Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Wild African Custard Apple tree (Mpoza) burns on its own"

Internet photo of African Custard Apple Tree (Mpoza)
Walking through a small forest in a certain part of Thyolo, Malawi a young woman is suddenly alarmed when she sees a Wild African Custard Apple tree locally known as Mpoza burning on its own.

On close inspection she notices the orange dancing flames engulfing the tree which is somehow not burning up.

Alarmed she runs away to tell friends who rush to see this unexplained science but alas as soon as the friend gets there the fire has stopped.

Curious she takes matches and lights the Wild African Custard Apple tree (Mpoza) to see what happens and all of a sudden the whole area becomes lit with orange as a raging fire starts.

Gripped with fear, the women rush to alert villagers who rush there with buckets and whatever containers they can grab to put of the angry fire.  Luckily within 30 minutes that mission is achieved and their huts are spared.

Elders then summon the women and bluntly tell them to never ever light a Wild African Custard Apple tree (Mpoza) goes one dream shared by a Malawian woman.

Online research and a quick message to an elder in Lilongwe has confirmed that ancient kings and people of this land believed the Wild African Custard Apple tree locally known as Mpoza will light up with fire to represent the presence of Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) in their beliefs.

The Lilongwe man who lives in a village but is literate refuses to be named but has assisted this blog with information explained in Chichewa.  So if some terms or translations are wrong, readers more fluent in Chichewa are free to correct.
Internet photo of African Custard Apple tree (Mpoza)

Online websites also indicate the "charcoal of the burned roots of the Wild Custard Apple being applied on twitching eyelids".

Now centuries ago the ancestors of this land used to offer sacrifices (nsembe) at the Wild Custard Apple Tree locally known as Mpoza used for prayers or requests to their God.

These sacrifices are either traditional beer, thobwa (sweet beer) or maize flour among other things. Similar things are captured in the book Galu Wamkota: Missiological Reflections from South-Central Africaby Ernst R. Wendland, Salimo Hachibamba and posted online on

“The kachisi shrine itself had to be built underneath the tree known as mpoza or katsongle. The people believed that only God comes through those trees and not through any other tree.

“In their songs they praised their God by saying Chauta wathu mwalandira nsembe zathu, mutikondadi Namalenga wathu; mwalandira nsembe wathu mutikondadi Mphambe wathu, mwalandira nsembe zathu, mutikondadi. (Our God, you have received our offerings, you truly love us, our Creator; you have received our offerings, you truly love us, our Almighty One, you truly love us!”

“Notice here that there are three names for the God whom we mentioned: First we have Chauta meaning God of Gods, then Namalenga, the Creator, finally Mphambe, the all powerful God.  All these names are given to the same God,” further reads the book.
Dancing flames taken from
Now scientifically there is a sequence of events in a typical wood fire. According to a website titled ‘How Science Stuff Works’, these vary from something heating the wood to a very high temperature and the heat coming from lots of different things like a match, focused light, friction, lightning or something else that is already burning.
“When the wood reaches about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius), the heat decomposes some of the cellulose material that makes up the wood.
“Some of the decomposed material is released as volatile gases. We know these gases as smoke. Smoke is compounds of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. The rest of the material forms char, which is nearly pure carbon, and ash, which is all of the unburnable minerals in the wood (calcium, potassium, and so on),” partly reads
It also explains how the actual burning of wood happens in two separate reactions.  First when the volatile gases are hot enough (about 500 degrees F (260 degrees C) for wood), “the compound molecules break apart, and the atoms recombine with the oxygen to form water, carbon dioxide and other products. In other words, they burn.”

“The carbon in the char combines with oxygen as well, and this is a much slower reaction. That is why charcoal in a BBQ can stay hot for a long time. As they heat up, the rising carbon atoms (as well as atoms of other material) emit light. This "heat produces light" effect is called incandescence, and it is the same kind of thing that creates light in a light bulb.

“It is what causes the visible flame. Flame color varies depending on what you're burning and how hot it is. Color variation within in a flame is caused by uneven temperature. Typically, the hottest part of a flame - the base glows blue, and the cooler parts at the top glow orange or yellow.
In addition to emitting light, the rising carbon particles may collect on surrounding surfaces as soot.”

Now the part about the heat effect being the same one that creates light in a bulb is similar to ancient Malawi myths and tales about 7 spirits with 4 positive winged spirits on the right and 3 negative winged spirits on the left pulling each other to create Light.

This concept points at positive and negative charges which others can expand on. 
Not well prepared Thobwa (sweet beer)
 but an example in used bottle

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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.