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sions are excited. In case of death the head-
man of the kraal looks up and around him and
says, " This is mysterious. We shall all die
if something is not done." In many cases the
disease is unknown or it baffles the skill
of physicians, which is not strange, for Zulu
" medicine men," in attempting to save life, as
frequently destroy it by cramming down a
multitude of drugs without stopping to watch
the effect of one. The afflicted man fixes
his suspicion on some individual with whom he
has been at variance, but having no clew which
would satisfy the minds of others he calls the
people together. The attendance is usually

Spirit Wnnhip. 99

large, for the neighbors fear lest tlieir absence
be construed into an indication of guilt. With
grave countenances they seat themselves in
a circle on the ground, and after the usual salu-
tation and passing round the snufYbox, the
troubled individual begins his speech : " Men,
friends ! to-day you see me in grief. You all
know I am a man of peace. I have wronged
no one. I have eaten my own food and
attended to my own business ; but an enemy
is plotting my ruin. My brother has been
suddenly taken away. A wizard is destroying
us. Tell me what I must do." Tlie replies
are guarded, but all unite in the opinion tliat
no time should be lost or expense begrudged
in applying to a diviner and through him to
the spirit world, that the foul deed may be
traced to its source.

The character and functions of Zulu divin-
ers, or spirit doctors, may be briefly described.
Various names are given to them. One is
izinyanga zokuhula (doctors of smiting), 1)6-
cause great use is made of canes in smiting
the ground by those who consult them. An-
other is izanuai (smellers out), or discover-
ers of criminals and those possessed with
witchcraft, believed to be in communication
with the amatongo.

The diviners work powerfully on the super-
stitions of tlieir countrymen. That they may
become thoroughly acquainted with their art,
they endure a great amount of self-sacrilice.
For instance, they leave their homes, isolate

100 Forty Years Among the Zulus,

themselves from their fellows, live and sleep in
solitary places, fraternize with wild animals,
endure hunger and cold and talk to the moon
until they become almost, if not quite, lunatic.

Their clothing is hideous, consisting of skins
of crocodiles and pythons, w^ith the teeth of
wild cats and fetiches of various kinds about
their necks, the bladders of birds and wild
beasts on their heads, and a long leopard's skin
dangling about their loins.

They formerly possessed unlimited power
over their deluded countrymen. One visited
an American mission station in Natal and
warned those who had nominally embraced
Christianity that if they remained longer
under the influence of the white teacher they
would all die. Terrified and weak in the faith
many left at once, some never to return.

Having observed closely the izanusi while
in the process of calling up the spirits, shout-
ing '-''Yizwa! yizwa! (Hear! hear!)" while the
seated consulters beat the ground with their
canes, and having listened to the ambiguous
oracles delivered to the ignorant and credulous,
I have not wondered that the people are

These crafty izanusi do not go into Hades
for nothing. A large fat ox is generally the
reward and often a goat besides. If not satis-
fied, they say to the people, " Give me some-
thing to wipe my eyes with," which means that
they are unable to see clearly, that they have
not been properly compensated.

» » ;•

Spint 'Wi^hif. . • i\ i ■•: : 101


It is a matter of thanksgiving that in vari
ous parts of South Africa the "smelling out
of individuals (pronouncing them witches) is
prohibited and a great amount of bloodshed
prevented through the intervention of British
autliority. May the time soon come when it
will cease entirely !

It is said tliat Chaka, who ruled in Zululand
at the beginning of this century, once had the
courage to charge all the izanusi in his king-
dom with being humbugs. During the night
he sprinkled blood about the royal kraal and
called the doctors to investigate the cause.
One smelt out this person, another that. Oidy
one guessed rightly, saying, '• 1 smell out the
heavens" (meaning the king). His life was
spared ; all the rest were killed.

Protracted and patient instruction will be
needed ere native Christians are wholly eman-
cipated from the idea that the ancestral spirits
are able to avert evil and that the izanusi have
dealings with them. I had occasion to disei-
pline two church members of several years'
standing for uniting secretly with their lieathen
friends in Sacrificing an ox to the spirit of their
father; the "doctor" having told them they
would die if they refused. Remove the deep'
seated superstitious regard Zulus have for their
dejiarted relatives and their faith in their
doctors of divination, and the keystone in the
arch of their religion will be gone.

From what has been said, it is evident that

spirit doctors " discharge a sacerdotal func-


102 Forty Yeats Ar.iong the Zulus.

tion, offering up sacrifices for which their mer-
cenary s^^irit leads them to demand good pay.
In propitiatory sacrifices they usually have a
part. It is exceedingly touching to observe
the reverential attitude and listen to the appar-
ently sincere and fervent supplications of the
aged men when engaged in their sacrifices.
S. O. Samuelson, Esq., thus speaks of them: —
" Beautiful and seemingly heartfelt prayers
are offered up to the spirits when, the animal
is killed, thanking them for all the mercies,
attention, protection, and care of the past, and
invoking a continuance of the same. The
weakness, helplessness, and worthlessness of
humanity are acknowledged and an entire
dependence on the spirits and their good offices
confessed. The prayer offered up occupies
some time, both before and after the animal is
killed, and is very interesting to those who
understand the native language. . . . When
the headman of a kraal performs the sacrifi-
cial rite he first selects an animal, and then,
with the male members of the kraal, goes into
the cattle enclosure into which tlie victim for
sacrifice has been previously brought. He
then engages in a long earnest prayer to the
spirits, holding the assegai specially reserved
for such occasions in his hand. The prayer
sets forth the weakness, dependence, and pov-
erty of the human race, and supplicates guid-
ance, strength, health, plenty, and security
from those who were in their time human and
acquainted with grief, but now are in a better

Spirit Wor»hip, 103

position and wlio alone ran give nect'.s.siii y
relief. After the prayer he hands the assegai
to one of his attendants to stab the ox. A
short prayer follows, asking the spirits to
accept favorably the saeritice. The blood llow-
ing from the wound is received into vessels
ready for the purpose, each hut bringing its
own special vessel, while there is one for the
whole kraal. It is used the next day for a
special dish, of which the natives are very fond;
called nhuhende^ consisting of small portions of
meat, fat, and entrails minced up and boiU'd in
the blood. A portion of the caul is set fire to
and taken from hut to hut in a burning state
as a pleasant incense to the spirits, the head-
man at the same time uttering a prayer for
peace and prosperity to the inmates. TIm' gall
bladder is cut out and its contents sprinkled on
the children and on himself, with a prayer to
the spirits that the young may enjoy health
and prosperity and that he may live to witness
it. The meat is roasted or boiled within the
cattle fold by the men. No females are allowed
to go within the enclosure, but meat is sent to
them where they are sitting near their huts."



ZULU superstitions are legion. For a tur-
key buzzard to light on a hut, for a cony
to run into a kraal, for a toad to jump into a
fireplace, is ominous of evil. The bleating of a
sheep while being slaughtered is a bad omen.
If a cow push off with her horns the lid of a
dish that holds Indian corn or other grain, it is
a sign that some calamity will happen.

No one dares to drink sour milk during a
thunderstorm, and no woman ventures to w^ork
in the garden the day after a hailstorm. A
fowl must never be carried through a field
when the corn is tasseling out, lest the crop be
blighted. Should a garden be in an unhealthy
state, fish skin, the Salter the better, is burned
and the ashes scattered over the ground to
cure diseases which are supposed to hinder

Various ceremonies are performed on infants,
and fathers are not allowed to see their own
babies until their little heads have been smoked
and they have undergone other absurd pro-
cesses. If twins are born, one is immediately
destroyed lest the father die. They justify
this habit, saying it is better for the mother and
for the remaining child ; but this superstition


Superstitions of the Zulus. 10"

is the true reason. The Zulus have great faitli
in certain nuulicines and often wear charms or
fetiches to ward off diseases and protect them
from enemies. One is often seen biting off a
bit of root from a piece suspentlud about his
neck to soften the heart of a person with
whom he wishes to make a bargain. Before
going into battle Zulu warriors drink certain
medicines to make their enemies faint-hearted.
To make dogs serviceable in liunting they arc
fed on the beaks and claws of birds. To ren-
der a man brave and successful on a hunting
excursion he must have leopard's wliiskers
pounded fine mixed with his food.

The medicine men carry about the where-
withal to make people love or hate, as suits
their purpose. If a young man finds his love
for a certain damsel unreturned, or su.speets
that she j)refers another, the doctor can give a
medicine to make her hate the latter and love
the former.

A heathen mother once administered a p(»w-
erful emetic to her son, who professed Christi-
anity, to nuike him cast up his new religion.

One cold rainy day I was called to examine
the corpse of a native which had l)een found
several miles from my home. The men who
discovered it feared they might be accused of
murder unless some white man saw tlie body.
Mounting my horse, I rode to the spot and
finding no marks of violence I had a grave
dug, and called upon sonuj of the twenty or
more men present to depcjsit the <lead man in

106 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

his last resting place. Not one of them would
budge an inch. I took a small bag of medi-
cines or charms from the pocket of his vest
(his only article of clothing) and poured them
out on my hand. The greatest consternation
was depicted on the faces of the natives. They
looked on me very much, I imagine, as did the
barbarous Melitans upon Paul when he shook
off the " venomous beast " from his hand. I
had to pull and roll the dead body into the
grave with my own hands and offer a prayer,
before they would even cover it with earth.
After the ride and exposure in the rain I had a
violent chill and I dosed myself vigorously,
remarking to my wife that it would never do
for me to be sick or die just then, as the
natives would believe it to be the effect of the
dead man's medicines. I was told afterwards
that no reward, however great, would have
induced one of them to touch that body. •

One of the first missionaries to the Zulus
was accustomed to take his overcoat to the
place of religious service whenever there was
a probability of rain. A drought having come,
he was importuned by no means to leave
behind his " rain-producing garment."

In speaking to children and showing Zulu
curios, I am sometimes asked about idols wor-
shiped by the natives. The Zulus are not
image-worshipers. If a Zulu hunter fails to kill
for several shots, he will take his gun to a spirit
doctor, who after examination usuallv informs
him that his deceased grandfather is angry with

SujursfifioHH of thi' Zuhm. 107

him. An ox must be slauL^htered before the
hunting can go on ; the gall of the animal is
scattered over the bodies of those engaged in
the sacrifice and a part of tlie beef is set
aside for the use of the spirit. The messenger
of the spirits it is said will come and take it;
but it is invariably swallowed by the natives.

The most fearful superstitions are thos«*
connected with witchcraft. A Zulu's imairina-
tion peoples all Southern Africa with wizards,
persons of the most dangerous character who
are supposed to wander a))out and depo.'-it
poison in the ])ath or before the kraals of
those who are victimized. I once poisoned
a hyena which ha<l been stealing my fowls
and buried the carcass. Two men came to
me in great excitement, begging me to exhume
the hyena and let the vultures consume it, lest
wizards should take the liver and poison the
whole country. I offered them spades to dig
it up themselves, but this they were unwilling
to do.

Zulus are great believers in (beams. Under
their guidance they perform the most al)sur<l
ceremonies ami do the strangest things. If
one who is on a hunting excursion, far from
home, should happen to dream that a relative
has died, he must abandon the hunt at once and
go and see if it be true. If not, he considers
it necessary to consult a spirit dcK-tor, who
must be paid for his services. Should the
information he receives from tlie spirit world
through the doctor confirm liis dream, then

108 Forty Years Among the Zulus,

an ox must be slaughtered as a sacrificial

A man dreams that an attempt has been
made to take his life by one whom he always
regarded as his true friend. On awaking he
says: "This is strange; a man who never
stoops to meanness wishes to destroy me. I
cannot understand it, but it must be true, for
' dreams never lie.' " Although the suspected
friend protests his innocence, he immediately
cuts his acquaintance.

If one dreams of being attacked by a buffalo,
or some other wild animal, the dreamer in-
quires, " What have I done that the spirits
send a wild beast to kill me?"

If in time of war the dream is of an enemy
coming to murder men, women, and children,
so terrified are the people that the kraal must
be removed at once to a place of safety.

The next dream may be of a serpent coming
and saying, " Do you know that when you
killed a serpent the other day you knocked
in the head of your grandfather who came to
visit you?" A fat ox must be slaughtered
to appease the offended spirit.

Curious to relate, a Zulu's dream of a
wedding or dance is ominous of evil, whereas
one of a sick or dead person is a good sign.

It will be long, I fear, before even Christian
Zulus are wholly emancipated from the power
of superstitious dreams. Listen to one whose
reason and piety were struggling against the
absurd notions of his people: —

Superstitio7i8 of the Zulus, 100

" Of what use will it be if when I pray I am
made to arise from my knees by beasts which
devour me, when forsooth they are not real ?
for I cannot get that for which I awake early
to pray unto the Lord, being prevented by the
beastvS which I see. When I was kneeling,
tliere came a snake to do as on other days.
I said. No ! To-day let me fed by my body
that it has already seized me. Then tliere
came a man runnini; to stab me at once. I
conquered liim. I went home, having jiscended
a rock of safety, saying. Oh, forsooth, I have
been hindered by fantasies ! " ^

Lightning fills the native mind with great
fear. It is not uncommon to see on the huts
half a dozen or more sticks that have been
medicated by '^lightning doctors" that no
harm may occur. These "doctors" are sup-
posed to possess the power of sending the elec-
tric current wherever they choose. Hence the
people stand in awe of them. The Zulus l>e-
lieve in a ""bird of heaven," which they say
comes down during a thunderstorm and is
found in localities which have been struck l)y
lightning. The '"doctors" watch for the aj>-
pearance of this bird, kill it, and use its fat
to anoint the lightning-sticks on the lints and
enable them to act on the heavens without
harm to themselves.

Earth(juakes are unspeakably awful phenom-
ena to the Zulus. One occurred in Natal, in
1850, shortly after I went to my station. 'I'lie

> Callaway'a Druaiii.-i of U»c ZuIuh.

110 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

men, savants of the tribe, assembled from far
and near to discuss the cause. Some said it
was the English firing off big cannon, fifty miles
away. Others, and the larger part, attributed
it to the rolling over in his grave of Chaka, an
old Zulu king. As they could not agree, the
decision was left to the missionary. One morn-
ing I perceived in front of my door twenty
or more men, delegates sent to inquire about
the earthquake. I gave them a brief geological
lecture and dismissed them, but I never heard
whether they were satisfied.

When an army is about to invade the enemy's
country a peculiar custom is observed to ascer-
tain whether victory or defeat will follow. It
is that of churning medicines. Two kinds are
chosen, one representing their king, the other
the enemy. These medicines are placed in
separate dishes, and if the one representing tlie
enemy froths up suddenly, whilst that repre-
senting the king does not, they regard it as a
sign that the enemy will prove too strong for
them and the army is not allowed to go out to

Sneezing is regarded by the Zulus as an
indication of good health, and immediately
after this operation they ejaculate thanks to
the spirits of their ancestors. The exclama-
tion often is : " Spirits of our people, grant
me long life!" The time spent in sneezing
is considered lucky, for then the spirits are
more benevolent than at other times. Zulu
diviners, it is said, are apt to sneeze freely

Superstitions of tin'. Zu/iix. 1 1 1

wlu'ii ill the process of divination and it is
considered a sign that the si)irits are present.

When cattle stray away from a Zulu kraal
and are lost, a hawk called iiiipumiiinjinnmufat}^
about the size of a crow, is consulted. If it
points it« head in a lertain direction, searchers
are immediately sent towards tliat point secure
in the belief that tliey will find tlie lost animals.

S. C. Samuelson, Ks(|., h;is recorded a large
number of Zulu superstitions, among wliich
are the following : —

"Till of late, and perhaps now in some
localities, it has been regarded its sorcery to
carry manure into a garden, for if he who does
it should have a larger crop than his neighlnu-s
suspicions niiglit arise that wouhl lead to his
deatli. Ihus they are prevented from fertiliz-
ing the soil, and the poor women are constantly
obliged to find new places for planting.

*' There are certain mountains which are
objects of special regard, at which natives dare
not point with liie e.xtended finger, l)ut with
the fist or thumb, lest tliunder and liail storms

**No one dares to kill a turkey buzzard, lest
the arm with which it was done bo paralyzed.

"A person alllictcMl with mumps must go to
an ant-bear's hole and shout, '6^2af//V/rf.' uzaijiija!
(The mumps! the mumpsi).' If lie returns
home without looking Ixiek, the disease will
leave him.

** If an otter should In? killed in the (lay-
time, it must not be removed until a certain

112 Forty Years Among the Zulus,

amount of manoeuvering is accomplished for
fear of a deluge, the otter being a water

" Women, when sowing grain, carry with
them the leaves and roots of the isidwa (yellow
lily), as it is supposed to improve the nutritive
qualities of the grain to be produced.

" When a girl reaches a marriageable age, a
cow must be slaughtered for her. If not, she
will be a barren wife.

" The hair and skin of a hyena, burned, is a
powerful remedy for kidney diseases among

''The crossing of a threshold by a peculiar
serpent with a horny spine portends a serious
calamity. This serpent is supposed to recover,
although its back is broken many times. The
spirits restore it. Some hold that the inlilon-
hlo, a species of the imamba family, a very
dangerous serpent, cannot possibly be killed.

" According to Zulu belief, any object, a stick
or chip or certain spots in the highway, may be
so doctored as to cause death when touched
by an individual.

" A fabulous animal named utokoto is said
to exist, which has a special fondness for the
flesh of human females.

''Monkeys' tails, according to Zulu belief,
originated as follows: — A party of women
who were digging in a garden gave chase to
a troop of those animals and beat them on
their backs with their heavy hoes. Imme-
diately the long tails appeared.

Superiftition^ of the Zulutt. 1 \\

"A chiss of spirits called Imiknvu is an object
of great terror. Fliey are said to be speechless
and wandering about in forests. Death is the
result of contact with them.

" Natives believe that anyone charged with
au offense has the power, by eating a certain
root, of causing the assembly of men trying
him lo wander in tlicir minds so tliat they
cannot arrive at a decision."

A kind of divination lalled umli/ti/" is nu't
with among the Zulus. "A native doctor
may pour water into a calabasli full of small
holes, and by this means, observing the direc-
tion in which it spouts, he can divine the
direction from whence the disease has ciune
upon his patient. Kings have made use "f
umlingo to divine the proliiibility of success
in their undertakings. riiis was done in
several ways. One was to sprinkle hot water
on some of the soldiers about to comnunce
their march, and if they were not scalded so
that blisters were formed then the enemy
would succeed."

Umahope is a i'lind)ing plant witli re<l root.s,
bits of which are worn alniut the necks
by natives for charms. The root is chewed
by Zulus for a few minutes when going to
battle and then they spit it out in the di-
rection of the enemy. It is believed that the
enemy will in consequence commit some fool-
ish act which will lead to destruction.

To quote further from Mr. Samuelson : —

"The custom of * rendering the army invul-

114 Forty Years Among the Zulus.

nerable,' as it is called, preparatory to its com-
mencing hostile operations against an enemy,
takes place in the chief kraal and all the
men have to attend. The sacrificial beast is
selected by the doctor in charge of the pro-
ceedings. The animal is at once caught and
thrown down by force. The skin is removed
from one shoulder, and it is cut out before
the animal is killed. The flesh of the shoulder
is cut into long strips, roasted on the coals of
a fire prepared for the purpose, into which
certain kinds of bitter herbs and roots are
thrown by the doctor. The flesh is roasted
and made to pass through the smoke arising
from this fire. The meat is then ready to be
eaten ; each man bites off a mouthful of a strip
and passes it on to the next man. When the
meat is consumed, the doctor sprinkles the
men with water into which has been put some
pulverized charcoal of the flesh and medicines
I have named. All this while the poor victim
has been left to writhe in agony. It is now
killed and the flesh consumed. It is publicly
eaten by all the men present. All the bones
are burned. No females may have any of the
flesh of an animal killed for this ceremony.

" The medicine used by the natives in purifi-
cation after killing any one is called icima
mlilo (fire-quencher) and it is composed of
a variety of ingredients answering very much
to this prescription : —

Tooth of fox and weasel's bone,
Eye of cat and skull of cat,

Supcn<tition8 of the Zulus. llo

And the hooked wing of bat ;
Mandnike root and murderer's gore,
Henbane, liendock, hellebore,
Litliiuin, storax, bdellium, borax,
Ink of cuttletLsh and feather
Of screech owl smoke to<j:other.

'•A biitli is iilso necessary after the inedicino
is taken. A native must always go through
the process of purification after killing any
one, and in case of lioniicide or murder it
would l»e a most important bit of evich-nce
against any one could it be proved that he
had been usinsf the icima mlilo and had taken
a bath soon after such a deed was committed.

*' There is a class of people, known by the
natives as izinxweliihoi/a^ who are believed
to haunt isolated and unoccupied parts of the
country where thick mists and fogs are prev-
alent. They are said to be uhatahati (mis-
creants and evil dcjers of the worst class) who

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