Tumbuka mythology

The Tumbuka are an ethnic group living in Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania. In Tumbuka mythology, Chiuta (meaning "Great Bow") is the Supreme Creator and is symbolised in the sky by the rainbow.

Tumbuka has many myths that constitute part of the Tumbuka cultural heritage. These myths, told around fires at night, often to the accompaniment of drumming and choral responses, aim to teach children moral behavior and to entertain.

Most of these myths have been weakened or lost over time, but many still remain; these vidokoni (stories) have a moral behind them.

There are three animals mentioned more than any others in Tumbuka mythology and these are fulu (tortoise), kalulu (hare), and chimbwi (hyena). Fulu is considered the wisest animal, chimbwe the villain, and kalulu the clever trickster and manipulator who can only be defeated by fulu.


  • Patricia Ann Lynch (2010). African Mythology, A to Z. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4381-3133-7.
  • Mphande, David (25 October 2014). Oral Literature and Moral Education among the Lakeside Tonga of Northern Malawi. Mzuni Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-99908-0-244-3.
List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.


Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life". Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, but about 84% of the world's population is affiliated with one of the five largest religion groups, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or forms of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara. It contrasts with North Africa, whose territories are part of the League of Arab states within the Arab world. The states of Somalia, Djibouti, Comoros and the Arabic speaking Mauritania are however geographically in sub-Saharan Africa, although they are members of the Arab League as well. The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as “sub-Saharan,” excluding Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia.The Sahel is the transitional zone in between the Sahara and the tropical savanna of the Sudan region and farther south the forest-savanna mosaic of tropical Africa.

Since probably 3500 BCE, the Saharan and sub-Saharan regions of Africa have been separated by the extremely harsh climate of the sparsely populated Sahara, forming an effective barrier interrupted by only the Nile in Sudan, though the Nile was blocked by the river's cataracts. The Sahara pump theory explains how flora and fauna (including Homo sapiens) left Africa to penetrate the Middle East and beyond. African pluvial periods are associated with a Wet Sahara phase, during which larger lakes and more rivers existed.The use of the term has been criticized because it refers to the South only by cartography conventions and projects a connotation of inferiority; a vestige of colonialism, which some say, divided Africa into European terms of homogeneity.

Three hares

The three hares (or three rabbits) is a circular motif or meme appearing in sacred sites from the Middle and Far East to the churches of Devon, England (as the "Tinners' Rabbits"), and historical synagogues in Europe. It is used as an architectural ornament, a religious symbol, and in other modern works of art or a logo for adornment (including tattoos), jewelry, and a coat of arms on an escutcheon. It is viewed as a puzzle, a topology problem or a visual challenge, and has been rendered as sculpture, drawing, and painting.The symbol features three hares or rabbits chasing each other in a circle. Like the triskelion, the triquetra, and their antecedents (e.g., the triple spiral), the symbol of the three hares has a threefold rotational symmetry. Each of the ears is shared by two hares, so that only three ears are shown. Although its meaning is apparently not explained in contemporary written sources from any of the medieval cultures where it is found, it is thought to have a range of symbolic or mystical associations with fertility and the lunar cycle. When used in Christian churches, it is presumed to be a symbol of the Trinity. Its origins and original significance are uncertain, as are the reasons why it appears in such diverse locations.

Traditional African religions

The traditional African religions (or traditional beliefs and practices of African people) are a set of highly diverse beliefs that include various ethnic religions. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme creator, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional African medicine. The role of humanity is generally seen as one of harmonizing nature with the supernatural. According to Lugira, "it is the only religion that can claim to have originated in Africa. Other religions found in Africa have their origins in other parts of the world."


In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a character in a story (god, goddess, spirit, human, or anthropomorphisation), which exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge, and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour.

Tumbuka language

The Tumbuka language is a Bantu language which is spoken in the Northern Region of Malawi and also in the Lundazi district of Zambia. It is also known as Chitumbuka or Citumbuka — the chi- prefix in front of Tumbuka means "the language of the", and is understood in this case to mean "the language of (the Tumbuka people)". Tumbuka belongs to the same language group (Guthrie Zone N) as Chewa and Sena.The World Almanac (1998) estimates that there are approximately 2,000,000 Tumbuka speakers, though other sources estimate a much smaller number. The majority of Tumbuka speakers are said to live in Malawi. Tumbuka is the most widely spoken of the languages of Northern Malawi, especially in the Rumphi, Mzuzu, and Mzimba districts.There are substantial differences between the form of Tumbuka spoken in urban areas of Malawi (which borrows some words from Swahili and Chewa) and the "village" or "deep" Tumbuka spoken in villages. The Rumphi variant is often regarded as the most "linguistically pure", and is sometimes called "real Tumbuka". The Mzimba dialect has been strongly influenced by Zulu (chiNgoni), even so far as to have clicks in words like chitha [ʇʰitʰa] "urinate", which do not occur in other dialects.

The Tumbuka language suffered during the rule of President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, since in 1968 as a result of his one-nation, one-language policy it lost its status as an official language in Malawi. As a result, Tumbuka was removed from the school curriculum, the national radio, and the print media. With the advent of multi-party democracy in 1994, Tumbuka programmes were started again on the radio, but the number of books and other publications in Tumbuka remains low.

Tumbuka people

The Tumbuka, ŵaTumbuka, Batumbuka, Kamanga and sometimes Henga although this is strictly speaking the name of a subdivision, is an ethnic group found in Northern Malawi, Eastern Zambia and Southern Tanzania. Tumbuka is classified as a part of the Bantu language family, and with origins in a geographic region between the Dwangwa River to the south, the North Rukuru River to the north, Lake Malawi to the east, and the Luangwa River. They are found in the valleys near the rivers, lake as well as the highlands of Nyika Plateau.The Tumbuka people were a victim of invasion and raiding by the Ngoni tribe, which originated in South Africa, of socio-politics behind the ivory trade, and by slave trading controlled by the so-called Arabs, a group including Swahili and non-Muslim Africans. but subsequently prospered in the colonial period as the result of the educational opportunities they benefited from. The Tumbuka have had a subsistence farming culture, with many adult men leaving their families to seekg migrant work.

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