Chickens, Curses, and Shadow People
Tafara shares both personal and family African ghost stories on today’s H-Files, a limited-edition mini-series that features paranormal stories based on folklore and family history. Prepare to be chilled by these scary ghost stories from Tafara’s home in Zimbabwe.
Listen to “H Files Episode 9: Chickens, curses, and shadow people” on Spreaker.
Tafara is much more worldly than us. She grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe, with an African mother and an American father, and now lives in Munich, Germany. Her family practices a mix of Christianity and traditional Shona religion, while she herself is agnostic. She recounts these African ghost stories from the unique prism that her background grants her. Her perspective illuminates the differences and similarities between Afrocentric and Eurocentric practices superstitions, and traditions, and she tells these tales with both humor and respect. Listen to her explain how marriage depends on burping and funerals depend on chickens. We think you’ll agree: no one else could tell these stories the way she does.
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Episode Show Notes
African Ghost Stories: Curses and Witch Doctors
Tafara explains that, in Zimbabwe, you can purchase curses from witch doctors. Also, the type of witch doctors that perform curses are not the same as local traditional shamans or healers. Secondly, Tafara tells us that, similar to Voodoo, belief in the curse gives the curse its power. We’ve heard a rumor that it is taboo to do someone a favor by directly loaning or giving cash. They could use the money to put a curse on you! Instead, if you want to do someone a favor, just pay directly for the goods or services that would help them.
Shaka Zulu, the Vlad Tepes of Zimbabwe
Sometimes hailed as the Napoleon Bonaparte of southern Africa, Shaka was a leader of the Zulu people who revolutionized tribal warfare of the early 1800’s. He introduced melee combat weapons to a society accustomed mostly to ranged weapons. Oral historians may have embellished his sordid and bloody story. That doesn’t bother us, though. We are big fans of exaggerated recounting.
The way it’s told, Shaka was the ostracized bastard son of a Zulu ruler, born of an *almost* immaculate conception (read: foreplay gone wrong). By the time his half-brother killed him disgracefully to assume power, Shaka was known for clubbing his own soldiers to death when they showed weakness and executing his pregnant concubines lest they bear overly ambitious heirs. Oh, and the melee weapon he popularized? It’s called an iklwa…onomatopoeia for the sound of stabbing a short spear into human flesh, then ripping it out again.
Beer you have to steel yourself to drink
Beer is a part of many traditional African rituals. European/Christian influence (ironically) both hindered the practice of religious ceremonies that involve traditional beer drinking, and promoted beer drinking for entertainment and escapism, leading to enough of a rise in disordered drinking that there’s a proverb emphasizing that “beer is only enjoyed in the company of the women of the village.” Tafara’s family has held on to their Shona roots, eschewing the more Western/Christian marriage ceremonies in favor of the African tradition of asking ancestral permission and guidance…with the help of copious amounts of strong, opaque, intense traditional African beer, which sure sounds like it could quickly turn into a spooky day!