Rain ... and the spirits have agreed

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iol news pic Qunu APTOPIX South Africa Mandela Mourning~43


A group of Zulu warriors, from KwaZulu Natal watch a fly past from near a public viewing tent during the burial of former president Nelson Mandela in Qunu. (AP Photo/Antoine de Ras)

Qunu - Exactly four hours after Nelson Mandela was laid to rest, it rained and rained in Qunu - and according to Xhosa tradition, rain means icamagu livumile: the spirits have agreed.

According to Dr Nokuzola Mndende, a spiritual healer who heads Icamagu Heritage Institute in Dutywa, rain symbolises enlightenment.

“It means that indlela yakhe imhlophe - the journey of the deceased -is illuminated,” she said.

She explained that if the Mandela family observes strict Xhosa rituals, on Monday the family was expected to slaughter a sheep and go to a river to wash the deceased’s garments.

The slaughtering of the sheep, otherwise known as ukuphuza amanzi (drinking of water) is strictly done a day after the burial, and is characterised by speeches for the bereaved to guide, advise and console the family to ensure that the deceased is not angered in any way.

A week later, a traditional beer is made and this is known as ukuhlamba iipeki (washing of spades). The spades that dug the burial hole are considered unclean and this ceremony is considered a cleansing.

Mndende said the wife or wives of the deceased were also expected to wear garments of pure white. The type of garment worn also differed according to the clan. A widow usually wore this garb for a year, but the timespan depended on what the family decided.


For a year after the burial the mourning family is not supposed to perform any rituals or ceremonies, particularly celebratory ones such as weddings and initiation ceremonies.

They should only do ceremonies after they perform the ukuzila (mourning) – a ritual that is characterised by the slaughtering of an ox. The meat is cooked and eaten on the same day, and this ceremony marks the end of the mourning phase.


Cape Argus

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