6 Sacred animals of Zimbabwe


One Sunday on arriving to church, my wife pointed out two owls that were 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 child hood 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 regaled each other with stories of how lethal a chameleon’s bite was. In their esteem, the only way to extricate oneself was to burn it with a cigarette.

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 do little harm beyond tickling. In the hiatus, other animal species were thrown into the fear and superstition list;

01 Hyena

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

02 Snakes

Immortal varieties of this species are supposedly “sent” by malicious people with scores to settle. They cannot be easily killed.

03 Pangolin

Pangolins are strictly for royalties so if caught, they have to be handed it over to the chief.

04 Sandawana

From the desccriptions I have heard these creatures are like shrews. They are supposed to have supernatural powers and are very elusive leaving a trail of bload 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 its a taboo to eat that animal.

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 ill will 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.