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Ndebele concept of evil creatures and spirits

By Thomas Sibanda

According to Ndebele spirituality, when a person dies, the spirit, force or personality that leaves the body at death known as isithunzi/shadow wanders until it is “brought home” (ukubuyiswa).

Isithunzi hangs around where the deceased used to spend most of his time. It is said that the spirit being will not be aware that it has been separated from the body. People will continue seeing the deceased until special ceremonies are done for his spirit to go in peace.

Evil spirits and beings under the control of witches were divided into two kinds, the visible isituhwana (singular) and the invisible, umkhoba. Izituhwana (plural) appeared in many forms. At times they would manifest in the form of a person who died from a violent death.

They could also manifest as isipoko, a fireball or raging ambers. Isipoko is a large ball of fire or embers that would move across the veld at a great speed, sometimes rising in the air and rapidly falling again. It was believed that, if isipoko came near you, you would die.

Amaduba were another type of izituhwana.  These were small four-legged creatures which sometimes or walked on two legs like a human. They could run on four legs like animals. It was believed that they could milk cows at night or make noises like cats.

Umkhoba manifested as footsteps but remained invisible to the human eyes. Umkhoba could inflict heavy blows, hurl stones, sexually assault or engage in other violent acts without any human agency. Violent assault by umkhoba were believed to lead to paralysis or death.

Singing whilst walking at night was believed to chase away umkhoba.

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