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Zulu Religion

Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ ii ] The Zulus have been exposed to Christianity for so long ( see A frica, christianity in ) and their royal political system was so severely damaged in the 19th century that it is now particularly difficult to describe their traditional religion as a whole. Many 19th-century observers denied that Zulus believed in one creator God. The argument centred on the word Unkulunkulu , meaning the aged or first or most revered one. It is certainly a praise-name for God but is at least as much used for the ancestors. The principal specific titles for God are iNkosi yaphezulu , Lord-of-the-sky, and uMvelingqangi. The latter means ‘first to appear’ but with the implicit suggestion of twins, the twin of sky being earth. UMvelingqangi is male, earth female; together they bring forth the human world. Unkulunkulu the God is not Unkulunkulu the ancestors, who are beneath the earth rather than in the sky. Thunder and lightning are acts of God, whereas sickness and other troubles in life may be caused by the ancestors, the idlozi or abaphansi (those under the earth). The ancestors protect the living, ask for ‘food’, are pleased with ritual and sacrifice, punish neglect and take possession of diviners ( inyanga ). Most inyanga are women. The diviner reveals the mind of the ancestors, fights witchcraft, and – very often – acts as a herbalist, but the former is her principal role. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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