Myths & Tales: Does Maat look like Hamerkop (Nantchengwa) bird?

Is the well-known evil ‘Hamer’ matsenga (magic) of Malawi the same as the Hamerkop bird locally known as Nantchengwa?

Agnes Mizere - Malawi Best Blogger 2015


It is said online that the Maat of ancient Kemet was associated with the seven cardinal virtues, the keys to human perfectibility, truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order.

When looking at a Maat an image on, one cannot help notice what looks like a human being with outstretched hands and wings. 

Some websites also talk of the seven virtues and “42 admonitions of Maat” being guidelines of correct behavior and the standard against which the soul of the deceased would be judged in their beliefs.

Those who lived in accordance with the Maat principles were guaranteed some kind of reward in the afterlife after their version of the judgment of the soul.

Now looking at the image of the woman figure with one leg bent reminds some uneducated Sapitwa healers of a Hamerkop known as Nantchengwa in Malawi. It’s quite an ugly looking bird with a…

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Unveiling ancient Malawi’s Nyangu…the headless woman?

This blog will continue telling the untold confirmed and unconfirmed oral stories and myths about ancient Malawi’s Mbona in the same way oral stories and myths of other great civilizations like ancient Egypt and Greece are told online.

Now the oral story concerning a real woman viewed as a living goddesss by a few hidden in a village of Malawi and Mbona’s kandalanga (two-edged sword/knife) hidden at Sapitwa:

Photo taken from Ulendo series book for Standard 8
Mbona illustration taken from Ulendo series book for Standard 8

A beautiful chosen “bride” for the mythical Mbona…chosen before she was born sits in a room going about her business as she struggles in her daily duties….ignored by society but a living goddesses (mizimu) in the eyes of a few healers.

This bride is not a “wife” for the official Mbona of the sacred Khulubvi rain shrine but for the mythical one of Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mulanje Mountain.

The story about the mythical Mbona of Sapitwa remains unofficial and undocumented but mostly known by traditional healers of Malawi who believe in the mythical powers of Sapitwa.

And that is why their eyes have for years been on this “bride” ….from the time she was a young girl they have watched her blossom into a middle-aged woman quickly approaching the age of 50 in readiness for her “husband”.

Ancient Egypt's Isis statue in a way resembles ancient Malawi's Nyangu and Makewana (mother of child) and Sungamwana (keep the child) tales
Ancient Egypt’s Isis statue in a way resembles ancient Malawi’s Nyangu and Makewana (mother of child) and Sungamwana (keep the child) tales

This woman hidden in a village of Malawi is believed to be some kind of reincarnation of the first Nyangu because she is said to possess the spirit of the elderly Nyangu which is being diluted by her innocence and good will and she is also believed to have spiritual powers.

The first Nyangu fell from grace after attaining power through hook and crook using magic (matsenga) and witchcraft (ufiti) so go the oral stories.

The new Nyangu is supposed to reverse that and work closely with Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God) in their belief system.

The old Nyangu is said to have white hair and move with a cane but disguises herself in the body of a beautiful young woman. This spirit which would globally be known as a goddess within a human being is said to have existed from the beginning of time in such ancient Malawi oral stories.

Upright two-edged sword/knife (kandalanga) was used in rain rituals why the upside down one for evil
Upright two-edged sword/knife (kandalanga) like this online one was used in rain rituals while the upside down one for evil

Struggling to contain this evil spirit in her pure heart by doing good, the young bride suddenly feels sleepy as she listens to relaxing music while drinking some thobwa (sweet non-alcoholic beer).

As soon as sleep catches up with her she dozes off and on a gentle breeze blows throughout the room just in time for her to see a headless woman with pointed breasts before her.

Staring at the strange sight before her but having no fear since the said spirit has wiped her eyes to see, the woman again blinks and now sees a man before her and his name is MBONA.

He’s 101 percent male and smiles down at his future bride whom he does not touch physically but just stares at her with love deep in his eyes.

You see it’s not time for him to hold her hand or touch her as he’s still got things to finish in the spiritual realm before he can return and marry his now celibate “bride” in the flesh.

This male spirit which sometimes appears as female is also said to appear to others as a serpent spirit but in the form of a white python so go some other oral stories.

This is the secret of androgynous spirits which appear as male and female but they do not have sexual relations and remain celibate. When this mythical Mbona spirit marries a woman, he becomes a man.


Now because of “westernization” and “civilization” such belief systems are rare and so very few believe in the Mbona spirit and less the one of Sapitwa and so his story is only told by this blog and a few healers who claim to follow his teachings and get his herbs from Sapitwa.

Red veil Internet photo
Red veil Internet photo

The upcoming “wedding” between the unofficial Mbona and his chosen “bride” will also be a low-profile and secret event involving the ancient gods and goddesses of ancient Malawi.

This Nyangu spirit which is said to be Mbona in a feminine form wears robes and sometimes wrappers local known as zitenje and is said to be a very beautiful woman with almond eyes and long eyelashes which Mbona also has.

Women of Sapitwa use veils similar to this online one to cover their faces during rituals
Women of Sapitwa use veils similar to this online one to cover their faces during rituals

Now this Nyangu spirit (goddess) at Sapitwa is said to have a white veil like cloth and a red one.  This is why Sapitwa healers all have veils which they wear when offering nsemba (sacrifices) among other things at the mountain on top of the robes they wear and leave there.

When some of the healers do prescribed rituals they usually draw a small altar with ufa woyera (maize flour) or ground sorghum (mapira) and place their tools such as a candle for light and for a chosen few a sword resembling ancient Malawi’s Mbona.

This blog has been told the exact ritual but not yet given permission to document it as they claim it’s the secret of their Chauta, Namalenga, Mphambe (God).

Representing 4 winds of Sapitwa (mphepo zinayi) of North, South, West and East
Representing 4 winds of Sapitwa (mphepo zinayi) of North, South, West and East

So all this blog can reveal is that that under the veil the healer is usually bright as they attach themselves to the spiritual world of mizimu (spirits) especially those that have never been human.

Such rituals are symbolized by black clouds covering the sun meaning that when there is darkness the light comes and gives light to enable the eyes see well.

Removing their veil without permission was like removing a sacred mask to expose mizimu (spirits) and the end result was risking death so go some oral stories.

The ancestors of this ancient land believed that when one is enlightened and accepted by the spiritual realm, the veil of secrecy is removed and they can see with their spiritual eyes and heart to know good from bad.

This is why healers of Sapitwa claim when a spirit covers a person with a white cloth, they disappear and are never found because it means they have joined the spiritual realm.

What is the meaning of this "Tarot Card" online may I ask?   Is it good or bad?
What is the meaning of this “Tarot Card” online may I ask? Is it good or bad?

Stories are told of some finding themselves in the astral realm but not being able to get out because of a gravity-like force which keeps them in. It is also forbidden to see the hair of a female spirit because it is said to move like snakes…maybe similar to the ancient Greek myth of Medusa.

Many healers claim spirits (mizimu) do not appear anyhow to sane people and one has to be trained and prepared to see them to avoid being viewed by the public as if one has lost their mind by talking to forces that cannot be seen.

It’s once the spirits take a person under the veil or white cloth that they are able to “see” kuona, wona or mbona the unseen with their two eyes.

J.M. Schoffeleers in his book ‘River of Blood: The Genesis of a Martyr Cult in Southern Malawi’ 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”, he wrote.

Now while one could see the good winged spirits locally known as mizimu the equivalent of angels among others, they also risked seeing the evil winged ones locally known as ziwanda (demons) so they had to know the difference.

These were different from ancestral spirits locally known as mizimu yamakolo which once were human beings.

African wine kettle gourd locally known as Nsupa made from Mphonda losadibwa, the one forbidden to eat etc
African wine kettle gourd locally known as Nsupa made from Mphonda losadibwa, the one forbidden to eat etc

In another ancient ritual but involving witchcraft (ufiti) for the narrow-shaped calabash locally known as Nsupa but made from the African wine kettle which needed blood to be magically sourced to give it power…the same thing happened with the evil Maula magical oracle.

The first Nyangu would point one hand up and the other one below to mean so above is the same below and when she put the sword upside down that was trouble which those who have ears and eyes can figure out.

Now when she pointed her right hand up and the left one down it would symbolize her taking of energy among other things to empower herself and make her stronger using the Nsupa which female healers of today are banned from using because they have menstrual cycles which weakens it’s powers.

That is why some male healers are believed to chase away menstruating women from their Nsupa to avoid diluting its powers inside their ‘altar’ drawn with maize flour.

Mbona of Sapitwa follows his bloodline and will marry one of his descendants according to unofficial oral stories.

Now in the official story, the cult of Mbona, the central African mythology of the snake that is beheaded to make the rains come has been combined with a more spiritual interpretation: the snake has been transformed into a human martyr and redeemer.River of blood

According to the cult, the rainmaker Mbona was tracked down by his enemies; they cut off his head, and his blood formed the River of Blood. Mbona returned as a storm wind and asked that a shrine be dedicated in his name, writes Fr J. Matthew Schoffeleers in his book ‘River of Blood: The Genesis of a Martyr Cult in Southern Malawi, A.D. 1600’ posted on the website

And according the Unesco website, Mbona’s uncle Mlauli, who was also a magician envied his nephew and wanted to kill Mbona. Mlauli, however, failed to kill Mbona because he wished to die on his own by telling Mlauli and his enemies to cut his throat with a leaf of a reed after other weapons had failed to harm him.

“His head was cut and placed at Khulubvi sacred groove, where the shrine exists today. People who knew his magic works began coming to the place periodically to worship the spirit of Mbona.

A traditional hut within Khulubvi natural thicket of approximately 100 square metres was constructed as a worshipping site,” further reads which also explains about that Mbona’s wife named Salima.

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