Ancient Malawi Tales: Was Gumulanje the mythical winged destroyer?

When did this Mulanje mountain come into existence and who were it’s kings?

Every continent on this planet has an ancient history and myths and tales some locked away in oral stories while others have been made public and well documented thanks to the work of various people including scientists and archaeologists among others.

To date there is nothing online about who occupied this ancient land now called Malawi millions of years ago or more than 2000 years ago.

This blog does amateur research online using websites and the social media to try and investigate information given by some female healers who claim to go to a mythical realm of Sapitwa is how best one can put it.

You see there is the official Sapitwa peak which is on Mulanje Mountain and those who have climbed there have not seen what these healers claim to see.Image

There has been conflicting research online for this blog with the movements of humanity. One side of mostly human evolution theorists talk of ape-like people evolving and leaving Africa and another of people trekking into Africa from unknown origins.

Charles Darwin was one of the first to propose common descent of living organisms, and among the first to suggest that all humans had in common ancestors who lived in Africa,” reads the unofficial Wikipedia online.

Now a quick visit to titled Africa 200 BC-30 BC shows “the southward movement of the Bantu people has reached full momentum.

This expansion seems to have followed two lines of movement, one to the west, through the Congo forests and down into the Grasslands of Namibia, the other through East Africa and now approaching Southern Africa.

“The hunter-gatherers they encounter are either eliminated or pushed into the denser forests or the more arid areas.  The speed of the Bantu movement is startling.  In the forefront there are probably mobile bands of colonists seeking out the best land, farming it for a few years and then move on to freshland.

Meanwhile, the north coast of Africa has passed into the Roman sphere, either as provinces governed directly from Rome, as in the case of Egypt and the old territory of Carthage, or as client tribes, like the Mauritanians to the west,” reads that BBC website.

Map taken from the BBC website

On the map provided some areas show “Pygmies  (Bantu farmers)” and the areas which is near what is now Malawi there is the word “San (hunter-gatherers).

A quick Google search shows that “the various indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa, whose territory spans Botswana, NamibiaAngolaZambiaZimbabwe and South Africa, are collectively referred to as San, Bushmen, or Basarwa, all considered pejorative to some degree.”

The XAM Ka !Ke website on use the word “Abathwa” for the people of the “/XAM Ka !Ke instead of the term ‘San’ and ‘Bushman’ because they say their ancestors used to call themselves Abathwa.

Rock art and written history is used to verify some information there. In Malawi there are stories in the book ‘The ‘Malawi Lake of Stars’ about the Abathwa/Amwandionerapati (short people) or Akafula settling by Lake Malawi and Sapitwa healers talk of them at Mulanje Mountain in ancient times.

But so far no research available online if these Abathwa were related to the others documented online.

Gaius Iulius Caesar taken from

Does it mean this blog is doing something wrongly or has no attempt been made to find out first through some oral stories said to have been passed down from centuries, rock art or archeology? Guidance is needed to enable this blog understand why this is so or to find links if such exist.

But when one attempts to Google Malawi or it’s ancient names around those years, there is COMPLETELY NOTHING or even an attempt to search the territory produces no results.

Again if one does a Google search on let’s say 59 BC, one is bound to read about famous names of history like Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Calpurius Bibulus (known as “the consulship of Julius and Caesar” due to Bibulus’ withdrawal from public view to “consult the heavens” in an effort to invalidate Caesar’s intended legislation), partly reads the Wikipedia.

There is also information around that period about Berenice IV becoming the queen of Egypt after temporarily dethroning her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes and the “Base year of the Vikrama Era, founded by Vikrama, king of Ujjain in India.”

The English in Malawi Revised Edition Pupils’ Book 6 titled “The Colours of the Rainbow’ on page 7 under “Mountain and Valley” states that the mountains and valleys seen today may not have always been there. 

“There was a time when the Earth had different mountains and valleys.  There was no Malawi then.  There was no Africa.  Some men say that millions and millions of years ago there was probably only one huge continent.  As time passed, it slowly began to break up”, partly reads that book.

It also talks Africa moving when the new continents moved away with the land in the west moving the other way and the piece of land in the middle slipping down to make a valley.

Lower Shire photo taken when I was travelling by bus

“Where that has happened, we call the valley a rift valley.  We know that prt of Malawi lies in the world’s biggest rift valley.  This runs nearly 6451 kilometres from the Red Sea in the north through Africa to the Shire Valley in the south.

“Rift valleys are usually deep.  Rain water runs down from the high ground on both sides into the middle.  In this country, the water made Lake Malawi which is 564 kilometers long and 750 metres deep.

“It also made the River Shire which carries water from Lake Malawi to the River Zambezi and the sea.  Because of the water, the land in a rift valley is usually better than most of the land on the high ground to the sides….Zomba and Mulanje Mountain are to the east of Blantyre. Remember they were not always there.  They look as old as time itself,” further reads that book.

Now once upon a time in this ancient land of Malawi centuries ago there were powerful kings who ruled the land with an iron fist so go some tales told by female Sapitwa healers.

This tale involves Mulanje Mountain so experts need to share with this blog what year this mountain came into existence if the above information from that book dated 1975 on the back is accurate.

They talk of a chief called Gumulanje whom they say had specific hand symbols which he used to try or condemn people. In Myths and Tales he is the one who “owned” that mountain in oral stories just like myths and tales connected to other hills and mountains.

Gourds photo taken from the Internet

All the ancient kings then were believed to have African Wine Kettle gourds (nsupa) for self-protection in their rituals.  And each of these chiefs had one goat horn among others say various healers in their tales.

The nsupa before kukhwima (strengthen or ripen) magical rituals is a harmless container used for storing herbs and oils.

Various shaped gourds were also used for drinking alcohol including beer and wine made from a combination of plants that loo like tea leaves, sugar cane and bitter stuff like lemon among other stuff according to some other Mulanje-based healers.

In this generation some healers claim to use tea leaves as herbs for stomach problems but this blog has not verified if it is scientific.

Now of the ancient chiefs, Gumulanje also known as the destroyer was also a feared chief believed to have used magical powers during conflict where people would somehow disappear when fighting.

When Gumulanje passed on, the people of the area in their belief system viewed him as a god who had passed on to the mythical astral realm of Sapitwa because for them kings with their royal blood were believed to be near Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) so they went through them to sent requests in their beliefs add the healers.

Ancient African cross drawn with ufa woyera (maize flour) representing the 4 winds

They also claimed that during a flood, the kings hid their most precious things including stones and treasures at the top of Mulanje Mountain at Sapitwa.

To date there is no information online about Gumulanje but for some healers of Sapitwa, he is said to be a winged creature responsible for the destruction of all bad and evil things and known as the destroyer in their myths and tales.

They describe his name as meaning gumula (destruct) so interested researchers in that area with access to funding can investigate by collecting various oral stories in the region.

This can be easier when compiled from generations of ancient royal families and their ‘high priests’ or priestesses today in Malawi grouped together with various asing’anga (healers) who still claim to make nsembe (sacrifice offerings) at Sapitwa on Mulanje Mountain.

NOTE: This blog will continue story-telling through oral stories told by some Sapitwa healers as one way of giving a platform to the voiceless and to those women of history especially the nsembe ones who have never been interviewed or written about so that their oral story is archived through this blog.  Thank-you for reading.

Tree in anthill
M’manga Mudzi tree growing out of an anthill in Mulanje

Sapitwa Myths & Tales:Wild African custard apple tree (Mpoza)

Internet photo of African Custard Apple tree (Mpoza)

Centuries ago, the ancestors of this land used to offer sacrifices (nsembe) at the Wild Custard Apple Tree locally known as Mpoza but the wild one of the bush so goes one Sapitwa tale.

Among several ancient myths and tales were “Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God)” coming through the mpoza tree as a spirit so believed some of the ancestors.

If this tree pictured on this blog is what is locally known as mpoza and scientifically Annona senegalensis, then a link dated 2004 and on says they “ripen earlier than maize, the staple food in Malawi.”

“When staple food declines between October and March, people in the rural areas collect forest fruits” further reads that above link. This gives a rough idea of what could have been happening between those months but now to figure out when mapira (sorghum) and traditional maize grew.

The African custard apple tree locally known as Mpoza is a native to Western and Southern Africa ranging from Senegal to South Africa read various internet sources.

The fruits are eaten in large quantities by the local people and its wild trees are mostly found in “semi-arid to subhumid regions occurring  along riverbanks, fallow land, swamp forests and at the coast.”

“Annona senegalensis, commonly known as African custard-apple, wild custard apple, and wild soursop, is a species of flowering plant in the custard apple family,Annonaceae. The specific epithet, senegalensis, translates to mean “of Senegal”, the country where the type specimen was collected.

A traditional food plant in Africa, the fruits of A. senegalensis have the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable land care. Well known where it grows naturally, it is largely unheard of elsewhere

A. senegalensis is generally pollinated by several species of beetle. The leaves are used to create a general health tonic, in the treatment of pneumonia, and as mattress and pillow stuffing. Specific to Sudan, leaves are boiled in the making of perfume.

Bark can be processed to produce yellow-brown dyeinsecticide, or medicine for treating a wide array of ailments, including worms parasitic on the intestines or flesh (notabley guinea worms), diarrhea, gastroenteritis, lung infections, toothaches and even snake bites.

Natural gum in the bark is used to close open wounds.

Roots are also used medicinally in treating a gamut of conditions, from dizziness and indigestion to chest colds to venereal diseases,” partly reads the unofficial online Wikipedia on

Internet photo of African Custard Apple Tree

The mpoza also has sacred geometry and measurements might be in line with the hexagon but this needs to be investigated further.

The same mpoza in ancient times was also used as traditional medicine for problems that arose when a pregnant woman had a difficult labour.

These things are history now but one Sapitwa healer explained graphically how it was used to ease women in prolonged labour and this blog will investigate to found out if there is a scientific term for this or modern medicine.

Now in so-called matsenga (magic) stories the same mpoza was in ancient times used by nyanga people specializing in magical charms for kusilika house rituals or fields which in English would be magically protecting a house or field from thieves or ‘witchcraft’ attacks?

Such asing’anga in ancient times claimed to drop so-called lichero (winnowing baskets) using the mpoza and other roots and barks.

Some female Sapitwa healers also claim that in ancient times the tail of the hyena (fisi) mixed with mpoza and other roots and barks was used to somehow make a person unseen or unheard like thieves or something bizarre like that.

Osiri myths

The good news is such primitive things are no longer used and like in ancient Egyptian history and many others global they remain on the shelves of ancient history and part of storytelling just like the myths and tales of Osiris and Isis.

In Malawi there was Mbona and the hidden woman of Sapitwa so go tales while many other countries online have listed their ancient mythical figures in many websites as part of fairytales or more bluntly myths and tales.

And so this blog is an attempt to compile ancient Malawi myths and tales as part of storytelling not to endorse any of the ancient beliefs in the same way several foreign religious figures and archaeologists have documented Malawi’s ancient history including rituals and traditions well.

Book cover taken from

This blog is attempting to inspire talented Malawians to also tell their own stories and become online storytellers and maybe in future have storytelling videos or songs online like the one of Zimbabwe’s ancient Prophet Chamunika.

A video on on You Tube explains the history of Chamunika which is like story-telling where they talk about a Fish Eagle leading the way from Persia to Africa etc but there is nothing online, not a single video about Mbona or the Sapitwa version but books mostly written by several religious men.

“Published on Aug 7 2013…Tales of Zimbabwe series brings you a piece of Shona culture with Sekuru Garikai recounting the story of one of zimbabwe’s most respected spirit medium, Chaminuka,” reads a brief summary under the Chaminuka video.

Note:  Once again this blog welcomes corrections of spellings or translations whenever there are any, as the myths and tales are told in Chinyanja by a Sapitwa healer, thank-you.

Of donkey kicks, tail fly-whisks and minibus rides

Donkey kick photo from

It was a rainy dull day in Blantyre when I wanted to board a Highway minibus on my way to Limbe to run some errands.

As usual touts breathing into my face each tried to convince me to board the minibus they would eventually get money for and as usual I asked them not to touch me and they obeyed.

One then rushed to the minibus he was calling passengers for and opened the front door.  Noticing that the minibus was almost full I started boarding when I noticed a male passenger in the front seat quickly getting out and giving me way to sit in the middle.

I usually don’t like sitting in the front seats of minibuses and worse still in the middle but on this day I was exhausted and anxious to get to my destination on time.

As the minibus departed after a 20 minute wait with us passengers packed like sardines, I could not help but notice that the man next to me had a fly-whisk.

Man in the front seat of minibus with a donkey tail fly-whisk?

I gasped when I noticed it didn’t have a stick oh my and yes I didn’t grow up in the village but abroad so I was also shocked later with the stories he started telling me about donkeys throughout the journey.

In my mind I started debating how to ask him about his fly-whisk which resembled a wig and all sorts of fake hair in town. When he raised the fly whisk up I could not resist and asked him what the hell he was doing with a fly whisk in a minibus and what for.

Côte d’Ivoire horsehair fly-whisk from

He turned out to be a funny story-teller and told me about his ancestors and how they were fighters and from a royal family so he claimed.  But looking at his fly-whisk I noticed it looked different from the few I’ve seen in Malawi so I asked the million dollar question.

“What is your fly-whisk made from,” I asked inquisitively and waiting for the answer which I did not expect.

What type of a donkey tail [fly-whisk] is this?
He answered “bulu [donkey]”.

Now curious, I noticed his fly-whisk did not have a stick and wondered how on earth he got it from those vicious scary kicking donkeys.

He answered me vaguely saying it’s easy but I did not want to know how and could only see donkeys kicking with their back legs!  When asked if he’s a sing’anga (traditional healer), he answered no and that he was only a carpenter so I was even more confused.

He then started explaining the behavior of donkeys, how it relates to other animals, beasts etc and how some in ancient times ate it and used its foot for disappearing acts when being chased or something like that.

After explaining various concoctions we are left stunned in the minibus and some of us especially me trying not to laugh.

Confused and the minibus driver now listening in, I’m like how on earth can a person disappear so I conclude and laugh it off as “one of those Malawi matsenga (magic) stories” which are myths and tales.

The man then caught us unawares when he suddenly said although he’s not a healer but had a dream of where to find a cure for HIV and Aids and that he found it and cured 25 people so far.

Immediately after that other passengers in the minibus rebuked him calling him a “mfiti” [witch/wizard] out to cheat people including the minibus driver and conductor while I told him bluntly there’s no cure for HIV and Aids but only for opportunistic diseases.

The man then claimed when educated people say they can reportedly cure HIV through “Garani MW 1Herb”many rush to buy it and believe but when a carpenter like him says so he’s accused of witchcraft.

The minibus suddenly went quiet as he kept saying Garani MW 1Herb with confidence and we just looked at him.  Before we realized it he disembarked from the minibus and not a soul discussed him as is usually the cases in minibuses after heated debates.

It made me think how under-rated most of our traditional healers are so instead many would rather buy or import well-researched Chinese herbs to sell to fellow Malawians.

Maybe it’s time to use Science and Technology in regards to herbs using labs and having a factory preferably in Mulanje if land is available?  Who knows but one thing is for sure, Malawi with its various mountains is known for various herbs but with a new anti-herb movement these days when it’s Malawians doing it, chances of local herbs for healing being taken more seriously remains very slim.

Ancient Egypt donkey painting taken from

This is one of many funny minibus ride stories I will be sharing on this blog after travelling in so many minibuses for years and learning so many things, myths and tales which I never hear when driving a car. Many story-tellers in minibuses, cheers to them.

Names of some ancient Malawian chiefs revealed

A side view of Mulanje Mountain

Names of some ancient Malawi chiefs according to Sapitwa healers:









Mwala wa Nkhalamba 


Sapitwa which in the vernacular means Don’t go there! or where no man goes is the highest peak of Mulanje Mountain some 100 kilometres south-east of Blantyre.

Mulanje Massif is said to measure approximately 22×26 kilometres with a maximum elevation of 3,002 m at its highest point, Sapitwa Peak.

Sapitwa which basically means “don’t go there” in the vernacular and also known as the mountain where “no man goes” is a place which myths claim is home to spirits.

Sapitwa is the original name of the whole Mulanje Mountain says a female Sapitwa healer when asked the name the ancestors of the land gave the mountain.

She says with time and many centuries later this has changed and the only place for the “where no man goes” legend is the Peak.

Malawi is indeed the Warm heart of Africa and within in it so many oral traditions, tales and myths waiting to be written about or documented.

There is also need for experts to document the names of all ancient chiefs since this land existed and write books about them.

Of these is Sapitwa a chief also referred to as Napolo whom healers describe as the ancient owner of the mountain.

Another one is Kuponda whom myths connect to this M’manga Mudzi (build the village) anthill tree in Mulanje whose English name remains unknown.

M'manga Mudzi tree growing out of an anthill
M’manga Mudzi tree growing out of an anthill

Other ancient chiefs Sapitwa healers have revealed include Kasipe, Namakuno, Usiyeapite, Kalinje, Kalinde, Chambe and Mwala wa Nkhalamba.

Another chief is Gumulanje whose name ironically sounds like Mulanje but this blog hopes some experts can confirm because so far there is no information online about the names of chiefs who existed on this land centuries ago.

This blog will list other names of ancient chiefs once they are known to give experts to investigate and confirm and to create an opportunity to research and write books about them.

The blog would also appreciate if readers in the know how list the many ancient chiefs of this land from many centuries ago. If some names are wrongly spelled, this blog appreciates corrections.

Public Hearings Held Across Malawi on Surestream Petroleum’s proposed Surveying Activities of Lake Malawi for Oil

Mining in Malawi

Surestream Petroleum ESIA Pic

The Malawian general public has been invited by the Environmental Affairs Department (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management) to provide feedback on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) carried out by RPS Group on Surestream Petroleum‘s proposed surveying for the exploration of oil in Lake Malawi. Last week, public hearings were held in Karonga, Rumphi, Mzuzu and Nkhatabay. This week they are being held in Lilongwe, Nkhotakota and Blantyre.

At each of the public hearings, the Environmental Affairs Department (Juwo Sibande) has presented on the purpose of public hearings within the Environmental Impact Assessment process as defined within Malawi’s 1996 Environment Management Act. Following Sibande’s presentation, the RPS Group has provided an overview of the ESIA (led by head of the ESIA team Stuart Sharp), which is helpful as the ESIA is close to 500 pages. Following the presentations, the participants have had an opportunity to address…

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Myths & Tales: Gossiping accusing fingers, a reflection of one-self?

A beautiful well-groomed and quite decent woman and dressed to kill walks down the crowded street in her neighbourhood minding her own business and determined to reach home and relax after a long day of hard work.

When you point at others, three fingers point back at you

As she walks past a group of idle young women, one of them starts whispering and accusing the innocent girl of being a “hooker” and immoral.  The young woman her eyes now sticking out like a cobra, and her tongue wagging continues to pour insults on the work of art before their eyes.

Immediately the women laugh out loudly “uluuuuuuuuuu hede” as they clap their hands in unison, their bodies now trembling with hatred in a celebration snake dance.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra not the one in the tale is from

Without shame they spit venom, with stinging words which the now suspicious woman walking by can hear but she decides to ignore them and continue strutting her way home.

She recognizes two of the women in the group as suspected veteran husband snatchers but not much to show for their “work”.  Neither of them has children and spend their days gossiping about various people  they envy.

Such scenarios are common in various places and not necessarily women only.  Some men have also been known to wag their lying tongues and spitting venom of hate against those they envy or those who have better jobs or have more things than them among other things.

Its such things that make some women of Sapitwa say that usually those who like pointing fingers at others are instead reflecting who they really are.

One Sapitwa healer says if a person is always pointing at others and judging them unfairly, three of that person’s fingers point back at them meaning they’re worse than those they accuse of doing various bad things.

This is why one of their own Mbona version teachings groups people who like lying, gossiping or talking ill of others in the same category as “afiti” (witches) who according to them point fingers at others to bewitch those they envy or hate so go the tales.

But in their teachings, if such a person meets a person with a good spirit that energy bounces back like a reflective mirror and hits them three times which could be an African version of karma?

Such kind of people are also believed to be possessed by evil spirits and not living a happy life since their mission on earth is to destroy and keep slithering and spitting venomous words like one specific cobra spirit they are believed to belong to says one  Sapitwa healer.

This teaching and tale was told in Chichewa but the gist of it all is for people to love one another and not destroy innocent people because of envy or jealousy which according to the healers is the major mission of forces of darkness so go one of their oracle tales.

This blog will continue compiling these teachings as one amateur way of attempting to document some of the female Sapitwa healers of this land whose history has never been documented before.

Myths & Tales: Of Mbona’s two-edged kandalanga (sword/knife) dividing people?

Mbona  illustration taken from  the Ulendo series Mtunda, Chichewa for Standard 8 book

White light flashing like the sun and resembling lightning hits the roof of a building on a bright hot October day in Malawi as a young woman approaches the building almost tripping in the process.

As the brightness of the light in a flash temporarily blinds her eyes she looks down and is suddenly confused with red spots that resemble blood appearing on the dusty ground before a mysterious watchman grabs her arm before she hits the ground.

She looks into his pigeon shaped eyes, smooth dark skin with a well shaped beard with hidden dreadlocks under his huge fedora looking brown hat.

Female Sapitwa healer’s secret symbol meaning life

So go such tales told by a female Mang’anja Sapitwa healer who believes in the power of Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) and claims to send requests through the Almighty Power.

She suspects the woman in the said tales probably came face to face with their version of a different Mbona like serpent spirit who on rare occasion myths appears like a man through the flash of a bright white light in so-called folklore.

Unknown to the woman there seems to be a scientific explanation to the way red light travels in a prism but NOT for winged mizimu (spirits) and how the royal ones with new bodies in the afterlife reportedly appear.

Of messages from the African cross forehead and triangle heart symbols?

Such mythical beings in ancient Sapitwa healer myths are represented by two triangles representing the highest tip of a mountain and another one upside down to represent what sounds like the brightest Sirius star (Nthanda yaku m’mawa) represented by fire on a traditional cooking place (mafuwa) which is symbolically held closely to the chest.

The Sapitwa healer version of Mbona is represented by an upright triangle which for them represents the highest tip of Mulanje Mountain called Sapitwa which in the vernacular means Don’t go there [where no man goes]!

Now myths and tales aside and science and facts in some school books which are in no way related to the Sapitwa healers and the ancient mountain of Mulanje whose original name is Sapitwa they claim.

According to the English in Malawi Revised Edition Pupils’ Book 6 about ‘The Colours of the Rainbow’ light waves from the sun, strike the tree and reflect back into a person’s eyes.

“The person sees the tree because it reflects light waves.  If there is no light, as in a dark room at night, a person can see nothing.

“Light waves are not all the same length.  Some are longer than others.  The sun sends out a lot of light waves of different lengths at the same time.

“They are all mixed up together.  When the waves are like that, they show no colour.  They are ‘white’ light.  But if one takes from ‘white’ light all the waves of the same length, one gets colour.”

The Colours of the Rainbow , English in Malawi Revised Edition Pupils’ Book 6

It’s a known fact that the prism takes white light and divides it into colours mainly with Red (long), Green and Blue (short). Water droplets and water vapor are also online described as good absorbers of the red wavelengths.

Now this theory is also what some of the ancestors of his ancient land seemed to have seen when looking at the rainbow (leza).

According to the English Chichewa/Chinyanja dictionary compiled by Steven Paas the names of God on p169 included Leza (referring to the Lord of space, who stretches the rainbow).Dictionary

Others are Chiuta/Chauta defined as the great and “a chicken that covers it wings” and a “cow resting under a tree.

Others are Mphambe (almighty, rain and thunder are His symbols, Mlezi (sustainer, nourishes all), Mlengi (Creator), Namalenga and Chanjiri.

Officially in Malawi there is only the Mbona of Khulubvi in Nsanje who has been written about by some people from the area and foreigners. The Sapitwa Mbona version has not been accepted or documented so it will forever be part of ancient history of those female healers.

Unesco on captures Malawi’s official ancient tales through the story of Mbona.

According to Mang’anja oral tradition, Mbona was a legendary figure “with super human powers who lived in the area during the rise of the Lundu Kingdom.

“Mbona is said to have had magic powers of bringing rain, creating wells of water on sandy lands, creating forests where they did not exist and hiding from enemies by turning into other creatures such as guinea fowls.”

The Genesis Of A Martyr Cult In Southern Malawi, C. A.D. 1600: J. Matthew Schoffeleers

And J.M. Schoffeleers in his book ‘River of Blood: The Genesis of a Martyr Cult in Southern Malawi’ wrote that “Mbona was routinely portrayed as someone who causes the population to become divided amongst itself.”

He also described Mbona like an overseer “a sense of seeing or being seen, and derives from the word wona “to see” or “to be true.” The name may possibly be related also to the noun bona, the concluding ceremony of the mourning period, at which offerings of food and beer are made”.

Schoffeleers  in his book also wrote that in one version of the Mbona tales, he was against the administrating of the mwabvi poisonous concoction where those without “witchcraft” were believe to not die from the ordeal.

In the tales Mbona is quoted as telling people he had the power of “Mlungu” to tell when people were guilty. Other tales talk of Mbona being labelled a mfiti (wizard) and him responding he used powers of Chauta (God).

Now what is confusing is that some female Mang’anja Sapitwa healers seem to know some of the teachings of Mbona which include his kandalanga which is like a lupanga which in English is a two-edged sword.

“Mawa ndikupatsa chako chimpeni chothwa kuwiri chimene chimatchedwanso kuti kandalanga [tomorrow I will give you your own knife sharpened on both sides called a kandalanga] partly reads p.27 of the Ulosi wakale 1 [fortellers in history] in the Ulendo Series Mtunda Chichewa for Standard 8 book about the mythical Mbona.

“Vundulamadzi” (African fish eagle) illustration: Ulendo Series Mtunda, Chichewa for Standard 3

The two-edged knife used in Mbona rainmaking tales is also known as [m]vundulamadzi which in English is an African fish eagle.

According to the female healers this bird is very strong and dirties and stirs up waters causing confusion to the fish inside which move up or something like that in their ancient beliefs and tales.

They also claim the African fish eagles are so strong that when they hit the water, stones or rocks underneath move like a slight earthquake meaning the ground shaking during the first rains of the rainy season they claim.

This Mbona sword is also said to cut like a knife and cause confusion between people, families and friends hence the Chichewa proverb “Papita mnjere mpeni upita pomwepo [where the peel goes in this case a bamboo or sugar cane, the knife also goes there]”.

According to Edmond Kachale on Facebook, mnjere is usually defined as the peel/rind of a sheaf of a shrub of cereal family or the peel of a sugar cane.

A Sapitwa healer defines it as resembling the sugar cane but its peels being sharp and cutting on both sides like a two-edged knife. This blog has failed to establish if it’s like nsenjere, tall grass, thick stem whose exact English name is unknown for now.

And in another response Coster Phiri in a nutshell described nsengwa as a small lichero (winnowing basket) usually hang on walls as a decoration.

He says khwaule la nsale or chimanga or bango (reed)limakhala lakuthwa konsekonse (sharp on both sides).

“Msungwi yomwe amapangira nsengwa or lichero limakhala lakuthwa mbali zonse. Mvundula madzi pa Chichewa amatanthauza munthu odanitsa oyambanitsa but used figuratively as an eagle.”

Big lichero (winnowing basket)
Small Nsengwa (small basket)

He explains that the bamboo used to make nsengwa or lichero is also sharp on both sides and that the Mvundulamadzi (African fish eagle) means a person who stirs up trouble or hatred between people but figuratively an eagle.

‘Vundulamadzi’ illustration in Ulendo Series, Mtunda, Chichewa fo Standard 3 book

This is also the mythical belief about the [M]vundulamadzi African Fish Eagle which in the Ulendo Series Mtunda Chichewa for Standard 3 is described as stirring up trouble and confusion between women from different villages by dirtying water from their well (chitsime).

In ancient myths the said African Fish Eagle was said to stir up trouble and cause divisions on both sides the way it does to fish in the water so that it can catch them. Vundulamadzi is also the secret word for the sword, knife or dagger of the Sapitwa version of Mbona which remains an unofficial myth.

NOTE:  This blog is not endorsing these ancient beliefs but only attempting to document some ancient tales and myths never written about before.

Those who know what the exact and proper translation for Nsengwa please share to enable this blog post a photo of it as either resembling sugar cane with sharp peels on both sides or tall grass which cuts on both sides.