanje by minibus
The young woman travelling in a minibus is taken unawares at a bus stage in rural Malawi when she sees an elderly barefoot man with white hair armed with a beautiful cane approaching the driver’s seat of the minibus.

He stares at the driver but the rest of the passengers don’t seem to notice and go about their business as if the elderly man is not there at a stage near Chinakanaka in Mulanje so go some of the tales in that area.

Some argue that the elderly man was mentally disturbed while others claim he could not be seen by the naked eye.  The root of such tales is the scorching sun and presence of a rainbow with it's believed seven colours and somehow connecting it to so-called supernatural stories.

Other village stories talk of a man appearing with a bright flash of white light but no one has been able to explain what exactly is said to happen.

All that is known by some village healers so far is that the so-called white light makes ones’ eyes see red spots when looking down on the ground which might scientifically be explained as a Prism?

Prism photo from
Others talk of seeing a red triangle when their eyes are closed and maybe it’s immediately after briefly gazing at the sun? The science in that needs to be explored further on how exactly the red light travels.

The healers also indirectly believe in the number seven hence their association of Chauta, Namalenga and Mphambe (God) and the seven colours of the rainbow but not exactly the number.

This is where they claim to get a belief that Chauta has 7 spirits with 4 being male on the right and 3 female ones on the left pulling each other to create light.

In this belief the spirits locally called mizimu are not the ancestral ones which are mizimu yamakolo but the ones they claim have never been human before among other tales in some villages.

Photo from
No research or investigations have been done to confirm the source of such tales but one thing is for sure, a lot of oral history in some parts of Malawi revolves around the supernatural and their forces.

“We see with these two eyes but the spiritual eyes are in the heart which helps us see the unseen and judge between what is good and bad,” claims one village healer in the area while pointing at her chest.

She claims that once the heart is opened and receptive of good forces it somehow opens a mysterious door if we can put it that way which increases a person’s intuition, sense of smell and vision (masopenya).

In their other beliefs removing the veil from the hidden one was like opening the eye of the heart which was believed to be the seat of the soul to enable one see the unseen hence the phrase “Ndakuona” (I see you) used by some healers who trek to Sapitwa.

And it’s on the chest where the heart beats were they would draw their two stars which this blog can now confirm is Sirius which they locally call Nthanda yaku m’mawa which to them is the star from the East which they claim appears on December 31 at the stroke of midnight.

There are a lot of myths and tales in the country which could make interesting reading in a fiction book but such oral stories are yet to be documented because not many have wanted to hear or know about them.

This blog using amateur research and verification will attempt to capture Myths and Tales from throughout Malawi as a small way of storytelling online.

Soon videos of a female Sapitwa healer in the village explaining their “science” will be posted and translated into English. 

They claim Sapitwa the highest peak of Mulanje mountain has a triangular shape and they have their own theories and beliefs about rain, “black clouds” and rainbows.
Took this photo of Mulanje Mountain from a different angle

So far what is scientifically known about white light and posted online in the unofficial Wikipedia is information about how light travels through a triangular prism.

“White light is actually made out of light of several frequencies (colors) travelling together. These basic frequencies of visible light are part of what we call visible spectrum, and it is only tiny part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

As white light enters a medium (in this case, the prism), each of its composing wavelengths will travel at a different speed in the new medium, and this change in speed is what bends the path in which light is travelling. 
This is the phenomenon we call refraction. The ratio between the speed of light in vacuum and the speed of light in a medium is what we call index of refraction, and this value is specific for a given wavelength and medium.

Since light of different wavelengths will change direction by a different amount, we will experience a division of white light in its composing spectral colors, represented here by colored waves. This is what we call dispersion.
Once the basic frequencies are separated in this animation, we can easily see the difference on their speeds. Red, with a long wavelength, passes through almost without any change, whereas indigo (with short wavelength) is left behind by all the other colors.
However, this difference in speed does not hold in vacuum, and this can be seen on how all light exiting the prism will once again travel at the constant speed of light in vacuum”, reads some not “entirely accurate” information on the unofficial Wikipedia online.
More research is need to verify information given by an uneducated but secretive female Sapitwa healer and figure out how some sense of science knowledge was passed down to them for generations. 
Took this photo of rain covering Mulanje Mountain

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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.