- Ndebele (Zimbabwe) Culture and beliefs -
Overview of the Culture and Religious beliefs of the Ndebele Tribe 
Amadlozi had a hierarchy of their own just like their living relations. Each Zansi lineage and family had its own amadlozi and the most senior member of the family acted as the high priest. However amadlozi’s powers were limited to issues to do with their own relatives. Only the king’s amadlozi exercised national guardianship.

The most important rites associated with family ancestral spirits were the Ukuhlanziswa (cleansing) and Ukubuyisa (bringing home) ceremonies. The Zansi believed that death brought bad bad omen to the nearest living relatives of the deceased and such an omen could be passed on to neighbors, so it was necessary for the family to be cleansed soon after burying the deceased.

When a year had elapsed, the deceased spirit, which had been roaming around homelessly, manifested itself to the family in the form of a snake, dreams or sickness to one of the relatives. The family would then respond with a bringing home ceremony where the most senior of the relatives officiated. An ox was sacrificed during the ceremony.


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The priest prayed to the spirit, now called idlozi, and the ox’s meat was left over night for the idlozi to eat. In the morning, a feast would be held to eat the meat and drink beer brewed for the ceremony, people feasted as guests to the spirit and after the ceremony, the idlozi joined the other ancestral spirits and became an object of worship.

In general the Zansi lived their lives under the guidance of amadlozi and no dangerous action was taken with asking for protection and luck from the ancestors. Such supplication was done through the offering of an ox and a prayer to the ancestors. A similar fashion of ancestral worship prevailed at national level only that it was done on a grander and more elaborate scale.
The most important religious festival was the annual Inxwala festival. Here the king prayed and sacrificed as many as fifty oxen to his amadlozi for national prosperity, welfare and victory over enemies. In time of drought, the king also led in rain making ceremonies conducted as the royal graveyards. These ceremonies were known as Ukucela Imvula emakhosini.

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