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Amadlozi Image

Posted on 18 February 2020, by Nolwazi MHODİ


A fascinating belief can be observed within the African community that of ancestral spirit worship, popularly known as Amadlozi in the Nguni speaking community. This paper seeks to explain what Amadlozi are. In the first part of the paper will explain and define what they are. The second part of the article will explain how they are interacting with the mediums they possess and the rites that society has to adhere to in their honour.  The last part of the article will give examples of situations whereby they can be employed upon and offer the two general opposing opinions of whether they are white or dark spirits.


Throughout the ancient African history till today, a visible thread that runs through all of them is that of Amadlozi. Amadlozi are regarded as ancestral spirits, and are given high status in the community for the symbolic role they play in its construction and governance. Most ordinances and cultures stem from the teachings of Amadlozi. The identity and history of many cultures is embedded in the teachings of these spirits.[1] Debate exists as to whether these spirits are entirely good or should be treated as demonic. Nevertheless, in current governance systems of most an African countries, their constitutions acknowledge these entities as recognized authority over spiritual affairs of the citizens, often institutions such as ZINATHA (Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association) of  Zimbabwe work in creating order and accreditation of practitioners and mediums of these spiritual entities. [2]

Based on definition, Amadlozi are spiritual entities which do not possess a physical body. They are regarded to possess higher consciousness and are a gateway to God. All living things are believed to leave behind something of themselves and absorb something of the atmosphere through which they move.[3] Therefore, Amadlozi are believed to be able to travel beyond time, and enter other realms which man cannot access independently. They are spirit guides who show the human channelor what is to be done, through vison, dreams, signs and other magical symbols. Some believe Amadlozi are the spirits of their dearly departed sent to prosper and protect their families from beyond the grave.

Due to their spiritual nature,Amadlozi are believed to omnipresent and can be accessed from within the subject’s spirit. Various forms of invocations are used to draw them out. The invocations can be through music, dance, poems, magical herbs and chants, these depend on the reason of invocation. Different Amadlozi are summoned in a different way as they are believed to function in a hierarchical and organized manner. Amadlozi called upon for rain are usually invoked through a special rain dance whilst those of war are invoked through war a cry. Some Amadlozi are devoted to healing the sick, others are there to offer counsel. Their office is not limited to the affairs of man but is believed to be the very essence of existence. Just at the bible acknowledges Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Amadlozi also have similar key individuals that are a reference for different clans, tribes and societies.

Usually, mediums that channel Amadlozi are specially elected from birth. Like in the story of Mary receiving insight of Jesus conception, when a conduit of ‘Amdlozi amakhulu’ (great spirits) there is usually prophetic word given to mediums and others can testify to the coming of the great medium in their dreams or others can read it in their bones. [4]In most cases, a chid medium acts differently from other children. Sadly some face a harder path and maybe born inflicted by a certain incurable illness or may suffer from hallucinations and visions which no man can understand. This is done to draw attention onto the child and to encourage his family to consult and find out what the spirits require of him. This is also done to display the wondrous healing power of the spirit so they receive honour from the people. Once the fortune of the child mediums if confirmed, the child is taken to a traditional healer who specialise in apprenticeship referred to as’ ithwasa’. [5]There he is taught how to behave and like Samson the Nazarite[6], they to have special diets and conditions they have to meet in order to sustain the power of the Great Spirit on them. Unfortunately, in some cases, some have died in violation and disobedience of the call. Others have face affliction for rebellion against certain ordinances and Amadlozi are believed to be just and no man can escape their just wrath. Fortunately, they are procedures on how to appease them, and usually, sacrifices and offerings of money, animals and precious gifts are used to strengthen one request good or bad.

A person who has Amadlozi has to follow certain ordinances and precepts, they determine who this individual will marry if they are to marry. They also determine the type of clothes and jewellery they are t carry on themselves. Amadlozi also spiritually ace their words in their mouth such that whatever a medium says come to pass and their word is authority. A person with Amadlozi can hear audible voices telling him where to go and take him to places both physical and spiritual with some purporting to be able to fly, swim and teleport to different locations at will. Other are rumoured to shape shift and do other amazing magical things.

Furthermore, in the event that a particular family would like to evoke Amadlozi, they usually hold a ceremony to that regard. The ceremony is presided over by the head of the family alongside a traditional healer who helps direct the speakers. The family call upon the names of their late fathers names in what is called ‘Izitemo’, going back as many generations as they can.[7]The family members use chewing and snuffing tobacco, which they drop to the ground as they make their presentations, including alcohol which they pour to the ground in their honour. Moreover, in times of great social change in most African states, we can trace the reverence of Amadlozi in the liberation struggles. In Zimbabwe, special mediums known as Sekuru Kaguve and Mbuya Nehanda, were noted to have helped warn the soldiers and assisted them with battle strategies. [8]They are an example of how Amadlozi can be called upon nationally as well to bring counsel in time of great distress.

Due to their elaborations and tremendous role in society, Amadlozi set the culture. They offer laws and give commend of what a particular group of people is supposed to do. They also govern day to life as one is compensated for his evil and rewarded for his good, much like in the law of Karma or that of compensation in the bible. The thought system of most cultures is based upon their knowledge, they reveal what is to be done and how only to special individuals. For example, in my village in Nkayi district in Matebeleland, on each Wednesdays, the farmers rest as it is considered a holy day when the spirit are resting and giving people good fortune and hence like the Sabbath all men rest from work. Furthermore, we can see their influence on the special goals or ambitions of a nation. National soccer teams are known to seek the council of mediums to ask Amadlozi to help them play well and of course, some supporter uses the information form Amadlozi to predict the scores. Not only have that, many musicians sang songs about them which become hit albums as people identify with them.[9][10]Some fashion print that is embedded n African designs carries symbols and messages from Amadlozi. Certain foods are also eaten only in regards o them, or others abstain for certain paces such as larger bodies of water especially of their Amadlozi are those of marine spirits, they have been rumors of abductions of such individuals in sacred places such as Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. Another example is that of musical instruments, Mbira music is sacred in the Shona tribe used to evoke both deceased ancestors and tribal guardians during all-night Mbira ceremonies where they attain guidance from the spirits of family ancestors (vadzimu), spirits of deceased chiefs (mhondoro). Also, it is used to govern the weather in times such as droughts and floods and it chases away harmful spirits and cures sickness. The mbira is used in all celebrations, such as weddings and the installation of new chiefs, as well as death ceremonies [11] In conclusion, much can be said about the function and role of Amadloxi in society, however, there are those who do not hold the same view of them. Many among the Christion faith feel that ancestral worship is a demonic practice and hence should not be practice. They believe it is a direct violation of God command and many feel shrines of Amadlozi are dangerous and spiritually defiled places that bring curses to the lands. Many go to charismatic Pentecostal churches to be delivered from ancestral spirits and seek refuge in the blood of Jesus.[12] Many consider great misfortune in their lives to be a product of inference by these spirits and accredit them evil than good. Moreover,  Amadlozi encourages certain behavior which modern society is moving away from such as polygamy and therefore that have become unpopular amongst younger people who feel Amadlozi have not evolved with the times, therefore, are backward.  Some move away from Amadloxi because they are afraid of the ability of Amadlozi to manipulate physical reality, they are also known to influence the thoughts of man. Due to this others feel it is dangerous to allow an unknown entity to fully control you and be robbed of their independence and submit to invisible forces. In addition, there are those who are practiced dark arts using these spirits and have been suspected to have been behind business failures, divorces and other terrible things, which is why others fear any form of contact with them at all. When mediums are channeling the spirit they usually have altered states of consciousness, and their demeanor and expression may change. Others feel that some of the things that medium have to do are dangerous and are not worth the risk as they feel the requirements are harsh and steep. Nevertheless, Amadlozi are an integral part of many communities and will continue to be. I believe that they will always be different attitudes toward them as much as there are many way to God, variety is necessary to attempt to meet the infinite who unlimited. It is good for us to appreciate our different views on spirituality and opinions about God and all individuals are free to choose whom they want to devote their spirit to. As for me and my household we shall praise the Lord, Joshua [13] made his choice as so do many each day. We are all free

[1] Encyclopedia.com.Zulu Religion.https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/zulu-religion

[2] Religion in Zimbabwe. https://relzim.org/?s=Zimbabwe+National+Traditional+Healers+Association

[3] Ibid.

[4] Muthi for your soul. Bone reading and  healing, https://www.siribarker.com/bone-readings-healing/

[5] Wikipedia. Traditional healers of Southern Africa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_healers_of_Southern_Africa

[6] Bible. Book of Judges 13-16.

[7] Hilda Kuper, A. J. B. Hughes, J. van The Shona and Ndebele of Southern Rhodesia: Southern Africa, Part 4.


[8] Wikipedia. Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nehanda_Charwe_Nyakasikana

[9] https://gaana.com/song/amadlozi-3

[10] Youtube. Apple Jazz ft. Slaga & Idelan “Amadlozi” OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO – South African Deep House

[11] Victoria Tour guide. Facts on Zimbabwe. https://www.victoriafalls-guide.net/zimbabwe-traditions.html

[12] Ilana van WykThe Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa: A Church of God in South Africa. A Place of Starenger. Internatioanl African Library Cambridge. p54https://books.google.pl/books?id=aiFGAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA54&lpg=PA54&dq=amadlosi+are+evil&source=bl&ots=N1ZUisQq9k&sig=ACfU3U1AU4VGaoofBU4zgjOndBm2WczJlg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiUjNDEhYrjAhUtl4sKHWTqD9AQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=amadlosi%20are%20evil&f=false

[13] Holy Bible. Joshua 24 verse 15. https://biblehub.com/joshua/24-15.htm