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God of the Tonga tribes of Zambia and Malawi. Although Tilo is associated with lightning, the word can also mean ‘the blue sky’. An active deity, this sky god ‘kills and makes alive’: he protects the individual, while his absence brings disaster and despair. When a person is overwhelmed by difficulties, he exclaims, ‘Tilo has forsaken me!’ He is Mlengi, ‘creator’; Nyangoi, ‘everlasting’; Wanthazizose, ‘almighty’; Mkana Nyifwa, ‘he who cannot die’; Kajati, ‘self-creator’; Mtaski, ‘saviour’; Msungi, ‘sustainer’; Mlezi, ‘food giver’; and Mlengavuwa, ‘rain maker’.

In the figure of Tilo the Tonga succeed in combining two fundamental notions—divine limitlessness, an overarching potency, and divine intervention, a personal regard. As Lesa, he is the ‘great father’, who nurses and cherishes the family of man. As Lesa too, he is the awful presence within natural convolutions. ‘Heaven never dies,’ they say, ‘only men do.’

Subjects: Religion.

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