AtoZ: M is for Magic Man

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In the beginning the first men were formed here and rocked in the arms of the Mother while the wind sang her children to sleep. Africa’s children and their children and their children’s children spread all over the world, but although they now speak different tongues and their skins are many shades of colour, each carries within them a fragment of the spirit of Africa.

In Africa where the veils between worlds are at their thinnest there are those who can walk between worlds. Even there the magic is dying and its time is passing, but it was here that a boy was born, a boy who walked between worlds, who spoke to those who had gone before. A boy who could harness the power of Africa in the palms of his hands.

As the boy grew to a man he dreamt of a woman, as pale as the sand upon the beaches, a woman born in a land far from Africa, yet one whom Africa called her own. He searched for her, so he might tell her his story and preserve a piece of the magic for those who would come after. Day after day he sat with her and shared with her the sacred knowledge of this magnificent land.

At his feet would play his children and her daughter unaware of what made them different, only knowing what made them the same. He looked upon the small girl who listened to his tales and knew she would be to give voice to his words so that many would hear and know.

As a child I watched him call lightening to strike an enemy and saw as his eyes dimmed to see beyond the pale colours of this world. A small man, but one who commanded even the respect of a small child.

Maseko was a witchdoctor, a sangoma. He arrived one day at my mother’s work and told her he had seen her in a dream. He said that the white man had one strength over his people, the strength of the written word.

He would disappear for months following dreams and visions of small items that the ancestors told him must be in his bag. A cowrie shell from a beach in the eastern Cape, a small stone from a mountain in KwaZulu Natal.

He was an incredible man and my life was enriched by meeting him. So, if anyone were to ask me if I believed in magic, I can say with utter conviction that I do.

I am trying to go through my mother’s tiny handwritten notes of her interviews with Maseko and find out the European names for the ingredients he used. Of course, just knowing what they are is not enough, each plant must be grown and harvested in a certain ritual.

I suffered from terrible heartburn and for many years took all sorts of medication. One day he said to me, without knowing about my condition, that I should soak dried African yam in hot water and drink it three times a day. It worked like a charm and when I mentioned it to my doctor, he laughed and said that yes, African yam was known to help heartburn. So, African yam tea it is.

For a bachelor (shimane) seeking a girlfriend.

Heat the Umgubane stones in the fire until very hot. Place them in an open pot with half the Ubhogo root and boiling water. Cover your head with a blanket and inhale the steam. Then drink an infusion of boiling water and the remaining half of the Ubhogo root to induce vomiting.

To attract customers in your shop

Crush Isiduli, a white ant termite nest, into a fine powder, mix in the herbs and scatter it throughout the shop

To make your face attractive to the woman you love

Beat the root of Ibhudlo Iama Swazi into a thick foam. Strain the mixture with isikhukhulu, river flotsam, and then wash your face in the foam. This will make you appear attractive to the woman you love.

Protection against lightning

Place the wezulu root outside the front door for protection against lightening.

To act as your lawyer when defending yourself against a magistrate

Mix the wamacala and phaya roots together and eat before the start of the trial.

To ward off bad luck associated the death of a husband

A widow who wishes to meet a new man, must grind up the root of the Umbhemiso wabafelokazi and sniff it as snuff to dispel the bad luck associated with the death of her husband.

To determine if a person died as a result of black magic

Place the isolomthakati bean in the coffin of the dead person. If their death was due to black magic, the bean will take root and grow. Once the new tree produces a harvest of beans, these must be burnt. The person responsible for the black magic and his or her family will die.

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