Of ancient Malawi wild grape vine (mpesa or nthudza?) and Tomasi Bona (Atom) tales

Is that an Orb or dust spot on the left side of the M'manga Mudzi mound photo?
Is that an Orb or dust spot on the left side of the M’manga Mudzi mound photo?

Many ancient civilizations (Greek, Norse, Roman, etc.) have an extensive mythological story that has an explanation for just about everything that goes on in the world. From the reasons why the seasons change to why humans feel emotion, mythology allowed ancient people to be at peace with the way things are.

It’s a fact that a lot of Malawi’s ancient history involving female priesthoods as in those responsible for nsembe (offerings) has been erased and most Malawians don’t bother researching or caring to know about it.

This blog therefore tries to fill that void for the few who might be interested in ancient history the way it is done in many countries globally including in Europe.

This blog is also still researching the English names for some fruits, plants and trees and appreciates all assistance to ensure information shared here is accurate especially the translations into Chichewa.

In Egyptian mythology, the world started out as a chaos of churning water, known as Nu or Nun.

Ancient Egypt mound photo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_creation_myths
Ancient Egypt mound photo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_creation_myths

“Out of Nu came Atum, the lord of Heliopolis. He stood on a single mound he created called ben-ben and this is where the temple of Heliopolis was built.

“The creation of ben-ben brought light into the world and Atum became known as Atum-Ra. Ra, the sun god that rises in the east and dies in the west. Ra then created the gods Shu (the air) and Tefnut (the moisture) through asexual reproduction. Together, Shu and Tefnut produced Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky).

“Geb and Nut conceived Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, and Seth (or Set). After conceiving, Geb and Nut were separated by their father, Shu.

“Now the sky is high above, while the earth is way below with air in the middle. Many ancient drawings of this show Geb the earth laying down with Nut the sky arched over him with Shu the air holding her up. Ra the sun is usually traveling along Nut’s body,” reads the 2013 Great Discoveries in Archaeology website at http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp264-ss13/2013/02/28/the-gods-of-egypt/.

Now this blog is not posting this 2014 information again to debate whether the ancient Egypt belief was right or wrong or to endorse any beliefs but just to document things posted online and some ancient Malawi oral stories never documented before.

Similar to some elements of the ancient Egypt creation myth in ancient Sapitwa mythology everything began with water and there was a spirit (mizimu) kingdom in the water led by the Dziwe la Nkhalamba elderly spirit and 7 others mainly Tomasi Bona of the North Wind, Tagoneka Mbona of the West, Chandiona Goneka of the South and Nthanda mwana wa mwezi of the East.

Tomasi Bona also known as Napolo has never been human but is said to have mounted from one of the M’manga Mudzi anthill hill mounds somewhere in Mulanje near the mountain.

Tree vines

It’s not easy to get to the mound as some vines or something grab your hands and feet and trip you over so one has to be patient and untie themselves from the mess and make sure they don’t touch any buffalo bean (Chitedze) which causes extreme itching of the body.

This anthill locally known as chulu represented the triangular mountain above and all the water bodies underneath and healers familiar with the area call the vines surrounding it mpesa or nthudza which in English is Rhoicissus tomentosa but this blog failed to get a photo of them.

Could mpesa or mphesa be the vines and nthudza the fruit?

The name Rhoicissus is derived from the Greek rhoia, meaning pomegranate and kissos, ivy. Perhaps not the most accurate of names: like ivy, it is a climber, but it has tendrils; and the small fruits, although spherical, do not seem very like that of a pomegranate.

“The Latin species name tomentosa means felt-like, with a dense woolly covering, and alludes to the rust-coloured hairs that cover the young growth, the underside of the leaves, buds and tendrils. It has picked up an impressive number of common names, mostly regarding its resemblance to the cultivated grapevine, or its rope-like stems.

Rhoicissus tomentosa photo taken from http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantqrs/rhoicistom.htm
Rhoicissus tomentosa photo taken from http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantqrs/rhoicistom.htm

“The grape family (Vitaceae) is a large, with approximately 1000 species spread throughout the warm countries of the world and is famous for its most celebrated member, the grapevine, Vitis vinifera. In southern Africa this family is represented by five genera (Ampelocisssus, Cayratia, Cissus, Cypostemma and Rhoicissus) and 53 species.

“In southern Africa, the genus Rhoicissus is represented by 10 species that occur in all the provinces of South Africa except the Northern Cape and all other southern African countries except Namibia and Botswana.

“Rhoicissus tomentosa is relatively easy to tell apart from the others because it and only three of the other southern African species have simple or shallowly lobed leaves and it is the only canopy climber among them,” partly reads http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantqrs/rhoicistom.htm

According to online sources this wild grape occurs from the Cape Peninsula, where it is abundant in the kloofs of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, and along the coastline in a narrow strip all the way through the Eastern Cape up to northern KwaZulu-Natal and then inland through Mpumalanga into Limpopo Province, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

It is almost always associated with forest and grows in riverine fringes where it clambers over trees and bushes. This type of Mpesa is in the grape family and it’s common names include wild grape, bush grape, African grape, forest Grape, monkey rope, wild vine (Eng.); Bosdruif, Wildedruif, Bostou, Bobbejaantou (Afrikaans), isaQoni, iDiliya (Xhosa), isiNwazi (Zulu), Moaparo (Sotho); isiNwati (Swati) and Dyathoho, Makhulu-wa-khundwi (Venda).

Common Rhoicissus vine photo taken from http://www.ispotnature.org/species-dictionaries/sanbi/Rhoicissus%20tomentosa
Common Rhoicissus vine photo taken from http://www.ispotnature.org/species-dictionaries/sanbi/Rhoicissus%20tomentosa

“Rhoicissus tomentosa is a handsome, vigorous, evergreen tendril climber with ornamental, vine-like leaves and bunches of purple grape-like fruits which are edible and “pleasant tasting but acidic.”

“The juicy, pulpy ripe fruits boiled with plenty of sugar (7 grapes to 30 g sugar) make a brilliantly coloured and delicious jam or jelly. A reasonable wine can also be made from the fruits, described as sour with a pleasant fragrance. The fruits are also used to make vinegar. The pliant branches are split and used as rope for tying down thatch and also in basket-making.”

“The tuberous rootstock is poisonous and is used in traditional medicine The roots boiled in milk are given to calves to expel intestinal worms. They may also be used during pregnancy to facilitate delivery, although R. tridentata is the more commonly used species for that remedy,” further reads the same online source.

It’s role in pregnancy would connect it to a female spirit known as Chinsinsi Sungamwana (Secret, Keep the Child) as in ancient times female healers were also experts in childbirth unlike today when azamba (traditional midwives) have been banned.

Now Tomasi Bona who is also the elderly spirit of Dziwe la Nkhalamba is born of women to make them powerful ancient priestesses of the Nyangu blood who no longer exist as they can no longer freely practice their ancient ways.

Oral stories talk of that spirit implanting itself in their wombs but disappearing before delivery to appear as a full-grown adult man.

Mother Earth and the Indian Ocean of her womb –  Photo borrowed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_Ocean-CIA_WFB_Map.png
Mother Earth and the Indian Ocean of her womb –
Photo borrowed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indian_Ocean-CIA_WFB_Map.png

The same is said of the Sapitwa version of Mbona on how his mother conceived him just like in other stories in Africa and Asia. This blog is only repeating what healers say and not endorsing any views.

Now Nyangu’s spirit is said to be an elderly woman who walks using a cane with a serpent head but like other spirits she is also believed to appear in the form of a young woman.

She stands with very bright presence, her veil covering her knotted black hair as her wide eyes stare blankly at those who visit her and seek guidance.

Her name is hidden but Chinsinsi Sungamwana and her title is Nyangu, the goddess of the mythical Sapitwa from the beginning of time and not any of the ones who have lived on earth including Mbona’s mother Nyangu.  Her colour is blue like the deep ocean and her origins, a sad mythical story about goddesses locally known as mizimu (spirits).

Sometimes she sits under the shade of a fig tree locally known as mkuyu to breastfed her baby.  The woman is dark-skinned with very smooth skin that makes her face look like she dipped it in a jar of cocoa-butter and milk further go oral stories.

Her black eye-lashes stand out together with her eyebrows which seem well drawn and her uncombed hair forms tidy knots but her hair is not necessarily dread-locked.

Also standing out on her beautiful face are beauty spots on her cheek. Her brown almond shaped eyes also stand out and piercing as if searching a person’s soul.

However, the strange thing with this woman is that whenever people see her she’s holding a small baby even when its months later….the baby does not seem to grow.

An elderly man suddenly calls out to her “makewana” (mother of the child) and she greets him politely but does not remove her eyes of her baby whom she sometimes carries on her back.

She wanders from place to place like a lost and mad person ever since she lost her husband, the elderly spirit of Dziwe la Nkhalamba. Her symbol is similar to one of the ancient Malawi female winged spirits known as Sungamwana (Keep the child) because that is who she is too.

The others are Tomasi Bona (world in one’s hands), Tagoneka Mbona (put to sleep Mbona), Chandiona Goneka (It’s seen me, put to sleep), Nthanda mwana wa mwezi (Child of the moon, Sirius), Dziwe Ntambawana (Magic pool) and Ife Zonse (All of us).

Woman not mermaid and python drawing from http://exploremalawi.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-to-make-it-rain-malawian-ancestral.html
Woman not mermaid and python drawing from http://exploremalawi.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-to-make-it-rain-malawian-ancestral.html

In ancient teachings these 7 pulled each other to create energy viewed as light like that of lightning which today will probably be called electricity. Now in physics there are two types of electric charges…positive and negative.

“Positively charged substances are repelled from other positively charged substances, but attracted to negatively charged substances; negatively charged substances are repelled from negative and attracted to positive. An object will be negatively charged if it has an excess of electrons, and will otherwise be positively charged or uncharged.

“The SI derived unit of electric charge is the coulomb (C), although in electrical engineering it is also common to use the ampere-hour (Ah), and in chemistry it is common to use the elementary charge (e) as a unit. The symbol Q is often used to denote charge.

“The early knowledge of how charged substances interact is now called classical electrodynamics, and is still very accurate if quantum effects do not need to be considered,” partly reads http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_charge