The Zulu are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, with a population of between 10 and 12 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The Zulu tribe originated from the Ngunis who inhabited central and eastern Africa. They migrated to Southern Africa as part of the ‘Bantu Migration’ which occurred centuries ago.
One of the most famous Zulu chief was Shaka (1816 to 1828) who founded the Zulu empire. He is credited with uniting more than one hundred independent Nguni chiefdoms into a formidable fighting force. Shaka armed his warriors with short-handled stabbing spears for close-contact fighting and trained them to move up to their opponents in close formation with the body-length cowhide shields forming an almost impenetrable barrier to long-handled assegai thrown by enemy forces.
This is the theme song from the Shaka Zulu TV show called We are Growing:
The first interesting Zulu cultural belief I want to share is about the Buffalo Thorn tree.
Like many other cultures, the Zulu people believe that a person’s life continues in the spirit world after death. Every person who dies within the Zulu tribe must be buried traditionally or the deceased may become a wandering spirit. An animal is slaughtered as a ritual and the deceased person’s personal belongings are buried with them to help them on their next journey.
Ancestors, known as amadlozi and abaphansi, are believed to live in the spirit world, unKulunkulu, and are regarded as intermediaries between the spirit world and the world of the living. Ancestors make their presence known through dreams, sickness, and snakes. At opportune times like birth, puberty, marriage, and death, the ancestors are asked for blessings, good luck, fortune, guidance and other assistance. Sacrifices of animals are made to appease the ancestors and offerings of home-made beer and other things are given as offerings.
The buffalo thorn blooms in southern Africa from October to Zulu. It is a deciduous tree and sheds its silvery-grey leaves annually. It is unusual in that its thorns grow in pairs with one thorn being straight and the other hooked. This makes this tree an effective perimeter barrier.
In Zulu culture, a twig from the Buffalo Thorn is used to collect the spirit of a deceased person from their place of death, and taken to their final resting place. If the transporter of the spirit travels, the branch will have its own seat in the vehicle.
In a traditional Zulu kraal, the beehive hut on the highest point, furthest from the entrance, is occupied by the chief’s mother and is also home to the family’s ancestors. Modern Zulu settlements all have a beehive shaped traditional spirit hut.
It is also common for the Zulu people to plant a Buffalo Thorn tree at the site of a graveyard or mass burial site.
About Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.
Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.
Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.
Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.
Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.
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