Witchcraft and lightning!

38

Sharon Chigeza

MUTARE-Now that the rains are upon us, many are rejoicing as water is associated with life.
People plant with the hopes of good harvests in months to come, animals rejoice at the
availability of good pastures and water. However some people may not entirely be happy
because of the dark side that comes with the rainy season.
Lightning! Yes lightning. This is especially so in Manicaland. Legend has it, though not entirely
proven or dismissed that people from Manicaland manufacture lightning and use it against
perceived enemies.
A significant number of people believe lightning is a powerful voodoo or black magic tool. That
it can be sent by the offended who is also considered the manufacturer, to strike and kill their
target in order to settle certain scores hence the dreaded saying, ‘ Tosangana maenza!’ loosely
translated ‘we shall meet in summer!’
Some believe that witches have the ability to send rain and thunderstorms to strike and kill their
targets.
The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) Mutare Museum, in one of their
galleries dedicated to capturing the essence of tradition and culture in Manicaland has on display
‘the lightning set’.
Mutare Musuem public relations officer Lloyd Makonya said the gallery is a reflection of the
way of life of most cultural tribes in Manicaland, including their beliefs in witchcraft and
traditional healing.
“The region strongly believes in the existence of witchcraft and the machinations of such and
thus we have on display a collection of paraphernalia regarded to be the tools of trade in
witchcraft and sorcery. Among the displays is the ‘lightning bolt set’, which I should say is the
star attraction of the gallery,” said Makonya.
The lightning bolt set or rather put the ingredients of manufacture are a four piece assemble of
two liquid bottles, a small horn and sticks tied into a neat little bundle and enclosed in a glass
bottle.
Makonya said the ensemble was voluntarily offered to the museum by someone from Mutasa
district. Due to confidentiality reasons and the safety of the general populace, the name and place
of the lightning set origin has been kept under wraps.
Mutasa district is thus home of the ‘Manyika’ people who have been notoriously known for
settling their scores with lightning. It is also said the word ‘maenza’ is manyika for the summer
season which in other Shona dialects is known as ‘zhizha’.

In an interview with Pungwe News, a traditional healer and herbalist known as Sekuru James
Gabaza from Chipinge, said there were two kinds of lightning in existence, natural and man-
made lightning.
He however dismissed beliefs that lightning may be used by witches in witchcraft but rather
claimed it was an instrument of revenge used by an ordinary person.
“Scientifically, lightning is known as an electric charge that is formed in the sky during the rains.
Traditionally it is said to be a manufactured phenomenon which may be used by an individual
seeking revenge on an offender,” said Sekuru Gabaza.
He said the effectiveness of the lightning bolt revenge mechanism was all dependent on the
gravity of the matter on which the offended individual sought revenge on.
“This form of revenge is not used on trivial matters like beer hall brawls or simple
misunderstanding. For one to be able to use such kind of supernatural power, they have to prove
beyond doubt that the offender had committed a serious offence, he said.
Gabaza categorised the offences that warranted such revenge as loss of livestock through theft,
adultery and any other offence that would have caused the oppressed great pain and suffering.
The Ndau, found in the Chipinge and Chimanimani districts, just like the Manyika are also
notoriously known for their use of voodo and black magic. Contrary to beliefs in Mutasa district,
lighting in Chipinge, among the Ndau people has a different recipe of manufacture.
The Ndau believe that lightning has a specific tree in which it resides and ‘lays its eggs’, a tree
known as ‘mumheni’.
It is believed one intending to seek revenge approaches a traditional healer who specialises in
‘lightning mail’ to seek mailing services.
The traditionalist takes a part of the mumheni tree, usually the root which is mixed together with
a fish species known as an eel. An electric eel is known for its ability to stun its prey by
generating electricity delivering shocks of up to 860 volts.
These ingredients combined, are put over a fire and as the healer conjures up the spirit of the
offender through the use of the offenders’ clan name and place of residence.
However, to counter such revenge, the offender knowing fully well they may be at risk of being
struck by unnatural lightning can also seek preventative measures.
As such, the root of yet another special plant is planted on all four corners of the alleged
offender’s homestead and this is known to act as a lightning conductor preventing harm to
people and animals around the homestead.
The use of lightning by human force however is not entirely confined to Manicaland Province.
Among the Batonga in Binga District, Matebeleland North Province, lightning is regarded as
both as security mechanism as well as weapon of mass destruction when one seeks revenge on an
enemy.

They believe in using lightning bolts for personal defense, protection of sacred shrines and as
well as for protection against witchcraft.
The BaTonga however have a wildly different recipe for their revenge lightning bolt
manufacture. It is among this tribe that they believe in the rain bird that is captured at young age
and nurtured till it is ready for use.
When the time comes, a white cord is tied around the bird as it is sent out in the direction of the
perceived enemy. Once the intended target makes eye contact with the white cord it sparks and
immediately strikes its target.
The presence of lightning is a historically and currently existing cultural aspect where lightning
is viewed as part of a deity. This may by some means give explanation to the bizarre and
mystical circumstance to which some of the lightning victims have succumbed to.
The most classic portrayals of such presence of a deity is that of the Greek god Zeus. Zeus is
believed to have been given the thunder bolt as a weapon when he was at war against Cronus.
In Slavic mythology the highest god is Perun, the god of thunder and lightning. In Norse
mythology, Thor is the god of thunder and the sound of thunder comes from the chariot he rides
across the sky whilst lightning comes from his hammer.
In Japan, the Shinto god, Raijin is considered the god of lightning and thunder. He is depicted as
a demon who strikes a drum to create lightning.
In Christianity, lightning is attributed to the divine nature and power of God. Lightning as
referenced in Exodus 9: 24, 2 Samuel 22:15 and Job 37 symbolises the wrath of God. Most
probably why in African Traditional Religion lightning has been associated with revenge as a
symbol of wrath over bygones.
According to science, lightning is a flash of light created by an electric discharge. A cloud that
produces lightning will tend to have rain falling out of it. Science has explained the precipitation
process within a cloud as the reason to why lightning occurs.
As ice and water develop in the clouds there is an electric build up. The build-up on each ice and
water drop is very small but the huge number of ice crystals and water drops creates a large
electrical difference between different portions of the cloud.
Lightning occurs to balance the electrical build in clouds or between the clouds and the ground
and thunder is created by a rapid expansion of air. When lightning moves through the air it
increases the temperature of the air dramatically in a short space of time. The air then cools
rapidly. It is this rapid expansion and contraction of the air that gives off the sound waves that
are heard as lightning strikes.
Scientifically, no human has the ability to send rain accompanied by lightning to strike a target!

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