Death Rituals and Spirituality

Death rituals

It was believed that spirits exist inside individuals and that everyone was supposed to behave in a manner not to annoy them. Matters of death and preservation largely depended on two factors: the death interpersonal relationship with the mourners and the status of the death in the society.

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Generally, men were treated with more respect than the women upon death. For example, men were buried close to the cow sheds; bearing in mind that cows were given a lot of importance in measuring wealth. Intense mourning followed the occasion. The widow(s) were secluded to dark places where they shaved their heads and stayed there for a quota of a year before coming back to continue the lineage of the deceased. Women were not given any importance close to that. They were buried outside the compound followed by less mourning and replaced later by the widowed husband for whom life continued normally. Death was regarded the highest punishment by the spirit for disobedience. It portrayed the fullest of the individual’s personality in relation to the kinsmen, (Beth, 1976).


The Swazi natives believed in sorcery, witchcraft and medicine men. The medicine men were deemed to resurrect death spirits. Those spirits would appear in a form of a snake. Those snakes were bold enough to penetrate into homesteads and into huts. The less harmful snakes, like green mamba, were deemed to be the spirits of women and weak men. Snakes left in a hurry were wandering around the homesteads for some time, and that was a bad omen. In Swaziland, matters of spiritual belief are not taken lightly. It forms a part of the most important culture. The spirits are related to the ancestral world.

Central to the heritage of the Swazi people were two very significant dances, “Umhlanga” and “Incwala” which take place in August and December respectively. Incwala means the earliest fruit and is sacred to the community. It is the most important dance among the Swazi and has some symbolism. In this kind of the dance, all men including the King meet in a noble place called the Kraal at a Ludzidzini and dance for a couple of months, (Beth, 1976).

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Mkhulumnqande is a god of the Swazi people. To some believers, Mkhulumnqande is supreme and does not demand sacrifices. He is not associated with the spiritual world. It is believed that the ancestral world demands a lot of sacrifices which had to be offered by people all the time. The ancestral spirits were the most haunting. Men dominated in communication with spirits and other spiritual matters, but there were also diviner women practicing the same, (Gort, 1987). Queen Mother was the highest among the women diviners. She was in charge of matters of rainfall. The factors that could be affected by spirits in the human world are health and welfare.

Life was a gift from gods and a man has to ensure the continuity of his lineage by bearing an heir; that must be a son who would take over after man dies. The lives of women are not given any serious responsibilities by the clan as such. They have only to bear children for men. A woman gets appreciation from her husband for giving birth to a son.

Among Swazi, those men who are healthy, strong and materially well off are considered to be in good contact with spirits, and they offer sacrifices less frequently, while those who are sick, poor or continuously troubled by natural calamities are in worse relationships with spirits and, therefore, have to offer sacrifices as frequently as possible in an attempt to please the spirits. Strength of the individuals is considered to be coming directly from the spirits and, therefore, those who are not attaining the standards, have to offer more sacrifices and consult with the diviners more frequently.

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Spirituality and health have strong connections according to Swazi people. Spirits make troubles with health to those who are not in line with what they want. It take only diviners who can consult directly with spirits to put an end to serious health issues, (Ngubane, 1983).

Upon the arrival of the missionary, traditional spiritual believes have been replacing by the Christian. However, some continue to maintain the traditional religion and faith. Some have gone forward to join the Rastafarian religion of Africa.

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