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Sacred November: Tradition vs Modernity

Kundai Marunya

It’s a normal Sunday.

 The congregation, comfortable in their seats, all pay attention to the pulpit, ready to hear the good word God has sent through their beloved pastor.

It is the first weekend of November, a month which in traditional customs of the Shona people is sacred, therefore, no ceremonies are held, be they weddings, bira or kurova guva (ceremonies to appease ancestral spirits).

In fact, it is taboo to conduct any traditional or cultural ceremonies during this month.Clad in a well-fitting suit, the pastor steps onto the podium, and does what he was “called” to do, preach.

His message this week is to encourage his flock not to give up and wait for the next year to seek transformation in their lives.

The preaching goes on to touch on how he trusts in God enough to bless a wedding ceremony in November, no matter what traditional custom dictates.

He even challenges willing couples to arrange marriages in promise that God would bless them; after all, he created all days and months.Well, he is a Christian, the sacred rites of traditional African religions are not adhered to in his chosen religion.

He goes on to suggest: “When you’re told not to celebrate anything in November, the ones you’re listening to, the traditional healers, the Satanists and worshipers of marine spirits will be busy recharging their power reserves.

“That’s why many accidents happen during the month of November and the month that follows. Some of the awakened spirits will need to be quenched with blood.”Some of the congregants murmur in agreement, quickly whispering of the death of prominent businessman Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure and three of his colleagues who “quenched the thirsts of the spirits” with their blood after their horrific accident on Sunday November 8.

There have been many conspiracy theories around the deceased businessman, famous for holding All White Parties and making champagne showers instead of drinking it.

Some have pointed to the famous parties as rituals.With details of how he is said to have specified his funeral arrangements to the dot, only a few days before his accident, some are obliged to believe the pastor’s sentiments. 

One who has never questioned the sacredness of the month is then enticed to research on the validity of the claims.Sacred rites have been known to guide people since time immemorial.

They have existed for so long that even with the advent of Christianity many people still believe and practice them, be there Christian or not.There are barely any wedding ceremonies in the month as many still believe it to be bad luck, the weddings will be cursed.

Late MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai’s marriage to Locadia Karimatsenga back in 2012 is often given as reference when one speaks of the ill luck of defying tradition.Their November “marriage” did not last.A visit to traditionalist Tichaona Makonyonga’s house, gives a different depiction of culture and the sacredness of the month.

He takes a bit of bute (snuff) from his palm, sniffs it, sneezes a bit, before narrating on the sacredness of November.“You see, November in Shona is called Mbudzi (which means goat).

It is the month where most goats will be reproducing and goats are used for all traditional ceremonies,” said Makonyonga.“At all traditional and cultural ceremonies, lobola and masungiro included, female goats are slaughtered. It is considered taboo to slaughter pregnant animals in our culture”.

In this line of thinking, one will be killing more than one goat when they slaughter a female goat. The fetus which, if let be, will grow to increase the herd.

“The month (of November) is also reserved for people to prepare fields and grow crops so holding any cultural activities will be disturbing an important part of our livelihoods, food production,” he said. 

Makonyonga also believes the spirits and their mediums need rest and to assess prayers, and sacrifices offered during the year, a sentiment echoed by an elderly traditional healer, Sekuru Tichafara Nyamupinga.

“Same as in Christianity where God rested on the seventh day of creation, in our culture spirits do need to rest and reflect on the previous year,” said Nyamupinga, who prides himself as a custodian of tradition.

“It is the time when spirits of the land come together and take stock of our prayers, sacrifices and needs of their children”.

Traditional rites are meant to unify people towards a common goal.

But with dynamism of culture some practices have become divisive, as modernity sinks its roots in people.Whatever one is inclined to believe, mostly as a result of religion, November remains sacred.Holding any ceremonies, especially in rural areas where chiefs rule will lead to one being fined. Nhau/Indaba

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