African Traditional Religion : Bantu TR for a role-playing game


Nov 2, 2016
partially, this is a way of introducing myself. where to start...?

A role-playing game (RPG and sometimes roleplaying game[1][2]) is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of structured decision-making or character development.[3] Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.[4]​

the most famous being Dungeons and Dragons. the default setting for these games is pseudo-medieval europe and, lately, china and japan. way back in the 90s, while i was an undergrad taking kiSwahili, an 'african' setting called 'Nyambe' was published. it was awful - hollywood africa, a pastiche of egypt, west africa and bantu but never true to any of them. so i decided to write my own setting.

this is the introduction to my setting:
Wajabu is a fantastic civilization based on the mythology of Bantu Africa. Rather than portraying Africa as a dark continent rife with savagery and barbarism, Wajabu represent a more progressive outcome, a world where the practical application of magic has led to a purely sui generis African Renaissance. This is the biggest difference between Imperial Culture and and Earthly Bantu cultures: neophilia. The Empire is in the midst of a very successful technological revolution. Progress has been steady, and generally well-absorbed. The first golden age followed the construction of Siyathemba, where a group of brave survivors where faced with a challenging new world. There was a great synthesis of knowledge, a coming together of many varied traditions, and a general trend toward necessary adaptation. Africa of Earth is not a land of frontiers, but Wajabu has always been. In many ways, the spread of civilization in Wajabu resembles the Euro- American colonization of the American West.
if you care to read more, the whole text is here: WajabuPDF (oops, not allowed yet)

as part of developing this, i had to turn BTR into a world religion, complete with sacred texts, temples, etc. i'd like to share that part here.


Nov 2, 2016
Religion - Overview of Kidini

Origins and Expansions

When the people of Ubantu were first rescued from the belly of the Swallowing Beast, they were a random mix from dozens of tribes, cities and traditions. To help unify the people, King Ditaolane directed Zimbanje, the sorcerer-scholar, to use the magic of written language to record the Mfuradi ya Majina Mengi (the Verse of the Many Names). This capitalized on the common element in all the various traditions, that of a High God who is removed from humanity. Kidini thus started as propaganda, a very deliberately created religion. The initial goal was cultural unity - Ditaolane was faced with ruling over a city made from a hodgepodge of different cultures, some of which had been at war with each other. St. Zimbanje then set his scribes to recording the knowledge and folklore of all the peoples, in an effort to see that none of it would be lost. He set in motion the tradition of scholar-priests and the kind of inclusive anthropology that formed the roots of the Kanisa.

In Ubantu, as in the Belly of the Beast, the refugees were cut off from thier ancestors. During Ditaolane's journey, he was gifted with the fossilized jawbone of an animal, the Tatalimelosukuku. This was entrusted to his uncle, who had been a power oracle in Embo. he entrusted to his uncle, the new Minister of the Dead. With this link to the past in hand, he found it surprsingly simple to contact the Ancestors, though many had faded away. As time went on and more people died, it was discovered that these newly ascended Ancestors were very close to the mortal realm and rather powerful. The clans continued with their traditional rituals for honoring and propitiating the dead, and borrowed new ones. This process of formalized Ancestor veneration is the core of Kidini.

After four hundred years, when most created religions are getting formal churches and canons, the Witchking's eschatological rebellion nearly destroyed Kidini. The hidden history of these events tell a different tale than the one believed by the majority of the waBantu. The Witchking was rebelling against the tyranny of the ancestors, who had come to control pretty much every aspect of life in Siyathemba. Though he was ultimately corrupted and banished, the Witchking in essence succeeded. The priests who escaped the fall of Siyathemba learned some harsh lessons about the separation of Church and State. No one, from king to priest to peasant, could be exempt from the Church's inspection, and yet the Church's powers must never be used as a tool for oppression. The Parliament of the Ancestors learned a few lessons, too. A goodly percentage of them had been yanked out of the spirit world and turned into monsters. The nature of the world of Ubantu allowed them to be much closer to their descendants, and now they realized the danger. The ancestors are credited with wisdom, and they made use of it. They decided to let their children grow up on their own. In Siyathemba, a state oracle could ask the ancestors for any bit of information, and it would likely be given. Instead of Big Brother, the Siyathembans had Old Dead Men, but the results was very much the same. In modern times the Ancestors may guide their descendant, but they do not control them or grant them unlimited knowledge. The result of the this change, along with the invention of the printing press, led to the creation of the Kanisi ya Kidini and later the Ugombwe, Ubantu's first organized religions.


The myths that traditionally explained the physical universe are gradually giving way to more scholarly points of view. All of what Kidini considers myth is taken as subjective or even allegorical, and thus there is little conflict with ongoing science. Most learned people know that the Earth is round and circles the Sun, and that the moon and planets are other worlds. There is still much romance attached to celestial bodies, especially the moon and morning star, but Kidini has no hard definitions to challenge and Bantu societies have historically had little interest in astronomy.

The current model for the cosmos is called 'the Cloth of Being'. In this the Land of the Living is the solar system and the celestial sphere. The Sun, Moon and Planets are living beings with Blood, Breath and Spirit. The Earth is a layer of the Cloth of Being, as is the Sky and the Underworld. The Land of the Dead is the layer between the Sky and the Underworld, a mirror of the Earth.

Kuzimu is the realm within the Land of the Dead where the ascended Ancestors known to Kanisa live. There are other, similar realms, it seems, for the departed of other races and cultures.Kuzimu is connected to the mortal realm by a great Heaven fig (Kilembe) stretching into the sky. Many people who have ventured into the wide open savannas of Ubantu have seen the great tree in the distance. Ordinary heavenfigs are the offspring of this tree, and they are always planted in cemeteries. When they occur in the wild, they are sometimes home to maBandwa. Many believe that baobabs are the heavenfigs of the elephants.

The Underworld as it is referred to in Kidini myths is Mosima, a kind of Limbo for extinct peoples and a few lost souls. The Cabal of Njama may be connected to the Underworld - it is certainly connected to the Void, the realm outside the Cloth of Being, commonly referred to as the Banana Grove of the Host of the Screaming Ancestors.

Matter, Energy and the Soul

The Cloth of Being is made of three components, Matter, Energy and Information, or Blood, Breath and Spirit. The Ethereal Plane, or the Spirit World is not a place, but a state of being. The Material World is composed of Blood/Matter, while the Ethereal Plane is made of Spirit/Information. Mwela, magic, is the bridge between the two.Beings that are fully Ethereal, that have no Moyo whatsoever, cannot perceive Moyo or the Material World. A ghost in the Land of the Living cannot see inert matter. Likewise, a living material being that doesn't have a spirit, such as a zombie, cannot ghosts or other spirits.

Most modern Ubantu philosophers and scientists believe there are several parts to a man's soul. A person recieves Makini from his mother and Umbo from his father. The Umbo carries the physical traits, the Makini the mental. When a man is looking for a wife, he first considers the character of a woman's mother, not her physical appearance, whereas a woman looks for a strong and healthy man. This seems to be true in that children physically resemble the father's clan even though the mother may be for a clan with very different attributes.
Together the Makini and Umbo make up the Moyo, the living soul, which is associated with the blood. A person is not truly dead until his blood has dried. Mwela is the vital energy and the breath, which survives the body. A person's Nsala is different - it is the seat of reason and the part that goes on to become an ancestor, whereas Mwela is just vital force. The Nsala of a dead person is called an Mzimu. Properly, a person's Mzimu rests for a year after death, his body is stripped to bones in a Kanisi Maziko. After this, the soul changes to a different kind of thing. When ancestors speak through oracles, they do so as Mwela, breath. A person's shadow, his Kivuli, is a physical manifestation of his Mtima. People who have been corrupted or possessed will cast distorted shadows, while a person's whose soul has been stolen will cast no shadow.


The word that comes up again and again when studying the Bantu idea of God is otiose. 'Otiose' is a Greek word meaning 'at rest'. In the context of Bantu religion, it means a God who created, then removed himself/herself from this world. When I say 'created' without a predicate it is for a reason: there is very little consensus about how much God created. At the least he created men, and quite possibly cattle, but in many myths the universe itself has always been. Particularly nonhuman races and animals (such that there is a difference) are outside the sphere of creation.

It seems appropriate to use God with a capital, even though He/She is clearly not the God of Abrahamic traditions. Nevertheless, He/She is singular and exceptional - 'God' is more a proper noun than any other type. The 'He/She' is also necessary. In about a quarter to a fifth of all accounts, God is female. In some cases He is unsexed or multisexed. There is also a confusion between the creator God and his creation. In some cases the first man has come to be God, or even the ordinary people are just descendants of God. In Zulu tradition, the first man is 'Unkulunkulu'. In Ganda myth he is 'Kintu' - thus in the Ubantu syncretic tradition, he has become 'Unkulunkintu', name of Kazikamuntu, the 'root of man'.

Traditions versus Neophilia

Bantu societies are deeply traditional. The view that 'if it was good enough for our ancestors, it is good enough for us' is very common. This is one key area in which Ubantu differs from Earthly Bantu thought. The War without Hope was more than a physical conflict - it was a spiritual crisis. The ancestors had failed the people. They did not predict the War and they did not prevent it. Worse, it was the intervention of the Elephants that banished the Witchking. During the War, almost all of the ancestors had been pulled from Kuzima and bound into the service of the Witchking, yet humans prevailed.

Modern waBantu do not reject the wisdom of the ancestors, as the Witchking did, but they are not slaves to it as were the founders of Siyathemba. They look to the past to guide them into the future, which they see as filled with promise. After all, centuries of magical and technological innovation have done them nothing but good.

The War without Hope was also a lesson to the ancestors themselves. They no longer hold back their descendents, no longer force their ways on their grandchildren. They are wise, and they know the lessons they learned as parents. Overly controlling parents produce rebellious children. They guide, but they don't lead. They are very wary of handing people all the answers they need and understand that people have to work for answers to hold them dear.
Much of this has been passed on to living beings by a philosopher-oracle named Simpotolea. She channelled an ancient named Mjuizi, who eludicated the proper means by which the ancestors guide the living. Outside of the Misafu, this book, Ujuizi ya Mizimu, is one of the most popular books in Ubantu, consider required reading for any adult wishing to pass on to Elder status.

As a side note, Ubantu culture makes a firm distinction between 'writer' and 'author'. Ujuizi ya Mizimu is not the only work written by a dead man. It is not uncommon for the oracles working in the clan ossuaries to record a message from a dead relative and then forward it to a living descendent, who is then expected to send back money to make an appropriate offering or even commision the creation of an sanamu of that ancestor.

The Afterlife

Upon burial, a man's soul goes from the grave to the Underworld. The soul is in a fugue state that resembles drunkness or madness. During the time in which the body is buried in a cemetary, it must be propriated to keep it from coming back. It is not yet ready to aid the living. Souls that manage to find their way back during this time almost always cause problems, even if they do not mean to. Only very talented oracles can reach them, and even then it must be under the protection of a priest. Sometimes these souls will send messengers from the underworld if there is a matter that cannot wait. These usually occur in the form of snakes of particular species that are found in the cemetaries where the bodies are buried. When any such snake if found it must be treated with the upmost respect and taken to an oracle who can understand its message. If a python is found in a cemetary, it may well be a vessel of the spirit itself and should be taken to a Python temple. If it is found to be a vessel, it will be esconsed in the temple and worshipped.

The Underworld, Mosima, is very different from the abode of the Ancestors, or Kuzimu. Mosima is the land of mad ghosts and the vanished Earlier Races. It is possible to venture into Mosima to retrieve the recently dead, much like Orpheus, but it is a journey frought with peril.

After death it takes about a year for a soul to be ready to enter into Kuzimu, the land of the ancestors. This is thought of as a process similar to gestation and birth to the extent that some clans leave the body buried for only nine months. Entry to Kuzimu is not automatic - it takes preparation and numerous ceremonies. The bones of the dead are stripped clean by the ants and beetles that live in the cemetaries. After a year the bones are disinterred and placed in brass urn where they are taken to the clan ossuary. Therein the ancestor is allowed to join the lowest level of the Ondlalalane, the Parliament of the Dead.

Kuzimu is much like our world, only better. Once the soul arrives there, it grows a new body. Kuzimu is rich in Mwela, magical force. It is the energy of the fires at the center of each ancestral villages, and the portal through which they observe the Earth. Each clan has a grand village much like the villages found in the backbush (rather than the modern cities of Ubantu). The lesser ancestors serve the elder ones, which sit round a great fire and watch the antics of their grandchildren.

Many mortals of legend have found their way into Kuzimu. Most commonly these are barren women in search of children. The ancestors seem to approve of this motive and if treated with proper respect the wish is granted. In the myths this is often a prologue, as the children of heaven grow up to be great heroes. There are two common ways for mortal to ascend into heaven: the Heavenfig and a magical rope. St. Nyabingi rode to Kuzimu on the back of a giant owl. The ancestors were so impressed with her that they gave her a magical bag full of seeds from heaven-plants, including mealie corn and other plants not native to Africa.

Kuzimu is not just the abode of the ancestors, but also of the sun, the moon and the various planets. Each of these has its own country along with various spirits which serve them. There are stories in which the various celestial bodies send their handmaidens down spider silk threads to fetch them water and other things they desire. Mortals have been known to hitch rides into Kuzimu in this fashion or to send messengers.

The ancestors do not travel bodily back to this world - they project their Nsala through the fires, leaving their bodies behind. Thus is much as when people dream, and their minds wander the dreamworld. A cord of breath connects their wandering souls with their bodies, and it must not be severed, or their souls will be lost.

The waBantu have a complex and beautiful cosmology. They speak of the Cloth of Being, which is like a kanga printed with a map of Nsi ya Yi, the Land of the Living, Mosima, Kuzimu and the Celestial Bomas. The kanga is then folded, so that it is possible to travel from certain parts of one Domain to connected parts of another, as via the HeavenTree or certain caves. The Cloth of Being is within the Cauldron (Predna), which is God and the Cauldron is filled with Mwela, which means both breath and magical power.


The ethical system of the waBantu is almost entirely based around preserving the social order. Rather than the rights of the individual we find that individuals have obligations to society. A man has an obligation to his family and his clan and can be taken to court if he fails in these. If a woman complains that her husband is lazy and unable to support her and her children, she may be granted a divorce. In extreme cases, the man may even be sold into slavery and the profits given to his ex-wife. A man who embarasses his clan may be fined, enslaved or disenfranchised. There are several famous treatsies on ethics, which are entirely centered on these obligations. There are idealized roles for children, adolescents, unmarried men and women, husbands, wives, elders and ancestors. It is perfectly possible to acuse one's ancestor of failing in his obligation to the clan, resulting in his demotion in the Parliament of the Dead or other punishments.

Vows are extraordinarily serious in Ubantu. When a man swears by his ancestors, he can expect his ancestors to enforce that vow. This is different from an everyday promise, but even those who break their promises will be subject to public shaming. Murder is strictly illegal and punishable by death unless the victim's clan pleads for mercy. Manslaughter is similar, but the victim's clan may prefer weregild (payment) or that the killer be made into a slave. Theft usually results in corporal punishment and/or enslavement, but cattle theft is a capital crime. This is taken up in more detail in the section on Imperial jurisprudence.


Nov 2, 2016
The Kidini Canon – Misafu ya Kidini

The basic texts of Kidini are God (Umajina), Ancestors (Mizimu), Mortuary Rites (Maziko), Ceremonies (Maadhimisho), Law (Miila), Legends (Masimulizi), Spirits (Misambwa) and Heroes (Balubaale). Normally the Books of God, Ancestors, Rites, Rituals and Law are combined into a single volume, the Misafu ya Utawa (the Books of Piety) and the rest go into the Books of Knowledge (Misafu ya Elimu). Like many religious texts, the Misafu are confusing, to say the least, and largely unintelligible outside their cultural context. There are several accessory texts that are associated with the Misafu but not a direct part of the Kidini cannon. The favorite of these is the Msafu ya Busara na Vitendawili (Book of Wisdom and Riddles), which is used for teaching children.

Msafu ya Umajina

The Umajina text sets out the Kidini theology. The word "Umajina" means something like "many namedness". There are three parts, the Primaverse, Evocations and Stories. The Primaverse deals with the the names of God - the primary incantation lists 26, each with an epithet - Ngai the Great One, Mulungu the Creator, Nyame the Father, Leza of Heaven, Huveane the Raingiver, Wele the King of the Ancestors, Imana the Merciful, Iruwa the Protector, Dziva the Mother, Dyaweh the Benevolent, Nzambi the Inconquerable, Tilo the Eye of the Sun, Mredana Bride of Creation, Mukuru Lord of the Future , Asa the Seer, Utixo the Omniscient, Tuwatabi the Sky Woman, Chiuta the Great Bow of Heaven, Pamba the Great Warrior, Adroa Lord of the Earth, Ngazi the Earthmother, Katonda of the Clouds, Ruhanga King of Kings, Khuzwane the Ancient One, Kaluma Worker of Miracles and Sororezhou the Head of the Elephant. This is an obvious attempt at syncretism - a collection of all the various names from every people, together in a simple easily recited hymn. Seven of the names are feminine. The Umajina aspect of Kidini has been very successful - each time a new people is encountered, a name is added, and the Way gains another people.

Areas of great natural beauty are often considered sacred to one of the aspects of God. Umajina may communicate through lesser spirits, especially the baCwezi kubandwa or just as often through signs and omens. These priests are often seen as rain-makers, for, if anything, Umajina is the God of Rain.

The primary characteristic of God in Bantu theology is that he is otiose and distant, taking no part in daily affairs. Other than this simple praise, He features very little in Kidini. On the other hand, the Umajina (many names) are of great import to wazungua (book sorcerors), who take an almost kabbalistic view.

The Evocations are a collection of prayers, each one focusing on one of the aspects of God. Each of the names has several Evocations. The following will serve as an example:

"O Imana wa Umajina, if only you would help me!
O Imana of pity, Imana of my father's home, if only you would help me!
O Imana if only you would help me just this once!
O Imana, if only you would give me a homestead and children!
I prostrate before you, Imana wa Umajina.
I cry to you: Give me offspring, give me as you give to others!
Imana, what shall I do, where shall I go?
I am in distress: where is there room for me?
O Merciful, O Imana of mercy, help this once"


Wele the Many-Named, you who made us so that we may walk on your earth
You who make the cattle and the things which are on it

The next section, Stories, is just that - myths that mention God. There are 46 Stories, gleaned from numerous cultures, all of which refer to God only as Umajina. The myths are inconsistent, redundant and mutually contradictory - God is expected to beyond human understanding. It is nowhere clear whether or not Umajina and Kazikamuntu the First Man are separate beings. There are, for example, five creations myths, four concerning the origin of men and two about the origin of death. A few examples: Umajina vomits up the celestial bodies, the animals and then man. Umajina creates the Moon and the Morning and Evening Stars as his wives, who later give birth to all the plants and animals. Umajina breaks off a reed, which becomes the First Man (Kazikamuntu). Umajina planted the Great Tree of Heaven, the leaves that fell from the tree became the animals, the seeds fell and broke open and became the first men. Umajina married the Earth and her children crawled up from caves. Kazikamuntu was then expelled from the garden and given new wives, created to be subservient, and these became the mothers of humanity.

Misafu ya Mizimu na Maziko - Books of Ancestors and Mortuary Rites

The Mizimu canon is the central text of Kidini. There is no single Book of the Ancestors - the text varies for each clan and even moreso in different cultures. The Book of Ancestors contains descriptions of all the major rituals related to propitiating the living dead. Some of the rituals are to be performed on special days to honor particular ancestors or to petition them for aid, others exist to ask forgiveness for particular wrongs. It also contains instructions for creating ancestor urns/reliquaries, sanamu and windchimes that can be used to communicate with the ancestors.

The Msafu ya Maziko contain the clan's burial and ascension rituals. The baKwazi text is often taken as an exemplar. It describes 25 mortuary rituals for various types of people - warriors, leaders, married women, children, criminals, priests, people killed by lightning, etc. In general, a body is buried for a year, then dug up and transferred to an urn and taken to the clan mortuary.

The details of the ritual for the death of prominent man with a family will serve as an example. First and foremost, the relatives of the deceased must be notified. Word of mouth is not sufficient - there is a specific ritual conducted by the Mwalimu which magically conveys the bad news. Every known relative and associate of the deceased will experience a pall and a chill, and will simply know. These people are the Waguswa, the touched. From the time of this knowledge until the burial, these people are contaminated - they must not have sexual intercourse (for fear of giving birth to a monster) and they must follow specific food taboos. They are chafu, polluted, as is anything they touch. If they cannot attend the burial, after three days of mourning they may be purified by any Mwalimu. The man's brothers, widows, children and grandchildren, to whatever degree through direct patrilineal descent, will shave their heads - this is the public indication that they are in mourning. They are called "Wasonona" and have special duties. The grave is dug by the man's brothers. If he has no brothers or they cannot attend, any of the Wasonona may, given the Mtawa's blessing. All of the deceased's possessions are contaminated and must be purified. The ritual cleansing includes a bit of osteomancy which determines whether each object will go to the eldest son (who redistributes them, he is allowed only one keepsake) or go into the grave.

Cemeteries are extremely dangerous areas - one does not enter a graveyard without reason. The graves are shallow and lined with rock, and the barkcloth wrapped body is interred in a cairn of stones. All of the relatives and friends of the deceased bring stones, and there is great lamentation during this part of the ceremony. After the burial the man's house is burned (these days, it is his bed), which is followed by a dance of lamentation by the widows. Each widow will cut herself in the groin area and collect some blood in a calabash, which is mixed with palm wine and shared by the Wasonona, uniting them in grief. Thereafter there is a eulogy ceremony in which basically every mourner speaks a few words of encouragement, leading strength to the new mzimu. Afterwards the Waguswa (but not the Wasonona) are cleansed and may leave. On the next day the Wasonona gather at the grave and the Myombe attempts to contact the deceased. In most cases, this works. At this point, the deceased is an mvaripasi, and is believed to be in a transitional state somewhat like sleep. The Wasonona will ask questions of the Mfumu to confirm that the correct spirit has been contacted, then it is asked whether or not there was witchcraft or foul play involved in his death. If contact cannot be made, there is an investigation - it may be that the mzimu is angry, or that it has been killed or stolen by witchcraft or any number of things. The Wasonona will stay in mourning for a full year, meaning that the household basically stays intact. The cemetery must be guarded - the Wakaburi are very useful to witches and necromancers, not to mention the dangers of hyaenas.

After the year has passed, it is time for the Ascension ceremony that will guide the spirit to Kuzimu. The mourners will disinter the body and assist the village Watawa in transferring the bones to an urn. This is a festive occasion with drinking and lovemaking. At this time, after the disinterment and before the transferal, the Mzimu is very close to the living and very powerful. It will often briefly possess the drunken revelers. Widows who have been faithful will have their youth and beauty restored for one night, and may make love with whomever they choose. If they become pregnant, the child is considered a legitimate offspring of the deceased. When leaving the family, the urn must be taken to the clan ossuary, carried on the back of a cow of a specific type which is given to the clan priests.

In modern, urban funerals, cemeteries are located a day's walk from the city and are run by a clan priests. They are inhabited by certain types of ants and beetles that are very adept at cleaning flesh from bones. Clan ossuaries containing ancestor urns are located in the clan's estate in that country. Ossuaries are grand affairs, the most beautiful and elaborate architectural marvels in the Empire. Cemeteries, on the other hand, are run almost as businesses - people buy their own plots while alive, choosing the best guarded one they can afford.

Every clan and some societies, especially hero societies, have unique funeral rights, and there have been struggles between clans and societies as to who gets the spirit of a powerful person who dies suddenly.

Msafu ya Miila - the Book of Laws

The Book of Laws concerns itself with taboos, both general and clan specific. It reads much like Leviticus - "A man must not cross the path of a hyena, or he will be impure". Mixed in with these are more general laws and their punishments, such as "A man must not kill another man in anger, or his life is forfeit to the clan of the slain". This is covered in detail in the section on Ritual Purity. A note on language - there are several words relating to laws and customs that sound very much alike. Mwila/Miila is a term for anything that is forbidden, while mwiko/miiko refer specifically to taboos. There are other words, mlao or law and mghwa or custom, that are used in legal terminology.

Msafu ya Maadhimisho - the Book of Ceremonies

Maadhimisho are life stage ceremonies. These include birth, weaning (2 to 3 years), circumcision, marriage and elderhood. Some clans have additional gradients for warriors and advanced elders. This books also contains summaries of the obligations of each stage, put forth as oaths taken during the ceremonies. Almost all clans practice male circumcision. In the Empire, female genital mutilation as such is unknown. The ritual that replaces it is called ukugcaba, where small incisions are made in the genital area near the labia with a piece of glass. A cloth is dabbed in the blood, which the newly minted young woman will wear around her head. These scars are considered desirable and are believe to enhance sexual pleasure

Msafu ya Masimulizi - the Book of Legends

This is a book of folklore, about half of which is entirely about animals and would be familiar to anyone who has read Aesop's Fables or the tales of Brer Rabbit. Most of these are morality tales, the explanatory types of fables being found in the Stories section of the Msafu ya Umajina.

Msafu ya Misambwa - the Book of Spirits

Misambwa are an order of nature spirits apart from the Mizimu. Their Msafu is a collection of verses and evocations praising aspects of nature, both in general and in particular. These spirits were not widely worshiped by the Bantu of Earth, though they are known to the baGanda and baKongo and other peoples, but they gained much prominence in Ubantu. There are verses for the Lord Sun (Kumwene), the Moon as the Queen of Heaven (Jenkozana), the Earthmother (Nkwoga), the Rainbow (Musoke), the Lightning Birds (Impundulu), the River Spirits (Misimbi), Mountain Spirits (Mikishi), Ocean Spirits (Migoloko), Wind Spirits (Mikela), Fire Spirits (Mipalia), Metal Spirits (Mibamba) and the Forest Spirits (Mijengi). There are eight elements in Ubantu cosmology: Air, Fire, Earth, Stone, River, Sea, Wood and Metal. Temples to the Eight Directions are found throughout urban Ubantu. The Sea Queen (Dzivaguru) is a little different, and seems to have been recently added, probably in compensation for Mojili, the Majisafi Goddess.

This book also has a few basic ritual for honoring mihondoro and misangu. Some believe these are the spirits of ancient chiefs who predate the founding of Siyathemba, but in any case they are now the leaders of all the local nature spirits. They are analogous to the Roman genii loci. Their shrines are marked by particularly elegant and ancient trees surrounded by piles of stones. In rural areas one day each month is devoted to honoring the local Mhondaro, in which the land isn't working. Instead there is a picnic and festival at the shrine, where an animal (usually a goat) is sacrificed and the tree is watered with its blood and copious amounts of beer. Failure to do so results in poor harvests and crop failures.

Msafu ya Balubaale - the Book of Heroes

The book of heroes has short biographies of the twelve hero-saints plus tales about the founder of the clan and his descendants. The twelves saints were standardized a few centuries ago when a series of operas were published. The content of this book varies substantially in the vassal states. For instance, in Ishyangombi it is entirely about Ryangombe and his relatives, which are the founders of the clans in that area.


Nov 2, 2016
Clan Priests

Butaka Clan holding
Siga Butaka chief
Ulili/Malili Clan shrines
Mtawa/Watawa Clan priest
Myombe/Wayombe Clan oracle

Muumba - founder
Mjaja/Wajaja - clan leader/elder
Mtaka/Wataka - lineage elders
Sadunhu - oracle for Muumba
Mraroji/Wararoji Ossuary caretakers
Udlalalane/Odlalalane Ossuaries, also Parliament of the Ancestors
Msahafu Mkumbufu Book of Remembrances

Mtawa/Watawa - lesser priests
Myombe/Wayome - Clan oracles
Ulili/Malili- Clan shrine
Chilyango/Vyilyango (Cilyango, Tonga) - Clan spirit gate
Udlalalane - Ossuary

The roots of Kidini are with the religious functionaries of the individual clans. Clans have priests, watawa, and oracles, wayombe. In most clans, mtawa is a hereditary position, a family within each lineage, and wayombe are women within the same family, though anyone may be called. The myombe who speaks with the voice of the clan's founder, its Muumba, is called the Sadunhu, and is also normally his spirit-bride

The sacred estates of a clan are called butaka. In order to qualify as such, the clan must have owned the estate for three generation, and it must have a shrine and an ossuary, though obviously this definition was applied post-facto in the central kingdoms. Butaka are generally on a hill with gardens down the side. These estates have a leader, the eldest of that lineage of the clan, called 'Siga'. There are also subdivision of estates which are held by smaller branches, where the area houses a branch ossuary. These are all freeholds and the people who live there are 'bataka' even though most of them are actually peasants.

The Mjaja is the leader of a clan, by virtue of being the Siga of the primal line and thus is its high priest. He alone has access to the clan's Msahafu Mkumbufu (Book of Remembrances) and is entrusted with most of the clan's fetishes, including its drum. Although they are rarely used in modern times, some of these fetishes have significant power. Each of these will have its own temple/altar in the butaka, often with an attendent mtawa. The mtawa caring for the fetish may have no idea of its power - in some cases, no one knows. The Msahafu Mkumbufu (mkumbufu means 'having a good memory') details the clan's rituals, mythology, ceremonies and beliefs, along with details of its holdings. It is the responsibility of the mjaja to amend and update the Msahafu Mkumbufu. After he dies, the Living Book will be edited and reprinted, with copies going to all the wataka of the clan's lineages and a pared down version going into the clan's Misafu ya Kidini.

The second highest power is the Sadunhu, the spirit-bride of the clan's founder. Regardless of her birth lineage, as a mukarange she joins the line of the founder and her children are also of that line. While most oracles are hard core ascetics, the Sadunhu is a dowager-nun, bound by taboos but wrapped in the acoutrements of powers.

Clan Shrines and Ossuaries

Malili, clan shrines, are typically thatch cones that sit directly on the ground, up to 20m in diameter, with a piece removed from the front to serve as a veranda. Inside there is an altar in the center on which are displayed the clan relics, often with tapestries as a backdrop.

Rituals such as initiations and marriage use the Chilyango or Spirit Gate. Vyilyango are built from two rows of saplings across from each other, the tops of which are bent together to a single point.The saplings are living trees and thus the net effect is that of a arch of greenery. Passing through this arch symbolizes transitions in life. Chilyango are normally set in amphitheaters with seating all around for spectators.

The clan ossuaries are the most magnificent buildings in Ubantu. In the vernacular, these are called Odlalalane, though this term originally referred to a gathering of the Ancestors. The generic burial practice is to interr the deceased for nine months in a cemetery while the body rots down to bones. Thereafter, it is disinterred and placed in a brass urn, accompanyied by an Ascencion ritual. The urn is ceremoniously taken to the clan estate in that nation and placed in the ossuary. Ossuaries are thus vast mausoleums with halls of shelves of dusty urns, meticulously tended to by dedicated priests. The halls are hung with windchimes, though no natural breezes blow, so that the restless dead can make their needs known. Each urn has the name and geneology of the decedent, which is very important. The caretakers of these vast masoleums are called wararoji, a special class of ascetic functionary with some of the abilities of priests and oracles. Most do nothing but wander the halls, reading the names and greeting the dead, so that their names are not forgotten.


Nov 2, 2016
egypt? egypt had almost no effect on west african or bantu cultures. it's about as relevant as madagascar. and in particular, african-americans living in the new world have zero connection with egypt. egypt is just as un-african as buddhism.

and why would you even want to study egypt? how about Great Zimbabwe, the Empire of Kitara or the Kongo Kingdom? go read 'Indaba, My Children' by Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa. it's nonsense, but at least it's bantu.


Nov 2, 2016
i owe you an apology. considering my own religious beliefs, i have no business being critical about anyone else's on the basis of realism, etc. this comes from being trained as a scientist - and in this arena, that can be a liability. so, salama, mzee, peace be unto you.

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