Lemba [cult in southern French Congo and on lower Zai:re river]

pp. 49-51 marriage of nobility

p. 49

in Loango (known in French as "Pointe Noire"), "Kings married ... usually with commoner and client women.


... noblewomen ... married ... usually with a client or male slave, and sometimes ... retaining a series of male concubines." {likewise among the Nayar of Kerala --- TK}


in Sonyo among the Solongo, "the princes ... would contract a bride payment with one woman, and then go off and have children by another, leaving the first union unconsummated." {This (unconsummated marriage followed by producing children with a sexual partner with whom there is no legal marriage) is likewise customary amongst the Nayar – DM & FS}

p. 51

in Kavati in north Yombe (inland from Loango), "Noblewomen ... keep a series of male concubines".

TK = http://www.jadski.com/kerala/f3taravadsofkerala.htm

DM = http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/marriage/defining.html

FS = http://www.jadski.com/kerala/f4femalesexuality.htm

pp. 51-53 mat, shrines, satchels, etc. (at Loango during 1660s Chr.E.)

p. 51

ma-lemba "consists of a small four-cornered mat one-and-a-half feet square. with a string at the top [for suspending it from the wall], on which are hung several small calabashes, cuttlebones, feathers, dry shells, iron bits, bones,

p. 52

... all colored with tukula-red ... . To celebrate it a boy takes a small drum and strikes it in a distinctive way, accompanied by the resonance of rattling shell whistles."


patron-deity "of merchants and fishermen" : "Tiriko, a shrine located in nearby Boarie, with four anthropomorphic pillars to hold up the roof."


patron-deity of merchants : "Boessi-Batta ... consisted of ... a large lion-skin sack filled with ... shells, iron bits, herbs, tree bark, feathers, ore, resin, roots, seeds, rags, fishbones, claws, horns teeth, hair and nails of albinos and other "unnatural" creatures (ndondos); to this satchel were added two calabashes covered with shells (Schnackenho:rnern, simbos) and topped with a bush of feathers, decorated with iron hooks, and colored with tukula wood (red). Atop this calabash a mouth-like orifice had been carved, into which was poured [palm-]wine to activate the n’kisi. The whole set of objects, satchel and calabashes, was placed atop a table-like construction". "On returning with new wares, the priest would ... incant in a rising tone of voice as he unpacked the n’kisi ingredients. Presently his eyes would exorbit, and he would become possessed with the spirit of Tiriko. ... he would declare the wish of Boessi-Batta".

p. 53

"Kikokoo, an anthropomorphic wooden shrine standing in the seaside village of Kinga, at the side of a large cemetery ..., ... protected the dead against witches ... who in their nocturnal craft would drag off the souls of the dead to slavery and forced labor."


"N’kisi Bomba was celebrated ... with the coming out of Khimba initiates".


"Makongo, consisting of rattles, drums, small sacks, and red fish hooks;


Mimi, a small house shrine in a banana grove with a throne holding a basket of objects including a [necklace] of seashells and a wooden statue of Father Masako ...;


Kossi, a sack of white snail shells, filled with white clay, used in rites of crawling between one anothers’ legs ...;


Kimaje, a pile of potsherds on which priests deposit old ragged caps ... and dedicate their new replacements ...;


Injami, a shrine ... represented in a huge statue in a house;


Kitauba, a huge wooden gong used in swearing the oath ...;


Bansa, another statue covered with red powder;


Pongo, a ... calabash ... covered with shells (simbos) and filled with many carved symbols, used in black magic; and


Moanzi, a pot partially buried in the ground between dedicated trees, holding an arrow and a string on which hung green leaves, and whose adherents wore copper armrings and avoided eating kola."

pp. 54-56 shrine, bag, basket, pot, etc. (at Loango during the 1870s Chr.E.)

p. 54

"Bunzi is ... a rainmaker, relating to the wind that brings rain."

p. 55

"Gombiri, a female n’kisi, which protects Loango Bay and locates ... murders".


"Mansi ... is a protective shrine on the ocean coast".


"Ngombo, the widespread divination oracle".


"min’kisi concerned with adjudicatory ... functions" :

"Tschimpuku, a woven bag,

Mpusu, a four-cornered basket with tightly fitting lid, ...

Malasi, a two-headed hippo-shaped sculpture;

Mboyo-zu-Mambi, a pot lid resting on three legs, and

Mpangu, a wooden block wrapped tightly with a chain".


"aggressive" minkisi :

"Simbuka can "kill with a quick strike";

Kunja lames;

Kanga ikanga creates a headache in its victim;

Mabiala Mandembe (Mapanje) ... drives its victim, especially thieves, mad."


"protective min’kisi: :

"Mandombe, embodied in an iron chain, protected its devotee in war and fighting;

Imba, a bracelet with a shell affixed to it, protect its wearer from drawing blood in a ... palaver."


"Njambe (Injami of Dapper’s seventeeth century account)" : "an individual could take white seeds from nganga Njambe and to the accompaniment of musicians reach possession (sulo umbuiti)."

p. 55 "Mboyo was said to have been a direct successor of the now extinct n’kisi Maramba, mentioned in the sixteenth century by English sailor Battel."

p. 56 rituals for women

"Mpemba (also pfemba, umpembe) ... gave rise to the celebrated Mpemba statues of women holding their breasts, and sometimes a child on their laps. This n’kisi was off-limits to men, and its activities were carried out only in a moon-lit night.

Mbinda ... too was strictly a woman’s affair, carried out in the moonlight, with the women shaven {"God L sits on his throne surrounded by five goddesses ... four [of whom] have bald heads ... reminiscent of .the Aztec maidens of penitence." (MSG, p. 234) "When a woman entered this service, her hair was cropped off." (MSG, p. 235)} and naked. Men ... were taboo to its adepts." {If Aztec "maidens of penitence" "broke their vows of chastity during their year of service, they were immediately put to death." (MSG, p. 234)}

MSG = Karen Bassie-Sweet : Maya Sacred Geography. U of OK Pr, 2008.

p. 56 medicines to cure reproductive disorders

"Sasi, a drink administered by a female nganga, was created for pregnant women in childbirth ...;

Kulo-Malonga stopped excessive menstrual bleeding;

Bitunga cured sterility in women;

Dembacani and Cuango-Malimbi cured impotence in men."

p. 57 marriage in Lemba cult

"The closest marriage relationship a man may have with a woman is in Lemba. She becomes his nkazi Lemba. ... Between the doors of the well-locked Lemba house, which constitutes the treasure-house ..., are planted two trees, a baobab for the man, and a cottonwood (mafuma) for the woman ... the key of the house is given the wife with the Lemba ring, and alone. This ring, worn on the right arm, is consecrated together with a roundbox (ludu Lemba). The second wife ... wears a small medicine satchel on her arm."

pp. 140-143 minkisi of Northern (Kamba, Yaa) Lemba [on upper part of Kuilu river’s tributary, the Niari river : the Kamba in Buenza province, the Yaa in Lekumu province]


nkisi of the Kamba


"The Lemba medicines ... consist of the bracelets worn by the priest and priestess(es), the drum or drums that are used in the couple’s inauguration to Lemba and kept on their house wall, ... and the large n’kobe, a cylindrical back box ..., within which is kept a variety of symbolic substances collected during the initiation ceremony".


"The basic Lemba medicine is the mpolo-Lemba, a small pot of chalk used by the Lemba priest.

... drums are the voice of ancestors".


"the neophyte couple receives its small nkozi drum. This ... is displayed over the door of their house."


"Another satchel filled with hair, eyebrows, nail parings, and old clothing rags of the Lemba brotherhood and sisterhood also enters the n’kobe ...., [and likewise are] the statues of the wives, bound together and inserted into the n’kobe".

p. 108 "You may have dreamed of ancestors".

pp. 170-185 rites & minkisi of Eastern (Lari/Laadi) Lemba [tribe in ‘Pool’ province]




In the inaugural rite "the Lemba marriage is "consummated." ... sperm is taken and mixed with the wife or wives’ pubic hair for a preparation of a powerful symbol in the memento, the mizita figurines."


" "lemba, lemba" (peace, peace), describes the action of the plant lemba-lemba (Brillantaisia patula T. Anders)".

"the neophyte receives ... scraps of food from the priests’ meal, specifically the chicken "giblets" of heart and liver."


"mavungu [mahungu] horn" containing "nail parings and hair" {cf. the [Norse] ship Nagl-fari composed of fingernails}



kept in the skin of __

denoteth __

mpemba chalk

nkumbi rat

"neophyte priest’s life"

tukula red

musimba wildcat

"benediction of the ancestors upon the Lemba couple"


"the mizita figurines ... contain ashes of the wives’ pubic hair and the husband’s sperm, mementos of the transcendent ... consummation of the marriage".


[legend from Madzia] "the creator of Lemba was a man called Nga Malamu – Nga designating the status of a chief. ... Kuba, who followed him, fell ill. Nga Malamu healed him, and he became the first priest of Nga Malamu. The third founder and protector of Lemba is Magungu [Mahungu]."


"We are like worms". {"But I am a worm, and no man" (Thillah 22:6).}


"We are like the stars ... We are without number". {"tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: ... So shall thy seed be." (B-Re>s^it 15:5))}

pp. 195-197 symbols & minkisi of "South-Central" [actually, South-Eastern] (Nsundi, Bwende) Lemba [tribes in eastern ‘Bas-Congo’ province : Nsundi around Manianga to the south of the Zai:re river, Buende to the north of the Zai:re river]


north Manianga symbolism



its significance


luvemba chalk

nlongo (‘sanctity’)


tukula red powder






nsaku-nsaku (Cyperus articulatus) leaves

"when crushed produce a pleasant incense-like aroma."


banana sapling

"rebirth of the neophyte"


nsamba (‘palm wine’)

sambila (‘prayer’)


sombo (‘palm nut’)



raphia palm-fibre



lusunwa (‘cowrie shell’)



"the double statue of Mahungu, whose male facet, Lumbu, was tied to or joined with the female facet, Nzita."

pp. 234-269 recruitment and domain of Western (Yombe, Woyo, Vili) Lemba [the Yombe on lower Zai:re river (between Luozi & Yalala rapids), the Woyo at aestuary of Zai:re river, the Vili in Cabinda]




[eastern Mayombe] "Lemba itself is presented in a dream from the ancestors. It is called an nkisi of the ancestors; it mediates the land of the dead and the village. Thus it is activated by dreaming, by nightmares of suffocating".


"If a person is possessed by a spirit but his speech is blocked, the Lemba priest will take a lutete gourd seed.


If the sufferer cracks it open [with his teeth], ... the sufferer immediately begins to speak if he has not already and tells all he has seen. If a spirit has appeared or spoken, he will reveal it and make all known. This then in Lemba’s purpose."


"The nkisi also has a satchel called "Lemba power" into which is put a variety of medicines – mweba, ntutu bark, cizika, munsumbi-nsumbi, nkuku-nona, nionzo, and nlolo leaves."


[Yombe] "Lemba’s shrine was flanked by other min’kisi, including :

Simbu, in a nzungu pot, deity of time;

a small nduki statue with a mirror in its stomach (kundu);

a lukatu statue in a pot, also with a mirror in its midsection;

Mbudila, an n’kisi figure related to ... the reign of the the Mamboma chief;

and a variety of others called Mambinda, Maluangu, Mangaka, and Nzola".


[myth] (1) "Eleven women went fishing and paired off two by two, leaving one out. She was joined by a stranger (a ntebo spirit), with whom she fished ten pools. ... Every time the fish were counted, they had a different number. ... the palmwine tapper atop the tree dropped his calabash on the chief spirit’s head and frightened them away. He descended, married the man, and one of their many children was Moni-Mambu. ...


(3) Moni-Mambu roasted peanuts which were a woman’s children.


(4) Moni-Mambu pounded to death pestles which were women.


(5) Moni-Mambu hunted killing what appeared to be game-animals, but were "snakes, lizards, one small girl, four hunting dogs, fifteen hunters, and the chief’s wife."


(6) Moni-Mambu "attached a wooden hunting bell to" the tail of a leopardess. "Believing herself hunted, the leopard[ess] fled and died of fright. Moni-Mambu killed her cub".


(7) Moni-Mambu "shot an antelope which, as he grabbed it, fled leaving his skin in his hands. ... His nose ... he took ... off and laid it down on a leaf, assuring it that he would pick it up later. A dog came along and stole it. He threw a firebrand at the dog, which


hit his in-laws’ house, burning it to the ground. ... Moni-Mambu lost the axe in the water on the second tree. Diving into the water to fetch the axe, he was seized by a crocodile. Hawk (Na Yimbi), curious as to the identity of Crocodile’s victim, asked to see it. Thrice crocodile opened its mouth so that the bird could be Moni-Mambu’s face {cf. Meso-American crocodile-skin wearers whose face is visible within the crocodile’s helmet’s mouth}, and the third time the bird seized Moni-Mambu thus rescuing him."


(8) "Moni-Mambu ... met a young girl bathing in a side-channel of a river, repeatedly dipping her head into the water. {repeatedly dipping their beak into water is how birds drink} ... he cut off her head and put it in his bag. Presently he encountered a second girl eating some viands with pepper. ... While she was away he ... in the bowl ... put ... the head of the first girl. When the second girl returned and saw the head in her bowl, she screamed in horror. Men came running with their weapons, ... and killed the girl."


(9) "Moni-Mambu, walking through an abandoned village, saw a human head drying on a pole {this is a Meso-American theme} and asked it how it died." It spoke in reply; but when "he related the men in the men’s hut this," they went to verify the event, "but when they asked the head the cause of its death, it remained silent." So when Moni-Mambu testified on behalf of his own heart, the chief described Moni-Mambu, "saying he had no heart; he was ordered speared to death."

pp. 223-228, 302-303 myth & religion at Cabinda and of the Woyo [for pp. 223-224, Cabinda was the location (p. 360) of the informant Nitu, who told (p. 342, n. 6:18) this myth]




[Mavungu (= Mahungu)] (4) "One day when Mavungu went ... to sleep he dreamed : In his dream he saw a beautiful woman speaking to him. "Oh Mavungu, ... Cut open the python and you will see something ... ."


(7-9) So Mavungu ... went to the forest shown in the dream, ... seized the python, and cut it open as instructed. There he uncovered the very beautiful woman who had spoken in the dream."


(15-16) She magically created "a large town."


(26) "But when she discovered that Mavungu’s father (also named Mavungu) was approaching to visit the magically-created town, she began "preparing weapons to battle against him."


(28) "When he arrived and greeted them the woman closed up the house with all her strength to keep Mavungu [her husband] inside."


(29) "She went out to fight with him [her husband’s father] knowing it was his father coming." {cf. battle-goddess Athene; maidens of the Ausenses with fought each other with cudgels, women of the Zauekes who drove war-chariots, etc. (as mentioned by Herodotos)}


(35) Thereupon, "the town suddenly disappeared. ...


(38) Her farewells were as fond as his by the tree where they had met."


[cosmology-myth, from the city Noyo of the Woyo tribe] (1) "The ... Nzadi river ... always existed ... . At the beginning of life, in Yalala Songo, a lake at the foot of the second cataract upstream on the Nzadi, there appeared the heads of three gods :

Kuiti-Kuiti, most powerful of all, creator of all, master of the world, also named Nzambi Mpu Ngu, and Kisi-a-Nsi, earth god;

at his right side appeared Bati Randa, also called Kunda Bala, ruler of animals with tails and their creator, who is in charge of rain and water;

the third deity was M’Boze, chieftess of prayer. ...

N’Tyama is the "stallion" of Kuiti-Kuiti, LuBendo the "mare" of M’Boze. Kuiti-Kuiti and M’Boze never separate, nor N’Tyama and LuBendo, ... twins who form whirlpools in the Nzadi."


(2) "Kuiti-Kuiti went out with Bati Landa leaving behind M’Boze his wife with her son Kanga. When he returned he saw to his consternation that M’Boze was pregnant. He accused his son, who said his mother had enticed him. Kuiti-Kuiti killed them both ... . While she was being murdered a deep fog settled over the world, and she bore a girl named Bunzi. Later Kuiti-Kuiti ... resurrected his sister/wife and son. Then he gave the new goddess Bunzi in marriage to Kanga, telling her to go away with her and never return, Kanga went to live at Nto on the right bank of the Nzadi; Bunzi upstream at Ne M’lao, Tchi-Sinda, near Banana."


(3) "At Nto, Kanga had a large temple, ... surrounded with fromagie`re trees. ...


Kanga is invoked when rain fails to come".


(4) "Bunzi ... went out to Ne M’Binda, the first man, and father of ... MaLoango, MaKongo, and MaNgoyo, receiving from him white chalk".


(5) "Among the BaVili, Bunzi ... is called mother of mermaid Tchi Kambizi, who is extremely violent ..., ready to fight to protect the authorities. ... At Loango the tempests are attributed to her. At Ngoyo she is called LuSunzi (N’sunzi), who lives in a river of her name, the Tchi Buanga, matron of education."


(6) "LuSunzi is a female with two faces, one white, the other black. Her body is similarly colored. From a distance, she is the color of fire. Nzambi Mpungu sent her to be married to Ma N’kakala. She is the legislator {legislatrix} of men, who gives the laws of LuSunzi. ... She appears in dreams, revealing the reasons for her actions. She permits kisi-ba-si to represent themselves as living or dead; those bakisi who are her lieutenants, the njimbe, each take the name of their genie ... . (Thus, MaNgoyo became Njimbi Kanga a Nto.)"


(7) "LuSunzi created the cults :

Bingo (Buanga) to distinguish and classify families;

Lemba, to protect households;

Kalunga, to confess sins between married spouses and to absolve them".


(8) "Progeny are asked from min’kisi Lemba, Kalunga, and Bingo (Mua Bua Nga). Lemba is the spirit of peace, as its name indicates."

CRITICAL STUDIES ON BLACK LIFE AND CULTURE, Vol. 11 = John M. Janzen : Lemba, 1650-1930. Garland Publ. Inc., NY, 1982.