Roberta Eaton, aka Robbie Cheadle, shares the final post 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 and Part Five.
Myths and beliefs of southern Africa – The Sotho-Tswana people
This is the last post in this myths and beliefs of southern Africa series and is about the Sotho-Tswana people of southern Africa is largely comprised of the South Sotho (Basuto and Sotho), the West Sotho (Tswana) and the North Sotho (Pedi) people.
Most Sotho people were historically herders of cattle, goats and sheep and growers of grains and tobacco. The Sotho people were also recognised for their metal and leather work as well as their wood and ivory carving.
Flat roofed dwelling, built by Basotho farmers near Bloemfontein. Picture from https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/sotho-south-sotho-or-basotho
The Sotho people live largely in Lesotho and South Africa and as a combined group are the second largest ethnic group in South Africa.
Names in Sotho generally have meanings that express the values of the parents or the community. Common personal names include Lehlohonolo (Good Fortune), Mpho (Gift) and Mma Thabo (Mother of Joy). Individuals may also be named after events, such as a rain storm, or after clan heroes.
The Sotho traditionally believe in Modimo who created the world and then withdrew to Heaven. He no longer concerns himself with life on earth. Modimo is not worshipped directly but though the ancestors.
The belief in ancestors is central to Sotho traditional religion. The ancestors are believed to have an influence over the daily lives of their direct descendants. Each family is under the direct guidance of its own descendants while the tribe, as a whole, is under the guidance of the ancestors of the chief.
Death, the Spirit and the Afterlife
The Sotho-Tswana believe that after death the spirit passes to the next phase of life. They traditionally believe that the physical body (mele) is entirely corporal and the incorporal spirit (moea meaning wind or serili meaning shadow) just occupies the physical body for the period until its death.
The Sotho-Tswana have some unique traditional beliefs regarding the spirit, as follows:
- Although it is generally invisible, the spirit can occasionally be seen in dreams or visions;
- During an induced trance, a witchdoctors spirit can wander away from his body if it wants to;
- During his lifetime, a man’s spirit may be seen as a second shadow. Such sightings usually occur at sunset when the spirit separates itself from the body’s ordinary shadow;
- At the moment of death, the spirit may be fleetingly seen, but it will never be seen clearly;
- Disruptions to the normal functioning of the mind, such as hysteria and a poor mental state, occur when the spirit becomes confused and distressed due to sorcery or deeds of departed spirits;
- The spirit of a dead person is said to hover close to the body from which it has departed, even during the burial. The spirit is not released to the ancient tribal home of the spirits, Ntsuanatsatsi, until the internment rites are completed. When these are completed the spirit rises to its feet. The body is buried in a crouching position to facilitate the spirit’s departure.
In sotho-Tswana society, each member has a totem with is usually an animal. Totems are inherited from the father and are treated with reverence and respect. It is important not to eat your totem.
Picture from: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_crocodiles.html
A Sotho poem from Lesotho, in praise of the crocodile, is set out below:
The crocodile is the invoker of the rain waters,
The black one of the pool,
The black black one lying on the water slime;
It is the crocodile of the pool
The biter, I go about hunting for prey.
Son of the father of pools, to whom tribute is paid,
to the lords of the rivers,
To the lords of the rivers, the hippo and the crocodile;
The great torrents of rain will come thundering down.
It is the black crocodile of the pool,
The crocodile that drags down a beast into the depths,
It drags the beast into the dark depths;
The crocodile has jammed the beast down in a fork,
It has taken the beast into the dark depths.
The owners of the beast peer over and down into them,
They open out the rushes and willows,
They think they are looking right into the pool;
It is the pool into which the beast has disappeared.
It is the black crocodile, of Modiane of Tau,
Of those of Moxopa-a-dira, the Robber of his enemies.
The crocodile stays down in the weeds with the beast,
It is still down in the dark pool with it;
It is the one that cannot be drowned, of Mmamolemana,
Crocodile that must not be poked with a reed,
though born in the reeds;
Cruel one, killer while laughing,
The crocodile is the laughing teeth that kill,
for anger slays no man.
Poem sourced from:
S.M. Lekgothoane from ‘Praises of Animals in Northern Sotho’
195 & 197 Bantu Studies 12 (1938)
Witwatersrand University Press
South African History Online
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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