Amongst Africans the elephant is known by a name which means the same thing no matter which language one happens to speak; the Zulus call this great beast INDLOVU, while the Tsonga and Shangane people call it NJOVU and the Venda know it as NDOU, and all these ancient words mean the same thing…THE FORCEFUL ONE. Our people used to believe that elephants were not merely animals but were rather supernatural beings or gods and that ivory as well as the bones of the elephant were the purest substances known. Out of ivory our people used to carve their holiest images.. busts of gods and goddesses as well as those of god-kings and queens, and it is still believed even now that ornaments made of ivory possess great magical powers and they enable the possessor of them to enjoy heavenly protection at all times. Kings and chieftains used to wear such ornaments especially in times of war so as to be protected against assassins and poisons. There were those amongst our people who believed that an elephant was a reincarnation of a dead god who had been killed by other gods in heaven, and in the years before the Second World War there roamed, in a part of western TANGANYIKA a large elephant that the tribes people knew by the strange name of “ISHE” which is the African corruption of the Islamic name for JESUS which is ISSA. One day a gang of poachers was seen trailing this great beast and a force of warriors went for the poachers and attached them, to protect the beast they believed was sacred, and in the ensuing skirmish all the poachers and four of the warriors were killed…ISHE lived to die of old age.
So deep is the reverence in which the elephant is held in some parts of Africa that for example if a member of the MAASAI people if Kenya finds a placenta of an elephant in the bush he immediately erects a wooden enclosure with four entrances around it to protect it. An elephant’s placenta is held to be an extremely sacred object, which brings great good luck to the finder. It is said that when the end of the world comes the last elephant in Africa will engage the last rhinoceros in mortal combat and both animals would die, pleading with god to use their blood to create new animals once more. Out of their blood God would create new animals and out of their skulls and jaws and leg bones a new and much more beautiful world.
Amongst the peoples of Europe the Lion was believed to be the King of Beasts but in Africa this was not so because the people there knew animals which were many times more powerful and fearsome than the lion, animals such as the hippo, the elephant and the rhinoceros for example. However Africans revered the lion as the JUDGE of animals, a judge who weeded out weak antelopes by eating them and mad hyena’s by killing them. When Africans use proverbs to say that justice will always overtake the wrongdoer they will use this one for instance: – “The mad hyena who causes other animals to weep will feel the heavy paw of the Heavenly lion fall upon him”. Although most tribes in Africa revered and admired the lion there were a few which viewed this noble beast as the very personification of evil and these were tribes, which kept large herds of cattle – the favourite food of lions. The lion is called “the beast of a thousand omens” by African shamans and healers; if a man travelling through the bush sees a lion crossing his path from left to right it is regarded as an omen that the man will acquire wealth at his journey’s end, and if he comes across mating lions it is held to mean that he will marry a princess or a wealthy woman. Bad is the omen when a man comes across a lion, which then chases him up a tree… this is said to mean that the man will get into trouble with the tribal king. Zulu people call the lion “IBHUBESI” which means “the deciding ruler” or judge while other Zulu-speakers call this beast “INGONYAMA” or “INGWENYAMA” and this name is born of the belief that these people hold, namely, that the lion is two animals in one, a meat-eating beast, INGO or INGWE and a grass-eating beast which is NYAMA or meat. What makes them think this about the lion? The answer is because of the appearance of the animal, which has a tufted tail like that of a bull at the back and the head, eyes and teeth of a meat-eating beast in front. It is this strange appearance that made African to believe that a lion unites the world of flesh-eating beasts with that of grass-eating animals. The dried dung of a lion as well as the hairball regurgitated by a lion are two of the most powerful charms in African sorcery…lion-dung is used to dominate a tyrannical superior and the hairball is used as a luck-bringer in gambling and in affairs of the heart. Like all cats and other catlike animals the living lion is believed by Africans to possess powers to protect the Earth from demonic entities … it is said that certain kinds of vicious extraterrestrial beings are mortally afraid of lions and that once lions are killed off in certain parts of Africa those parts become overrun by these creatures. African kings used to sleep on lion skins to protect themselves from MANTINDANE (Grey Aliens).
Aricans call the Cape Buffalo by an extremely interesting name, a name, which shows the depth of knowledge that, they possessed regarding this animal. The Zulu-speakers call this animal INYATHI while the Tswana and Sotho-speakers call it NARI and in both Zulu and Tswana the word has to do with FERTILITY and NUTRITION. There was once a time long ago when buffaloes in their thousands and their cousins the wildebeests in their tens of thousands criss-crossed the Southern African landscape in endless migration exactly as they still do in the Masai-Mara plains of Kenya and Africans observed in those long-gone years how the dung of these huge animals brought fertility to the land, and they named the Buffalo by the name it still carries to this day; – “THE ONE WHO FERTILIZES THE LAND AND GIVES US GOOD EATING”. The Zulu word for Buffalo, INYATHI, comes from the verb NYATHA or NATA which means to eat or to ingest something, be it solid food or water, and there is a very colourful tribe in South Africa, an offshoot of the Zulus, a tribe whose members were, and still are, employed in large numbers in the cleaning and waste-disposal establishment of South Africa mines and municipalities who have transferred the word “INYATHI” or “INYATSI” from the buffalo to human waste, and when members of this tribe use long rakes to spread and dry human waste in city sewerage works they call it “UKUGWATA INYATSI” that is, “Stabbing the Buffalo”. It is because human waste fertilizes the land and is often used as an organic fertilizer that the Bacas call it by the name by which their forebears called the now long-vanished buffalo. Zulus and people of other tribes used to hunt buffaloes for their meat in times of famine, and when the meat was shared out the person whom the hunters did not like was given the extremely hard, muscular and totally uncookable lower legs and hooves of the beast. Even today, when people come together and conspire to get another person into trouble Zulus say; – “They tied a buffalo’s lower legs in a bundle for him”.
The fat of a buffalo, its dried eyes, testicles and penis are much valued by African shamans, and tough township gamblers will sometimes put their ill-gotten winnings in the tanned scrotums of Cape buffaloes, it being the belief that he scrotum of a buffalo attracts money and prevents it from departing too quickly. Dreams about buffaloes; – It is said that if you are in trouble and you dream of a buffalo standing and facing you and chewing grass it means that you will meet a powerful friend who will help you out of trouble. The worst dream that one can dream about a buffalo is that of being chased by one … which means that you will be attacked and defeated by a very powerful enemy. Zulus have a saying; – “He who has dreamt of an angry buffalo lost wake up and run away”.
Some years ago a man I knew, who ran a fleet of taxis in Soweto, was engaged in a lawsuit against another man and was about to win it when he twice had a dream of being chased up a tree by a very big buffalo, and he lost the case when his enemy acquired the services of a powerful advocate who ran rings around his attorneys.