Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ancient Malawi’s mythical “Mpingo” Tree of Life mound remains untouched

The rare Sapitwa Mpingo tree growing out of an anthill
Travelling through some parts of Mulanje villages, one is bound to see at least three unidentified trees apparently growing out of anthills which actually are termite mounds if one may call them that.

These anthills are called M’manga Mudzi which literally means build the village or guess one can say foundation. 

The tree that grows on one of them is ancient Malawi’s Tree of Life locally known as mphini or mpingo which is different from the local mphingo trees globally known as African Ebony.

Mphini is used to make some unique tattoo mark incisions for “self-protection” rituals [kutemera] using an ancient alphabet which Sapitwa healers can read.
Ancient mphini tattoo marks of words and text

It’s sometimes near a tree called tsamba namwali or something like that used by some ancient healers to cleanse a woman’s body out of stuff after an abortion or childbirth among other things.

That’s no longer done.
Now this kind of tree which grows out of an anthill with its roots showing is said to be found at Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mulanje Mountain if what the healers say is anything to go by.
The three in Mulanje are also said not to be seen anyhow unless…the healers of Sapitwa and whatever “god” in that mound allow so go oral tales.
There also seems to be some kind of Sacred Science when a female Sapitwa healer explains things about their “spirit world” which seems to include a “god” and “goddess”.
Part of their myths and tales claim some ancient people believed there was some kind of a Primordial Mound where life sprang from somehow on termite hills.
Part roots of the untouched ancient M’manga Mudzi anthill tree of Malawi
This blog uses the term “Primordial” as it is defined online as the “existing at or from the beginning of time; primeval.”
According to a Mang’anja female Sapitwa healer some of the ancestors of this land believed life sprang from a mound which somehow had a serpent spirit which would appear as a human being or something like that and one of them’s name is Mbewula which to them means Run Away so fast!
This Mbewula clashed with their god and has been in the dzenje (ditch) for some time they claim so the mound must never be dug or opened anyhow.
She said the mound is like a hill or mountain which is above and below there is water like a lake with about four rivers and a water kingdom on its own according to ancient beliefs.
It’s from this tree where the saying “So above as is below” meaning the hills and water comes from but this blog won’t go into details to avoid promoting the occult.
In several ancient African societies those of royal families were believed to be given new bodies as serpent spirits when they passed on and these were usually the upright cobra, mamba and python. Not as the ones we see on earth but the so-called spiritual ones which spoke like human beings.
And in their ancient beliefs they claimed that their god had 7 spirits and of these 4 had a positive charge and were male on the right of the African cross while the 3 with a negative charge were said to be female.
Now the other and different Mphingo tree under “Rituals of Childbirth and Womanhood ”kutemera stuff is known on the continent as Mpingo, Blackwood or Ebony tree found in the bush.  The African Ebony tree is used for making curios ( ziboliboli).
“In Malawi rituals and social life there are symbolic associations between certain objects and attributes and the gender division.
“Thus softness (-fewa) is associated with women along with such items as the winnowing basket (lichero), clay pot (mbiya) and the grass head ring (nkhata), while men are associated with hardness (-limba) and with such things as hardwood trees – mphingo (Dalbergia melanoxylon), Mwanga (Pericopsis angolensis) and mlombwa (Pterocarpus angolensis) – metal tools (axe, hunting arrows, spears),” writes Brian Morris in his book ‘Animals and Ancestors: An Dalbergia melanoxylon Ethnography’.
Guitars, drums, stringed instruments, wind instruments and pianos are made from wood throughout the world and Mphingo or Mpingo is used for making curios in Malawi and is harder than the Sapitwa Mpingo tree growing out of a mound.
Jackalberry tree (African Ebony; Diospyros mespiliformus)
in Zimbabwe growing on a termite mound:
Now texts of the creation myth of ancient Egypt talk of a Tree of Life growing out of the Sacred Mound, its branches reached out and supported the star and planet studded sky, while its roots reached down into the watery abyss of the Netherworld.”
In the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ posted online, the Bennu bird was an  imaginary bird resembling a heron. It had a two long feathers on the crest of it’s head and was often crowned with the Atef crown of Osiris (the White Crown with two ostrich plumes on either side) or with the disk of the sun.
“This name apparently was being associated during the earlier periods of Egyptian history with various birds: the crane, the heron, the stork or the flamingo. Later it was more clearly identified with the heron.
“She was a kind of primordial god, which built its nest on the willow which is on top of the primordial hill.
According to information about ancient Egyptian Mythology and History posted online, the trunk of the Tree of Life represented the World Pillar or Axis Munde (meaning “Axis of the Mound”) around which the heavens appeared to revolve. The World Pillar was the centre of the universe.
“The source of four rivers is believed to be located at the foot of the Tree of Life, providing water the world. The four rivers are oriented according to the cardinal points of the compass and are associated with the four elements of Water – North, Fire – South, Air – East and Earth – West.
Ancient Egypt Tree of Life Internet photo
Information posted online shows that  in ancient Egyptian texts it is written of the Tree of Life, “I am the plant which comes from Nu.”
“The Tree of Life grew out of the Sacred Mound, its branches reaching out and supporting the star and planet studded sky, while its roots reached down into the watery abyss of the Netherworld further reads

“The trunk of the Tree of Life represented the World Pillar or Axis Munde (literally “Axis of the Mound”) around which the heavens appeared to revolve. The World Pillar was the centre of the universe.

“The Ancient Egyptian symbol for “plant” meaning “Tree of Life” was three sacred lotus lilies. They have tree stems curving to the left as though blown into Life by the breath of Hu, the Celestial Sphinx. On top of each stem is the Lotus flower which was used in Ancient Egypt to represent Life and Resurrection,” further reads the same website.
And ancient Egyptian paintings often depicted a sacred tree above and beside a spring, which contains the water of life. Sometimes a woman is shown embodied in the tree and it is her task to provide food and water for the inhabitants of the Underworld like Osiris.
In Malawi, the spirit of Mbona is said to dwell in a deep pool believed to also be somewhere at Dziwe la Nkhalamba on Mulanje Mountain with it’s mythical Sapitwa Peak.
Phoenix (Bennu) photo from

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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.