Myths & Tales: Of goat horns and tattoo marks (mphini)

Took this photo of the mountain while in a moving minibus

A fiction African movie horror scene told in a Sapitwa oracle tale by a healer:

As she enters the tiny room, pulling over a white empty maize sack curtain, the young woman is taken aback as she sees a feminine looking unicorn “toy” with an obvious single goat horn sticking out in front.

Inside is a scary looking sing’anga (traditional healer) specializing in nyanga (horns/charms) his left eye seems to be staring at her like that of a goat (mbuzi).

With him is an odd object made from various materials of nature including a blackened and darkened old African Wine Kettle gourd locally known as the narrow neck nsupa.

Gourds from the Internet

It has beads on its “waist” cleverly hidden and covered in the middle to represent feminine energy so goes this staged tale attempting to describe the “lying” maula magical oracle of some male nyanga healers of a hidden mountain specializing in animal horns as “magical charms.”

Now such healers are rumoured as not relying on matsenga (magic) using their human power but winged female spirits that have never been human.

This is contrary to some beliefs of some villagers and town dwellers who claim a mere human being can have more power than Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) who remains All Powerful and the only One.

Only male healers specializing in nyanga can use the hated maula and nsupa.

The maula used like for casting lots (kuwombeza) has been blamed for causing confusion in villages maybe just like the mythical Vundula (stir up) or Vundulamadzi (uncover the water) bird whose English name this blog does not know.

This Vundulamadzi is not the one in the Ulendo Series, Mtunda 3 Chichewa for Standard 3 books. Malawians in the know how can share knowledge on this and the actual bird if it does or not exist and where it’s found.

Anyway people who cause hatred, divisions and confusion are also described as Vundulamadzi by some female healers but this blog is not sure of the origins of the word.

They add that those who reveal African secrets without permission by unmasking or unveiling the spirit world without permission are like uncovering the water (madzi) where spirits are also said to dwell in.

Such people are usually accused of having the mythical goat spirit together with those who create false matsenga (magic) stories to ensure fear of dark forces in villages and not the fear Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe claimed the female healer in an interview a few years back.

Photo from

A real goat horn which this blog failed to take a photo of since it requires funds and travelling to rural areas and various villages in Malawi, resembles a letter drawn in an ancient alphabet if internet sources are anything to go by.

However this blog is not interested in knowing or revealing the secrets of nyanga healers which means “stripping them naked” in the vernacular as that would mean promoting the ancient fear of dark forces and not Namalenga (The Creator).

In a nutshell their mankhwala azitsamba (herbs and charms) involve animals which have blood and birds like Nantchengwa in zoponda (stepped on) so-called village tales for some primitive businesses claim some in towns who specialize in matsenga stories.

Since time in memorial some people are quick to believe some deliberate maula lies whose intention is to cause divisions, hatred and anger in an area for “the fun of it” if information sourced is accurate.

Now the female Sapitwa healer who deals with the spirit world (mizimu) claims those of the mythical bright nthanda yaku m’mawa (bright Sirius) forehead have a right eye which protrudes out like a spirit of a royal snake while those of nyanga and the darkness have a left goat spirit eye protruding more.

This she claims is because of the mythical goat horn on their forehead which some nyanga healers draw as tattoo marks locally known as mphini.

Villager with mphini suspected alphabet

These marks when used to administer herbs straight into the bloodstream of a patient are harmless and have no meaning. Ancient ones used for beauty or for identifying one’s rich ethnic group history are also harmless.

There are also some drawings used in kukhwima rituals to protect a person from harm or evil which are also viewed as harmless and a necessity in a world of evil they say.

But there are other kukhwima ritual ones which take a different meaning and can be read from the way the healer draws them into the skin with a sharp razor using what might be an ancient alphabet.

Such marks are usually drawn under the hairline and near the forehead, and on the back for all to see and read when exposed and on the right hand between the thumb and pointing finger (index?) to represent two horns.

But only those who know the ancient alphabet of Africa or should we say Malawi in this case can read those symbols while the rest just see medical or beauty mphini.

This blog when funds are available will research the different mphini tattoo marks and attempt to connect them to hieroglyphics looking writings of Sapitwa which are apparently hidden in an unknown part of Mount Mulanje.

Suspected goat cane symbol

This blog is not endorsing any of these beliefs, myths and tales but just in a small way trying to first document Sapitwa mythology and inspire others to expand it the way Egyptian and Greek ones are well-documented in books and online.


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