Friday, May 16, 2014

Of Ancient Malawi’s goat leaders and sheep follower tales

When one sheep moves, the rest will follow…even from birth, lambs are taught to follow the older members of the flock. The dominant members of the flock usually lead, followed by the submissive ones. If there is a ram in the flock, he usually leads.

“A team leader guides the flock and does things for the good of all like a sheep…even if it means making sacrifices and being a servant to serve the people while an arrogant and selfish goat behavior one scatters people and causes confusion as one way of trying to cling to power not meant for them. – Sapitwa

Sheep learn to follow at a young age photo taken from
It’s D-day for a sheep (nkhosa) in a remote village of Malawi as a villager takes out his sharp knife ready for the slaughter. The sheep does not hesitate and gives its neck unlike the goat who gives a struggle claims a villager from Lilongwe.
This is why some secretive healers in a certain part of Mozambique are said to “pass the test” by having a knife put on their necks but failing to cut because it somehow turns into rubber.
Such stories are told by several healers in Malawi who trek to Mocuba in Mozambique because they value Mt Namuli….they refer to the place as ‘Kuba’ spiritual realm.
A Mulanje man told this blog that when a dog is chased away after it sneaks to eat food near a home….it returns secretly and tries to eat more food no matter how much you chase it away.
Goat photo taken from the Internet

Oral stories are also told of sheep, dogs and goats (mbuzi) in relation to what they eat and how they behave when told not to do something.

Same thing with goats they claim, they don’t always listen and can sometimes wander into the streets from villagers near main roads.  

But when a sheep is chased away once, this villager claims it listens and never returns to where it was chased from.

Sheep are also said to move in order with a leader and a flock and not scattered and sometimes wandering on their own like goats….which some villagers view as selfish and arrogant.

It’s because of such beliefs that Malawi’s ancient magical oracle known as Maula is “powered” by a single goat horn and a blackened narrow neck nsupa made from the African wine kettle gourd.

Several things power the evil maula which this blog has seen and analyzed but will not go into details to share its dark secrets online. The pinky finger in ancient times was used by some powerful ancient chiefs to “propel” their nyanga into action say Sapitwa healers.

Now the horns of a specific sheep which in English is probably a Ram is said to have been used as an instrument to produce a certain sound and in some ancient rituals this blog is still investigating.

Sapitwa hand sign when making offerings (nsembe) using a cupped hand symbol as well
Now being a key animal in the history of farming, sheep have a deeply entrenched place in human culture, and find representation in much modern language and symbology.

“As livestock, sheep are most often associated with pastoral, Arcadian imagery.  Sheep figure in many mythologies—such as the Golden Fleece—and major religions, especially the Abrahamic traditions.
“In both ancient and modern religious ritual, sheep are used as sacrificial animals,” partly reads

Sheep are also known as flock animals and strongly gregarious; much sheep behavior can be understood on the basis of these tendencies.

“The dominance hierarchy of sheep and their natural inclination to follow a leader to new pastures were the pivotal factors in sheep being one of the first domesticated livestock species.

“Furthermore, in contrast to the red deer and gazelle, sheep do not defend territories although they do form home ranges. All sheep have a tendency to congregate close to other members of a flock, although this behavior varies with breed, and sheep can become stressed when separated from their flock members.

“During flocking, sheep have a strong tendency to follow and a leader may simply be the first individual to move. Relationships in flocks tend to be closest among related sheep: in mixed-breed flocks, subgroups of the same breed tend to form, and a ewe and her direct descendants often move as a unit within large flocks.
Domestic sheep photo taken from the online Wikipedia

Sheep are best known for their strong flocking (herding) and following instinct. They will run from what frightens them and band together in large groups for protection. This is the only protection they have from predators.
“There is safety in numbers. It is harder for a predator to pick a sheep out of a group than to go after a few strays. Flocking instinct varies by breed, with the fine wool breeds being the most gregarious,” reads one internet source.
And according the big difference between sheep and goats is their “foraging behavior and diet selection.”

“Goats are natural browsers, preferring to eat leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs. They are very agile and will stand on their hind legs to reach vegetation. Goats like to eat the tops of plants.
“Sheep are grazers, preferring to eat short, tender grasses and clover. Their dietary preference is forbs (broadleaf weeds) and they like to graze close to the soil surface.”
“Sheep and goats tend to behavior differently. Goats are naturally curious and independent, while sheep tend to be more distant and aloof.
“Sheep have a stronger flocking instinct and become very agitated if they are separated from the rest of the flock. It is easier to keep sheep inside a fence than goats,” further reads the website.
Goats in trees photo taken from the Internet
As for horns, most goats are naturally horned with some having beards while many breeds of sheep are naturally hornless (polled).  

Goat horns are more narrow, upright, and less curved than sheep horns and sheep tend to curl their horns in loops on the sides of their heads.

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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.