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Title: Some Zulu Customs and Folk-lore
Author: Samuelson, Levine Henrietta
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Some Zulu Customs and Folk-lore" ***

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                            L. H. SAMUELSON

                      THE CHURCH PRINTING COMPANY
                     BURLEIGH STREET, STRAND, W.C.


It is hoped that the following short stories, which the writer has
endeavoured to tell in the simplest language, will give some idea of
the inner feelings and belief of a people whose individuality is,
despite the number of years we have been in contact with them, little
known to the large majority of us. Even among those well versed in the
language and the practical or legal customs of the natives, there are
few who are acquainted with the undercurrents of thought, and the many
traditions and superstitions, which are accepted without question by
the Zulus, and which form an essential part of the mental life of all
among them who have not had their ideas modified to some extent by
European teaching, and which continue to have a strong hold upon the
larger number even of those who have had the advantages of some kind of
education at the hands of the missionaries and other teachers. The
common estimate of the African native is that he is a being with no
ideas above his cattle and his physical wants; but a more intimate
acquaintance with their life, such as the writer had from being amongst
them for many years at her father’s mission station in Zululand, will
reveal that the native has an ideal life of his own. This, it is true,
is in many instances of a crude and savage character; yet it rises a
little, if only a little, above what is “of the earth, earthly,” and,
though it may possibly provoke a smile on account of its crudeness or
simplicity, it will at times strike a chord of sympathy as a touch of
nature—as an aspiration, however feeble, to penetrate beyond the veil
which hides the unseen world from human eyes.

Those who have made the folklore of savage or half-civilized peoples
their study cannot fail to be struck with the strange analogy between
some of the superstitions of the Zulus and those of many other nations.
Vague and undefined as some of their native ideas are, there is still a
belief in the existence of a spirit world around them by which their
lives are affected, and a groping after a knowledge of influences
beyond human power, which direct the destinies of mortal man, and of
mysterious forces which can be brought into play by men peculiarly
gifted. In their custom of sacrificing to the spirits, to induce them
to restore the health of a patient, and their belief in the powers of
wizards, we find them under the thraldom of the same superstitions
which have become familiar to us in so many and such diverse
directions—from the ancient Greeks to the modern spiritualists—and
which have at times played so great a part in the history of the world.
Their belief in the “spirits of their fathers” watching over them is
similar to the idea underlying Chinese ancestral worship, and the
wizard’s powers of killing or injuring do not differ in essentials from
the so-called spirit healing of enlightened America or the working of
the “evil eye” still believed in by the ignorant among the peasantry of
Italy. If, therefore, in reading of the Zulu superstitions we are
provoked at times to smile, it must be rather at the form than at the
substance. The superstitions are the same that have ever existed, and
that, despite all our advancement, still find adherents among civilized
communities, though among these they are expressed in more delicate
language and acted upon in less savage ways. With the large mass of
Europeans such superstitions, thanks to modern enlightenment, are taken
at their true value; but so long as there are among ourselves people
who believe in planchettes, we cannot quite afford to look with
supercilious contempt upon the African who believes in wizards. And
there is one point of view in which a knowledge of what he believes is
of material importance. To him, these superstitions are realities. He
accepts them as facts of which he has to take account, and which will
be acted upon by the society in which his lot is cast. To estimate his
true character, and form any accurate idea of the manner in which his
mind will work, some knowledge not only of his customs but also of his
social habits and beliefs is thus essential.

The author therefore trusts that the present small work may prove not
only of some scholastic value, but may also be of practical use to the
missionary, the administrator, and, indeed, to all who come into
contact with the little understood “Native,” or who are interested in
his progress and well-being.

_The Author of these sketches is deeply indebted to Miss A. Werner for
the pains she took to introduce a few of them, through the “Journal of
the African Society,” to the notice of many of those gentlemen who,
having held the highest positions in South Africa, or been in supreme
power over the Zulu Nation, know how important it is that those who
hold the destinies of this interesting people in their hands should
understand as much as possible of the bias of their minds and the
springs of their conduct. But for their generous expression of this
opinion, it is doubtful whether this little volume would ever have
struggled to the light. To them she is profoundly grateful, as she is
also to those whose ready support has enabled her to bring her venture
to a successful issue. She wishes also to acknowledge the valuable
assistance received from the ex-President of the Folk-lore Society and
the Secretaries of the Royal Colonial Institute and the African



                A Zulu Wedding                         1

                How Twins were Treated                 7

                “Sending Home,” I.                    11

                “Sending Home,” II.                   13

                Departed Spirits                      18

                Sacrificing to Spirits                20

                The Death of a Chief                  24

                Inkata                                27

                The Zulu Annual Feast                 30

                The Doctoring of an Army              39

                Finding out Wizards                   44

                A Fire Extinguisher                   47

                Rain Doctors                          48

                Rainbow, Lightning, and Eclipses      50

                Praying for the Corn                  53

                Old Wives’ Tales                      56

                King Mpande’s Snake Charmer           62

                How Death came into the World         66

                The Zulu’s Choicest Bit of Meat       68

                A Friendly Way of Obtaining Food      69

                Peacemaking over a Pinch of Snuff     71

                Rules of a Zulu Hunt                  75

                Bongoza’s Smartness                   77

                Zulu Labyrinths and War Game          81

  _NOTE._—The valuable footnotes signed “ED.” are taken by
  permission from Miss Werner’s Paper in the “Journal of the African


                            (A ZULU WEDDING)

There is much ceremony connected with a heathen Zulu wedding. A month
or more before the time the bridegroom-elect has to compose a song to
be sung by him and his party. Then he invites all the young men in the
neighbourhood to come and learn it; he also composes a tune to suit it,
which they all have to practise singing together, whilst dancing and
manœuvring about, beating time with their feet. All his sisters, with
their friends, join in as well. The song is generally made up of a very
few words, something like a round in three or four parts. Here is one,
for example:—

  “Kusiqingile. Sesipiwe amabosho.” (We are in a fix. We are now
  supplied with cartridges.)

I was once present at a wedding where the following was sung: “Wen
‘obem’ ugwai, Kauseikuza ini?” (You who take snuff. Will you never
die?) This was the bridegroom’s song. He had managed to set it to quite
a nice tune, and it went with a swing, the men keeping time beautifully
with their feet, and flourishing their sticks in the air.

The bride-elect, too, has to go through the same preparations a month
beforehand. She composes her song, and makes a tune for it, then all
her friends have to come and learn it. The afternoons are generally set
apart for this, and nice moonlight nights, when they can keep it up
till the small hours of the morning. The words of the song may be:
“Yek’ ubugontshi! Ngashiy’ umame.” (What trouble! I left mother.) Or,
“Kuya ngotando. Ngishiy’abakwetu.” (It is my choice. I left my people.)
After the day has been fixed for the Umtimba and everything is ready
for it, the father sends two cows on ahead the day before, to be put
for the bride in the cattle kraal of her future home. This is a sign
that she will be leaving her home in the afternoon with her “udwendwe”
(bridesmaids and party); and a hut is then prepared at once to receive
them when they arrive in the evening—the eve of her wedding day. When
the udwendwe reaches the kraal, a great noise of singing and clapping
of hands is heard, this being the signal of their arrival. Most girls
carry small stones in their hands so as to make a louder noise.
Clapping at the gate, they are met by someone who invites them to
enter, and leads the way to the hut prepared for them. In this hut they
sit up all night, singing and talking, until about dawn, when they make
a move towards a bush, chosen in the neighbourhood, where they settle
down to breakfast. In this place they spend the greater part of the
forenoon, cooking and feasting, Meat and beer is sent to them from the
bride’s future home. At about 8 in the morning the first messenger is
sent by the bridegroom to invite the bride to come up; but he doesn’t
return, nor is he expected to do otherwise than remain there, for this
is a part of the marriage ceremony. The bridegroom again sends another
messenger with the same message; he also remains, and others are sent
again soon after. This goes on till there are about forty or fifty men
sent off to fetch the bride and party. Lastly a beast is sent down, and
that makes the bride think it is about time she prepared to move. She
then begins to put on her bridal ornaments which consist chiefly of a
new skin skirt, made of an ox-hide, well greased and perfumed with
“amaka,” white ox tails on her arms and wrists, white and green beads
(buma) round her neck, waist and ankles, sakabula feathers (Umnyakanya)
on her head—a veil of beads (Invakaza) over her face, and a knife or
an assagai in her hand, to flourish about whilst dancing. When the
bridesmaids have finished assisting her they put on their finery; then
they surround the bride and screen her with mats, so that no one can
possibly see her before she appears before her future husband, whose
part it is to see her first. She is thus carefully hidden all the way,
but now and then she puts up her knife just to show whereabouts in the
crowd she is. The bridegroom is generally found seated with some of his
best friends on the ground in the cattle kraal or outside it, and the
bride is brought before him in this fashion. When very near, the crowd
falls back and the maids are allowed to come forward with their
screened-up treasure, which is unveiled before him by drawing aside the
mats. She kneels down and whispers the usual few words into his
ears, which are: “Sengifikile. Ungipate kahle. Ungilahle nami
sengiyakukulahla.” (I have now come. You’ll treat me well. You’ll bury
me and I’ll bury you.) To which he answers: “Kulungile pelanawe
ungipate kahle.” (Agreed. You treat me well too.) After this the maids
have their say (pela nawe), warning him to treat her kindly and
lovingly or he may live to suffer for it, &c. They may say anything to
him at this time. Then the old women come forward dancing in and out
amongst the girls. They carry a mealie cob stuck on the point of an
assagai. This they flourish about in the air for luck and prosperity.
While this is going on the bridegroom and party hurry off to deck
themselves out in their finery. This is always done after the bride has
arrived. He wears a grand umutsha (kilt), made of cowhide and skin of
an intsimangu (monkey), also white ox tails round his legs and arms,
isaka (head ornament) of sakabula (long-tailed finch) feathers on his
head, and he carries a knobkerrie and courting shield in his hand. If
he is an ikehla (man with ring on his head) he has to wear a neat
little isiqova (tuft) on his forehead, made of pretty feathers, and a
longer one at the back of his head.

When the bridegroom comes forward again with all his escort the dancing
begins in earnest. His song is then rendered for the admiration of the
bridal party and visitors. They go on dancing and singing it till they
are fairly exhausted; then they sit down and rest, while the bride,
assisted by her maids, goes through her song in all its charming
variations, the old women manœuvring in and out of the crowd with the
most graceful movements imaginable. When the bride has finished her
part, the bridegroom comes in again with his, and they sing and dance
together until dusk, when all the people return to their homes. Beer
only is provided on that day—nothing else.

The next day the wedding feast takes place; this is called “Ukuqolisca”
(breakfast or reception). Only relations and invited guests join in
this. The bride on this day gives away all her girlish ornaments of
beads, &c., to her sisters and her husband’s sisters. She puts all the
necklaces in a vessel and pours water over them, then takes them out,
one by one, and throws them on the girls. This is the way she gives
them away.

On the third day the final part of the ceremony takes place. The bride
has to try to run back to her home, with a child on her back belonging
to her new home, for there are often several families in one kraal. If
she is a good runner and manages to get there without being caught she
wins a cow; but this is a very difficult thing to do, for she is
carefully watched, and the weight of the child on her back is a great
hindrance. If she is lucky enough to win the prize her husband has to
give it, to bring her back again, and that adds to the number of the
lobola (dowry) cattle.

                         HOW TWINS WERE TREATED

Zulus used to consider it unlucky to have twins, and worse still to
have triplets. The latter were always thought to be monkeys, and killed
as soon as they were born. Only one of the former was allowed to live.
Sometimes parents found it difficult to decide which one to keep,
although the rule was to kill the younger of the two. The greatest
difficulty arose when the youngest one happened to be a girl; for by
killing her a fortune was lost—it meant losing ten or twenty head of

Once a Zulu woman was in a difficulty of this kind. She had two lovely
black babes, and loved both dearly, so she made up her mind to break
the rule and keep them. But she and her husband suffered severely for
it. They were continually reminded of having dared to break the rule of
their country, and at last, when the twins were ten years old, and
looked handsome and promising, their superstitious and envious
neighbours threatened to report it to King Mpande. The parents’ hearts
sank within them, so they decided to take the boy to a mission station
near, and offer him to “The Great-great-one,” meaning God. He was
accepted and taught. In time he became a Christian. His parents often
went to see him, and his sister brought him presents of mealies and
sweet potatoes. Five or six years went by, but still the fact that the
old man had spared his son was not forgotten. At last the threat was
carried out. He was reported at headquarters, and accused of being a
wizard as well, because he was lucky in whatever he undertook. He and
his five wives were very industrious; they always planted large patches
of mealies, Kafir corn (mabele), pumpkins, and sweet potatoes, so that
they often had plenty of food and to spare when others were hard up.
They were given to hospitality, and always pleased to help those in
need, so it seemed rather strange that they had enemies. They had ten
nice young daughters who could sing and dance well, and about the same
number of sons, who were good hunters and kept them supplied with game.
The chief men of that district were very jealous of this wealthy old
farmer, and advised the king to do away with him and take his property.
The king gave his consent, and almost immediately a band of men were
told off to go and kill him, and to bring back his cattle and
daughters. A company of the famous old “Ndhlondhlo” regiment set off,
well armed with assagais, knobkerries, and shields. As they went along
they flourished their weapons in the air with great pride. It was a
good two days’ journey they had to take, to this place in the thorn
country. They arrived there about the middle of the second night and
halting a few yards away, surrounded the kraal and lay down to rest in
the high grass till dawn. As soon as it was light they got up and
closed in round the kraal. The two men who were best acquainted with
the owner, and who had often visited him, went up to the chief hut to
inquire if he was stirring, for they said they were out hunting rather
early, and would be grateful for a pinch of snuff to freshen them up a
little. The kind old man, desirous to please as usual, opened the door
of his hut at once and came out with his snuff-box. While he was in the
act of giving them some, a volley was discharged at him, and he fell
down dead on the spot. Women and children came running out in confusion
from all the other huts to see what was the matter; then two of the
chief women were also killed. The other three were left to bury their
husband, which they were soon made to do, being ordered to carry him
off and throw him into a donga. The mealie pits were opened and
destroyed. Then two fine beasts were butchered for breakfast. The men
had rather more than they could eat, so they invited the girls to make
a good meal, for they had a two days’ journey before them to the king’s
kraal. The girls answered, “You invite us to eat while our parents’
blood is still fresh on the ground! We will not eat. Would that we
could die too, and escape being made slaves to the king who has ruined
our happy home. Oh! ye spirits of our ancestors, pity us and take us
out of this cruel misery!”

The twin boy, having heard in the early hours of the morning the fate
of his people, hid in a cupboard at the mission house. He was called
for, but he was nowhere to be found. The mission house was searched
through and through, but fortunately no one thought he might be in the
cupboard. When they had satisfied themselves that he was not there,
they went off with the girls. It was pitiful to hear their cries. The
men had no mercy, but went along joking and praising themselves for
having managed so remarkably well. Such was life in Zululand before the
Zulu war!

Soon after this affair another Zulu woman had twin girls, and the
parents, having learnt a sad lesson, determined to observe the custom
of their country. The younger one was killed, although she looked the
healthier and finer. She was left to starve to death in a cold corner
of the hut, while the other one was cuddled up and kept warm and fed.
Strange to say, the chosen one pined and died a fortnight later, and
the mother regretted not having kept the younger.

This custom is no longer observed. It is now considered lucky to have
twins, especially if they are girls; for it means twenty head of cattle
for the family at her marriage.

                             (SENDING HOME)

There are many, no doubt, who know of the old cruel Zulu custom of
“Ukugodusa” (sending home), _i.e._, doing away with the aged people. If
a man was too old and feeble to go to the king’s kraal occasionally,
and join his regiment whenever called out, the king would pick out a
troop of men and say, “Hamba niye kum’godusa”—meaning “go and send him
home.” Then this troop of men would travel miles away to the man’s
kraal, taking good care to get there by night, and to surround it, so
as to pounce upon the poor old fellow as soon as he came out of his hut
in the morning, and take him away to bury alive or otherwise kill him.
The victim simply had to go away obediently, knowing it was the king’s
order, as well as the custom of his country. So all Zulu men, old and
young, used to make a point of meeting at the king’s kraal, “Komkulu”
(at the great one’s), especially at Christmas time, to show that they
were still of service. If through illness they had to stay at home, and
it could be proved that they were indisposed, the king excused them;
but they were most careful not to let it happen again.

When women became helpless, and needed looking after, they, too, had to
be “sent home,” and that was done by their own people. Even their own
sons would order it to be done, and assist in the cruel performance.
Here is one example of it. Once, two sons, wanting to get rid of their
aged mother, tempted her out for a long walk to some dongas (dry
watercourses with deep holes in the banks). (Zulu.) They took her to
the deepest one and pushed her into it. The poor old creature hurt her
ankle very badly, and could not get out again. She was in that donga
two days and two nights, without food or a drop of water to drink.
Maddened by hunger she made a despairing effort to scramble out, and
fortunately managed it at last. Once on the level she found some wild
berries and fruit, of which she made a good meal. This gave her a
little strength to decide on her next move. Not daring to venture
anywhere near her home again, she took a long journey to a mission
station, and there begged to be taken in. The missionary and his family
were very good to her, and gave her a home and taught her. In time she
became a Christian, and it was most touching to hear her saying her
prayers early in the morning. She prayed most earnestly for her sons
who had forsaken her.

Another old woman was daily threatened to be “sent home,” but a certain
missionary’s wife and daughters who used to visit the kraal begged that
she should be spared. They took her some covering occasionally, for she
was helpless and often would sleep too near the fireplace and burn her
blankets. Years went on in this way, until the missionary family had to
take a trip to Durban to get supplies for the year. Then the mischief
was done. On their return, great was their distress at finding the old
woman no more. Her people had taken her to a very deep ant-bear hole
and made her go in. Before obeying she meekly asked for a last pinch of
snuff, which they could not deny her. She sat down to take her snuff,
then stepped into the ant-bear hole. They filled it up with earth and
buried her alive.

“Ukugodusa,” one is thankful to know, is out of date now, as well as


I feel that it would, perhaps, be wise to give one more proof to show
that the above was a real custom amongst the Zulus, even as lately as
in the days of King Cetshwayo. A poor old woman named Madokodo was
another victim, besides Mfoto whom I mentioned before. Sometime in the
beginning of 1869 Madokodo, on account of her old age, was thrown into
a donga, or pit, by one of her sons and his friends, to get her out of
the way, or send her home (godusa), as this was called. The poor old
body was not in her second childhood (as Mfoto was), but was healthy
and strong. She was in this pit for a few days, trying to get out, but
kept falling back again. When night came she was in terror of the
wolves and tigers which were prowling about the place; but she knew
there was a Great God above, and she prayed for His protection. At last
she managed to scrape a few holes in the donga with her finger nails,
and made steps to climb up by, and the Great Almighty (Usomandhla) gave
her strength to get out. Then she went to a great friend of hers, who
fed her and kept her in a secret corner of her kraal until she got over
her shock and became strong again. Madokodo then went to one of her
other sons by night, and he was much pleased as well as surprised to
see his mother alive; but, fearing the elder and cruel brother might
find her and try to carry out this cruel custom again, he thought it
best not to keep her with him long, so he proposed taking her to a
mission station and giving her to the missionary. The mother agreed to
this, and the two went off together, travelling a good many miles till
they reached St. Paul’s Mission Station, the missionary there being my
father, Rev. S. M. Samuelson. Arriving at the door of our house, poor
old Madokodo, lame and footsore, called out in a pleading voice,
“Ngitola Baba,” “Ngitola Nkosi Yame!” which means, “Adopt me, Father,”
“Adopt me, my Master.” My father inquired into the matter, and all was
related, her loving son supporting her. Nothing could be done but to
save the poor old soul from future trouble, and to try to win her for
Christ’s Kingdom. My father took her under his care on August 13th,
1869, and the son took leave of his mother and returned home again.
Madokodo slept in the kitchen, and my mother took great interest in
her, for she was very intelligent, industrious and tidy. After a while
Madokodo expressed a wish to join the Catechumen class, and be prepared
for Baptism. She was very earnest; for early in the morning, just about
sunrise, we children heard her deep, pleading voice in prayer whilst we
were still in our beds, “Baba wami Opezulu, ovele wa ngibheka,
osangibhekile namanje, ngitola Mdali wami, tola nabanta bami, utetelele
nalo ongilahlileyo!” (My Father above, Thou Who hast taken care of me
from the very first, and Who art still caring for me, adopt me, my
Creator, adopt also my children, and forgive the one who has thrown me
away.”) Then she would always finish with “The Lord’s Prayer,” which
she had by then learnt. At the end of eight months she was baptized,
and received the name Eva. She was, I believe, the first old woman who
became a Christian at St. Paul’s, and she was very happy after that,
and helped in the mission work by setting an excellent example to the
younger converts. News of the aged woman’s conversion and baptism
spread all over the country like wildfire, for Zulus, as a rule, are
great news carriers. Her wicked son heard of it, for he had hoped she
had reached her destination long ago, as he had “sent her home.” The
middle-aged people bore her a grudge on account of her having become a
Christian at her age, and, fearing others might do the same, clubbed
together and made plans to get her out of the way; so they accused her
of witchcraft and reported her to King Cetshwayo. Eva at this time had
had someone to help to build her a small hut, and she was cutting some
high grass (tambootie) near a certain kraal, with which to thatch it.
Meanwhile, illness (influenza colds) breaking out at this kraal, poor
old Eva was accused of having caused this. The King, through his Prime
Minister, Mnyamana, granted permission to have her killed. On the 4th
of June, 1870 (Trinity Sunday), as we were just coming out of church,
we were surprised by a large party of men (thirty in number) meeting us
outside the church door, armed with assagais and knobkerries, with a
demand from the King that Eva should be handed over to them to be
killed! Eva ran to her protector (my father), calling out, “Save me,
save me!” and caught hold of him round the waist, and the men pulling
her away by force nearly tore his coat tails off. Then my younger
brother Robert (R. C. Samuelson) interfered, and took hold of the
woman, calling out, “Muyeke bo!” (leave her); then one man, indignant
with this interference, lifted up his knobkerrie over Robert’s head,
shouting: “Ngase ngiliqumuze ikanda kona manje” (I will break your
skull this moment); then, of course, the poor woman had to go. She was
driven by these thirty men six miles into the thorn country to a river
called Idango, near the Umhlatuzi river. We sat on the mountain,
all of us, watching the long procession, Eva leading, the row of
cruel humanity following in a long string. We watched and prayed
broken-hearted, for we all loved poor old Eva; but it was a comfort to
know she was a Christian! At last when we could see them no more we
returned home, too dispirited to dine that day. In the evening someone
told us she had met her fate bravely. As she went along she prayed to
be received in the Heavenly Home of rest, where all unkindness and
cruelty will end! At Idango river they drove her to a very big pond,
where crocodiles were often seen; there they lifted up their kerries to
brain her. She then said, “Ngogoduka _impela_ namhla!” (“I will, of a
surety (indeed), go home to-day!”) They then killed her and threw her
into the pond for the crocodiles to eat.

Such was life in Zululand before the Zulu war. And yet on the whole
things had, in a way, improved since Tshaka’s and Dingane’s days. The
life of a missionary with his family was not at all an enviable one,
although the natives had great respect for them, knowing as they did
that they lived in their country as friends and messengers of the
Gospel. They liked the missionary, although they objected to his

                            DEPARTED SPIRITS

The Zulus have a belief in the re-embodiment of departed spirits. Of
this I remember having a practical illustration when, as a child, I was
travelling about their country with my mother. We were about to visit a
chief named Mqayikana. His kraal was close to the road, and as we were
passing it we saw a nasty looking green snake. I picked up a stone and
threw it at the reptile. In a moment a number of natives ran up and,
seeing the snake, called out: “Leave it alone. It is the spirit of
Mqayikana’s father which has come to visit us. We killed a fat beast as
an offering to it to-day, and prayed that it might come and taste the
meat. For our chief Mqayikana is very ill, and we want to induce his
father not to call him away just yet.” I was young, and possibly a
little indiscreet in those days, and replied: “Nonsense! The snake is
an accursed creature, and ought never to be spared,” and I threw
another stone at it, just bruising its tail. “Stop! Stop! or you will
suffer for it. As it is, your white skin alone has saved you. If you
had been black you would never eat corn any more. You would have to die
the death!” Seeing that the men were in earnest and really excited, I
thought it best to leave the snake alone. Had I not done so I might
have been smelt out as a witch later on if anything had happened to
Mqayikana. We sent the chief a small peace-offering in the shape of a
packet of sugar, apologising for my unintentional rudeness to his
father’s ghost, and I am glad to say he proved himself not only
forgiving but friendly, sending us a fine sheep, and even inviting us
to come and take a pinch of snuff with him—a token of friendship among
the Zulus; but we, perhaps not imprudently, begged to be excused.

                          UKUHLABIS’ AMADHLOZI
                        (SACRIFICING TO SPIRITS)

The heathen Zulus still keep up this custom, chiefly in times of
illness and death. The phrase means slaughtering cattle for departed
ancestors, whose spirits appear in the form of a certain snake, which
they hold sacred. It is called “Inyandezulu”, and its colour is green
with brown under the belly. No native in old days would have dared to
kill this snake, for he would have been punished by death. If any one
is taken seriously ill at a kraal, the doctor, who is sent for
immediately, after having examined his patient orders the relations to
make a sacrifice to the “Amadhlozi”(spirits), and pray for the recovery
of the invalid. Then a beast has to be chosen from the herd for the
purpose, or a sheep or goat from the flock. While the animal is being
slaughtered, the chief man calls on the “Amadhlozi”, saying, “Watch
over us, O ye spirits of our fathers, I implore! Take not this our
child away from us yet. Here we are slaughtering this for you. Come
into the hut to-night and feast on it, I pray. Then let your anger be
turned from us, and let us keep our child. Oh! look on us with pity,
and hear us!” After that the slaughtered animal is cut up in pieces and
hung up in a hut; even the blood is put there in an earthen vessel. A
dish of water is also taken in and placed on the floor, and a snuff box
full of snuff beside it. They firmly believe that the “Idhlozi” comes
in at night, has a wash, a pinch of snuff, and a taste of the meat and
blood, and then returns into its hole again in a more forgiving mood.
When the hut is entered in the morning nothing is seen of the
“Idhlozi”, not even any marks on the meat to show that it has tasted it
at all, still they firmly believe the hut has been visited. The “usu”
(paunch) is then taken out and given to the doctor for medical use. He
has it boiled together with herbs and medicines, then he steams his
patient with the mixture, and administers some of it inwardly. The
“insonyama” (right flank) is then cooked for the invalid, and he has to
have a piece of it to eat every day as long as it is good. It is hung
up in his hut, and there it hangs till it is quite high. It is looked
upon as a charm. The rest of the meat can be eaten by the members of
the kraal after it has been kept over night in the hut for the
“Idhlozi” (spirit). Another beast has to be killed for the doctor’s
special use while attending his patient. If the patient dies, an
“Umtakati” (wizard) is blamed for it, and an “Ungoma” (witch doctor) is
at once engaged to find him out. The doctor has nothing to do with
that. He receives his fee and goes home. Soon after he leaves, the
burial takes place privately. No outsiders are allowed to be present.
The corpse is made to sit up, and tied in this posture. It is taken out
to the grave, which is dug outside the hut, and seated in it. A stone
is placed on the head to steady it, and all the deceased’s possessions,
clothing, mats, blankets, etc., are brought out and put into the
grave—no one dares to keep any of them, for they are superstitious
about it, believing that to use them would cause more deaths. There is
no ceremony over the grave. Soon after it has been filled in, a mass of
thorny bushes is stuck over it to keep “Abatakati” (wizards) from
taking the body out to use in killing others. People then come in great
numbers all round the kraal, crying out as loud as they can, “Maye
babo! wafa wen ’owakiti” (“Woe, father! you died, you of our house”).
They don’t speak to the mourners that day, but return home after having
had a good cry. All the relations who were at the funeral hurry off to
the river soon after it is over to have a bathe. When they return,
another beast is killed as a sacrifice to the “Idhlozi”, with earnest
prayers for the safety of the rest of the family. While it is being
kept in the hut for “Idhlozi” to taste, all the members of that kraal
have to chew medicines before partaking of anything, even a pinch of
snuff. These medicines are used as a preventive against death.

The natives mourn in this way. They throw aside all their ornaments for
at least two months. They also have their heads shaved. They do not, as
a rule, go out visiting during the two months of mourning, and they are
not expected to go to dances or any festivities. They keep at home
quietly. Absent relatives are all expected to come home for a couple of
days to take medicine, and the comforting doctor comes with some of a
soothing character. After ten days are over, visitors may come to
“kala” (sympathize). They come quietly into the house of mourning, and
sit down mute with their heads bent low for some time, and with arms
crossed over the shoulders. At last a feeble voice is heard to say
“Sanibona” (“We see you”): they answer, “Haw! sikubona ngapi ufelwe
nje. Siya kala wena wakiti!” (Oh! how do we see you having lost. We
sympathize with you”). The visitors sit about an hour or two in the
same position, quietly, as no conversation is permitted on such an
occasion. They then go out without saying a word of farewell, only
casting sad looks towards the mourners. During the two months of
mourning a smelling Doctor is engaged to find out the witch or wizard,
and the way this is done will be seen in the “Ingoboco” (Chief Witch
Doctor) story. Any one not calling to “kala” after the tenth day is at
once suspected as “Umtakati.” So all make a point of showing
themselves. Still the majority of them go out of kindness, for they do
possess true and sympathizing hearts.


As soon as a man holding the position of chief, or head of a kraal, is
dead, the corpse is placed in a sitting posture with the back to the
central post of his hut, the limbs being doubled up and tied together.
A messenger is then sent out to call all the wives and friends of the
deceased, and they, being collected in one place, set up a loud
wailing, sufficient one would say to “waken the dead.” The next thing
is to separate the cows from their calves, so that they also make a
most deafening noise, the calves lowing for their mothers, the cows
lowing for their calves.

The first outburst of grief having subsided, the sons and friends
proceed to dig the grave. The eldest son begins first, as, according to
native belief, the ground will then soften and yield more easily to the
other diggers. He then hands on the hoe, which is the digging tool most
generally used, to the son who is next in importance to himself, and so
it is passed on in rotation till the grave is ready. The eldest son
(inkosana), after doing his part, takes the barbed assagai which
belonged to his father as head of the house, and stands holding it with
the point to the ground until the work of digging is finished. A barbed
assagai is handed down from generation to generation in native
families, the holder being always the chief or head of the family or
the acknowledged heir and successor, and in cases of disputed
succession it is of the greatest importance to ascertain who held the
assagai at the grave, and who began the digging, as well as who is the
present possessor of the assagai.

After the hole has been dug stones are placed in the grave for the body
to be seated on, and it is set there by one of the sons of the chief
wife, the man whose right it is to do this holding an important
position on the right-hand side of the kraal.

When the grave has been filled in, the relations and friends go through
the “ukugeza” or cleansing ceremony, taking a small portion of a powder
made of three kinds of bitter roots. Through the taking of this powder
it is supposed that death will be averted from the friends of the
deceased, and that any ill effects which might arise from his death
will be prevented. After this they all go down to the river and bathe,
and the wailing is over.

They then go into mourning for periods of time which vary from a few
weeks to a whole year, according to the rank of the person mourned.

The wife, children, and nearest relations show their mourning by
allowing their hair to grow long. When the appointed time is over all
the family and friends are again assembled and, the doctor being in
attendance, a goat is killed, this being essential in the latest stage
of the ceremonies. A decoction of bitter roots is made, and the gall of
the goat emptied into it. The whole is then worked up into a froth,
whilst the spirit of the dead man is called upon to take care of his
children and to supply all their needs. Some of the mixture is
sprinkled upon those who are present, the young people cut their hair
short, and the old ones shave their heads; a bathe in the river
follows, and the mourning is over.

When the head of a kraal dies, the whole kraal is removed to a fresh
site. It must, however, remain for a year if he was a king or an
hereditary chief, because in that case he would be buried there, and
his grave must be carefully guarded against witches for that space of

The graves of the kings in the Zulu country have always been watched, a
kraal being erected near for the purpose. Should it happen that the
inkosikazi (chief wife) has had no male issue, the head of the family
can, on the marriage of his eldest daughter, use the ukulobola cattle
received for her to buy a wife for himself or for some of his sons, and
thus raise up male issue to be heirs to such head man’s principal house.


Before giving a description of an Inkata I must explain that it is not
at all the same thing as the ordinary grass pad for supporting burthens
on the head which goes by that name.[1] The Inkata now described is a
larger thing, made of certain fibres which are very strong and binding.
The doctor specially deputed to make it knows exactly what fibres to
use. He makes it in secret, sprinkles it with various concoctions, and
finally winds the skin of a python round it, as this reptile is
considered the most powerful of animals, coiling itself round its prey
and squeezing it to death, as it does. When the Inkata is finished all
the full-grown men as well as the principal women of the tribe are
summoned, and are sprinkled and given powders of various dried herbs to
swallow. The men then go down to a river and drink certain mixtures,
bathe in the river, and return to the kraal where the Inkata is made.
They are then sprinkled a second time, and return to their homes.

After this the Inkata is handed over by the doctor to the chief’s
principal wife, and entrusted to her and to two or three others, to be
withdrawn from the common gaze. It is taken great care of and passed on
from generation to generation as part of the chief’s regalia. The
Inkata is looked upon as the good spirit of the tribe, binding all
together in one, and attracting back any deserter.

The king or chief uses it on all great occasions—more especially on
those of a civil nature. For instance, when a new chief is taking up
the reins of government, the Inkata is brought out of its hiding-place,
a circle is formed by the tribe, and it is placed on the ground in the
centre. The new chief then, holding his father’s weapons, stands on the
Inkata while he is being proclaimed by his people. After this it is
carefully put away again.

In case of the king being taken ill the doctor seats him on the Inkata
while he is “treating” him (elapa). It is also used in a variety of
other royal ceremonies, and is looked upon as more sacred than the
English Crown. It is, in fact, the guardian spirit or totem of a Zulu
tribe. Yet, strange to say, it appears that nothing was known to the
Judges of the Native High Court as to the existence of the Inkata, in a
very important case[2] not long since tried there, when it was what
might be termed the very essence of the case, and possibly injustice
resulted from this ignorance of native laws and customs.


Footnote 1:

  The word seems to be almost universal in the Bantu
  languages:—Nyanja, nkata; Luganda, enkata; Swahili, kata; Suto,
  khare. What is most curious is that, so far away as the Gold Coast we
  find an indication of ceremonial usages connected with this article.
  See the Journal of the African Society for July, 1908, p. 407. The
  Fanti word for it is ekar, which may be a merely accidental
  resemblance, or may point to a fundamental identity of roots in the
  West African and the Bantu languages.

  Possibly the root idea of-kata is “something coiled or rolled up,”
  and this may be the only connection between the head-pad and the
  charm. The Baronga (Delagoa Bay) have a similar tribal talisman
  called mhamba, which is a set of balls, each containing the
  nail-parings and hair of a deceased chief, kneaded up with the dung
  of the cattle slaughtered at his funeral, and no doubt some kind of
  pitch to give it consistency. These balls are then enclosed in
  plaited leather thongs. The custom of thus preserving relics of dead
  chiefs is found elsewhere: the Cambridge Ethnological Museum
  possesses a set of the “regalia” of Unyoro, which would come under
  the same category.—ED.

Footnote 2:

  Rex _v._ Tshingumusi, Mbopeyana, and Mbombo. 1909.

                         THE ZULU ANNUAL FEAST

This feast was always arranged to take place at about Christmas time.
Men of all ages were requested to go; even young boys had to appear at
it from all parts of Zululand. Those who were missed at this great
gathering, and who were reported as being too aged to take the long
journey, were ordered to be “sent home” by the king. Everyone had to
bring his ornaments to adorn his person, and deck himself out suitably.
These ornaments consisted of different coloured ox tails, feathers, and
beads. Those who had distinguished themselves in battle wore horns of
bravery besides, and certain kinds of roots round their necks. They
also had to take food with them—enough to last for a week or
longer—for the gathering always lasted four days at the least, and
most of the people had to take long journeys to get to it. There were
four different ceremonies to go through at that time in connection with
“Ukunyatela” (feast of first fruits), and “Umkosi” (the feast). On the
first day the ceremony of strangling a black bull and pulling it to
pieces by mere force was performed. Mbonambi, the best and strongest
regiment, was picked out to do this. Sometimes the black bull picked
out for the purpose would happen to be grazing by the river, and the
poor beast had to be attacked and pulled to pieces there; or sometimes
it would take place in the king’s cattle kraal, and he would be present
looking on. If done by the river side, all parts of the ox had to be
carried home and placed before the king, so that he could see that it
had been done without the assistance of knives, choppers or assagais.
The beef was not to be eaten on any account. The next to handle it were
the doctors. They brought a mixture of all sorts of medicines with
which to smear the meat; but the king must have a dose of it first.
This was to give him a brave and cruel heart. When the king had taken
his dose, the doctors used their mixed medicines to smear over all the
beef and prepare it for roasting. Meanwhile the king’s regiment, the
Ingobamakosi (bend or humble), was busy getting wood to use for the
purpose. This was supposed to be a great honour, and the king would
pick a regiment specially for it. The doctors finished their allotted
task and the Ingobamakosi arrived with the wood. They then cut strips
of beef and roasted it until it was black. This was done by the
Ingobamakosi at the last feast before the Zulu war. For, being the
king’s favourite regiment, he granted them more privileges than all the
other regiments put together, and they were greatly envied on that
account. It was galling to the rest that this young and proud corps was
picked to roast the daubed beef! for it gave them the right to have the
first taste of the medicines after the king. If they went to battle,
these would give them courage and make them fight to the last. They
would never think of retreating. The men did not take the medicines in
the same manner as the king. An officer would take a strip of roasted
meat, bite a small piece off, suck the juice and swallow that only,
spitting the meat out again, then pass the rest of the meat on to his
men, and they would do the same. Then all the other regiments would
follow suit. The meat was not passed in at all a polite way; it was
simply tossed up high into the air, and the next one had to catch it,
take a bite, and toss it up again. After this the bones and horns of
the beast had to be burnt to cinders. During these four days all the
young lads old enough to join a corps had to “kreza.” This is to draw
the milk into their mouths and drink it warm, preparing themselves
thereby to be made into a corps. The king would meanwhile choose a
fitting name for the new regiment.

A month before the feast the king generally sent a party of four men
and two boys to the beach to look for a certain vegetable marrow
growing near the sea. This species grows wild there, and has never been
cultivated. Sometimes the marrow would be ready to pick early in the
season and sometimes late; and the time to begin the annual feast
greatly depended upon this. They could not commence operations without
knowing that the vegetable was ready, for it had to be used on the
second day. Therefore the party sent off in search of it had to stay on
the coast until it was fit to pick; they were on no account whatever to
return without it. On its arrival all is ready for the second day’s
performance, which proceeds as follows: The king and party rise very
early and enter the great cattle kraal. Here the marrow is presented to
the king, who receives and inspects it very carefully, and says a few
words in a low voice over it, all the chief men standing round about
him expectantly. Then the ceremony of tossing the marrow commences. The
king throws it up in the air five or six times, catching it again like
a ball, after that he throws it to the men, when it breaks perhaps into
two or three pieces, and these again he throws to the men, and they by
turns go through the same performance. Then they throw the broken
pieces over the kraal to all the different regiments drawn up round it
awaiting their turn at the tossing. This goes on until all have touched
the marrow and broken it into small pieces. Then the king picks out of
his herd another black bull, fiercer than the one of the day before, to
be treated in the same way. It is said that it gives the warriors
bravery and cruelty. At noon, when all the ceremonies are over, the
king declares the “Feast of first fruits” at an end. He allows reed
instruments (umtshingo and ivenge) to be played all through the
country, so that all people may know they may now begin to eat green
mealies, vegetable marrows, and pumpkins. Before the umtshingo and
ivenge are heard no one may touch anything fresh out of the gardens, no
matter how long the fruit or vegetables have been ripe (even if the
people are starving), on penalty of death, or, later on, a heavy fine.
It was against the laws of the country, too, to play the reed
instruments before the king gave the order, being considered a greater
offence even than eating green mealies before “Ukunyatela” (to tread)
had taken place, for it was misleading the people; therefore the
punishment for this offence was certain death. Umtshingo is the long
hollow reed the natives play tunes on. It is a kind of flute; there is
no string to it. The ivenge is a short one with only two notes. Two of
these instruments have to be played together to make a tune at all. The
favourite air played on them is, “Ucakide ka bon’ indod’ isegunjini”
(the weasel doesn’t see the man who is in the corner). Some natives can
play several nice tunes on the long reed.

The great dance commences about 3 p.m. All have to “vunula” first (put
on their ornaments). They, of course, grease themselves well to make
their dark bodies sleek and supple. All chiefs have black feathers of
the indwa bird stuck in the centre of their head ring, just above the
forehead. The younger chiefs wear black ostrich feathers in the same
way. The grand old Mbonambi regiment carried plumes of black ostrich
feathers. A shape of straw was first made (like the crown of a hat) and
the feathers were neatly stitched on to cover it all. These plumes
looked very graceful as the men came dancing and bowing before the
king. All the regiments would simultaneously beat their shields with
knobkerries, and the noise would re-echo over the mountains like a
fearful peal of thunder. The regimental ornaments varied a great deal,
as they were chosen to mark the different corps. The rest of the
afternoon, until dark, was spent in dancing and singing “Ingoma ye
nkosi” (National Anthem). The words were as follows:—

  “Abafo besab’ inkosi (Strangers fear the king),
  Konj’ uyaliwa (By the by you are rejected),
  Bamzonda bamyoliza (They hate him, they praise him);
  Konj’ uyaliwa” (By the by you are rejected).

It sounded really grand to hear thousands of men singing it, dancing,
and keeping time with their feet, the words giving somewhat the effect
of a “round,” and the trampling of feet resembling distant thunder. The
next morning, on looking round at the fields where the dance had taken
place, one would find the grass beaten into the ground.

The third day is usually spent in feasting and drinking beer. The king
orders his chiefs to deal out a certain number of cattle to each
regiment for slaughter early in the morning, so as to give them plenty
of time to prepare the meat, and to have it cooked by noon, when the
feast commences. After all the meat has been devoured beer is brought
round, and those who serve it out have to taste it first in front of
everybody to show that it has not been poisoned. This is a standing
rule at all beer drinks. No one will drink the beer before it has been
tasted. The men sit down in circles, and the one who heads the circle
has the first drink, and passes the earthen vessel to the next, and it
travels all round the circle and comes back to him again, then he takes
another drink and passes it; this is repeated till there is no beer
left. Talking goes on all the time—relating anecdotes, questioning and
arguing as to which regiment danced the best, looked the best, or
distinguished itself the most in any way. Now and then an “Imbhongi”
(jester) comes forward, shouting praises to the king, and jumping about
like a maniac, with long horns fixed on his forehead. He acts the wild
bull, tearing the ground up with his horns, then leaps into the air,
shouting the king’s praises all the time. The people have to show their
approval by praising and thanking him for his wonderful feats of
agility. This afternoon the doctors are uncommonly busy preparing
“Imshikaqo yemiti” (the mixture of medicines), to be ready for use the
next day. The officers also are busy choosing places where the
doctoring is to be done.

On the fourth day each man in every regiment has to take the mixture of
medicines, which acts as an emetic. In order to be fully prepared for
the effects of the medicine, each regiment, in its allotted place, digs
a deep trench. This is done very early in the morning. It is said by
many who took this mixture that it made their hearts feel very bad
indeed, full of cruelty and daring. This is the day, too, when the men
felt most inclined to fight in order to try their strength. They would
break out quite unexpectedly, without waiting orders from their king.
At the last feast given before the Zulu war the ground was actually
strewn with the dying and the dead. The blood of the favourite
Ingobamakosi regiment being heated and poisoned by the “Imshikaqo,”
they dashed forward to try their strength against another noted
regiment, which, jealous of them, had been constantly provoking them to

Late in the afternoon of this great doctoring day the chiefs had to
call up their men to stand before the king and hear the new laws given
out. Soon after this, “ukubuta” (collecting) takes place. The boys who
have come to “Kreza” (milk into their mouths), come forward to be
“Butwa” (made into a regiment). The name is chosen and given out. So
the lads go home holding their heads up high with pride, shouting as
they go along, “We are soldiers of the king.” After this has been done
the king addresses the people, and fines those heavily who have been
fighting and shedding blood. Then he praises those who have behaved
best, and finally bids them all go home in peace. A good many men
generally volunteered to stay on and “konza” (serve the king). There
was always plenty of work for them to do in the fields, weeding mealies
and minding amabele (Kafir corn) gardens—keeping the destructive
little birds away from eating them. There was also a good deal of
fencing to be done, for the king’s kraal was an uncommonly large one,
and had always to be kept neat and tidy. The men who volunteered to
stay and work had to keep themselves in food. Very often they would run
short and live only on water for days. Their people had to come long
distances with it, carrying it on their heads, and sometimes they could
ill be spared from home. They got no pay for their work, but a beast
was given them occasionally for slaughter when all the work was
finished. By the time they had to leave, a good many of them were
reduced to mere skeletons, and could barely manage to drag themselves

The annual feast is now a thing of the past, as there is no king, so is
also the “Feast of the first fruits.” The only part of it they keep up
is taking a dose of the mixture each year before eating green mealies
or vegetables. This they regard as a help towards making the green food
agree with them, and that is all.

                          UKUQWANJISWA KWEMPI
                       (THE DOCTORING OF AN ARMY)

This was a most important ceremony among the Zulus while they were
still under their own rulers. The natives of Zululand, as all who know
anything of their history will admit, were the bravest and most warlike
of the coloured races, and were always ready to fight for their king
and country. They never shirked their duty as soldiers, they were all
trained to arms from boyhood, and felt it a disgrace not to go out
against the foe whenever called upon to do so.

The ceremony of Ukuqwamba was invariably performed when there was to be
war, and was supposed to make the men both brave and invulnerable.

A proclamation went forth to all the men, in the word “Maihlome” (Let
them arm), and in a very short time the whole manhood of the nation
mobilized and proceeded, fully equipped for war, to the chief kraal of
the sovereign, encamping within a short distance. No women were
permitted to come near, all supplies of food or other necessaries being
brought by men or boys specially deputed for this service. The army,
having assembled at its rendezvous, was then formed into a crescent,
and the national war-doctor marched up in all his war-paint, when a
very wild black bull was brought in, seized by some warriors selected
for the occasion, and held down by them, while the doctor killed it by
a blow with his axe on the nape of the neck. Meanwhile a large fire was
lighted, and kept up while the beast was being flayed. Then its flesh
was cut into long narrow strips, which were roughly roasted in the fire
under the superintendence of the doctor, rubbed with a powder made of
various roots and herbs and portions of the skins of lions and other
fierce animals, and tossed up into the air among the soldiers, who had
to catch them in their mouths, bite off a piece, and pass the rest on,
till everyone had had a mouthful. Any piece which might chance to fall
on the ground was left there.

The doctor’s attendants now brought him vessels full of a liquid
composed of various medicines pounded and mixed with water, and the
doctor sprinkled the warriors with it, shouting the while, “Umabope
kabope, Umabope kabope” (let the Mabope tie up, that is, concentrate
the strength of the army).[3] All were now ready, and without further
delay set out to fight. The “tshela” (tela) or sprinkling was repeated
in case of a reverse, but not the killing of a bull.[4]

The whole body was now drawn up in a crescent, representing the two
horns of a bull about to thrust at the enemy, while the central part
represented the face of the bull, which would drive them away.

The war-doctor brings with him all the things required for carrying out
the rites I have described, namely, an axe with a sharp point, a knife,
the different medicines, and the sprinkler. This should be made of the
tail of the gnu, or if this cannot be obtained, the tail of a black
bull is used. All these things the doctor keeps in his own possession,
carefully wrapped up in a mat.

The whole of these ceremonies were gone through just before the Zulu
war of 1879, and in addition to this the fighting men partook of a
medicinal charm which was to repel the enemy (Intelezi yempi).

We must not forget the women-folk who were left behind. Married women
always wear a skirt made of ox-hide, the hair having been scraped off.
In ordinary life the upper edge of this is rolled outward, round the
hips, but during war they turn the roll inside. The young girls throw
ashes over their bodies, a sign of mourning, as wearing sackcloth and
ashes was among the Hebrews. The old women take their brooms and run
along the roads sweeping with them, thus indicating that they would
make a clean sweep of their enemies in all directions. This they call

Women also drink similar medicines to those taken by the men, but the
preparation of them is somewhat different. A big fire is lighted
outside the kraal, and a pot containing a number of roots possessing
magical properties is put on, and left to simmer slowly till next
morning, when the fresh milk of a cow is added, to whiten it. This is
supposed to bring good luck. When it is ready, all the women and
children sit round the pot, dip their fingers in it, and lick off the
mixture. This is the Ukuncinda, or ceremony of sucking. After this, a
cow is slaughtered for them to eat. Then they begin to sweep, smear the
floors of their huts with cow-dung, and make all tidy. This is
evidently to prepare for the return of the soldiers. Beer is made, and
snuff ground, and all the snuff-boxes filled up, so that nothing shall
be wanting.

The Zulus “fight and die”; there is no turning back, no retreating—for
that only means death in the end, an inglorious death instead of a
glorious one. Any who turned back would be killed by order of the king
or chief. This was the law of the country in war-time.

When attacking, the whole body of men made one big rush forward,
shouting their clan name or war-cry, “Usutu!” or “Mandhlakazi!”[5] &c.,
as the case might be.

On camping out for the night a watchword was always agreed upon,
unknown, of course, to the enemy, and to every passer-by they cried,
“Who goes there?” their own people, on giving the word, being allowed
to go safely on their way. This, of course, is the same procedure as
would be followed among other nationalities.


Footnote 3:

  Umabope is explained in Colenso’s _Dictionary_ (p. 333) as “a
  climbing plant with red roots, bits of which are much worn about the
  neck.” A note adds: “The root is chewed by Zulus when going to
  battle, the induna giving the word ‘Lumani (bite) umabope!’ which
  they do for a few minutes and then spit it out again, saying
  ‘Nang’umabope!’ (here is the umabope). The notion is that the foe
  will be bound in consequence to commit some foolish act.” (The verb
  bopa means “tie.”)

Footnote 4:

  The nearest translation that can be given in English of the word
  Ukuqwamba would be “Talisman,” and “Ukuqwanjiswa kwempi” may be
  rendered “The consecration of an army.”

Footnote 5:

  Usutu is the name of the royal clan to which Cetshwayo
  belonged—Mandhlakazi being the house of Zibebu.—ED.

                         (FINDING OUT WIZARDS)

The office of Detector of Wizards was held by the Chief of Izanusi. He
was the one chosen by the king to decide abatakati (wizard) cases. A
big Umkamba tree, standing with its wide outstretched branches between
Mahlabatini and Ulundi Military Kraals, was the place where he took the
appeal cases. (The former was Mpande’s headquarters and the latter
Cetshwayo’s.) He heard only the most complicated cases in which the
majority of people were dissatisfied with the inferior Zanusi’s
(detector of wizards) decision. I happened to be paying a short visit
to these kraals during Cetshwayo’s reign, when one morning early I saw
a great number of people collected under the Umkamba tree, and on
asking a native standing by what these men were assembled for was told
that the king’s chief, Sangoma, was about to “Bul’ingoboco” (inquire
into the wizard’s case whether the right judgment had been given). Then
my friend and I went near the place to observe the proceedings. We saw
the demoniacal Umgoma standing with his dreaded magic wand in his right
hand, a black tail of “Inkonkoni” (gnu), and making fearful deep noises
in his throat (bodhla), calling the spirits to help him to touch the
right man with his wand. While doing this he would be walking round and
round the people, now and then making sudden leaps into the air like a
maniac, flourishing his dreaded wand, and all the accused would be
awaiting the final touch with fear and trembling. The Imigoma (doctors)
who had partly heard the cases would also be present, as well as
relations of the accused, but none of them were supposed to say
anything to the Ingoboco man: the amadhlozi (spirits) were to instruct
him in everything. After having gone on till thoroughly exhausted with
the antics described, he suddenly stops near his victim, whom he
touches on the head with the Inkonkoni tail. The poor man has then to
be taken off at once without even a word of remonstrance or a last
farewell from his relations. He is driven off to Kwankata, a precipice
over a deep pond in the Mfolozi River, which is full of crocodiles.
This place is at no great distance from Ulundi. Having reached it the
poor victim would be first stoned, then thrown down the precipice into
the pond, where the crocodiles were always in readiness to receive him.
They really lived on human beings.

Happily the morning we were watching Ingoboco the victim escaped most
marvellously by running off at once to the king, who was standing in
the cattle kraal, and throwing himself down at his feet, pleading for
mercy, which was granted at once as a reward for his pluck and running
powers. I am told that several others managed to save themselves in the
same way, for it was quite an understood thing that if a man reached
the king, outstripping all his pursuers, he would be saved. This also
held good if a man reached King Mpande’s grave in safety. No one would
dare to touch him there.

                          (FIRE EXTINGUISHER)

Icimamlilo is the name of a compound which is in use among the heathen
Zulus in cases of murder or homicide, and so well is this known that if
any person were found using it after a murder had been committed, that
person would be strongly suspected of the crime. It consists of four or
five kinds of very bitter roots, with pieces of the flesh of the
following animals: a lion, a baboon, a jackal, a hyena, and an
elephant, also a kind of hawk. All of these ingredients are essential,
there are others which may be added, but which are not absolutely
necessary. After all these things have been burnt to ashes and
thoroughly mixed, the murderer or homicide swallows some of the powder,
and mixing the rest with water sprinkles himself and goes off for a
bathe; then the purification is complete, and any evil effects upon the
system which, according to native superstition may follow the killing
of a human being, are counteracted. This custom of purification is
still strictly kept up by the heathen natives, as a preventive against
their own death, which they believe might otherwise naturally take
place as a consequence of having killed another.

                              RAIN DOCTORS

In common with other backward races the Zulus have faith in the power
of the rain doctors to make, or to draw, rain, and also to prevent it
from falling. The Zulu kings generally kept rain doctors; but as these
men, when they did not make enough rain to please their royal masters,
were in danger of being fined or even put to death, they were obliged
to invent a good many excuses for their failures. The most common was
that they felt sure somebody was practising witchcraft, that is to say,
putting pegs dipped in medicine into the ground, or tying knots in the
grass on the mountain-tops and sprinkling them with medicines, either
of which proceedings would stop the rain. Then the king would send
messengers round the country commanding his subjects to find out where
pegs had been driven in, or knots tied in the grass, and the owner of
the kraal in whose neighbourhood this was found to have been done was
liable to be killed or fined, at the king’s discretion. In a dry season
people were constantly in fear of this happening, for they knew that
any who wished to injure them would drive in pegs near their kraals and
then report them to the king for having done it.

Cetshwayo once had a rain doctor of whom he thought a great deal; but
one year when there was a terrible drought he lost faith in him, and
then someone accused him to the king of having wilfully prevented the
rain from falling. Of course this made his majesty furiously angry, and
he ordered the unfortunate man to be killed and thrown into the river,
together with his hut and everything he possessed. No sooner was this
order carried out than the rain fell in torrents. Such is the story
told by the natives, but I cannot vouch for the truth of it.[6]

The Zulus used to consider the Basuto rain doctors the best of any, and
the king sometimes engaged some of them to come to Zululand when rain
was wanted. One year a large number of them arrived, laden with roots
and other medicines, from Basutoland. Some carried calabashes filled
with liquids, which were rolled about on the ground at the cattle-kraal
to bring thunder, and bundles containing charms to bring lightning and
rain were stuck upright in the ground. These performances went on for
some weeks, until at last the rain came, and the Zulus were satisfied
that it was caused by the hard work of the Basuto doctors. These men
were kept well supplied with beef and beer all the time they were in
the country, and handsome presents were given them when they left it to
return to their own land.


Footnote 6:

  This story scarcely seems to be consistent with Cetshwayo’s
  character. He was certainly a sceptic as regards witchcraft.—ED.


The Zulus believe in a glorious being whom they call the Queen of
Heaven, of great and wondrous beauty, and the rainbow is supposed to be
an emanation of her glory. This “Queen of Heaven” (Inkosikazi) is a
different person from the Heavenly Princess, to whom the young girls
pray regularly once a year, as described on another page.[7]

Some believe that there is a gorgeously coloured animal at the point
where the rainbow appears to come in contact with the earth, and that
it would cause the death of any who caught sight of it.[8]

The natives as a rule are very superstitious about the lightning; if it
has struck anything they say “the heavens did it,” they dare not speak
of it by name. A person killed by lightning is buried without ceremony,
and there is no mourning for him; a tree which has been struck may not
be used for fuel; the flesh of any animal so killed is not to be eaten;
huts which have been injured by lightning are abandoned, and very often
the whole kraal is removed. Persons living in such a kraal may not
visit their friends, nor may their friends visit them, until they have
been purified and pronounced clean by the doctor. They are not allowed
to dispose of their cattle until they also have been attended to by the
doctor: even the milk is considered unclean, and people abstain from
drinking it.

An eclipse or an earthquake foretells a great calamity, and the natives
are terrified whenever an eclipse takes place. The defeat of Cetshwayo
by Usibebu a few hours after an earthquake, which was felt all through
Zululand in 1883, naturally confirmed them in the belief that it is an
evil omen.[9]


Footnote 7:

  The rainbow is called utingo lwenkosikazi, “The Queen’s Bow.” See
  Callaway, _Nursery Tales and Traditions of the Zulus_, p. 193.
  Utingo, however, is not “a bow” in our sense (at any rate not in
  current Zulu speech), but a bent stick or wattle, such as is used in
  making the framework of a hut. It is difficult to ascertain anything
  about this inkosikazi; but the Zulu women hold dances on the hills in
  honour of some Inkosazana—an echo, it may be, of the story of
  Jephtha’s daughter.

  Mr. Dudley Kidd (_The Essential Kafir_, p. 112) seems to have
  confused her with Nomkubulwana, who, as Miss Samuelson expressly
  tells us, is not the same person. It is not clear whether she is
  identical with the mysterious being called “Inkosazana,” of whom the
  late Bishop Callaway says: “The following superstition ... appears to
  be the relic of some very old worship” (_Religious System of the
  Amazulu_, p. 253).

  She was supposed to appear, or rather to be heard speaking (for she
  was never seen), in lonely places, and predicted the future, or gave
  directions which had to be obeyed by the people. “It is she who
  introduces many fashions among black men. She orders the children to
  be weaned earlier than usual.... Sometimes she orders much beer to be
  made and poured out on the mountain. And all the tribes make beer,
  each chief and his tribe; the beer is poured on the mountain; and
  they thus free themselves from blame.... I never heard that they pray
  to her for anything, for she does not dwell with men, but in the
  forest, and is unexpectedly met with by a man who has gone out about
  his own affairs, and he brings back her message.”—ED.

Footnote 8:

  The Congo people believe the rainbow to be a snake (chama) as do the
  Yorubas (Oshumare). (See Mr. Dennett’s _At the Back of the Black
  Man’s Mind_ (p. 142), and _Nigerian Studies_ (p. 217).—ED.

Footnote 9:

  The earthquake referred to took place in 1883, during the night which
  preceded Cetshwayo’s defeat by Usibebu at Ulundi. My sister (Mrs.
  Faye) and I were camped out some ten miles from Melmoth, when, about
  midnight, the wagonette in which we were sleeping was shaken and
  began to move down hill, but was fortunately stopped after a few
  yards by a block of wood lying in the grass. The natives who were
  near us exclaimed that it meant a calamity to the Zulu nation. And in
  the morning, when we got down from the wagonette, we found a great
  number of men sitting about looking sad, with their arms over their
  shoulders (meaning “we are lost”). They told us that Cetshwayo had
  been killed by Usibebu; in fact, the latter had made a clean sweep of
  the royal kraal and all the king’s men. In less than an hour later we
  saw numbers of people, some running, some limping, some crawling past
  us, who had just managed to escape with their lives. Cetshwayo,
  wounded badly in the leg, was saved, and taken for protection to
  Eshowe, where he died early in the following year. (See Mr. Gibson’s
  _The Story of the Zulus_, p. 256, new edition.)

                           UKUKALEL ’AMABELE
                         (PRAYING FOR THE CORN)

A description of an old Zulu custom which is now slowly dying out may
be found interesting. It is generally observed at the season when the
mealies and mabele (Kafir corn) are coming into flower.

The Zulus believe that there is a certain Princess in Heaven, who bears
the name of Nomkubulwana (Heavenly Princess), and who occasionally
visits their cornfields and causes them to bear abundantly. For this
princess they very often set apart a small piece of cultivated land as
a present, putting little pots of beer in it for her to drink when she
goes on her rounds. They often sprinkle the mealies and mabele with
some of the beer, for luck to the harvest.

There is one day appointed specially for girls, when they go out
fasting on to the hills, and spend the whole day weeping, fasting, and
praying, as they think that the more they fast and weep the more likely
they are to be pitied by the princess. On that day they have to wear
men’s clothing (umutsha) made of skins, and all men and boys are to
keep out of their way, neither speaking to them nor looking at them.

They start very early, as by sunrise they must be by the riverside,
ready to begin praying and weeping.[10]

Digging deep holes in the sand, they make two or three little girls sit
in them, and fill them in again, till nothing but their heads are left
showing above ground. There they must remain, weeping and praying for
some time. Girls about six years old are generally chosen for this
purpose, as they cry the most (rather from fright than anything else),
and so are most likely to catch the ear of the heavenly princess.

When the older girls think the poor little things have done their fair
share, they help them out and let them run home.

The big girls then go to the mountains and weep; after that to their
gardens, round which they walk, screaming to the heavenly princess to
have pity on them and give them a good harvest.

After this they sprinkle the gardens with beer, and set little pots of
it here and there for the princess.

About sunset the ceremonies are over, and they all go back to the river
to bathe, after which they return to their homes and break their fast.
Any girls refusing to join with the others on Nomkubulwana’s day would
lose caste, unless prevented by illness. Of course Christian girls are
not expected to join, this being an entirely heathen rite.


Footnote 10:

  Cf. an account of this custom (umtshopi) in Colenso’s _Zulu
  Dictionary_, p. 614. A similar observance, intended to avert disease,
  is described by Mrs. Hugh Lancaster Carbutt in the (South African)
  _Folk-Lore Journal_ for January, 1880 (Vol. II., p. 12), as follows:
  “Among the charms to prevent sickness from visiting a kraal is the
  umkuba, or custom of the girls herding the cattle for a day. [Umkuba
  means “custom,” it is not the name of this particular rite.] No
  special season of the year is set apart for this custom. It is merely
  enacted when diseases are known to be prevalent. On such an occasion
  all the girls and unmarried women of a kraal rise early in the
  morning, dress themselves entirely in their brothers’ skins [_i.e._,
  skin kilts (umutsha)], and, taking their knobkerries and sticks, open
  the cattle-pen or kraal, and drive the cattle away from the vicinity
  of the homestead, none of these soi-disant herds returning home, or
  going near a kraal, until sunset, when they bring the cattle back. No
  one of the opposite sex dare go near the girls on this day, or speak
  to them.”—We have reproduced the passage in full, as the periodical
  which contains it is now very scarce. It should be noted that at
  ordinary times it would be contrary to custom—indeed, highly
  improper, if not sacrilegious—for any woman or girl to approach the
  cattle-kraal, to say nothing of herding the cattle. The idea is, no
  doubt, to compel the assistance of the Unseen by some flagrant
  outrage on decency, actual or threatened.—ED.

                            OLD WIVES’ TALES

In addition to the many beliefs amongst the Zulus, of which I have
given some examples, which may be properly called superstitious, there
are a large number of curious half-beliefs and traditions, something of
the nature of “old wives’ tales,” to which allusion is made more or
less seriously in the ordinary course of Zulu conversation, and which
often come as a surprise to the uninitiated European. I remember being
much struck with some of these many years ago (as far back as in 1872),
when my father took me as a child for a journey through Zululand on a
visit to the great kraal of the celebrated King Mpande. On the way, as
I was getting somewhat tired, a friendly Zulu told me to press my foot
on an aloe (icena), and I should not be tired any longer. I saw no
particular harm in obeying the injunction, and whether it was from the
effect of the “icena,” or a thought cure wrought by the friendly Zulu,
I certainly managed to get on.

On the same journey I was struck by a curious idea the Zulus have
(somewhat akin to our “watched pot never boils”) as to disturbing the
ordinary processes of the vegetable kingdom. I noticed some fine
varieties of pumpkins, melons, and marrows, and, being curious to know
their names, I pointed my finger at them. “Musa, musa” (don’t, don’t),
shouted my native conductor, “they will never ripen if you point at
them. You ought always to bend your fingers and point with your
knuckles towards vegetables.” “Oh,” said I, “you might perhaps pick me
that pumpkin (indicating one of the best), as it is the only one I
pointed at, and it will prevent its rotting,” and he at once fell in
with my suggestion, adding a few marrows growing near the pumpkin,
which had also been in peril. Some of our mistakes in dealing with the
Zulus might at times lead to serious consequences; but fortunately, as
a rule they take them good naturedly, and attribute them to our

It is rather curious, and perhaps a little humiliating, to civilized
and superior people, to find one of their favourite nursery
tactics—the threat of the black man coming down the chimney—in vogue
(mutatis mutandis) among the Zulus. Fond Zulu mothers used to reduce
their refractory offspring to order by the threat, “I’ll take you away
to be eaten up by the white men,” and in the old times of which I am
now speaking the threat always had the desired effect, though, let us
hope in the present day, the notion of our being cannibals, if not
bogies, no longer exists, even among the Zulus.

I well remember the day when we were graciously admitted to an audience
with King Mpande, and the curious kind of awe with which the monarch
and his attendants regarded us. The King spoke to us through his chief
official, and courteously welcomed us to his Place, hoping we had not
been disturbed by a big fight which had taken place in connection with
some festivities among the Zulus near to us. It was a way his subjects
had when their blood was heated, and he had done his best to stop it.
He then noticed my long brown hair, which hung down to my waist, and
observed, “What nice tails you have adorned yourself with! where did
you get them? I should like some like that.” I said I had a private
store from which I got them, and should not like anyone else to know.
King Mpande smiled, and took it all in good part. I was the first white
girl he had seen, and he looked therefore upon me as a curiosity.

“Come nearer,” he said, “and take off your hat, so that I can have a
good look at you. How do you manage to tie the tails so neatly that no
strings are seen?” He pulled and tugged at my hair, to see whether it
would come off.

“Why, this is wonderful!” said he. “These are the tails they make under
the sea. There’s nothing on land equal to this.”

“I glue them on,” said I.

“Wow! It is well done! Do show us how you do it.”

It was beyond human nature to keep a serious face after that. We all
burst out laughing together. Then I told him that it was only my hair.

“Ngimdala!” (I am old) said the king (meaning in wisdom); and I was
asked to go round for fuller inspection. The king noticed my hands. He
said: “Her hands have a different colour to her face! Come nearer
again, let me have a look at your hands.” I obeyed. He took my hand and
felt it all over. “Mamo!” (oh! mother) “the skin moves. It is quite
loose, and look how red it is.” I had a pair of scarlet silk gloves on.
I pulled one off, an incident which caused a prodigious sensation in
the royal hut. Exclamations of surprise were heard all round. “White
girls are double skinned,” said one, “on their hands.” “They have a
white skin to suit their face, and this is covered by a loose, dark red
skin,” said the king. “Behold the artfulness of the white beings that
come out of the sea.” The glove was carefully examined, and one man,
with fear and trembling, picked it up with the tips of his fingers, but
speedily dropped it again in horror and dismay. My father then
explained to them as best he could that ladies wore gloves to protect
their hands from getting sunburnt, and we took leave of the mighty king.

Outside the door we were met by a number of his royal daughters, all
wanting to have a look at the girl from under the sea and her wonderful
hair and hands. When they had satisfied their curiosity, they asked us
to come and call on Giba, King Mpande’s celebrated snake charmer. He
was sitting in his hut training his numerous snakes to go and come in
to and out of their holes as he wanted them.

A great monster of a python was coiled round a stone in a corner,
lazily watching his inferiors at their drill, and waiting his turn.
“Ngqabitani” (the snake’s name, which means “hop down”), called out
Giba, and the monster made a move and came with a twist and a roll, and
was rewarded by a fowl to eat. It was a horrible performance.

The tendency which the Zulu has, in common with all savage or
half-civilized people, to ascribe anything unusual to magic, and to
account for the unknown by fanciful analogy (the basis, indeed, of most
of the vulgar superstitions), was curiously illustrated in this journey
by a chief whom we met and to whom my father gave a small mirror. The
Zulu looked into it, gave a start, and dropped it to the ground. “Why,
it is myself; I know, for I have seen a reflection of myself in a clear
pool. These people carry mysterious things with them.” He picked it up
gingerly, and handed it to his chief man, who, after examining it with
the caution that a detective might display in opening a parcel supposed
to contain dynamite, handed it round to the attendants, each of whom
made a study of the “ego” and the “non ego” in the wonderful “charm,”
which they took to their home and sealed up in an earthen pot.

Such are some of the curious ideas which were entertained by the Zulus
as to the white man in the old days. Since that time increased
intercourse with the white creatures from under the sea has dissipated
some of their old delusions, but even to this day a large number of the
natives look upon the white man as something weird, as a being who can
do anything, and who has about him a touch of the mysterious, if not of
the supernatural. Fortunately for us these ideas have never taken a
very serious hold on the native mind. They look upon us as strange
curiosities, but do not seriously associate our doings with the “black
arts,” ready as they are to attribute dealings with forbidden agencies
to their own people. It would have gone hard with us in the early days
if any influential chief had conceived the idea, so readily seized by
the Chinese, of designating all Europeans “foreign devils”—“Takati”
(wizards)—with unknown powers and malignant designs. Our just and
large-minded treatment of them has prevented the spread of any such
notions amongst them. Their mental attitude towards us at the present
day is one of bewildered simplicity, not unmingled with respect, and,
when their confidence is obtained, with something of the loyal
affection they have long been accustomed to entertain towards their own
chiefs and superiors.

                      KING MPANDE’S SNAKE CHARMER.

During King Mpande’s reign there lived in his chief kraal a most noted
and wonderful snake-charmer, who was spoken of far and wide with great
awe. He was looked upon as one who was in constant communication with
the spirits, as all snakes obeyed him. He was tall and slim, with a
withered right arm and a crooked forefinger. It was quite an easy task
for him to catch snakes in bushes, and he could even draw them out of
their holes with his crooked finger. He said he had certain kinds of
medicines which he always took, and also injected into his right arm
and finger before setting out snake-catching in the mornings, and these
prevented snake bites having any effect on him—in fact, he felt quite
safe anywhere. He would sometimes take long journeys in search of
various kinds of snakes, and on his return would call on people living
near the roadside that he might exhibit them. He generally took two or
three boys with him to carry them, and they had special bags made for
them of water-broom rushes. I shall never forget the day when the
snake-charmer called at our house and asked whether we should like to
see two big snakes he had caught that day. At first we felt rather
scared, although, at the same time, we were curious to see them, for we
had heard a great deal about this snake-charmer. So we allowed him to
get them out and show us what he could do with them. He ordered the
boys to open the bags, then gave two or three whistles, and the snakes
came crawling out very slowly and carefully. He then drew a winding
mark on the ground with his rod, which they most obediently followed,
hissing and sticking out their tongues now and then, and looking about
to see which way they were to go next, and he said that this was all he
had been able to teach them that morning. He put down his rod a moment,
then one of the snakes made for the kitchen door, where three native
girls were standing, and it went part of the way in before he could
stop it. The girls were half mad with fright; one climbed on the table,
another on the shelf, and the third went up the chimney: there was a
terrible scrimmage. But the man soon made the snake go into the bag
again. I then thought I would have some fun, so I went into my room to
fetch a big toy snake which I kept in the window to prevent the natives
from standing about there and using it as a mirror. When I brought it
out, moving and wriggling about in my hand, the charmer took to flight.
It was an ugly green and yellow thing, with open red mouth. The man
said his medicines would be no preventive against a bite from this
strange kind of snake, of which he knew nothing. But when I told him it
was only a toy, he had a good laugh over his fright. Soon after his
return to his hut at the king’s kraal we heard that some gentlemen had
gone up to pay him a visit and to ask him to let them see his snakes.
When he went away his hut would be quite safe, for the snakes were
always on the look out for strangers. The gentlemen thought it prudent
to keep at a good distance until the owner of the hut and snakes
appeared. After the usual greetings and introductions had been gone
through, the man said, “I hear you would like to see my pets; how much
will you pay me for it?” They answered that they were travellers, and
had not much with them, but that they would give him a blanket each. So
he made them go into a corner of his hut and sit down on a mat.
Presently he called out “Ngqabitani”! (his chief snake), and it came
out with a majestic twist of satisfaction. Then he whistled for
another, grunted for another, groaned for a third, hissed for a fourth,
and then rattled for the whole lot. They came out by the dozen; the
visitors found themselves surrounded by snakes of all sorts and sizes,
the great python wriggling and twisting impatiently, with a look as
much as to say, “I could swallow the whole of you if only my master
would allow me.” The man sat coolly at the door of his hut enjoying the
fun. The gentlemen called out, “Enough! enough! we have seen your pets;
do for pity’s sake call them back!” The man said, “How much will you
give me?” The answer was, “Ten blankets each—anything you like—all we
possess; only clear off your pets and let us out of this trap.” He
answered, “You shall have your wish my good friends,” and then made the
usual noises, when they all promptly returned to their holes. The
gentlemen heaved a sigh of relief, paid the man, but never will they
ask to see his pets again. They were quite satisfied.

                     HOW DEATH CAME INTO THE WORLD

The Zulu people believe that our first parents came out of a reed. The
Great-great-one made the reed to open, and forth came a man and a
woman. Some years after, He sent a messenger to inform the people that
they were to live for ever. This messenger, being a chameleon, was very
slow in fulfilling its errand. On the way it espied some nice berries,
of which it is very fond, and it spent quite an age in climbing up the
shrub to pick and eat the sweet little fruit. It thought that it was
unnecessary to hurry with the message—the people could wait: so it was
at no pains to perform His mission. Meanwhile the Great-great-one sent
a second messenger to tell the people that they were to die. This
messenger (being a kind of lizard, or salamander) was much quicker in
its movements, and so, arriving in the world long before the chameleon
even thought it had had enough berries to eat, it proclaimed to men:
“The Great-great-one says you must all die.” When at length the
first-sent messenger came, it was too late, for people were already
dying, and the fate of the rest could not be changed. And they said:
“Why did you delay when sent by the Great-great-one? You detestable
little, slow, crawling creature! You shall be hated for ever and ever.”
The natives still abhor this creature in connection with the legend.
They always ill-treat it, delighting to fill its mouth with snuff,
which turns it black.

                    THE ZULU’S CHOICEST BIT OF MEAT

If a native sends a present of meat to his chief, or anyone he respects
as far above him, he will generally send the Insonyama, that is, the
part of the flesh of a slaughtered bullock or cow which covers the ribs
and is separated from them by a moist substance which makes it very
easy of removal. This is, in native estimation, the choicest meat, and
is always eaten by the head of a family. This is a useful piece of
knowledge for those who have to do with native cases which concern
disputed inheritance. If an ox is slaughtered which belongs to any
other house of the same family, the insonyama is always taken to be
eaten in the superior’s hut. If the insonyama is taken as a present to
a superior friend, it is always considered a great compliment to cook
it beforehand and roll it up nicely in a clean mat (isitebe) ready to
be eaten.


The Zulus are a very kind and hospitable race, always willing to share
their food with others in need. In times of famine they have a way of
asking help from each other without any intention of returning the
same; this they call Ukutekela. Sometimes on meeting one another by the
way, after the usual greetings, one says to the other, “I am coming to
beg (tekela) mealies (or potatoes) of you to-morrow”; the answer would
be, “All right,” with a laugh, “you may come.”

Tekela really means begging or obtaining food, corn or potatoes, from
another, sometimes getting it as a reward for assisting to reap or
weed, or as a gift. It is one of the oldest customs which the natives

For instance, a woman may go on a visit to relations or friends, and
remain with them for a short time, and while staying there assist in
whatever work is going on at the time of her visit. Then when she
leaves to return home she may be given grain of some kind to take with
her, if there is a fair supply at the kraal. A visitor hardly ever
returns home empty handed. Only in times of famine would it be possible.

Help given one to another in reaping cornfields is very commonly
acknowledged in the same fashion.

When the gardens need weeding a day is arranged on which to invite
friends to a beer-drink. The guests arrive about sunrise and weed till
about three o’clock, when the beer is brought out; but no one except
those who have assisted in the work will have a share in it, unless
they happen to be travellers or too old to work.

Natives will do a great deal to obtain beer, which is the reason why
the native fields are usually so free from weeds. But it is seldom used
before the allotted work is done—a very necessary restriction!


Very few people, I believe, know this Zulu custom of making friends.
After a severe quarrel natives will not condescend to take snuff
together on any account, although they have been the best of friends
for years. It is not till their quarrel has been settled and their
tempers cooled down that they can begin to say, “Ngi ncwebise ugwai”
(give me a pinch of snuff)—and even then the one asked may refuse and
say “’Tis too soon my friend, irritate me not, I pray.” The following
is an instance:—

Two handsome young men, who had been friends ever since they were quite
little lads, and who had joined the same regiment, fell in love with a
very beautiful girl, who was a chief’s daughter. These young men were
inseparable; wherever the one went the other was sure to go. Whether it
was to a hunt, beer drink, wedding, or dance they always went together.
There was a certain chief who took a liking to these two young men, for
they were very cheerful and amusing, so he encouraged them to come to
all his entertainments. One used to ornament himself with white beads
and tigers’ claws and white ostrich feathers, the other with red beads
and black and red feathers. They each carried a nice assagai and a
couple of knobkerries and a courting shield. They always looked neat
and nice, for they made a point of greasing themselves well before
setting out anywhere.

This chief had a most beautiful daughter who was greatly beloved by old
and young, for she was kind and pleasant to everybody. Her father
always chose her to serve the beer round to the visitors, she did it so
gracefully and willingly. These two young men were greatly struck with
the girl, and both fell in love with her. The one in red decided at
once to win her, but how to set about it was a puzzle, for he never
before had gone anywhere without his friend, and he didn’t know what
excuse to make to go off alone. But the next day he got a very good
opportunity, for his friend was taken ill and could not attend a dance
he had promised to go to. The one in red had to go alone and make
excuses for the other. Between the dances he got a chance to try his
luck with the young lady, and was rejected at once for having the
impudence to wear the Royal colours. (Those red beads were worn in
those days only by royalty, also the red parrot feathers.) This maiden
thought he could not be trusted: he would venture too much, and end by
getting killed.

He went back disappointed and annoyed, but did not let his friend know
anything about it, for he intended to try again. When his friend had
recovered they went together to call on the chief. His daughter brought
in some beer. It was noticed that she paid most attention to the one in
white, and of course that gave him hope at once. As soon as she left
the hut the young man said: “Your daughter, chief of the great house,
has won my heart. How much would you want for her? How many head of

The chief answered, “You are a handsome, promising lad. Of another I
should ask for her sixty, but I would let you off with thirty.”

The young man was delighted with this answer. He took the very next
opportunity to propose and was accepted.

His friend was furiously angry, and swore a solemn oath that now their
friendship had come to an end, and they would be enemies for the rest
of their lives, “For,” said he, “I was first in the field.”

They parted there and then. The lucky man sent the thirty head of
cattle the very next day to make sure of his future bride, and the
matter was properly settled. He was very happy, but still he missed his
dear old friend who had left him in anger.

Whenever they met, he said to him, “dear friend of my youth and life,
come and let us make it up. Here, take a pinch of snuff. It was no
fault of mine you were rejected.”

“No, ’tis too soon. After your wedding,” said the other, “this may be
done, but I do not wish to come to the wedding feast. May the spirits
of my ancestors pity me and save me from harming you or her. Depart in

Three months after the wedding the two friends met under a cabbage
tree, took snuff together, and vowed to forget their grievance.

                          RULES OF A ZULU HUNT

Hunts are conducted on a large scale, and there are certain rules which
have to be kept. Generally the most important man in the neighbourhood
proclaims it, and young boys are sent round a day or two in advance
with a few branches of the wild cabbage tree (umsenge) in their hands
to invite those who are chosen to take part in the sport. All who see
these boys with umsenge branches ask from them where the hunt is to
take place, and are told in answer. It is an easy way of inviting
superiors to anything, for a Zulu youth may not address his senior
without being first spoken to.

All the men invited have to meet the chief at the starting point,
armed, and with their dogs. They dance round him and sing their hunting
songs, then they follow him to the place chosen for the hunt. While at
the hunt, if a buck is stabbed by more than one person before it falls,
it belongs to the man who first drew blood, and the man who gave it the
next stab, or whose dog caught it after it had received its first wound
is entitled to a leg; the man who wounded it a third time, or whose dog
pulled it down, takes a shoulder, if it is a large buck, but nothing if
the animal is a small one.

If caught by dogs without being previously wounded, and if it is not
known whose dog was the first to lay hold of it, the buck belongs to
the master of the hunt or the man who called the hunt together. And it
is the latter generally who settles a disputed question of ownership;
but he cannot mend the broken heads which so often follow such a
dispute. One seldom sees natives so excited as they over a buck killed
at a hunt, when there is any doubt as to the person to whom the buck
belongs. Many cases of assault, and even murder, arise out of quarrels
over a dead buck. It might therefore be very useful to know these rules.

                          UBUQILI BUKA BONGOZA
                          BONGOZA’S SMARTNESS

In the early days when the Boers invaded Zululand the Zulus twice set
traps for them, which were very successful. They were completely caught
in both.

Dingane, who was at that time King of the Zulus, prepared the first one
himself. He gave a great beer drink in his cattle kraal, and invited
all the Boers, with their leader (Piet Retief). These readily accepted
the invitation, came, and were highly entertained in various ways. A
good many Zulus were asked by Dingane to come and help to entertain by
singing and dancing while the tyuala (Kafir beer) was being passed
round. The Boers enjoyed the Kafir beer immensely, as well as the
singing and dancing, little guessing what was in store for them that

When Dingane thought he had spent enough time with them, he gave a sign
to his people, which had been agreed upon beforehand. He just passed
the palm of his hand over his mouth, and that meant, “Sweep them all
off the face of the earth.” After having given this sign, he himself
went out of the kraal unnoticed. Hundreds of Zulus who had been waiting
outside the kraal ready armed set to at once, and those who had been
singing and dancing joined in as soon as the sign was given them. There
was a confusion of beer pots and assagais. The assagais came like a
hailstorm upon the unfortunate Boers. Their leader was the only one who
escaped by leaping over the cattle kraal fence and disappearing in a
most mysterious way.

A few years after he came forward again with another big commando, in
hopes of settling old scores, when he was led into another trap beyond
the White Umfolozi, at a place called Opate. He had been troubling the
Zulus a great deal all round about Mahlabatini (where the Natal Police
distinguished themselves in the recent Boer war). Dingane was quite at
a loss what to do with them, for he wished to put an end to it all.
Amongst his numerous chiefs he had one very smart general called
Nobongoza, who thought of a plan to catch the Dutchmen. He had a
private interview with the king, and made his plans known to him. They
were thought to be very good indeed, for Dingane left the management of
everything to him after that. Opate is a nice open plain, surrounded
with bushes and hills. To get to it one had to go through a narrow
pass. Nobongoza ordered a good number of his men to drive the king’s
cattle to this plain for safety; but he really had quite another object
in view in doing this. All the natives were to go armed, in readiness
to defend the cattle in case the Boers should find their hiding place
and try to take them. A day after the cattle had been taken to Opate,
Nobongoza sent a big army to hide in the bush all round the place; then
he turned traitor and went over to the Boers, saying he was tired of
fighting against them, therefore he was now willing to lead them to a
place where the king had hidden his cattle, and they could just help
themselves and go away. Piet Retief believed what Nobongoza said, and
was quite pleased. He allowed this chief to go as their leader, and
even promised to pay him for his trouble. So he led them through this
narrow pass, and when they had got through a fine sight came in view—a
sight that would make any Dutchman’s heart leap for joy—the plain was
alive with fine cattle. They at once made a dash for them, when
Nobongoza suddenly disappeared in the forest close by, where thousands
of armed Zulus were waiting for their prey. They rushed out from the
bush all round, closed in upon the Boers, and killed every one of them.
The cattle were then driven back triumphantly to the King’s kraal, and
Nobongoza was looked upon as a hero ever after.

These historical tales are repeated to this day. Anyone visiting
Zululand might ask a Zulu to relate to them “Ubiqili Buka Bongoza,” and
it would be told them with great glee. It is one of the most favourite
stories amongst the men.

When visiting Zululand only a short time ago I heard this story from an
old Zulu warrior who is now over a hundred years old. He seemed to have
a very good memory still, and enjoyed relating all his past victories.
He said he was quite a little boy when Chaka died, and he served as a
soldier under Dingane.

                        LABYRINTHS AND WAR GAME

The Zulus are very fond of drawing mazes (usogexe) on the ground with
the finger, or—after smoking hemp (insangu)—with saliva passed
through a hollow stem of tambootie grass and so made to trace a
labyrinth (tshuma sogexe) on a smooth floor. The one who draws
generally asks some one else to find the way into the royal hut. And
this he does with a pointer of tambootie, or failing to follow the
right course and getting cornered, is greeted with a general shout of
“Wapuka sogexe!” (you are done for in the labyrinth), and has to go
back to the start and begin the quest again. This game is a great
favourite, and is often played for hours at a time: the sons of Mpande
were great adepts at it. They would vary it sometimes by dotting rows
of warriors on the outside, and then success depended on the positions
that the combatants were made to assume, the great triumph being to
bring an army into the shape of a bull’s head and horns, when he whose
horn first touched the adversary’s line was acclaimed as winner.

[Illustration: The above is a copy of a Labyrinth made by a Zulu,
Ulutyetye, for the well-known missionary, the Rev. R. Robertson, and
first reproduced by Messrs. John Sanderson and Co., of Durban. It is
noticeable for having two huts to be reached—that in the centre being
the Royal one.]


                               Printed by
                      The Church Printing Company
                     Burleigh Street, Strand, W. C.

                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

The titles of the chapters in the Contents are not necessarily
consistent with titles of the chapters in the text, although their
order in the text is correct.

This text has been preserved as in the original, including archaic and
inconsistent spelling, punctuation and grammar, except as noted below.

Obvious printer’s errors have been silently corrected.

Text in italics in the original work is represented herein as _text_.

Small capitals are shown herein as all capitals.

Footnotes have been renumbered and then moved to the end of the chapter
to which they belong.

Page 2: “Ngashiy” and “Ngishiy” each appear once and they were retained
as printed.

Page 17: There was one character not printed at “country to [a] river”
and is shown here within the bracket.

Page 52: “Uzibebu” was changed to “Usibebu” to correspond to multiple
use in the footnote on the same page.

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