OUR spirituality has several dimensions.
Because the spirit is the one that endures beyond physical life, we recognise AND embrace the spiritual world.
We have called on Africans to restore their religious and cultural identity. To do that Africans must first reclaim their spiritual independence. What does that mean?
It means Africans must recognise and maintain the spiritual path to God the Creator that they have evolved over time.
By nature all men are born into a family which traces its roots back to the Creator through the ancestral line.
There is no conversion required here. Our spiritual connections to the creator are natural.
We do not need to be converted or convinced. It is not a matter of doctrine; one denomination cannot be better connected than another.
Each people within the circumstances of their evolution have come to know and worship God in ways that best suit their circumstances.
In Zimbabwe we have our ancestors whose spirits are alive.
We have evolved a system where our first port of call is our parents.
Next come the grandparents and then we follow the ancestral line all the way back to Mwari, the Creator.
An elaborate system of practices and rituals guides our every action, and in all cases the aim is to be in harmony and to earn the pleasure of our creator through our genealogical line.
Let us look at the elements that define spirituality among most Africans in Zimbabwe. To reclaim our spirituality, we must identify the various dimensions.
We have the the ngozi spirit. If someone kills an innocent person, the victim’s spirit may come back to avenge the wrongful death.
There is no effective way to stop the avenging spirit except to pay restitution for the original crime of murder.
In Shona there is a saying that ‘kugona ngozi kuiripa’.
The spirit of the dead person may possess a member of the offender’s family and pronounce its demands for settling the crime.
Western Christianity condemns this element of spirituality as ‘an evil spirit’ but Africans see it simply as justice delivered through our spirituality.
Once the ‘debt’ has been settled, the ngozi spirit goes back to its people and the matter is closed for good.
There are cases where relatives of the wronged person may conduct a ritual calling on their deceased relative to seek out the culprit and avenge the wrongful death.
The ngozi avenging spirit is greatly feared and is an important element in African religion for minimising commission of murder. People will warn their relatives and friends saying ‘Hey be careful you will invoke an avenging spirit’ or ‘unotiparira ngozi’.
The religious ceremony to bring back into the family the spirit of a dead relative is called ‘kurova guva’.
The person whose spirit is brought back so to speak, becomes a mudzimu or ancestral spirit.
This religious practice underlines the African belief that every person has a spirit which must remain united with the rest of the family.
When a person dies, their spirit wanders around and is not accepted into the councils of the departed family members (matare avafi/varikumhepo) until a formal induction ceremony (bira/kurova guva) is carried out.
Where the person is buried far away from the family home, a small amount of soil from their grave is brought across and used in the rituals.
Once the person’s spirit has been re-united with the family, his/her children and relatives can freely call on him to convey to the higher ancestral spirits all the way to Musikavanhu to assist in times of challenges.
This is considered extremely important among many African communities. If the deceased was a family man, his spirit will be better able to look after the family i.e. the wife and children.
The belief among Africans is that the living cannot approach God directly but through the ancestral spirits who intercede on their behalf.
The ancestral spirits are invoked in ascending order starting with one’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
The first three are the basic trinity; one may call on other ancestors in order going back in time if they are known.
It is normal to also call on other ancestral spirits from the mother’s side especially if the supplicant is female.
At a higher level is the clan ancestral spirit (mudzimu mukuru wedzinza) who holds the position of a patriarch or matriarch in the clan.
This ancestral spirit is usually that of a great grandfather and possesses a close relative, male or female, as its medium. Many of these spirit mediums are female.
The next level of African spirituality is at the level of spirit mediums referred to as ‘mhondoro’.
In Zimbabwe each mhondoro has a geographical area they control in a spiritual sense.
The boundaries are well defined and in the traditional set-up each mhondoro works closely with the local chief.
We have already pointed out that in Zimbabwe, the mhondoro spirit mediums are all of the ‘Soko’ totem and some of them oversee all activity at national shrines such as ‘Njelele’ in the Matombo Hills in Matabeleland South.
A mhondoro is the spirit of a patriarch who has mystical powers of divining and foretelling important events and episodes in the people’s lives. They are the spirits of the ancestors of the people of Zimbabwe, men who lived centuries ago and had great spiritual powers that enabled them to communicate with even higher spirits all the way to the creator, ‘Mwari, Musikavanhu’.
Their role is to look after the well-being of the people in all its dimensions: the spiritual, social, economic, health, food and nutrition security.
They provide consultancy and advisory services to the population on all matters spiritual.
They keep the spiritual highway between Man and the Creator open.
They do this by communicating to the people messages from Mwari Musikavanhu.
Similarly they also convey the requests of the people to Musikavanhu. Droughts, pests and diseases, social conflicts, threats to national security and various other misfortunes are brought before Mwari Musikavanhu through the ‘masvikiro’.
The founding fathers of the Zimbabwean nation including Murenga, Chaminuka, Gumbi Nehanda and Kaguvi are Great Ancestral Spirits with mystical power.
They occupy a higher level in the spiritual hierarchy than the ‘Soko Mhondoros’.
We have previously shown how these Great Ancestral Spirits, ‘Midzimu Mikuru yeNyika’ guided the ancestors of present-day Zimbabweans to settle on this land between the Zambezi and Limpopo.
They guided the people to migrate south to settle in Zimbabwe. They bequeathed this land to the people.
We want to define our relationship with God, our spirituality, in a culturally-relevant mode that recognises our connection to God through our ancestral line. We reject foreign religions that isolate, divide and then denigrate our cultural identity as Africans.
In the next episode we shall look at the major elements that underpin religious and spiritual independence as we seek buy-in from Zimbabweans for a spiritually independent homeland.
OUR spirituality has several dimensions.