Sacred River

Penny headed inland recently, away from the physical river but still connected in spirit:

Possibly my last recce before the walk was last week. A visit to a “people” as opposed to a “checking out the terrain” trip. I was accompanied by two Sangomas – Makhosi’s Sarah Wagerand Muvo Ngcobo, to meet representatives of a community that are the descendants of the last San in the Drakensberg, and who will be joining us on the day we walk past the Nogqaza (Howick) Falls.

These San descendants still live in the foothills of the Drakensberg, at their ancestral roots.  I spent an amazing couple of hours with the community’s spokesman, Mzonjani Duma and their Healer / Sangoma – Makhosi Vezindaba Duma. To hear them speak with such pride and passion of their heritage, to hear of the persecution and destruction of their ancestors, and to hear them talking in a way that is seldom heard – of the connection of man and Mother Earth, of the oneness of all – the mountains and rivers and all the creatures on earth. It was so humbling and refreshing to know that an entire community still respects the earth and holds this sacred. It saddened me tremendously too. If more of us still held these ancient views and had such respect for the earth and saw ourselves as part of nature, instead as separate or controlling her, the Earth would be in less of a mess. If we still held as sacred the mountains and grasslands, the birthplaces of many of our rivers would not be disappearing.  If we still held sacred the rivers and their waters, we would not be faced with polluted and unhealthy rivers.

Long ago I read that the San, and other traditional cultures with similar ethics and views, were the original conservationists. It made sense, but to actually hear it “from the horses mouth” as it were, was very sobering.  It highlighted just how far we have divorced ourselves reality and from all that is actually important.

To the San, the sacredness of the rivers originates from the fact that the rivers are our life blood, that the rivers connect us all, and without their waters, we are lost. Thus to them, the Nogqaza Falls is a sacred site. Makhosi Duma said that to accompany us on this sacred walk makes him “feel very happy because we connect and work together and communicate and this has brought all the different races together. It is an honour to do this”.

In a similar vein, Noqgaza Falls is sacred to the Zulu. Sadly, as so often happens, many have forgotten or no longer remember this aspect of their heritage. All waterfalls and rivers are sacred to the Zulu and to the Sangoma. They are part of the ancestral consciousness which the Sangomas work with and are an inheritance for all the people. Sangomas believe in the power of water, especially that of the river and waterfall. They know that there are places along the river which hold powerful and sacred energy and connect to sacred sites in the land. Nogqaza Falls and the whole of uMngeni valley are such places.  Sangomas, to this day, still honour the river, the waterfalls and sacred sites – interacting with them through ritual and ceremony.

We will begin each morning as we set out with this blessing:

With these hands, with this heart and with the pure intention of God,

this water is now blessed

Removing and transmuting all impurities and returning them to the Light forever



About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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