The Sunday News
IN addition to pangolin and vulture, from bones excavated at Old Bulawayo there were other bones amongst which were those of a python, inhlathu in the Ndebele language. Clearly, the flesh of a python was not part of Ndebele culinary traditions.
There is a belief though that there were/are individuals who consume python flesh in an effort to enhance longevity. Such individuals end up consuming python flesh when they wish to die.
Apparently, longevity was sought after and the ancients developed medicinal interventions that effected the desired longevity.
Gold was used as white talc, which was scientifically produced in a laboratory on the African continent. Gold, then not regarded as a currency, was ingested, in particular by rulers who sought wisdom in legal judgement and longevity. In the Bible, some characters lived long lives such as Methuselah.
It is important to identify the underlying principle, a principle that is applicable in science where it is posited that like poles repel. This is a well-known Law of Magnetism. It is a law that Africa has always known and applied in several situations.
For example, traditional healers always extracted poison from snakes. The poison was introduced in a weakened form into the blood stream of an individual. When that species of snake bit an individual inoculated with weakened snake poison, that person would not die from the poison of that particular snake.
While the ancients and today’s Africans may not talk in terms of production of antibodies, they knew that the snake serum induced immunity to the poison of a particular snake. Here the principle behind the development of immunity is the one identified above.
Like poles repel. Snake poison fights poison of a similar snake. Poison from snake A repels or neutralises the poison from snake B of the same species.
The same applies to crocodiles. There are people who arm themselves with crocodiles, by injecting (incisions may be made through which crocodile extracts are introduced into the blood stream) extracts from crocodiles. When a crocodile approaches the inoculated person, such an individual is protected from the menacing crocodile.
It will not move anywhere close to him because of repulsion by the crocodile introduced into the defended person. A crocodile repulses (repels) another crocodile.
The Ndebele people identify two types of pythons. There is a land python and a water python. We did indicate that when a spiritual initiate begins on the journey to spiritual fulfilment, he/she sees in his/her dreams a water python wriggling among the leaves of a lotus plant (amakalala/amaleb’omfula).
A python is perceived as a spiritual snake.
It is common to see spiritual initiates coming from a pool of water with a python coiled around them. The python does not constrict them.
Instead, the snake is killed so that the initiate extracts fat from it. He/she may also obtain its skin, its jaw with attached teeth; its last bones in the rear vertebra and of course the vertebral bones (umgogodla) – all of them.
These are the bones that traditional doctors make use of. The various bones, in particular the vertebral bones, become part of traditional doctors’ paraphernalia. The doctors may have two cords comprising python vertebrae. The bones may be worn together with other types of bones such as those of a vulture and portions of plant stems.
The resulting cords are worn over both shoulders, and stretching to the opposite side of a doctor’s body, ending a few centimetres above his/her waist. The cords are termed imigaxo as opposed to izigqizo worn around the neck and waists or even the ankles (then known as iqakala).
The traditional doctors lived within the royal enclosure while the commoners lived beyond the peripheral enclosure. That might have had implications regarding the location of a royal midden (isilotha). Traditional doctors do wear these when they go about the profession.
The individual vertebrae are stringed together and there are times when the string, usually made from tree bark fibre, snaps and the vertebrae scatter within the hut occupied by the traditional doctors. During sweeping of the huts, the vertebrae, together with glass beads, end up in the midden.
However, security considerations would ensure such items from the royal enclosure (isigodlo) do not end up in the possession of commoners who do not live within the royal enclosure. Such considerations may have had implication relating to the sitting of a royal midden as pointed out above.
What we have described here relates to spiritual practices in which the parts of a python are used. In fact, even the intestines (ithumbu) and their contents are made use of. What remains is the appreciation of Ndebele perceptions of a python that leads to virtually all its parts being made use of. Traditional doctors may be seen wearing python skins, in addition to other parts such as bones as indicated above.
In fact, we should at all times be alert to perceptions, beliefs and thought held by a given community if we are to unpack the underlying principles that explain and interpret the use of parts of particular animals, birds, reptiles, rodents, plants and trees.
Where such an appreciation and knowledge does not exist, it is easy for the unschooled to dismiss the express cultural practices as hocus-pocus. All this is a pointer to palpable ignorance with regard to the principles that relate to and underpin Ancient African Science (AAS).
There are instances when flying witches are downed over certain villages. These villages would have been fortified to a point where the witches’ craft is brought down. Does this not work like surface to air missiles that the Soviet Union provided to ZPRA forces towards the end of the war of liberation?
Hardly do we ever ask what power, force, or energy is used to fuel the witches’ craft from Zimbabwe all the way to Malawi and back the same night. It is a science with its own principles different in some respects from material-based science taught in schools. Africans should not be too hasty in coming with spurious pronouncements about a science they are ignorant about.
The Ndebele, and indeed, other black Africans believe a python emerges from the spinal cord of a dead python. What this means is that a python is endowed with a gift of renewal, rejuvenation and renovation.
For the traditional doctors whose spiritual power ought to be renewed from time to time, so that they operate at optimal level. Inevitably, this is a trait they desperately need.
The symbolism that we referred to earlier comes into play. The traits that a python is endowed with are symbolically transferred, through the use of parts of a python, to the wearer.
A traditional doctor seeks renewed potency and prowess. As pointed out above, the AAS works through harnessing the numerous forces, energy and power that are replete in the universe, target persons to produce a desired effect or result, either positive (healing) or negative (bewitching).
The ritual formula that targets an individual is, in the absence of verse, powerless hence the often articulated “herb and verse.” In simple terms, the ritual formula is accompanied by incantation, a cyclical repetition of poetic renditions. Witches are endowed with poetic gifts in addition to spiritual endowment that is an integral component of a ritual formula. It certainly may be sounding like Habra Kadabra, but before describing as such, just find out the root for the expression instead of arriving at unsearched conclusions.
The AAS works on different principles that take on board the intangible and spiritual aspects that Western science does not work with. If anything, it is good that Westerners dismiss the AAS. They would cause havoc with this science that costs virtually nothing in monetary terms and yet works wirelessly, something those in the West have recently discovered.
In conclusion, let us make it abundantly clear that a python, whether it be its flesh or parts indicated above, was not targeted at the King or his queens.
Everything highlighted above was for use by the traditional doctors who administered to the King. In their work, they sought to ensure the spiritual security and protection of the State via the King who epitomised the State and Nation. Through his person, the State and Nation were accessed, fortified, protected, renewed, rejuvenated for its continued existence.