6 Sacred animals of Zimbabwe


One Sunday on arriving at church, my wife pointed out two owls that were perched in a tree, and I took my camera and I snapped some photos. They had beautiful, big round eyes. I have always been fascinated by birds of prey having done science projects about them when I was in primary school.

Outside our house, we have two huge trees and owls used to come there almost every night throughout my childhood and used to hoot. For me owls were just normal birds of prey which were nocturnal. Unfortunately, many people in Zimbabwe fear and loathe owls which many believe to be witches envoys used for nocturnal transportation.

I decided to write on this subject after a chameleon caused a stir when it walked onto the veranda whilst visiting some friends. A heated discussion about chameleons ensued and I listened warily as my friends argued with each other with stories of how lethal a chameleon’s bite was. The only solution, when bitten by a chameleon, was to burn it with a cigarette so that it lets go.

At this point, I interjected to put their superstitious chatter to rest. Having grown up playing with chameleons with no repercussions. In fact, they have small file-like teeth which can no harm to humans beyond tickling.

Below is the list of animals which are considered sacred or they are ;

01 Hyena

Most popular witches’ mode of transport. I guess in rural areas they use hyenas, whilst the urbanized witches travel by owl to visit their upmarket clientele.

02 Snakes

Snakes are supposedly “sent” by malicious people with scores to settle. They cannot be easily killed. Some are used to vomit money and they are said to feed on blood and milk.

03 Pangolin

Pangolins are strictly for royalties so if caught, they have to be handed over to the chief. I don’t know if the chiefs kept them as pets or if the actually ate. them!

04 Sandawana

From the descriptions, I have heard these creatures are like shrews. They are supposed to have supernatural powers and are very elusive leaving a trail of blood where ever they walk.

05 Totems (Mutupo)

Your totem is a sacred emblem which is usually an animal. And if your family totem is the eland (Mhofu) then it’s a taboo to eat that animal. If you do eat that animal your teeth will fall out.

06 Owls

Also considered to be minions used by witches to send messages with. Often times if they were seen in a tree they would be chased away.

My main problem with all these superstitions is that they can only be verified through consulting a N’anga/ prophet. In 90% of the verdict, the culprit is a jealous relative whose ills can be “atoned” for by taking prescribed concoctions for protection. Every time the concoction runs out, one parts with their money and the vicious cycle of manipulation continues to divide the family unit.

Whilst these are my opinions, readers are welcome to add substance to this discussion and share their own experiences.