Removing the veil of secrecy of ancient Malawi’s Mbona…using saliva to see (-ona)

Internet photo not related to this article but defining “snake saliva” taken from

Mbona’s “wives” were able to see him as a serpent which would lick them from head to toe with saliva so that their eyes open and they see (kuona as in iris as in the pupil) him hence they would say ndakuona (I see you)….sourced from ona.

This blog is still trying to investigate the use of snake saliva or venom by some healers and what exactly it’s used for.

Mbona is said to appear as an upright white python with “spirit wives” who are human beings and their role in ancient African prophecy (ulosi wakale) is well documented online.

This mythical serpent is said to lick the chosen woman everywhere from head to toe to wipe her and clean her of darkness (kupukuta)….meaning to assist open her spiritual self and see the past and future among other things by removing the ancient veil of secrecy so that her eyes see (kuona) which is the basis of Mbona’s name.

Its presence is also believed to come along with a specific scent throughout the air and symbolizes life since serpent spirits are considered to be immortal.

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”.

Now in an earlier post, this blog explained how a young woman has a dream where she sees a mansion behind a wired fence and a man in a white robe ushering her to go through the small holes.  But alas, her huge body keeps bouncing back because she is too big to go through the small hole.

The bright man not giving up again tells her “come” and ushers with his hand for her to pass through the fence which starts from the ground and seems to reach up to the sky.Image

Confused, the young woman again tries and this time bounces back so hard she falls down backwards.

She then hears the man tell her not to think about the holes of the fence being small but to just imagine herself going through.

Unknown to the woman this is a sign that she’s of the spiritual realms where those born of the mountain known as mizimu (spirits) can do things that ordinary people cannot do and will never do according to some ancient Malawi oral stories.

White in ancient Malawi was also the colour of the dead….meaning mizimu (spirits) whom the ancestors believed appeared in that colour.

When ones spiritual eyes are opened they are able to see spirits and things in the astral realm and they are also able to see the energy around mountains and trees which resembles a silver-like aura surrounding natures wonders.

In ancient Malawi beliefs this was the energy of spirits (mizimu) but not the dead but the winged spirits who live forever.

These are tapped into by healers for certain powers but the difference is between the good and the bad ones as they all seem to have the same powers according to oral stories.

One of these spirits is the Mbona one who can disguise itself as an upright serpent but whitish python, a man or even a woman as the veiled Nyangu spirit/goddess but not the first elderly one this blog writes about.Image

The first Nyangu goddess is said to have white hair under a veil and walks with the aid of a walking stick which looks like a staff with a serpent head on top just like the elderly Dziwe la Nkhalamba spirit whose name remains hidden.

Now the ancient secret behind these spirits is that one only saw their faces when they passed on to the other world or when the spirits which some globally call gods and goddesses allowed their faces to be seen by a chosen few.

One such spirit is Malawi’s ancient Mbona who appears as a dark-skinned and smooth face bearded man wearing a brown or black fedora with his dreadlocks tucked underneath.

His almond shaped brown eyes stand out like Nyangu’s unlike the hidden elderly one of Dziwe la Nkhalamba who is short with white hair and has slanted eyes like the Khoisan who are on the continent divided into the San or Bushmen and the pastoral Khoi or more specifically Khoikhoi, previously known as Hottentots according to the unofficial online Wikipedia.

In Malawi, Mulanje Mountain and its forest reserve is believed to have been home to the first Malawian settlers historically, known as Amwandionerapati or Abathwa according to a

San man photo to explain eye shapes but not related to this article taken from

A document posted online as “Malawi’s Cultural Policy – Unesco” states that “the Late Stone Age Period is the period that hosted the earliest inhabitants of Malawi locally called Akafula/Abatwa or Amwandionerapati, referring to their body structures.

“Toward the end of this period, Early Iron Age people migrated into Malawi from areas located to the northwest. The Iron Age people made and used iron tools. For several centuries, they coexisted with the Late Stone Age people but eventually they either forced the Late Stone Age people to move into remote areas or be assimilated by them…”

There are oral traditions relating to these people also known as Akafula, the diggers who are different from dwarfs as Akafula are pygmies.

Now in ancient Malawi beliefs seeing one of these could cause one to collapse in shock because they sometimes appeared as huge serpents, one-eyed monsters or would appear small then all of a sudden very tall as if on stilts.

Those possessed by such spirits especially healers would hide their faces with a veil or mask because they would glow and appear very bright and white like the mizimu (spirits).

Removing that veil or mask without permission would mean one could die so in ancient times the few who saw the faces of the mizimu (spirits) were viewed as chosen ones and lucky.

The spirit of Mbona choses whom to show it’s male face to while the rest only see its serpent form if they try and hunt for it since he conceals his face. Healers claim this serpent can be as huge as room which sounds scary!

That is the fine line between the world of the living and dead in ancient Malawi beliefs where some believed in spirits without seeing them while others especially priestesses believed and saw.

Using my own “almond” shaped eyes to try an explain the shape of ancient Malawi’s Mbona and first Nyangu’s eyes

The idea was to mostly restrict it to the trained or initiated so that the person able to see the spiritual realm and faces of the gods and goddesses would not appear insane to others.

The face of the spirit (mizimu) was always hidden from mortal beings. In other African cultures there are beautiful dances involving sacred masks and spirits (mizimu) representing the dead.

And in the far way land of ancient Egypt just like in many other cultures globally there were also some similar beliefs about spirits, gods and goddesses but explained in a different way according to the ancient culture there.

Of particular note is the Veiled Isis.  According to online sources in the”Of Isis and Osiris” Plutarch described the veiled statue of Neith (Athena) in the temple of Sais and the inscription in which the Great Goddess spoke these words :

“ἐγώ εἰμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονὸς

καὶ ὂν
καὶ ἐσόμενον
καὶ τὸν

ἐμὸν πέπλον οὐδείς
πω θνητὸς ἀπεκάλυψεν.

– Πλούταρχος

I am all that was
all that is
and all that shall be
and no mortal
hath lifted My veil”

from Book 9 of Plutarch’s “Of Isis and Osiris”

The title is a tribute to Dion Fortune for the writings of Plutarch inspired her to write these words :

I am the veiled Isis of the shadows of the sanctuary.

I am She that moveth as a shadow
behind the tides of death and birth.

I am She that cometh forth by night
and no man seeth My face.

I am older than Time and forgotten of the Gods.

No man may look upon My face and live,
for in the hour he parteth My veil, he dieth.

~ from “The Sea Priestess”

These same lines also inspired Sir Michael Tippett to make them pivotal to his ritual opera “The Midsummer Marriage” in 1955 in order to bring the my theme of Isis Unveiled to a much wider audience,” reads

Internet photo

Now the Wikipedia defines the Parting of the Veil, Piercing of the Veil, Rending of the Veil or Lifting of the Veil as referring, in the Western mystery tradition and contemporary witchcraft to “opening the “veil” of matter, thus gaining entry to a state of spiritual awareness in which the mysteries of nature are revealed.

“It is a reference to the mythical Veil of Isis, regarding which Plutarch records an inscription at the shrine of Neith-Isis-Minerva at Sais: “I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised”. H. P. Blavatsky‘s famous book on occultismIsis Unveiled is also a reference to this,” further reads

 This blog will later post Part II of ancient Malawi’s Mbona’s veil of secrecy…removed with permission.

Internet photo showing “high priestess” and Isis and what in ancient Malawi was a symbol for life in the Knot of Nyangu…the goddess one.

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