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The Zulu Religious Tradition

The Zulu are an African ethnic group located primarily in southern Africa in the region of modern-day Lesotho, Eswatini. Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The Zulu are also known in the region as the ‘Amazulu’ and they are well known for their expertise within the field of agriculture. The Zulu peoples descend from a larger African group known as the Nguni people who are also located in the beautiful southern regions of Africa. We find that in the Nguni language the name Zulu actually means ‘heaven’ and Amazulu translates into English as ‘the people of heaven’. Zulu culture traditionally positions men as responsible for leading their households, hunting and cultivation, education and training in the art of warfare which includes stick fighting. Any disputes between men within the tribe are publicly addressed through stick fighting. The duel is over as soon as blood flows from either party and the winner then tends the wounds of the loser. These Africans were well known in the continent as mighty warriors, highly skilled in the art of combat but at the same time also and extremely spiritual people and their religion is detailed.

Within the Zulu religious and spiritual traditions the name for God is ‘Unkulunkulu’. Unkulunkulu is known as the supreme creator and is responsible for the creation of human beings, land, water and everything in existence. Unkulunkulu is also the teacher of mankind, in that he taught the Zulu nation how to hunt and cultivate food and how to create fire. The Zulu also believe in high-ranking spiritual begins who are endowed with supernatural powers and are able to assit human beings. One extremely well known and powerful female fertility spirit is named Mbaba Mwana Waresa. Mbaba Mwana Waresa is known to rule over rainbows, agriculture, harvests, rain, and has power over water. She has another name which is ‘Nomkhubulwane’. Nomkhubulwane means ‘she who chooses the state of an animal’ as she is known to have the ability to shapeshift and to transform her physical structure. The Zulu also believe in ancestral spirits which can be connected to specific human bloodlines. Within the tradition ancestral spirits are known as ‘amadlozi ’ and they can posses human beings and provide healing powers. In this regard the concept of the amadlozi would be comparable to ‘the jinn’ in the Islamic tradition. In the Zulu culture the name for a human being who is a healer and is ‘gobela’ and traditional medicines are known as ‘muthi’. There is also class of spirits known as ‘amathongo’ which are the sprits of dead people. The Zulu believe in the afterlife and they believe that when a human being dies they live on in a separate dimension sometimes known as ‘kwela baphansi’ which translates into ‘the land of the ancestors’.

Traditional Zulu shamans and healers are thought to have the ability to communicate with the spirits and offerings can be made to them for assistance and guidance in matters on the physical plane. The Zulu are also serious practitioners of meditation. Another key concept within the Zulu tradition is that of ‘Umvelinqangi’ which is a divine consciousness and a type of energy field. Through deep meditation the Zulu believe they are able to connect to Umvelinqangi and benefit from insights. The Zulu also recognize a number of different elements which constitute the overall human being which include the physical body named the ‘umzimba’, the energy life force which is named the ’umoya’ and the personality or shadow which is named ‘isithunzi’. In the sacred tradition of the Zulu every man, woman and child who dies within the tribe must be buried in the traditional manner otherwise it is believed that the deceased may become a wandering spirit on the earth. An animal is slaughtered as a part of the ritual. The deceased's personal belongings are buried with them to aid them in their journey to the afterlife and this is practice that was also conducted by other African nations such as the Nubian Empire located in eastern Africa. The Zulu religious traditions are still practiced by millions of Africans to the present day.

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