Friday, February 7, 2014

Ancient Malawi rocks for sacrifices (nsembe)

Mwala wa Mthunzi along the Thyolo road
Driving along the Mulanje via Thyolo Road on the right side one cannot help but notice a small rock that stands out from a distance along the road in the middle of nowhere.
This rock named Mwala wa Mthunzi and known as the “Rock of Shadow” is actually the rock that belonged to an ancient king called Mthunzi say some Sapitwa healers.
In colonial times the road constructors apparently failed to get rid of it, as it kept returning to its original spot overnight forcing them to divert the road say various online sources.
Other rituals there involved one walking around the magical stone three times using a small stone normally found on top of the rock go some other tales in the area.
This Mwala wa Mthunzi would produce smoke in ancient times

The rock was also accused of causing a flood which reportedly destroyed the first new road and such places were said to have serpent spirits which represented deceased ancient kings.
Sapitwa healers insist small rocks and huge ones like hills and mountains were rains shrines for ancient kings and their priests and priestesses today locally known as asing’anga amizimu but the ones who deal with nsembe (sacrifices).
The descendants of some of these ancient healers would trek to various hills and mountains to make their offerings which included mapira (sorghum) among others.
In the Mulanje area this included Mwala wa Nkhalamba (rock of the old) in the area of Dziwe la Nkhalamba.  Some years back, around 2010 Menno Welling and some students from Catholic University studying archaeology discovered a rain shrine in the area and beer vessels.
Beer vessel found in 2010 at Dziwe la Nkhalamba shrine
 – Photo from Menno Welling
However, at the time they found a beer vessel and blue beads among others, they had not identified the deity connected to the shrine.
This blog will reveal that name once permission is granted.
Most of these sacrifices and offerings were made to Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) say the Sapitwa healers.  They also say their ancestors would go through the “spirits” of kings (mafumu) whom they felt were close to the Creator.
These kings were seen as living “gods” and were believed to become “gods” in the afterlife usually represented as serpent spirits. The priestesses were also viewed as powerful and this blog will later explain who some of the ancient ones were.
According to female healers, the “owner” of the “rock” called Mount Mulanje in ancient times was Gumulanje during the time of a great flood they say.  Gumula means destruct so in the afterworld they claim he is a winged spirit that destroys evil.
A Google search shows a book titled Animals and Ancestors: An Ethnography and written by Brian Morris also talks of ‘gods’ of hills and mountains of Malawi.

“The ‘god of Mountain Soche‘, he noted, was Kankhomba, a deceased Nyanja chief, whose spirit as a ‘local deity’ received the supplications of the Yao chief Kapeni. Offerings of flour (ufa) and beer (mowa) were made to the spirit as gifts (mutulo) and prayers for rain.

“In her valuable study, Alice Werner indicates that rain ‘deities’ and rain shrines were associated with many other hills of the Shire Highlands – near Mloza crater on Mulanje (Chief Chipoka), as well as on Malabvi, Michiru, Mpingwe, Thyolo and Ndirande mountains during the 1800s,” further reads the book.
Other hills include Zobwe near Mwanza and Michiru known as a hill of spirits (ndi phiri la mizimu) where offerings (nsembe) were made at a shrine (kachisi) at the summit.
“Equally, important; the shrines where nsembe (offerings) were made was not only associated with mountains, but also a place where snakes (njoka) had their abode (Department of Antiquities, 1971: CO 3/1, BT 15/2),” further reads the book by Brian Morris.

This blog will publish the names of the hills of Malawi and their ancient chiefs and which ones have “tombs” once the information is made available.
Dziwe la Nkhalamba in 2010- Picture by Menno Welling

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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.