As with many African ethnic groups, the Zulu people have a creation story and a pantheon (a collection of all the gods and goddesses of a people/religion). According to Zulu tradition, the first god or source, Umvelinqangi, was the Sky Father and the god of thunder and lightning. Umvelinqangi descended from the heavens to Uhlanga, a vast ancient swamp, and here, he created the primordial reeds, from which all people and animals emerged.
The first to emerge from the reeds, Unkulunkulu, was the Supreme God and creator of humanity. Unkulunkulu grew on a reed in the swamp until the point when he became too heavy, broke off from the reed and fell to Earth. Unkulunkulu then began his job of creation and went about creating mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers and all the other things of the world.
The people and animals were now ready to emerge, and Unkulunkulu broke them off from their reeds, and together, they left the swamp for the world that Unkulunkulu had designed. Unkulunkulu then taught the Zulu people their most essential skills – hunting, making fire and growing food.
Some deities of the Zulu Pantheon:
- Umvelinqangi: The Sky Father and the god of thunder, lightning and earthquakes; often not personified and instead thought of as divine consciousness
- Unkulunkulu: The first man, Supreme God and creator of everything in the world; also known as Ukqili, or “The Wise One”
- Inkosazana: The goddess of agriculture; she enables the grain to grow
- Mamlambo: The goddess of rivers
- Mbaba Mwana Waresa: The goddess of the rain, rainbows, harvest and beer; the Zulu people are said to especially love her, since she invented beer and taught them to brew; she is also known as Nomkhubulwane, or “She Who Chooses the State of an Animal”, since she can shapeshift into any animal
- Amadlozi: The ancestors of the Zulu people; calling on them can lead to help from the spirit world
By Rahim Mawji