Thursday, 14 February 2013

How To Make It Rain; A Malawian Ancestral Story of Mbona the Rain Maker

The Rain, some take it casually, not realizing how essential it is for life, but others know all too well that rain means survival. In Some places rain comes so frequent or so much that it is taken for granted or people wished it rained less often, and in other places rain comes so little or not at all that livelihoods are destroyed.

 In places where rain is crucial you'll probably find people of great faiths devoted to rain, the rainmakers and rainmaking cults. There are various cults around the world that practice or practiced some sort of rainmaking rituals. The native Indians of North America had rain dances and similar practices occurred and still do in parts of Africa including Malawi.

Khulubvi sacred shrine is located in Nsanje District, in the lower Shire Valley in Southern Region of Malawi, It is an important spiritual place among the people of Mang'anja tribe. It is a place where the Mang'anja worship the spirit of Mbona.

Mbona was a legendary rain maker with superhuman powers who lived in Nsanje. He had knowledge of medicine and magic, and he had a gift bestowed onto him from the heavens to govern the rains. Apart from bringing rain, he could also create wells of water on sandy lands, create forests where they did not exist and hide from enemies by turning into other creatures such as guinea fowls. He had a wife named Salima who almost always stayed in the compound, only visited by elderly women and children. She ventured on a few occasions to some villages assisting Mbona on matters of divinity.

Mbona's uncle Mlauli, who was also a conjurer resented his nephew and wanted to kill Mbona because of his extraordinary abilities. Mlauli, however, failed to kill his nephew because Mbona wished to die on his own accord. He told Mlauli and his enemies to cut his throat with a reed after other weapons had failed to harm him. Thus this was his was his fate. It is said that His head was cut and placed at Khulubvi sacred grove.

Mbona's shrine lies in the Sacred Khulubvi grove in Nsanje, protected by the shrine guardians. Mbona's head is said to have been entombed on the floor of his hut. The shrine is never cleaned or swept. Only those of the Mang'anja tribe are allowed with permission from the guardian. The sanctuary is sacred ground; no one can cut down any tree, plant any crops or let their cattle graze. 

There a number of huts in the area, but most importantly includes Mbona's hut and close to that his wife's hut Salima. After the death of Mbona she still played an important role, she would be visited at night by Mbona in the form of an enormous python and he would tell her the future, so as to inform the village of what to plant and what not to. She would communicate to the village via a trance like state, she was the oracle.

After her death the cult continued with succession of oracles. The ultimate responsibility for the cult lies with the Lundu paramount, who is to provide Mbona with a “wife.” This elderly woman, called Salima, lives in Khulubvi and communicates Mbona’s wishes received through dreams and possession. An outside medium may also perform this function, and local chiefs have subsidiary shrines. The spirits communicates via this medium and their lineages spans generations and there is a system of succession.

People came to worship, bringing with them black cloth or a black goat, an offering to Mbona in exchange for rain, water, life. Escorted by the chiefs and village headmen they went to Mbona's hut. After they returned home and finished the sacred rites the sky would rip open and the ground would be blessed by rain.

The Khulubvi and Associated Mbona Sacred Rain Shrines are a world heritage site (UNESCO).