Blood, Milk, and Death [the Zaramo of Tanganyika]

grammatical praefixes

p. praefix meaning
140 ki- ‘in the language of __’
m- singular no.
141 u- ‘the land of __’, ‘the practice of __’
142 wa- plural no.


p. term meaning
38 kualikwa seclusion
39 mwana girl’s doll
miyombo fibre skirt
44 mlango door
45 njuga bells
63 kuma vagina
nya daughter
tanga "something that spreads along a surface"
97 mzimu (pl. mizimu) ancestor spirits
kivuli (pl. vivuli) shadow
139 fundi teacher
140 madogoli exorcism
mteja a patient

ritual for females

p. rite description of rite
41 luhutilo "The grandmother simulates pain, half falling down."
42 c^audele "rite of special praise for the grandmother"
64 tambiko "done with mbemba, millet flour, which is said to be a gift from Nyapingu. Nyapingu kept millet grains in her vagina until they sprouted". "a song is sung : ... "Let the huge vagina spread all over." ... A male informant explains : This means ... that this vagina has crawled recklessly."
101 madogoli "if the mteja is female, she encounters a wegu spirit, a mganga wrapped in ... grasses with an emphasized penis. The hteja dances with the wegu who embraces her ... . Then the mteja runs off, followed by the wegu, and they throw themselves into a pond".


p. myth
47 "The proto-female Nyalutanga ... turned into an elephant [female "elephants hid within mkole woods when they had their periods"] after too lengthy a seclusion, causing the first mkole tree to grow." ["the slipperiness and sliminess of the mkole sap ... represents the female fluid" {Bartholin-gland secretion} (p. 49)]
62 "Nyalutanga ... the Grandmother of Grandmothers ... simply was the beginning ... she crawled out of the earth. ... Nyalutanga gave birth to Nyapingu, a daughter, and Luwambo, a son, who married and produced Mulumbo".
63 "Nyalutanga came to give mkole and she gave it to us (the women) ... . ["The mkole also distinguishes the Zaramo from other neighboring groups, like the Zigua, who in other ways are quite similar." (p. 70)] ... Nyapingu brought jando."
68 "In the olden times when our sister had their monthly periods, when their days came, if there was a male present they would not get up from the place where they were sitting. {Rah.el said : "I cannot rise before thee; for the custom of women is upon me." (B-Re>s^it 31:35)} A woman would throw some grass over her shoulder and the male ... would get up. They did not use any cloths." [myth involving menstruating woman who thus remained sitting in the praesence of males :] "The menstruating woman ... died. The banana, ng’oo, ... grew from her grave". {so, is the banana = inscribed "small tablet of copper or gold" (LB, p. 178)?}


LB = Louis Ginzberg : Legends of the Bible.

divination ["shamanistic" (p. 88)]

p. divining (shamanism)
85 "the diviner may have been made ill by certain spirits and thereafter carry a connection to those spirits."
86 "the knowledge just comes to the diviner as he or she shakes rattles and sings to the spirits. A diviner can see only after he or she has been possessed by the spirit and has been under its tutelage, and thereby designated as a diviner under that spirit. If it was an illness that signaled that the person was destined to be a diviner, he or she is compelled to serve those spirits to prevent falling ill again."
99 "The madogoli ... is a feast given to the spirits in which they come and take part by being raised to the head of the mteja and the waganga. They then dance and enjoy the company of the human beings".
102 "Kupungu rungu are directed to spirits of rungu, which usually take the form of a snake, but can also appear as a lion, hyena, or mumbi-bird ... . The mganga raises the spirits by singing and beating wooden shakers to which bells are attached. The spirits are called visitors, and constant mention is made of their home of Kolelo ... . The mteja drinks medicine water made with plants connected with the various spirits to be raised. As the patient goes into trance, she begins to move like the kind of animal the spirit personifies. I have witnessed ... women performing a graceful and elaborate snake dance excelling any dancing they would be capable of in a conscious state. ... Rungu is usually done ... in the evening, after the sun has set, and it goes on for three or four hours. ... Rungu spirits can attack by making a person’s legs ache."
Kilinge rite : "Drums and a blown instrument called zumari are used in addition to shakers to provide rhythm. ... the upcountry spirits of Maasai or Nyamwezi origin appear ... . Arab, Indian, or European spirits appear in the course of the dance ... . In trance, the participants mimic what they see as the striking features of foreign people ... . It can be very humorous to watch the participants marching like Germans or jumping like the Maasai, and there is a general spirit of cheer during the ritual."
103 "Spirits are felt to be below, ... and people encounter them in ponds".

pp. 86-87 quotation from book about Zaramo traditional healers (MMZ, pp. 67-69)

p. citation
86 The mganga "and his assistants began with the rhythmic shaking of the ... wooden rattles ... to which three bells were attached at the center. ... the mganga began his first song. He called upon the names of the Rungu spirits and their dwelling places : Kolelo, Mhanga, Lugome, Kibamanduka. ...
87 In this singing he began to "see" the one in need of divining ... . ... As the mganga sang his thoughts, revealing more and more information, there was a pause after each song. ... he gave the client a chance to say whether or not the information revealed was correct."


MMZ = Lloyd W. Swantz : The Medicine Man among the Zaramo. Uppsala, 1974.

p. 89 autobiography by a female mganga

"a diviner told me that I had a medicine basket on both sides of my family. My mother’s father and my father’s mother had been waganga of rungu-spirit. I found a Zigua mganga who treated me with rungu medicine and raised the spirit to my head. She made the spirit reveal her name, and that is where I got my spirit name. Later, that mganga gave me my medicine basket. ... I went to visit the Kolelo shrine in Uluguru Mountains, where the rungu-spirits come from."

pp. 93-95 autobiography by a male mganga

p. biography
93 "The uganga of magogoli I have got ... right after reaching puberty. ... Kinyamkera took me and carried me to a pond, underground under the water, water is above me I am below. ... This is the cause of getting the uganga of having a basket made, the one I have still now."
94 I encountered a "spirit" who "laughs ... dancing ... in the middle of the road".
"at home ..., there came a gust of wind inside there, and it swept me off ... it took me to a pond. Well the elders ... look for me ... in the sand. {arenamancy?} The sand said that that man has been taken by a spirit, and he is in the pond. ... I stayed right under the water, down below, entirely below. Inside the water there are roads, there are valleys. ...
95 They exorcise between themselves, ... one with sore feet ... . .... But when the sun goes down things shine and glitter ... . You cannot speak, those with you they speak ... . But one thing, you eat their food and you don’t come back. ... But if you are given their food you refuse, because you want to come back to your place."
"My fundi ... dreamt of me and he took his basket, ... he came".

pp. 98-99 spirits of the dead

p. the dead
98 "after death, ... there follows a forty-day liminal period for ... the spirit of the deceased".
99 "It is believed that the deceased use the spirits with whom they communicated while living to keep the contact with the living."

p. 99 divine spirits

"Kinyamkera is said to be a female spirit, the mother of all spirits, who is helpful to the waganga, appearing to them in dreams. ... concerning ... cure of the mteja.
Mwenembago is a male spirit to whom great physical strength is attributed. His is considered evil in his intentions.
... the male spirit often affects women and the female spirit often affects men."

exorcism of evil possessing-spirits

p. exorcism
88 "For conditions caused by a dissatisfied spirit, an extensive treatment is necessary. It may be tambiko, ritual offerings to the spirits, perhaps involving a trip to a special shrine in an old homeland; or full-scale exorcism rites that can involve a whole community in a major event may be prescribed."
104 "A woman ... screams high-pitched words, unintelligible ... . ... The husband ... takes some cloves of garlic and burns them in a small earthen pot. He guides his wife in inhaling the smoke. He promises the spirit that has taken hold of her that he will take her home and arrange special rites in the home village. ... Finally she falls asleep, a sign that the spirit is satisfied with the promise. After some days, the woman is taken by her kin to her home for the first rites, which constitute a formal promise to the spirit that full rites will follow. ...
105 Since the day his [the husband’s] wife’s rites began in her home village, provided by her own family, the Subiani spirit has come to him repeatedly through the window from the rolling sea".

possession of female medium by sea-spirit

Zaramo comparative
p. 116 after "other twin" had become possessed, p. 115 spirit possessing younger twin-sister was "just laughing and laughing" : '' MSG, p. 213 [aequivalent to Kic^e] monkey-twins, [Q’anhobal] monkey-brethren were laughed at by mother at
"And the spirit said, "I am coming from the sea, deep seas."" "lake" = MSG, p. 214 "lagoon" whereat brethren were viewed by mother.


MSG = Karen Bassie-Sweet : Maya Sacred Geography. U of OK Pr, Norman, 2008.

narratives of birth-rites

p. rite
125 "When my first daughter was born, ... my mother’s mother came the next day. She took the baby outside to show her the sun and the land, to tell her who she is."
137 "A Zaramo woman ... has given birth two hours ago to a baby girl, who has been lying where she was born, on the floor. The baby has not been touched or attended, because she still belongs to the placenta, which has not come. Until the placenta comes, she will remain ... owned by the spirits. It would anger the spirits and cause harm to the baby to touch her."

Marja-Liisa Swantz : Blood, Milk, and Death. Bergin & Garvey, Westport (CT), 1995.