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Mkhulumnchanti Sends His Messenger to Earth


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(Swati/Swaziland)

The Swati believe in the unbroken continuity of kinship after death and vaguely assume that eventually the wishes of men reach Mkhulumnchanti (Mvelinqangi), the first being, the great ancestor. He is never specifically mentioned in prayer or sacrifice, nor does he intervene in enforcing the ethics of the culture. Having “broken off” from a reed all things on earth, the trees, mountains, and people, and having sent death to man, there gradually intervened between him and mankind the immediate dead, who are bound more closely with the living.

He had a messenger, Mlenzengamunye (Mlentengamunye), the one-legged one, who occasionally descended from the skies in a thick mist and was visible only to women and children. His appearance sometimes heralded fever, but generally he was a messenger of good news. He appeared on top of any mountain or in the form of a cloud, and people were able to see his one leg while the rest of the body was concealed in the cloud.

The sun and moon are personified and mystically associated with human destiny. The sun is spoken of as a male, the moon as his wife; she follows him, is hidden from him, and then reappears. The dominant national ceremony is Incwala, a first-fruit ceremony, a pageant in which the early life of the Swati is reenacted in dramatized form, a ritualization of kingship. The king is identified with the sun at the Incwala, and his close paternal kin are honored as the Mlangeni, People of the Sun. The rainbow is called the Princess of the Sky, and lightning is believed to be caused by the Bird of the Sky, which lives in certain pools.

Subjects: Religion.


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