Some Spirits Heal [Lungu people at south end of lake Tanganyika]

pp. 34-35, 69-70 ritual sexual behaviour




At night "the heir should have sex with the widow ... [If objecting to this,] the ghost of the dead man would have returned to prevent it. [During this night the couple] have to wait, without sleeping, until near dawn. When they get up from the bed, the couple do so with little fingers intertwined."


"Otherwise she would not be free the muzilo, ‘prohibition’ [against having sex with anyone outside the family of her dead husband]." {levirate : In the western highland of Kenya, "it is Nandi custom for a widow to be "taken over" ... by a brother ... of her deceased husband." (WAS, p. 77) "according to customary law, it is tantamount to adultery for a widow to be sexually involved with a man other than a close agnate of her late husband." (WAS, pp. 77-78)}

41, n. 2:16

"See Hinfelaar ([Religious Change among Bemba-Speaking Women of Zambia. PhD thesis, U of London,] 1989) on a similar Bemba custom. ... If is also part of the traditional practice of the Fipa of Tanzania ... (see Willis ["Pollution and Paradigms". MAN 7:369-78] 1972 ...)." {"Luo ... widows become mostly remarried to the deceased husband’s brother." (C&HD, p. 99b) Likewise among the Maragoli of western Kenya (C&HD, p. 100a).} {Among the Mambila of northern Kamerun," both levirates are practised throughout the tribe" (MT).} {Among the C^imariko of California, "levirate was a common custom" (UCPAAE 5:301).} {"Kirghiz ... followed levirate marriage customs, i.e., a widow who had borne at least one child was entitled to a husband from the same lineage as her deceased spouse." (E)}


" ‘... you have to marry your sister. In our language we say, Ukandi, kukandana.’ This expression ukandi ... referring to ... intersibling marriage traditionally associated with chiefly families. ‘Chiefs ... were not allowed to marry outside – it was the policy that a chief marry a sister ... .’ " {This is likewise Kemetian, Hawai>ian, Mixtec, and Quechua royal custom}


"The Chief [Tafuna] before he becomes Chief, he has to make his full [uterine] sister his wife. ... The house he uses is ... built in one day, but it is made of grass [only]. {Hawai>ian grass shack} ... It has to be made at Kasakalawe. ... This is a great secret (inkama)." ["village a few kilometres south of Mpulungu." (p. 76, n. 3:56)] {Among the Calusa of Florida, "In the ruling family, and apparently confined to it, was the institution of sibling marriage" (FYSA, p. 193).} {For "sibling marriage ... in ruling houses", "Goggin and Sturtevant list ... Bali, Cambodia, the Hittite polity, Incan Andes, Java, Korea, Sinhala, and Thailand." (II&IT, p. 153)}

WAS = Betty Potash : Widows in African Societies. Stanford U Pr, 1986.

C&HD = Jaan Valsiner : Culture and Human Development. SAGE, 2000.

MT =


E =

FYSA = John W. Griffin (ed. by Patricia C. Griffin) : Fifty Years of Southeastern Archaeology. U of FL Pr, 1996.

II&IT = Hill Gates : "Redefining the Incest Taboo". In :- Arthur P. Wolf & William H. Durham (eds.) : Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo. Stanford U Pr, 2004. pp. 139-60

pp. 54-56 legendary migrations




"the name aLungu (the plural form) originally meant ‘people of the kiln (ilungu)’."


"Many other peoples in northern and central Zambia also claim ‘Kola’ as their place of origin, including chiefly elements among the Bemba, lala, Bisa, and Mambwe peoples ... . ... Filip de Boek (1992) has identified the Shaba region ... as the original ‘Kola’ and the mythological place of origin of Lunda (Luund) chiefship". {but cf. name of state of KOLA in southern India}


"The Lungu people came from Kola, led by a spirit called Mwansa Leza. They walked over swamp grass (vizao vyavwa). The leading humans were Mwenya Mukulu and Chilombo, both female. At Mbete they met Muzombwe."


"there was a country called Uzabu in the eastern Congo where a chief named Chibabwe lived. He produced nine sons and two daughters and their clan was Mazimba, meaning Leopard. ... So the sons and daughters, led by Chomba the first-born son, left their father and settled at a place called Lupale."


"most of the Azao narratives insist that they came from the north-west, travelling down the western shore of Lake Tanganyika. {cf. the name of the ZWAWA in Al-geria, which is located to the northwest}

pp. 58-61 mythic cosmogony




"The world was curved like an egg. ... And from that the Word turned into a man from the east ... known as Muwalanzi. And after some years that same Word made Mwenyami, a female from the West. {cf. Muslim allocation of first man >adam to Simhala in the east, and of first woman H.awwah to Makkah in the west} Muwalanzi did not know there was another person, and Mwenyami, she also thought she was alone. ... Muwalanzi ... was then moving west. {cf. Muslim tale of westward travel by >adam} ... Mwenyami ... wore an mpande [Conus] shell on her mouth and another covering her genitalia. Muwalanzi wore only one mpande shell, on his mouth. Muwanlanzi ... realized he had ro stay with that woman, and he did so. ... He stayed in the west with the woman." {cf. Muslim notion of >adam’s decision to stay in the west with the woman H.awwah}


"the primal pair produced six children, the eldest a son called Mpulungu, ‘Give Ulungu to Me’. ... All powers were given by the spirits to Mpulungu. Muwalanzi and Mweyami returned to a small lake where they remained, with three of their children, for a thousand years. ... They that man to whom all the powers were given, Mpulungu, married ... Mwneya Chamukolechi and they had six children, three boys and three girls. And the same with their two brothers, Nsanza and Chilaonyi, and their two sisters, Mwenya Chitewa and Mwenya Luwemba; they all married each other and produced three boys and three girls." "Then Mangochimikwa and Mwenya Mukulu came to Kabwe Nsolo near the cliff of Polombwe ... . They stayed there for three thousand years. It was then that Mwenya Makulu saw Kapembwa in a thick bush ... in the month of February (Koolo) when they went to gather mushrooms. She could not leave Kapembwa in the bush alone so Mwenya Mukulu carried him back to her home, because by then Kapembwa was a young boy. She ... made his stand near a big tree ... . ... He stood there for three days.

Mpulungu meanwhile ... swam to the island called Mbita (Nkubula island off the port of Mpulungu, locus of the Mbita spirit shrine),

then left for Kafukula, where he stayed for a day,

then went to Chitongo, where he stayed for three years,

then went down to Isokola (now called Isoko ... the official residence (musuumba) of Senior Chief Tafuna)."


"Mpulungu ... bequeathed his powers as chief of Ulungu to his son by Mwenya Mukulu’s sister Chamukolechi, a man called Ntenda Mukote."

pp. 62-63 swimming ordeals for chiefly office




"traditional procedure of choosing and installing a senior chief of Ulungu" : "A candidate had to be a son of Chamukolechi, hereditary sister of Mwenya Mukulu, and had to go through the full series of kwalama initiation, especially the central ‘swimming ordeal’."


"The senior queen mother, who has the title of Mombo and resides at Kaizya Village, has to swim across the deep pool at the foot of Kalambo Falls. If Namukale, the female guardian spirit of the Falls, approves of the candidate, ‘it will be easy for her ...’. ...


Likewise, the man nominated to the plateau chiefship of Chinakila has to sumbit to a test to ascertain the verdict of the guardian spirit Chisya on his suitability for office." {likewise as to Yucatec candidates for chief, required to swim in a cenote}

pp. 64-66 "Mapepo pilgrimage route"


stations of pilgrimage


"Mbete ... as the burial grove of the chiefs of Ulungu ... . ... Kawamba, hereditary guardian of the sacred grove, ... has the duty of burying the chiefs."


"Kombe, home to the spirit of the same name ... beneath a huge tree ... . ... They exchange seeds of ... millet, ... groundnut, beans and pumpkin ... . Also they cllect perfumed oil called vinunkilo, made by an old woman".

"Mwenya Mukulu et al.


continuing along the lake by canoe. ... They also stop at places along the lake-shore owned by the spirits Mweela, Soonga, Tongwa and Namulukilwa, and a little of the tribute of seeds and perfume is given to each."


"the shrine (mucisi) of Kapembwa ... was round and had two doors. One faced east and the other west. At Mapepo, ... We enter through the eatern door. We pray for two hours ... . The we go outside, leaving by the western door ... .

... there were two Kapembwa shrines : There is the shrine made by men, round with two doors. And there is another shrine, made by the Spirit and visible only to those who are pure ... . That other shrine is a shining thing, and square. It shines with all the colors of the rainbow (mulalanfuti). Kapembwa is inside that square house.

To the east he is guarded by Songola ... .

To the west he is guarded by Chaifika. Both these spirits are male.

To the north he is guarded by Kamimbi, who is female, and

to the south by Chilingala, a female spirit who is also his wife."


"Two objects were kept at the Kapembwa shrine : a round large drum called Maangu (‘Mother’), a symbol of royalty, and a square basket called Salakata and made from palm leaves. This basket was sent by Tafuna and was used to carry beads ... offered to the spirit."

pp. 66-67 child-bride of god




at Katoto "child-wife of Kapenbwa, the little girl who bears the title of Mwenya Mukulu" : "The wife of the god is a girl about seven years old, chosen by Kapembwa speaking through the mouth of one of his prophets."


"the little girl ... will remain ‘married’ to Kapembwa until she reaches puberty (cisuungu). Then the spirit will divorce her and in due course will choose another ‘wife’. The divorced ‘wife’ is then free to marry a mortal man. ... The mother is also called Mwenya Mukulu and held the office some time before her daughter was chosen. ... She tells us : I became Mwenya Mukulu as a small child. ... When [a chief] comes here he has to kneel down and clap his hands before me ... . ... I am the greatest." {cf. [in Nepal] marriage of prae-pubertal kumari girl to a god, their divorce happening at her attainment of puberty (KD)}


"There was a round house at Katoto, said to contain wooden stools (viliimba) used by successive holders of the Mwenya Mukulu title."

KD =

p. 68 "The characteristic symbolic objects placed in the priestly miziingwa are pieces of white cloth, known by the special name of myaala." {cf. [Yoruba] Oba-tala}

pp. 78-108 spirits which heal




"One day this man was visited in the fields by a Being who appeared as a column of light. {cf. S.ufi & Mormon divine column of light, Manikhaian "column of glory"} ... But when he returned to the village he found the same being there prophesying as the goddess Katai."


"Some spirits heal, others only dance."


"Dancing to the ngulu drummers, a woman ... sings a song of weird beauty, quite unlike ... her gibbering and writhing of a few moments earlier, before the spirit in her spoke".

"certain practitioners, usually women, beat drums to persuade mysterious spirits called ngulu to reveal themselves in their patients and, in so doing, enable these patients to be healed."


"suitable patient" : "she had already dreamed of snakes, a well-known portent of ngulu possession."


shamaness ; "Her spirits ... had forbidden her to eat ... hare, zebra, barbel fish (nsinga) or cassava leaves. ... [This shamaness] or rather her ‘possessing’ spirit, drapes a citenge cloth over the head and shoulders of her patient ... . She is almost completely hidden by the cloth. Nakangulu, ‘the mother of Ngulu’, as she is called when in trance, begins to dance, ... ankle bells (called nsambo) sharply percussive against the resonating drumbeat. ... the hidden form of the patient begins to shake under the cloth and to emit high-pitched cries. ... [This female patient] ... begins to speak – or rather the ngulu spirits speak their names through her : Chilimanjaro (Kilimanjaro), Kapembwa, Chilingala, Katai, Mbita, Katende, Chisike, Mangala".


female patient : " ‘Hidza!’ she cries repeatedly".

"the spirit animating [the shamaness] is called Matipa, an ngulu divinity from far-off Bisa country".


"It began with the induction of spirit into the person or persons of the ngulu adepts, a process called kunwama, ‘to invite’, or ‘inviation’, and ended with the dismissal (kuziinga : literally, ‘driving away’) of spirit."


" ‘Kacina! Kacina!’ the people cry, praising spirit incarnate, the dance ... . Kacina is ... ‘dance’ ".


"in the night he dreamed of ‘dead snakes’ (snakes being the pre-eminent ngulu symbol).


shamaness, the leader of whose nulu spirits "is called Chama, followed by Kapembwa, Chisya, Nundo, Chakulukunta ..., Katai, Nonde, Mbita and Mwanzandolo." ["Mwanzandolo is the name of a waterfall on the Lunzua river ... inland from Mpulungu. Matipa ... ‘father’ of ... ngulu spirit Chama" (p. 124, n. 4:12).] She "treats people suffering from vyuuwa (afflicting spirits of departed relatives) ... . ... She first divines, using a rubbing board ... . ... Her ngulu spirits have forbidden her to eat ... elephant".


"oil-bearing stone {shale?} called ubane, commonly used to ‘call’ the spirits"


5 nulu-spirits speaking through a woman :

"Mbita is the spirit of the eastern lake, his shrine on Nkumbula Island of Mpulungu;

Mwiila is from Mambwe country;

Katende is another name for Katai, the wandering female spirit and estranged wife of the lake god Kapembwa;

Chilimanjaro and Meru are from Tanzania, and respectively male and female."


possessing a woman, "hear the ngulu declare their names :

Jini Bahari, a sea spirit from Tanzania,

Kapembwa, the great lake god of Ulungu, and

Matipa, the Bisa spirit".


dance by the nulu-possessed : "most astonishing of all is the ‘frail’ seventy-two-year-old [man], who, incredibly, is leaping around like a ballet star."


"the two initiates carried the mat on which they had undergone their –tuntuula ordeal back into the house with their teeth." ["In Cisuungu (female initiation), sacred objects are moved by initiates with their teeth as a sign of respect." (p. 125, n. 4:17)]


"the ngulu Chama ... said ... to be ... Luba ... of south-east Congo"


nulu-spirits speaking through a woman :

"Chanda (the leader), who is said to be Bemba,

Kapumpe, from the eastern Lungu plateau,

Wamwaka (another name for the wandering goddess Katai) and

Kapemba, lord of the southern lake."


shamaness : "Her leading ngulu spirit ..., a male called Mukupa, has forbidden her ... to eat barbel fish, hare, ... or zebra. These prohibitions she also applies to patients."


autobiographical account by shaman : "I was told by the spirits to get sambwe [a riverine shrub, the leaves of which are used to make spirit-revealing medicine]. [This] showed I had four ngulu in me, of which the leader was Chela Muhulu. The others were Mwansa, Chisya and Kaluba. After that I began healing."


"The drumming starts again, and soon [a female patient] is rolling about, seeming convulsed with laughter. Now she is emitting what sound like high-pitched barking noises. ... ‘Katai’ ... recall that possession by this errant female divinity is commonly associated with hilarity in the possessed and that the goddess can take the form of a bitch." ["She [Katai] appears ... as a bitch, ... sometimes people see her shadow." (p. 125, n. 4:20)]


‘confirmatory’ ritual : "The doctor ties together two small trees called mufutu, which bear black edible fruit. The initiate is sent to collect leaves called masuku (from the Uapaca kirkiana tree, which bears red edible fruit). ...


The initiate is sent by the doctor to collect leaves called cizika and katumbi. ... This was a ‘test’ designed to confirm the authenticity of the two spirits".

p. 113 special language of nulu






‘my child’












‘to eat’



‘to go’
















pp. 5-8, 132-136 paranormal events experienced by the author




"a near-death experience (NDE). It consisted of a vision, appearing as if on a huge television screen about five feet in front of me, of a path that became two, one branch leading abruptly to my right, and the other running a short distance over green and level ground to a gate. I could see through this gate ... . ... At that moment ... I felt myself carried away by an overwhelming force ... . At the same time I was aware of a rapid upwards movement, as in a fast lift or elevator."


"While visiting Alexandria I underwent the most powerful paranormal experience of my life while sitting near a historical monument called Pompey’s Column. ... I became aware of a voice that sounded, paradoxically, as if it were coming both from immensely far away and from deep inside me. ... I then felt myself being immersed in healing water, a wonderfully liberating experience. Finally, at about fifteen


degrees above the horizon to the (I think) north of where I sat, I saw the most unexpected and astonishing object : a silver-gold cylinder tapered and rounded at both ends {"mother-ship" of flying saucers}, with two rows of nine square windows running along its central part. These windows were glowing with an amber light as if illumined from within and the whole object, which was very beautiful, was slowly turning on its axis."


"discovery that I could heal, ... by a renowned healer called Bruce Macmanaway ... when Bruce ... assigned me to ‘heal’ " "At Bruce’s centre ... I’d also had ... a meeting with a large and friendly jaguar – my first encounter with ... a shamanic ‘power animal’ ... – and a vision of a naked young woman with long golden hair walking along a seashore. ... There I had ... encounter, again while


meditating under Bruce’s guidance, with a powerful female entity who was naked except for a golden helmet-mask that covered her entire head."


"During a spontaneous ‘altered state’ that lasted for three days I encountered a group of three divinities who appeared as columns of light."


while half-asleep : " ‘object’ ... to emerge from somewhere underground ... . ... ‘object’ was cylindrical".


"I ... dreamed of being buffeted around by invisible ... forces, like winds, while managing to remain standing. Is this some kind of initiatory ordeal?"


while awake at night out-of-doors : "I was looking at something that shouldn’t have been there – a whitish disk or sphere at least a metre in diameter, seemingly suspended the same distance above the ground ... . Suddenly scared, I felt myself a moment later being spun round as if by some external force".

p. 6 "I experimented with illicit mind-altering substances, joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), searched for spiritual ... ancient wisdom. The quest led me to the literature of the nineteenth-century occult revival in Britain, and thence to Aleister Crowley and neopaganism."

pp. 144-146 isea (sing.), masea (pl.)




"Before dying, he denounced ... for bewitching him with the intention of having him work for him post-mortem as an isea (zombie) in his ... fishing business."

148, n. 5:16

"Certain sorcerers are said to become rich by creating masea (the plural form) from the bodies of their victims".


"There is also the confection by sorcerers of zombia-slaves (masea) from the persons of their victims ... .

... majini ... were a ‘more developed’ form of malign entities called mizyuuka ["Literally, ‘awakened ones’." (p. 149, n. 5:19) {cf. buddha-s}]. The idea of the zombie-slaves may have spread, like the mizyuuka-concept, into Ulungu from Ufipa".


"a sorcerer’s victim appeared dead and was buried, and then was secretly resurrected by the sorcerer, who turned his victim’s head back to front and reduced his body to about sixty centimetres long. It worked at night for its master, either in the fields or fishing. ...


The muloozi bewitches his victim, who goes into a trance state so that his kinsfolk think he is dead. ... The sorcerer takes the body and turns its head back to front. It is now an isea, and works for him as a slave."

substances for viziimba (sorcery-medicines)




vegetable : "the leaves (amafwa), or roots (misizi) ... or the bark (cipaapa) of trees."


animal : "a piece of elephant’s ear (kantaalala, lit. ‘what does not sleep’), a pangolin scale (nkaka) and the claw of an aardvark (nengo)."

149, n. 5:24

mineral : "salt ... (called mkuulwe) and white clay (umuula)". fibre : "a piece of a chief’s clothing (mutotelwa) and a piece of rope used by a suicide (mukuliko)."

pp. 151-152, 164-171medicines found by dreaming




[autobiographical account of initiation to become a traditional healer] "I met a tall man dressed in rags ... . [cf. "other spirits were ‘doctors from long ago, ... dressed in rags but huge people and very healthy’ " (p. 152)] He told me in the Mambwe dialect that I would be a sing’aanga [traditional healer] and that his name was Chilundu Musi [the name of a territorial or ngulu spirit in Mambwe country, to the east of Ulungu]. ... The next day I was in Mwazye [southern Ufipa], ... and I dreamed I was flying and my dead grandmother told me about that man ... . Then I flew to another village and met my two brothers, who had died young. They showed me a certain tree, ... the leaves and roots ... . ... When I woke up I was told by those around that I had been prophesying (ku-sesema). I told them I remembered everything, which was what I had dreamt. From then on ... I became a doctor myself."


"Spirits are alive. I see them at night, in dreams and also in the daytime, openly ... I never keep medicines in the house. I wait for the spirits to show me [them]."


in Chitinta village, a herbalist "who ‘smokes medicine’ and afterwards ‘dreams’ the remedies his patients need."


"Some respondents said their first intimation of a healing vocation came in childhood when they dreamed of being taken into the bush by strange people and shown ‘medicines’ in the form of leaves and roots of certain trees and shrubs."


"My grandfather was a great doctor and he comes in dreams and shows me medicines."


"One day I was asleep and started talking. People told me afterwards that I’d spoken of herbs. ... From that time, I’ve been healing. People tell me their problems and during sleep I dream of medicines for those problems."


[autobiographical account by fisherman in the lacustrine village Mpondela] "a male ‘Arab’ calling himself Kasansi appeared to me in a dream. He showed me. Afterwards the ngulu spirits Kilimanjaro, Minkola, Namukale and Mbita appeared and they too help me with medicines, but the leader is Kasansi."


a woman "became sick and she dreamed of finding medicines by the river Kunyika. ... She used them and was healed."


"I see medicines sometimes in dreams and sometimes in a waking state. I hear a change in my brain, I pause, and then I hear what medicines to get."


"she also ... is able to ‘dream medicines’."


"I get told through dreams. In fact I see the patient and someone healing him or her. Then I get told what to do."

175, n. 6:17

"The dream quests of Lungu doctors searching for ‘medicine’ appear to be related to ... the spirit-world ‘journeys’ of Asiatic and New World shamans". {discovering curative medicine in a dream of a frequent theme of South American tropical-forest shamanship/shamanhood}

p. 165 "Lungu doctors also spoke of using ‘medicine’ to induce dreams of the requisite quality. Leaves of the mutanga tree [?Abrusprecatorius] ... were said to be effective, as were fragments of a swallow’s nest."

pp. 154-155 initiatory paranormal experiences




"I died for 23 hours and the people were preparing to bury me. While they were digging the grave I "woke up". Doctors ... found I had the ngulu spirits Musonda, Chilimanjaro, Kongolo and Kalema. They help me now to heal most diseases".


[account by shamaness] "I was caught by the spirits and started prophesying. ... my spirits were revealed ...


as Chisya, Kapembwa, Kilimanjaro and Chilowela ... . Now I heal other ngulu patients."


[account by male healer] For "the –tuntuula ritual, I went to help with the drumming. Then I found myself running into the bush, where I spent the night. When I returned home the next morning I was unable to speak. My grandmother divined, found I had ngulu and I was put through the revelatory ritual. I had Kilimanjaro, the leader, Mbwilo and Chilowela. ... Now I treat many diseases under the direction of the spirits."

p. 157 functions of spirits

"Mbwilo (who helps with divination ...),

Chilingala (.. helps with medicines),

Kilimanjaro (against sorcery) and

Meru (women’s reproductive problems)."

shadows of the dying; vyuuwa

p. 159

"if the patient has no shadow (icinziingwa), ... death is not far away.


... if the patient has two shadows, that means he or she is going to become an evil spirit after death, and to prevent this ‘medicine’ has to be sprinkled over the corpse before burial. Another of his regular jobs, the doctor tells us, is to disinter and burn the remains of people who return after death as iviiwa or vyuuwa."

p. 32

"cuuwa (malign spirit)" of the dead : "all the graves could be properly ‘medicated’ to protect their spirits against the offensive cuuwa (which has the ability, Dracula-like, to transform them in turn into monstrous vyuuwa)."

apparatus for divination




"divination (kusaapola)" : "a mirror (icilole) to reveal hidden agents affecting their patients"


"She also mentioned ... that she was able to divine, using a rubbing board (kakumbi)."

176, n. 6:26

"Two of these devices are in wide use : a friction oracle (kakumbi), which can consist of ... an axe-head, which is rubbed on the skin of a duiker ...; and leaves of the strychnine-bearing mwavi tree (Erythrophloeum guineense) ... dunked in a bowl of water".

Roy Willis : Some Spirits Heal, Others Only Dance. Berg, Oxford, 1999.