Henry Callaway.

The religious system of the Amazulu : with a translation into English, and notes online

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Online LibraryHenry CallawayThe religious system of the Amazulu : with a translation into English, and notes → online text (page 1 of 39)
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rtliis First Part on the Religious System of the Amazuln, I have
brought together all the information I have been able to collect
from natives and others, on the tradition of a supreme being- which
exists among them, and other people of South AMca. The next Pait
will be devoted to their Ancestor Worship ; and the Third Part, which
it is exi)ected will complete the Volume, to their Diviners and other
Doctoi*s. An introductory Essay on the whole subject will be given
witH the Third Part

H. O.
Springvale, Natal,
October, 1868.

The Bight of TranslaHon and Reprodiicti&n is JReserved,



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Ku tiwa wa tuma unwaba ; wa
ti, " Hamba, lunwaba, u ye u yo
kuti, Abantu ma ba nga fi." Lwa
hamba unwaba, lwa hamba kanci-
nane, lwa libala endAleleni ; lwa
hamba lwa dAla umuti, o igama
lawo ku ubukwebezane.^

Wa za XJnkulunkulu wa tuma
intulo ngasemva kwonwaba, se lu
hambile ngesikati esipambili unwa-
ba. Ya hamba intulo, ya gijima,
ya tahetsha kakulu, ngokuba
XJnkulunkulu e tize, "Ntulo, u
fike u ti, Abantu a ba fe." Ya
hamba ke intulo, ya ti, " Ngi ti,
Ku tiwa, Abantu ma ba fe." Ya
buya intulo, ya fika kunkulunku-
lu ; lwa ba unwaba lu nga ka fiki,
lona lwa tunywa kukg'ala; lona
lwa tunywa ku tiwa, ma lu yokuti,
" Abantu ma ba nga fi."

It is said he sent a chameleon ;
he said to it, "Go, Chameleon, go
and say. Let not men die." The
chameleon set out ; it went slow-
ly f it loitered in the way ; and as
it went, it ate of the fruit of a
tree, which is called Ubukwebe-

At length XJnkulunkulu sent a
lizard^^ after the chameleon, when
it had already set out for some
time. The lizard went ; it ran and
made great haste, for XJnkulunkulu
had said, " Lizard, when you have
arrived, say, Let men die." So
the lizard went, and said, " I tell
you. It is said, Let men die." The
lizard came back again to XJnku-
lunkulu, before the chameleon had
reached his destination, the cha-
meleon which was sent first ;
which was sent, and told to go
and say, " Let not men die."

cally, to mean a source of being. A father is the uthlanga of his
children, from which they broke off. Whatever notions the ignorant
of the present day among the natives may have of the meaning of this
tradition, it may be concluded that originally it was not intended to
teach by it, that men sprang from a reed. It cannot be doubted that
the word alone has come down to the people, whilst the meaning has
been lost Comp. M. Casalis* account of the religious notions of the
Basutos, p. 240.

^ Hence their saying, " XJkuhambisa kwonwaba," To go like a
chameleon, L e., to go slowly. They say also vkanwahuzela,

^ Uhihwehezane. — ^A shrub which bears clusters of berries of a
purplish colour and sweet taste. This fruit is much liked by children.

^^ Intulo = intulway the Amalala inulwa. The tradition lives
among the natives to the present time, and is manifested by the dislike
they entertain for the chameleon. It is frequently killed. But it is
used as a medicine ; among other uses it is mixed with other things
to doctor their gardens, that the birds may not destroy the com ; it is
eiv^oyed because it went slowly, and therefore will prevent the birds

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tawsk za Iwa fika, Iwa memeza,
Iwa ti, " Ku tiwa, Abantu ma ba
nga ^ !" Ba ti abantu ba ti, " O !
si bambe izwi lentulo ; yona i si
tshelile, ya ti, * Ku tiwa, Abantu
Bia ba fe.' A si sa li zwa elako.
Ngezwi lentulo abantu b' eza 'ku-

At length it arrived and shout-
ed, saying, "It is said. Let not
men die ! " But men answered,
" O ! we have heard the word of
the lizard ; it has told us ihe word,
*It is said. Let men die.' We
cannot hear your word. Through
the word of the lizard, men will

from hastily entering the gardens ! But the lizard is an object of
much greater hatred, and is invariably killed if the person who sees it
is able to kill it ; but it is very cunning, and, as they say, " escapes
only by its cunning." As they Mil it they say, " Yiya 1 i sona lesi
'silimane esa gijima kuk^ala sa ya 'kuti, ' Abantu a ba fe.' " Let be !
This is the very piece of deformity which ran in the banning to say
that men should die.

^^ This tradition of the origin of death has a strong resemblance
to the Hottentot account. But there it is the Moon — a Hottentot
god, according to Kolb, (The Present State of the Cape of Good
Hope, (Medley,) Vohrnie /., pa^e "95) — ^which sends an insect
to man with the message : — " Go thou to men, and tell them, < As I
die, and dying live, so ye shall also die, and dying live.' " The insect,*
meeting with the hare, entrusts the message to him ; but when he
reaches man, he says, ^* I am sent by the Moon to tell you, * As I die,
and dying perish, in the same manner ye shall also die, and come
wholly to an end.' " (Bleel^a Hottentot Fables, p. 69.^

This account is, however, a promise of renovation through death.

The New Zealand legend again may be compared, where we meet
with rather a foreshadowing of redemption through One destroying
death by passing through it, than an account of the cause of death
enteiing into the world. Maui is made liable to death by some acci-
dental omission of a part of the baptismal ritual, — a cause as trivial
as the delay of the chameleon, or the false message of the hare.

Maui was an abortion ; he was born as his mother was passing
along by the sea-shore. She cut off the long tresses of her hair, and
bound him up in them, and threw him into the foam of the sea, and
after that he was found by his ancestor Tama-nui-ki-te-Rangi, and by
his care developed into a man. As yet there' was no death. But
Maui's &ther, " from mistake, hurriedly skipped over part of the
prayers of the baptismal service, and of ^e services to purify Maui ;
he knew that the gods would be certain to pimish this fault, by causing
Maui to die, and his alarm and anxiety were therefore great" Maui
having transformed by enchantments Lrawaru, his sister Hinauri's
husband, into a dog, and Hinauri having girded herself with an en-
chanted girdle had cast herself into the sea, and been swept away by
Jthe tide, he waa obliged to quit the village where Irawaru had Hved,

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Wa ti XJnkulunkulu wa ba nika
abantu amatongo ; wa ba nika izi-
nyanga zokwelapa nezokubula ; wa
ba nika nemiti yokwelapa itongo.
Wa ti XJnkulankulu, " Uma umu-
ntu e gula e netongo, e banjwe
itongo, wo Alaba inkomo, ni bonge
itongo ; umuntu u ya 'kupila,
m' esuka e banjwe itongo.**

Unkulunkulu gave men Ama-
tongo 'P he gave them doctors for
treating disease, and diviners ; he
gave them medicines to treat dis-
eases occasioned by the Itongo. ^^
XJnkulunkulu said, " K a man is
ill, he being affected by the Itongo,
you shall kill a bullock and laud
the Itongo ; the man will get well
if he has been affected by the

and so returned to his parents. His father said, " Oh my son, I have
heard from your mother and others that you are very valiant, and
that you have succeeded in all feats that you have undertaken in your
own country, whether they are small or great ; but now that you have
arrived in your &.ther's country, you will perhaps at last be overcome."
On asking " what he could be vanquished by ? " his father replied,
" By your great ancestress Hine-nui-te-po." But he answered, " Lay
aside such idle thoughts, and let us both fearlessly seek whether men
are to die or live for ever." Maui pleads that he had subdued Tama-
nui-te-Ra (the sun), and had rescued much land by drawing it up from
the sea. His father admits the truth, and bids him go boldly to visit
** his great ancestress," who, he knew, would be the cause of his death.
Maui set out on his journey, taking " every kind of little bird " as his
companions. Maui and his companions found Hine-nui-te-po asleep.
Maui told them that he was about to creep into the old chieflainess,
and warned them not to laugh until they saw him "just coming out of
her mouth ; then they might shout with laughter if they pleased."
When he entered the old chieftainess, " the little birds screwed up
their tiny cheeks, trying to suppress laughter ; at last, the little Tiwa-
kawaka laughed out loud with its merry cheerful note," and the old
woman awoke, and killed Maui. This was the cause of the introduc-
tion of death into the world. Hine-nui-te-po being the goddess of
death, had Maui passed safely thi-ough her, then no more human
beings would have died, but death itself would have been destroyed.
(Grey, Folyneaia/n Mythology, p, \^ — 58.^ v.

^ I tonga f p. Amatongo, — ^An itongo is properly the spirit of the \
dead, — a disembodied spirit. The notion that it is in the form of a I
snake, or becomes converted into a snake, is probably something j
superadded to the original tradition. But all these questions will be )
discussed when we come to the " Amatongo." ,/*

^^ Ukwelapa itongo, lit., to treat an itongo, that is, diseases which
are occasioned by the itongo, as utklaho, which appears from the de-
scription to be pleurodynia ; one case I was called to see was pleurisy.

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Wa ti, " Ni ya *kubona futi na
sebusuku, ni ya 'kupupa; itongo
li ya 'ku ni tshela into e li i tsho-
ko." Wa ti, " Li ya *ku ni tshela

Itongo li Alala kumuntu omku-
lu ; o yena o li pupayo ku 'munu-
niuzana ; li ti, '' Ni nga Alaba
inkomo, u ya 'kusinda nmuntu."
I Alatshwe inkomo e tshiwo ito-
ngo ; a ti loku umuntu ku be se
ku tiwa, " U za 'kufa," a sinde ;
ku bonakale ke ukuti lo 'muntu u
be e banjwe itongo. I ya kitshwa
inyongo ngapakati enkomweni,^^ a
telwe ngayo inyongo ; ku bongwe,
ku tiwe, " XJma si bone ukuti ito-
ngo, a si bone ukuba a pile namAla
nje ; ku ya sa kusasa nje u se i
dAla inyama ; si' ya *kubona ke
ukuti itongo. Okimye loku, a si
yi 'kuvuma enAliziyweni zetu uku-
ti itongo ; si ya 'kuti, i ^kvdat, nje ;
a li ko itongo kuyena emzimbeni
wake. Uma si bone ukuti ku
kona itongo, si ya 'kubona ngoku-
ba a pile, si bonge ke. I kona si
ya 'kuAlaba inkomo eziningi, si
bonge ke etongweni, si bone ukuti
itongo lakwiti li lungile."

XJguaise Mdunga (an Ilala).

He said, " You will see also by
^g^*> you will dream ; the Itongo
will tell you what it is it wishes."
He said, " It will also tell you the
bullock it would have killed."

The Itongo dwells with the
great man ; he who dreams ia the
chief of the village ; it says,
" Should you kill a bullock, the
man will get well" The bullock
which the Itongo mentions ia kill-
ed; and although people were
thinking that the man would
die, he gets well ; and so it
is clear that the man was
affected by the Itongo. The gall-
bladder is taken from the bullock,
and the man has the gall poured
on him ; they give praise and say,
" In order that we may see that it
is the Itongo, let us see him get
well this very day ; and at the
very dawn of tomorrow eat meat ;
so we shall see that it is the Itongo.
On the other hand, we shall not
admit in our hearts that it is the
Itongo ; we shall say, it is disease
only; there is no Itongo in his
body. If we see that it is the
Itongo, we shall see it by his
getting well, and so we shall give
thanks. Then we will kill many
cattle, and laud the Itongo, and
see that the Itongo of our house is

^^ Enkormjoeni, — I preserve this word because it is formed
regularly. The Zulus say enkomeni ; the Amalala eyomweni.

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Abadala ba ti Unkulunkulu u
ng' Umvelingangi, ngokuba be ti
wa vela kuk^ala j be ti u. uAlanga
Iwabantu lapa kwa dabuka abantu
kulo. Ku tsho abadala ukuti u
kona Unkulunkulu ; w' enza aba-
ntu bokuk^ala^ abadala bendulo ;
ba fa abadala bendulo, kwa sala
abanye aba zalwa i bo, amadodana,
e si zwa ngabo ukuti kwa be ku
kona abadala bendulo ab' azi uku-
dabuka kwezwa Ka ba m azi

The old men say that Unkulu-
nkulu is Umvelingangi,^^ for they
say he came out first ; they say he
is the Uthlanga from which all
men broke off.^*^*^e old men say
that Unkulunkulu is '}^ he made
the first men, the ancients of long
ago '^^ the ancients of long ago
died; there remained those who
had been begotten by them, sons,
by whom we hear that there were
ancients of long ago who knew the
breaking off of the world, ^^ They

15 Vmvelinqangij the first out-comer.

• 1^ Let the reader note that here three names are applied to the
first man, Unkulunkulu, Umvelingangi, and Uthlanga. UnkiUur
nkulu expresses antiquity, age, lit., the old-old one, as we use great
in great-great-grandfiither. Unwelinqangi expresses priority; the
first out-comer. Uthlanga, potential source of being. Neither must
this be regarded as a contradiction to the statement lower down, " Wa
vela lapa abantu ba dabuka kona oAlangeni," He came out where men
broke off from Uthlanga. For Unkulunkulu, the first man, sprang
from — came out of — ^broke off from — a previously existing uthlanga
or source of being, the nature of which is quite beyond the native
philosophy ; and having come out, he became the uthlanga or soui-ce
of being of entire humanity.

1^ U kona, is. We must not, however, understand this as a
declaration of the ancients that Unkulunkulu has a present existence.
But they mean to say, " Unkulunkulu was a reality; that which we
say of him is not a fitble, but a fact. Unkulunkulu is a reality ; he
made us, and is, as it were, in us his work. We exist because he
existed." That this is the meaning we gather not only from the in-
terpretation of it by natives, and from other accounts of the same tra^
dition, but from the statement made below, " B' ezwa ngokutshiwo
ukuti Unkulunkulu wa be kona," They heard it said that Unkulu-
nkulu was, or used to be; the tense necessarily implying that he
exists no longer.

1^ Abadala bendulo, the ancients of long ago, — ^not merely
ancients, but the ancients of primitive times ; those who formed the
first races of mankind.

1^ The natives profess to be unable to give any account of the
origin of things ; but refer to a period when the ancients tmderstood
the history of creation.

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Unkulunkulu ; a ba m bonanga
ngameAlo; V ezwa ngokutshiwo
ukuti Unkulunkulu wa be kona.
Wa vela lapa abantu ba dabuka
kona oAlangenL Wa zala abantu
bendulo ; ba &, ba shiya abantwa-
na babo ; ba zala abanye, amado-
dan' aboy ba fa; ba zala abanye,
ukuba tina si ze si zwe ngonkulu-
nkulu. Okoko betu aba si tshelayo
izindaba zikankulunkulu nezendu-

Ngi tshele uma ngesikati sama-
nje ku kona abantu aba kuleka
kuye XJnkulunkula na ?

Ka ba ko. Ba ya kcela emato-
ngweni ; ba wa dumise ukuba a ze
a ba sindise.

Amatongo a ng' obani na ?

AmadAlozi, abantu aV esuke be
file ; ba fe k^ede, ba buye ba gu-
kqvike ba be amatongo, ba hhulu-
zele ngesisu, ba se be ti abantu
abadala, " Itongo/' Igama lalo li
inyoka; inyundezulu igama layo

Ku be se ku gula umuntu, ku
se ku yiwa enyangeni, ku yiwa
'kubulwa; ku be se ku tiwa,
** Amatongo a ze 'kukcela izinko-

did not know Unkulunkulu ; they
did not see him with their eyes ;
they h^Guxl it said that Unku-
lunkulu was. He came out
where men broke off from Uthla-
nga. He b^at the ancients of
long ago ; they died and left their
children ; they begat others, their
sons, they died ; they b^;at others ;
thus we at length have heard about
Unkulunkulu. It was our ancestors
who told us the accounts of Unku-
lunkulu and of the ancients of
long ago.

Tell me if at the present time
there are any who pray to Unku-
lunkulu ?

There are none. They pray to
the Amatongo ; they honour them
that they may come and save

Who are the Amatongo ?

The Amadhlozi, men who have
died ; when they have died, they
change again and become Ama-
tongo, and crawl on. their belly,
and so the old men call a dead
man so changed an Itongo. It is
called a snake; Inyandezulu^ is
the name of the snake.

When a man is ill, they go to a
doctor to divine; and it is said,
** The Amatongo have come to ask
for cattle, that a bullock should be

^ A large, green, harmless snake, which for the most part is
observed in trees. It frequently enters the native huts.

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mo, ukuze ku Alatshwe inkomo."
I b* i s' i ncwatshelwa endAlini,
ukuba a i dAle ; se ku vulwa um-
nyango^ ba nga i dAli ngalesi 'si-
kati, ba i dAle ngolunye usukiL
KusiAlwa ku lale abafana endAlinl,
ba i linde iuyama. Ku ya sa
kusasa i s* i ya pekwa, ku butane
abantu, ba ze ba i dAle, ba ze 'ku i
dAla inAloko. Be se ba ya Alaka-
zeka ba ye emizim yabo ; ku be se
ku sala abasekaya. Ku be se ku
pekwa isifuba esi za 'kudAliwa
amakosikazi nabantu bonke base-

Se ku butwa amatambo onke
enkomo, umnikazinkomo e se wa
tshisa, ukuba abatakati ba nga wa
tati, ba ye 'ku w* elapa, ba m
bulale, a buye a gule futl

killed." The flesh of the slaugh-
tered bullock is put together in a
hut, that the Amatongo may eat ;
the door is shut, and the people do
not eat the meat at the time, but
on the morrow. In the evening
boys sleep in the hut and watch
the meat. In the morning the
flesh is boiled, and men assemble
to eat the head. They then sepa-
rate and go to their own '\dllages ;
and those of the family where the
bullock has been killed remain.
Then the breast is boiled, which
will be eaten by the chieftainesses
and by the people of the family.

All the bones of the bullock are
collected, and the owner of the
cattle burns them, that wizards
may not take them, and apply
medicines to them and injure the
man who was sick, and he become
ill again. 2^

KwA ku tiwa ekuk<^aleni, aba-
fundisi be nga ka bi ko, uma si
buza tina, si ti, " Amatshe 'enziwe
ini na ? " ku tiwe, " 'Enziwe
XJmvelin^'angL" Ku tiwa tina
bantu si pume emAlangeni lapa sa

It was said at first before the
arrival of missionaries, if we a^ked,
" By what were the stones
made 1 " — " They were made by
Umvelingangl" It is said that
we men came out of a bed of
reeds,'^ where we had our origin.^*

^ This account was given by a refugee recently arrived from
Zululand, whose name I do not know.

22 UrMomga is a bed of reeds. We must not confound umhlor
nga with %M€mga. UmAlanga is the place where they broke off" — or
out-came — ^from UAlanga,

23 Velaf had our origin, — out-came^ equivalent to " were created."
It does not mean merely appearing.

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vela kona. Si buze, si ti, " Ilahga
r enziwa ini na ? " ba ti, " L' enzi-
wa XJmvelingangL " Ngokuba
tina be si buza, si bancinyane, si
ti, abadala ba ya z' azi izinto zonke
ezi semAlabeni ; kanti ka ba z^ azi ;
kodwa si nga ba pikisi, ngokuba si
ug' azi natL

Kwa ti se si semabuneni Ama-
bunu a wa si tshelanga ukuti,
" Inkosi i kona pezulu ; " kodwa
wona e tsho e ti, tin' abantu aba-
innyama si ya 'kutsha ; kodwa a e
tsho e ti, tin* abantu abamnyama
a si nawo umoya, si fana nenja,
yona e nge nawo nmoya.

Ba be tsbo abadala, abafundisi
be nga ka bi ko, ba ti, " Izinto
zonke z' enziwa XJmvelingangi,
zonke." Kodwa a ba m azi uma
ubani na. Kodwa ba Alala ngo-
kubonga izinyoka; na manje ba
ya bonga zona ; a ba k' ezwa ; na

When we asked, " By what ^ai»
the sun made ? " they said, " By
Umvelin^ungL" For we used to
ask when we were little, thinking
that the old men knew all things
which are on the earth ; yet for-
sooth they do not know ; 'but we
do not contradict them, for neither
do we know.

When we were with the Dutch
they did not tell us that there is a
Lord above ; but they said that we
black people should be burnt ; and
that we have no spirit,^* but are
like a dog, which has no spint.

The ancients used to say before
the arrival of the missionaries,
that all things were made by XJm-
velin^angi ; but they were not
acquainted with his name.^^ But
they lived by worshipping^^ snakes ;
Stnd they still worship them ; they
do not yet hear; and even now

2* TJmoya^ spiiit. The native who related this tale, though not a
Christian, had lived with whitemen from his childhood, and for some
years with a missionary. The untaught native would not use umoya
(wind, air) in the sense of spirit, as this man uses it. They would
apply it to the air we bi*eathe, but not to the spirit or soul of man.
Neither do they use itongo, idhlozi, isituta (ghost), or isitunzi (shade),
of any power animating the body, but only of something, — a new or
distinct existence, — which comes out of the body when dead.

2^ Many misunderstandings of native traditions have arisen from
the enquiry, " Unkulunkulu ubani na % " meaning who or what is
Unkulunkulu. It really means, " What is his wamc / " The native
cannot tell you his name, except it be Umvelingangi.

2^ Bonga, worship. It is necessary to give bonga this full mean-
ing here, and not to restrict it to the offices of praising or thanking.
It is equivalent to pata, which is used for all and every kind of adora-
tion and worship.

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manje lapa abafundisi be kuluma-
yo, ba ti, " InsuiDansumane ; into
nje ngokud/tlala." A ba tsho
ukuti, kii kulunywa izindaba ezi

Lapa ku Alatshwa, ku ya bo-
ngwa inyoka kukgala, anduba ku
Alatshwe inkomo. I ti se i Ala-

Online LibraryHenry CallawayThe religious system of the Amazulu : with a translation into English, and notes → online text (page 1 of 39)