Roberta Eaton, aka Robbie Cheadle, shares the third of her posts on the beliefs and myths of her home. Other posts in the series can be found by cicking here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four…
Beliefs and myths of southern Africa – The Venda
The Venda-speaking people originated from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. The Venda settled in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa’s northern-most mountain range which takes its name from the salt pans that lie at its based near the western end. The Venda built their first capital, D’zata, meaning a good place, in the Nzhelele Valley. The D’zata ruins still exist today and have been declared a South African national monument. D’zata was important for the Venda people as they buried their chiefs facing it.
Image of the D’zata ruins from https://alchetron.com/Dzata-ruins
God and the afterlife
The Venda people are artistic, and this is reflected in their vibrant mythical belief system. Water is an important feature in the Venda belief system and there are several sacred sites where the Venda conjure up the ancestral spirits.
Lake Fundudzi, an inland lake system that lies in the heart of the Soutpansberg region, is held sacred by the Venda. The name is derived from the words fundu (to bend) and dziba (a large pool) and relates to the greeting which was expected from all visitors to the lake. This greeting involves the visitor bowing his/her back to the lack and viewing it from between their legs.
One of the beliefs about Lake Fundudzi is that a sacred python, which is considered to bring fertility, lives beneath the water. In ancient times, the python lived on the surface of the lake and had human wives. The python visited them at night when he could not be seen. One inquisitive wife did see the python and her terror so upset the python that he fled deep into the lake. His withdrawal into the lake caused a terrible drought which only ended when his inquisitive wife walking into the lake and joined her husband.
A white crocodile is also believed to live in the lake. When a Venda king died, his remains were placed in the lake. The crocodile would then cough up a stone which the new king had to swallow. The white crocodile is said to guard the ghosts of the ancestors of the Venda who are believed to reside beneath the surface of the lake.
The Domba is a pre-marital initiation that is only attended by Venda girls. Historically, both boys and girls attended the Domba after they had attended other separated initiations specific to their gender. This changed when the missionaries declared ti was immoral for males and females to participate in the same ceremony.
The Domba is called by the chief or sovereign and has two main functions, as follows:
- It teaches girls how to prepare themselves to become wives including birth planning, giving birth, child care and how to treat a husband; and
- Bringing fertility to the new generation of the tribe.
The final stage of a young woman’s initiation is to participate in the Domba, or python dance, which is held annually at Lake Fundudzi. The girls line up in single file, forming a chain, and dance in long, winding lines, like a snake. The dancers traditionally wear small aprons covering the back and front, with tasseled ornaments called thahu.
Myths and Legends of southern Africa by Penny Miller
About the author
Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton).
All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications. Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differentiate her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.
Find and follow Roberta Eaton
While the Bombs Fell
What was it like for children growing up in rural Suffolk during World War 2?
Elsie and her family live in a small double-storey cottage in Bungay, Suffolk. Every night she lies awake listening anxiously for the sound of the German bomber planes. Often they come and the air raid siren sounds signalling that the family must leave their beds and venture out to the air raid shelter in the garden.
Despite the war raging across the English channel, daily life continues with its highlights, such as Christmas and the traditional Boxing Day fox hunt, and its wary moments when Elsie learns the stories of Jack Frost and the ghostly and terrifying Black Shuck that haunts the coastline and countryside of East Anglia.
Includes some authentic World War 2 recipes.
Robbie also writes as Robbie Cheadle
The Sir Chocolate books are a delightful marriage of story, verse and cookery
… a perfect recipe for sharing with children. Silly Willy goes to Cape Town tells the adventures of two very different brothers…and includes five party cake ideas.
You can purchase the Sir Chocolate books from:
or you can buy them in South Africa directly from the authors by emailing Robbie Cheadle at email@example.com.
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