„The world in which we live is more miraculous than we know. There are things which go on in our world about which we know nothing.“ Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa
By Andreas Muller
In late 2002 I read the book „Secrets in the Fields“ by crop circle researcher Freddy Silva. On page 303 the author writes:
„If contact with non human life continues to follow the U.S. military’s example of researching UFOs – shoot them down and analyze them – then it’s no wonder contact needs to be made in more subtle ways with people who appear to have every inclination of behaving like barbarians. Yet compare this attitude with that of „pagans“ in South Africa in response to crop circles: „Whenever a circle appeared in the fields, the people rushed to erect a fence of poles around the circle. They would dance and perform other sacred rituals honouring the Star Gods and the Earth Mother. All the kings and chiefs awaited the arrival of these circles. Their appearance would be cause for celebrations that lasted several days. The celebrations were accompanied by prayers to the gods to watch over the people and talk to them through the sacred sites.“ (MUTWA 1996, 23 / SILVA 2002, 303)
As the bibliographical reference Silva gives:
Mutwa, Credo. 1996. Isilwane: The Animal. Cape Town, S. Africa: Struick.
To be honest, I’d never heard of this book or its author before. I soon learnt more about this astonishing man, when doing an online search for his name.
Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa
The following is an abstract of his biography taken from Stephen Larsen’s editorial notes of Credo Mutwa’s book „Zulu Shaman“ (originally published under the title „Song of the Stars“ in 1996):
Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa was born in the Natal area of South Africa on July 21, 1921. His very name is a composite of his cultures of origin. „Vusamazulu“ is a Zulu honorific, meaning „Awakener of the Zulus“ and came through his initiation as a Sangoma (Traditional Healer, Shaman). But the name „Credo“ was given to him by his father, a Christian. It is from the Latin „I believe“. „Mutwa“ is Zulu for „little Bushman“ – „Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa“ then may be rendered to „Great Awakener, I Believe (in) Little Bushman“.
Credo was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church his father having held the position of „catechism instructor“. His mother Numabunu, however, was the daughter of the shaman-warrior Ziko Shezi, who had survived the awful battle of Ulundi, which ended the Zulu-Wars. Shezi was a Samgoma, and custodian of Zulu relics. The split in religion was to prove decisive for his parents’ relationship, and they never formally married, separating soon after Mutwa was born.
Fortunately, Mutwa received early training from his grandfather Ziko Shezi, and memorably the child would carry his grandfather’s medicine bags, full of sacred objects, to various ceremonies.
Credo Mutwa from an early time showed a proclivity for art, especially sculpture. (…)
In 1928 his father entered the picture again and obtained custody of the child over the objections of his mother. The young lad was obliged to go to the Transvaal with his father, stepmother and their three children. The family moved around to several different farms, and finally settled near Johannesburg (…).
Credo was educated in mission schools, taught in English about Western history and civilisation, and confirmed as a Christian in the process. His goal in those years was to become a schoolteacher, and hence he studied his lessons very well. (…)
In 1943 there began a time of sickness and disorientation for the young man. He was afflicted with dreams and visions, and a strange malaise would often come over him. He was experiencing the sickness that often comes to future Sangomas, initiating their call.
Now there are several kinds of traditional healers among the Zulu. An „Inyanga“ may inherit the profession from relatives. But a „Sangoma“ must receive a „call“ from the spirits, which seemed to be happening to the young man. At the urging of his mother and grandfather, Mutwa would undergo purification ceremonies, renounce formal Christianity, and begin to prepare himself to receive the training of the Sangoma. (…)
Fig. 1: Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa waring his sacred relics and holding an ancient statue
Credo Mutwa was to prove to be a very successful Sangoma, and eventually was elevated to the rank of „High Sanusi“, like the Indian „Sannyasin“, a holy man who has taken vows. In his way he came to be the leader of well over 500 other traditional healers.
„When I was made into a Sanusi, I took a vow never to reveal my knowledge, never to tell people about my profession or about the sacred artefacts (…) that I am entrusted with. But I feel that this vow is a hindrance, and some years ago I decided to break it. The result of this has been that my people have ostracized me and many people have bitterly blamed me for what I had done.“
Credo Mutwa very much believes in the value of tradition, but also affirms that we live in changing times. The traditions are to be kept, but their influence is to be made open to a larger audience than the dwindling faithful among the Zulu people.