Monday, October 31, 2011

Legends and Superstitions

Over the past month American's have been gearing up for All Hollow's Eve. They have been watching scary movies, going to haunted houses, carving pumpkins, and creating the best costumes all in the spirit of Halloween.

Here in Botswana, the Batswana don't celebrate Halloween, but they do have some of their own beliefs in other worldly things. I thought I would take some time to share some of them*

There are sects of the Batswana tribes that believe in ancestor spirits. They believe their ancestors have a big influence on their lives and that when an ancestor calls on them they must listen. For example, last year there was a big youth forum in the Bobirwa District (the northern "nose" part of Botswana where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet). Some of the volunteers who went to it said that many kids would get up in the middle of the night and start wondering off into the bush and no one seemed concerned. When they asked the teachers why this was happening, they said the students were being called back by their ancestors. There was also another incident where two girls were sharing a dorm room together. One girl had a glow in the dark necklace. The other girl started crying and saying that her ancestors didn't want her to stay in the same room with the other girl because of her necklace. In my village I haven't really heard too much talk about ancestors, but I do know there are a few religious sects in the village that worship their ancestors.

Witches are also something many people in my village and surrounding area believe in. They think witches can take many forms such as cats. For instance people in my village are afraid of my cat Dijo because he is black so they automatically think he is a witch (molowgi--Setswana word for witch). I have also heard that witches travel in bread, so when you are in the store make sure you check your loaf before buying it or you might end up bringing a witch to your house.

The most interesting thing I have heard of since coming here is the belief in the Tokoloshe (pronounced tho-ko-lo-see). 

Tokoloshe actually comes from the Xhosa word uthikoloshe. It is believed to be a short, hairy, dwarf-like creature from the Bantu folklore, and it can become invisible by swallowing a small pebble. I have heard that in order to get your own Tokoloshe you must go to a na'anga (witch doctor) and have it cast. If you get a Tokoloshe it will clean your house, wash your clothes, clean your yard and soon you will be rich. Sounds great right? Well there is one more thing to having a Tokoloshe. They come with a steep price. The payment for having them do all these nice things for you is sex. Apparently the Tokoloshe will come and rape you whenever they want. I was also told that when you go to the witch doctor to conjure up a Tokoloshe you can specify who will make the payment. This is where is gets scary. The Tokoloshe then could be doing all these nice things for one person but then you are the one who has to make the payment without your consent. But don't worry there are ways of getting rid of a Tokoloshe if you are afraid your enemy might cast one on you. You can go to the local witch doctor and have him/her banish the Tokoloshe  from the area. If you don't know where your local witch doctor is, you can always use the Tokoloshe Repelling Salts. You spread these around the house to keep the Tokoloshe away. You can also dissolve them in water and spray the salts around the house. For times you are leaving your house and you are worried the Tokoloshe might follow you, you can dissolve the salts in water and take a bath in it. These wonderful salts are available at your local General Dealer or Sefelana Superstore and come in many different colors.

Here's a poem I found about the Tokoloshe:

Look out here comes the Tokoloshe
be sure you don’t annoy him
he’s evil and he’s hard to see
and you never will destroy him
He’s eaten a pebble but you know that he’s there
because strange things are occurring
there’s a rattling in the rafters
and the cat has ceased his purring
The fire’s gone out and a cold wind swirls
and a window is flapping about
then suddenly everything’s quiet
a silence as loud as a shout
You’d best call the n’anga now
he’s the only one who can save you
he’ll exorcise the tokoloshe
before he can enslave you

To find out more about some of the other myths and legends from Southern Africa and more about the Tokoloshe which you can go here or here.

Happy Halloween!

*The beliefs I have written about are things I have heard about in the village and I by no means am saying they are real things are not or completely accurate in description. I have not encountered any of these things myself but have only heard about them. Believe what you will and have a safe Halloween!

1 comment:

  1. very interesting post thank you.
    i've been living in Botswana for about 2 and a half years now and always wondered about what kind of superstitions they have.
    of course i know about the Tokoloshe since i grew up in africa but i'm glad to read about this on someone else's blog :)

    you should check out the 'river bushmen' or Hambakush. also very interesting.