MYTHOLOGIES FROM ZAMBIA

Africa is home to some of the largest, strangest, and more fearsome creatures on Earth. For centuries, humans have tried to make sense of them. Why does the zebra have a striped coat? What’s the purpose of the giraffe’s long neck? How did crocodiles get their protective armor? Our ancient ancestors tried to find explanations through stories. Now, modern science brings us the answers–and it turns out the truth is stranger than fiction. There is something mysterious and magnetic about Lake Tanganyika in Northern Zambia. Little traveled and little known to the outside world, the people still hold old beliefs true. Its a place where Christianity and Witchcraft live hand in hand and the best knowledge is carried over by word of mouth from the village elders. Its almost like time has stood still. There are two tribes here, the Tabwa Tribe – around Ndole Bay, Nsumbu and to the south and the predominant Lungu Tribe- East of the Lufubu River and north along the shores of Tanzania.

KHOISAN AND BATWA

Ancient (but graffitied) Rock Art in Nsalu Cave, Kasanka National Park in North-Central Zambia. Modern Zambia once was inhabited by the Khoisan and Batwa peoples until around AD 300, when migrating Bantu began to settle the areas.[18] It is believed the Khoisan people originated in East Africa and spread southwards around 150,000 years ago. The Twa people were split into two groups: the Kafwe Twa lived around the Kafue Flats and the Lukanga Twa who lived around the Lukanga Swamp.[19] Many examples of ancient rock art in Zambia, like the Mwela Rock PaintingsMumbwa Caves, and Nachikufu Cave, are attributed to these early hunter-gatherers. 

FUNKWE

The Funkwe is a colossal snake from the folklore of the Lambas of Zambia. It is approximately eighty miles in length and has a tail like that of a fish. These serpents live at the sources of the Kafulafuta and Itabwa rivers, coiled up in holes deep beneath the surface. When a funkwe wants fish to be abundant, it starts swimming downstream, followed by schools of fish. Eventually its head reaches the great Kafue river while its tail is still at the source of the Kafulafuta – a span of eighty miles. It returns from the big river and brings the big fish with it.

The Funkwe [Lamba mythology]

The Funkwe, also called Mwine Mulonga (“the lord of the rivers”) is described by the Lamba people (Zambia) as a colossal snake with the tail of a fish. It is entirely invisible, but its presence is betrayed by sudden floods among marshlands and streams. The creature itself makes its lair in the riverbed, and spits out volumes of water that cause the floods. It can – at least in some versions – also shapeshift into a human form. When threatened, they can exhale poisonous gases. In some stories, this creature can grow to be several miles in length. They are not dumb animals, but intelligent creatures, and there is at least one tale about a Funkwe taking on a human shape and marrying a woman. In the Roan Antelope copper mine in Luanshya (Zambia), a lot of workers died and locals blamed the presence of a Funkwe, or a similar snake monster. In 1927, administrator Stephenson arranged an exorcism to drive out the creature. I do not know whether the occurrence of lethal incidents declined after this, though I would assume it didn’t. Two years later, the swamp where the mine was built was drained, and fewer people fell ill or died. It should be noted that the swamp was home to a number of lethal diseases, including malaria. The mine retained its notoriety, however, and locals refused to come near it.

CHIPIQUE

A serpent lives at the foot of Victoria Falls – at least, that’s what Dr. Livingstone presumed. Barotse folklore holds that this monster, the Chipique, came from the ocean, traveling over a thousand miles to rest at the falls. The chipique rules the river by night, and it is unsafe to approach Victoria Falls during that time. Thirty feet in length, the chipique can easily grab a canoe and immobilize it. Its head is small and slate-grey, while its serpentine, heavy body winds in black coils.

CHIPEKWE

Melland gives chipekwe as referring to a one-tusked elephant in the Kaonde language of Zambia. This is probably irrelevant.The Chipekwe is a massive, allegedly reptilian, pachyderm-slaying creature found around and in Lake Bangweulu in Zambia. Most encounters consist of unrecognizable spoors, or the noise of some large animal splashing through the water. A chipekwe has a hairless, smooth, dark body and a single smooth horn, white as polished ivory. Chipekwes do not take well to humans invading their territory. Canoes are destroyed and their occupants are killed. Hippos fare no better – the chipekwe kills them by tearing their throats out. At least one chipekwe is known to have been slain in the Luapula, brought down by the same large harpoons used for hippo hunting.

MOKELE-MBEMBE

Mokele-mbembe

Tales of the Mokele-mbembe, “One Who Stops the Flow of Rivers” (or, more simply, “River-Shutter”), come from the Congo River Basin, around the Ikelemba, Sanga, and Ubangi rivers and Lake Tele. It is the most discussed and well-known of the “African mystery beasts” primarily due to the cryptozoological interpretation that defines it as a surviving sauropod dinosaur. It – or its unnamed predecessor, at any rate – was initially described as hailing from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). There is nothing unique about the mokele-mbembe. It is at least four notable mythic creatures: the river-shutter, the pachyderm slayer, the unicorn, and the giant reptile. River-shutters are sub-Saharan creatures with an aptitude for withholding or releasing a river’s water; in communities dependent on life-giving water, this can mean the difference between life and death. The pachyderm slayer – a creature so mighty and dangerous that it routinely kills the biggest and scariest animals known – is a far broader category that has been famously applied to the dragon and the unicorn. The presence of a single horn is a recurring feature of monsters, most notably the unicorn. Finally, giant reptiles (often irresponsibly called “dragons”) are a worldwide theme. The first to suggest the existence of a large dinosaurian creature was big-game hunter and zoo supplier Carl Hagenbeck. Hagenbeck reports a huge animal, half elephant and half dragon, from deep within Rhodesia (not the Congo, where the mokele-mbembe eventually took up residence). He said that there are drawings of it on Central African caves but provides no further detail on that angle. All in all it is “seemingly akin to the brontosaurus [sic]”. Hans Schomburgk, one of Hagenbeck’s sources, stated that the lack of hippos on Lake Bangweulu was due to a large animal that killed hippos. An expedition sent by Hagenbeck to investigate the creature’s existence found nothing. Tantalizing as it may be, the entire episode with the nameless saurian is no more than an aside in Hagenbeck’s book, an attempt to attract potential investors by capitalizing on the contemporary “dinomania” sweeping the globe.

AKAMPESHIMPESHI

Akampeshimpeshi

According to the Lamba people of Zambia, there is a great lake of water above the dome of the sky. This lake is held back by a weir protected by guardians appointed by Lesa (God). Sometimes Lesa appoints children to guard it, and their irresponsible playing makes holes in the weir and allow the water to spill to earth as rain. When Lesa appoints grown men to guard the weir, then there is no rain. Lightning (akampeshimpeshi) is caused by the guardians of the weir swinging and tossing their knives (imyele). The knives do not fall – if they did, the earth would be destroyed. When a flash of lightning hits the ground, an animal descends to the ground on the end of a long cobweb. It looks like a goat, with beard and horns, but has the feet and tail of a crocodile. Usually it returns to the sky on its string of web; if the cobweb breaks, the animal will be trapped on the ground and cry like a goat. In this state it is very dangerous and might kill people, so it is mobbed, killed, and burned by the Lambas. Anyone trying to slay this beast must have protective medicine (ubwanga bwayamba) to avoid being killed themselves.

NKALA

Nkala

The Nkala is one of several sorcerous familiars associated with witchcraft in Zambia. A nkala kills people by eating their shadows. Anyone in possession of a nkala, therefore, has obtained it for criminal purposes. It takes the form of a crab, 4 feet long, almost as wide as it is long. It has a head at either end, each head resembling that of a hippo, complete with the lumps by the eyes. Sometimes those are described as “nose-like projections”. It eats shadows with both heads at the same time. To kill a nkala, medicine is prepared from nkala remains and placed in a duiker horn sealed with wax. A second duiker horn is partially filled and used as a whistle to attract the nkala. Once the creature shows itself in response to the whistle, it is shot. The “noses”, large claws, and some of the other claws are taken for use in medicine.

ILOMBA

The Ilomba is one of several familiar spirits associated with sorcerers and witchcraft in Zambia. Malomba appear as snakes with human heads and share the features and emotions of their owners. As malomba are obtained through deliberate sorcery in order to kill enemies or steal food, anyone suspected of having an ilomba is up to no good. That said, powerful chiefs and hunters are said to have their own malomba to protect them from witchcraft. Owners of malomba are usually male. Evil sorcerers can make malomba in a number of ways. Most commonly, a mixture of certain medicines and water is made and placed on a piece of bark. Five duiker horns are placed next to this. A plait of luwamba or mbamba (spiky grass) is made to about 15-18 inches long and 0.5-1 inch wide; the duiker horns are placed at one end of this plait. Fingernail parings from the client are put in the horns, and blood taken from the client’s forehead and chest are mixed with the medicine. Some of the concoction is drunk by the client, while the rest is sprinkled onto the plait with a second luwamba plait. After the first sprinkling, the plait turns ash-white. The second sprinkling turns it into a snake. The third gives it a head and shoulders that resemble the client in miniature, including any jewelry present. The shoulders soon fade away to leave only the head. The ilomba then addresses its master. “You know and recognize me, you see that our faces are similar?” When the client answers both questions in the affirmative, then they are given their ilomba. Once obtained, an ilomba will live wherever the owner desires it to, but usually this is in riverside reeds. Soon it makes its first demand for the life of a person. The owner can then designate the chosen target, and the ilomba kills the victim. It kills by eating its victim’s life, by consuming their shadow, or by simply feasting on their flesh or swallowing them whole. Then it returns and crawls over its owner, licking them. People who keep mulomba become sleek and fat and clean, are possessed of long life, and will not die until all their relatives are dead. This comes at a steep price, however, as the ilomba will hunger again, and continue eating lives. If it is not allowed to feed itself, its owner will grow weak and ill until the ilomba feeds again. Soon the unnatural death toll will be noticed, and a sorcerer is called in to divine the hiding place of the ilomba. To kill an ilomba, a sorcerer will sprinkle nsompu medicine around its suspected lair. This causes the water level to rise and the ground to rumble. First fish, then crabs, and finally the ilomba itself appear. The snake is promptly shot with a poisoned arrow – and its owner feels its pain. They die at the same time.

Ilomba
Origins- Lozi (Zambia)
Seasnake
A that is the creation of a sorcerer to attack it’s maker’s desired enemy. It appears as a regular seasnake to normal people but on the desired target it has the head of it’s creator.
The eyes of the Ilomba...

Ilomba – Seasnake

A  that is the creation of a sorcerer to attack it’s maker’s desired enemy. It appears as a regular seasnake to normal people but on the desired target it has the head of it’s creator. The eyes of the Ilomba paralyses the victim with fear and bites it sucking the blood and devouring its soul that makes the Ilomba double in size. The sorcerer or witchdoctor collects these souls to use as zombies. Because of it’s spirital and blood ties of its creator if the Ilomba is hurt so is the creator. If the Ilomba is killed the creator dies too, the witchdoctor who created it can destroy it but once it is destroyed the souls that the Ilomba killed will haunt the sorcerer forever.

KONGAMATO

Kongamato

The Kongamato, “overwhelmer of boats”, is a river-shutter of Kasempa District in northern Zambia. It is known from Kaonde folklore, and the Jiundu Swamp is one of its favorite haunts. The fact that the Jiundu has historically been a haven for thieves, murderers, and assorted lowlifes is probably relevant. A kongamato is a kind of bird, or rather a lizard with the membranous wings of a bat. It has a wingspan of 4 to 7 feet across and lacks feathers, its body covered in skin. It is mostly red in color. The beak is armed with sharp teeth. Claims that the kongamato is a surviving pterosaur are best forgotten. Kongamatos live downstream of river fords. There they cause the river to stop flowing and the water level to rise, overwhelming and tipping over canoes. Sometimes a canoe will slow down and come to a dead stop despite the paddler’s best efforts; this is because a kongamato has seized the boat from underneath the water. Few people see a kongamato and live, and the kongamato itself is invulnerable and immortal, eating any projectile thrown at it and leaving no physical trace of itself behind. When it kills people it devours only the two little fingers, the two little toes, the earlobes, and the nostrils. That said, four deaths attributed to the kongamato in 1911 did not record any such mutilation; more likely, then, that a kongamato caused their deaths by the flooding of the Mutanda River near Lufumatunga. To ward off kongamato attack, the charm known as muchi wa kongamato is used. This consists of mulendi tree root ground and mixed with water. The resulting paste is placed in a bark cup. When crossing a dangerous ford, the mixture is sprinkled onto the water using a bundle of mulendi bark strips. This wards off the kongamato and its floods.

ICHISONGA

Ichisonga

The Ichisonga is a pachyderm-slayer from the folklore of the Lambas of Zambia, usually found in the Kafue River. It is a herbivorous water beast that resembles a rhinoceros and has a horn on its forehead. Although a grass-eater, the ichisonga has a special hatred for the hippopotamus. If an ichisonga hears a hippo, it leaves the Kafue River, traveling along the bank so the hippo does not scent it. Then it re-enters the water, goes for the largest bull hippo, and stabs it to death with its horn. If an elephant is killed nearby, the ichisonga will roar and drive the hunters away from the carcass. It then stays near the elephant’s remains for days until the carcass rots. The ichisonga is motivated by uŵulwishya – jealousy.

African Mythology in Zambia

African mythology of the local Tonga tribe of the Zambezi Valley states that Nyami Nyami the River God who lives in Lake Kariba is believed to be a serpent-like creature. He is said to be about three metres wide, but nobody dares to guess at his length. Legends has it that the water stains red when he swims past. Chief Sampakaruma saw him on two occasions many years ago, but the river god has been in hiding since the white men arrived in the country. According to African mythology he lived under a large rock close to the present day Kariba dam wall. No tribesman would venture near it those few who did were sucked down with their canoes in the whirlpools and never seen again. They called the rock Kariwa, the “trap” and hence the name of the lake, Kariba. The rising water of lake Kariba covered the rock Kariwa and it now lies 30 metres below the surface annoying Nyami Nyami. The Tonga people also believe that Nyami Nyami is married and that the building of Kariba Dam wall would separate him from his wife, this would anger him greatly and the river god threatened the peace of the valle.

The Chitapo [Lamba mythology]

River and lake spirits are a very common motif in myths and legends from around the world. One such example is the Chitapo from the mythology of the Lamba people, who live in what is now Zambia. This is a female lake spirit, who resides at the bottom of a lake and hoards diamonds and emeralds. Chitapo are malicious and lure people to a watery grave, not unlike sirens and mermaids in European legends. It is also said – though this part is a bit unclear – that when a child is born under ill omens, a Chitapo disposes it the newborn baby. I am not sure how she does this, and what her motives are for doing so. These beings are sometimes described as mermaids, with the upper body of an attractive woman and the lower body of a fish. However, this may not always have been the case, as some anthropologists propose that the mermaid-like imagery may have resulted from conflation between the myth of the Chitapo – a water spirit taking the form of a human woman – and the Funkwe – a giant water snake with the tail of a fish. The two myths do overlap to some extent, with locals claiming that the two creatures inhabit the same lakes in some instances, such as in lakes Nakamwale, Kashiba and Namulolobwe. It is also said that the Funkwe serves as a guardian for the Chitapo, and guards the latter’s treasure.

Mythology of the people of Lake Tanganyika

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