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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The River-God and the Historians: Myth in the Shire Valley and Elsewhere
Author:Wrigley, Christopher
Year:1988
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Volume:29
Issue:3
Pages:367-383
Language:English
Geographic term:Malawi
Subjects:African religions
cults
history
1500-1599
1600-1699
myths (form)
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/182347
Abstract:Debates over the 'Zimba' period of Zambesian history prompt a new consideration of the mythical element in oral traditions. The work of M. Schoffeleers on Mbona, presiding spirit of a famous rainshrine in southern Malawi, is exploited in order to cast doubt on his reconstruction of 16th and 17th-century political history. It is suggested that Mbona was the serpentine power immanent in the Zambesi; that reports of his 'martyrdom' at the hands of a secular ruler are versions of an ancient myth of the lightning and the rainbow; that his journey to, and subsequent flight from, Kaphiri-ntiwa, scene of the Maravi creation myth, is a variant of the visit made to the sky by Kintu, the 'First Man' of Ganda tradition. It is not very likely that such stories attest the rise of a great military State c. 1600 and the ensuing suppression of religious institutions. Notes, ref. Comment by Schoffeleers on p. 385-390 under the title 'Myth and/or history: a reply to Christopher Wrigley'.
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