When in doubt, blame the Tokoloshe!

This is my article for next month’s edition of Pagan Pages. Make sure to check out their website!

When in doubt, blame the Tokoloshe!

By Morgana Moonfire

Although some consider this fairy to be the African equivalent of the European brownie, many of its characteristics rather seem to portray it as a creature which could have walked straight out of a horror movie.

The Tokoloshe has acquired quite a lot of fame in Africa as most people living there will be familiar with it, especially in Southern Africa. “Tokoloshe” is believed to be derived from the Xhosa word “uthikoloshe”, but it is used by all peoples. According to one source, the name “Tikolosj” means “bag carrier” in Zulu and refers to the huge genitals of the Tokoloshe. It may also be called a Hili, Uhlakanyana or Gilikango.

Traditional magic and superstition have always constituted an important part of Southern African folklore and culture, in which the Tokoloshe appears most frequently. Belief in the Tokoloshe is widespread and whenever something goes wrong, it is not uncommon to blame this creature. We may regard the Tokoloshe as an imaginary creature from the rich and vivid African folklore, or as a creature which may have been invented to scare children; but in Africa every year serious crimes including murder are reported to have been committed by Tokoloshe. Many people in Africa are still reluctant to discuss the Tokoloshe as they believe that even using its name will call him to you and cause trouble.

Due to a lack of clarity as to which creature is exactly indicated with the word Tokoloshe, various fairies in Bantu folklore have come to be identified as Tokoloshe. Originally the Tokoloshe was a water sprite. The name is also often used for a domestic spirit in a witch’s or warlock’s household. This kind of Tokoloshe bears much more resemblance to the European brownie as it is usually described as a brown, hairy dwarf. However, the creature which is most frequently thought of when one hears the name “Tokoloshe” is a fearsome dwarf zombie, created out of a corpse in order to harm and torment the person that has been causing one distress or hardship.

This article will focus on the last type of Tokoloshe. References to this type of creature date back to before 1700. It is an evil or mischievous creature, half man half spirit, called into being by a witch doctor: a sangoma or n’anga. In order to create a Tokoloshe, the eyes and tongue from a fresh full-sized corpse should be removed, as well as the brain, which would cause their bodies to shrink to the size of a child and which would give them their pale, sickly and zombie-like appearance. The Tokoloshe would then be brought to life by a magical powder that is blown into their nostrils by the witch doctor. However, the spirits do not give life freely and as such they require the death of a relative within the year. For if you are prepared to create an unnatural life, you must also be prepared to destroy a natural one.

The Tokoloshe can only be seen by the intended victim unless it becomes completely invisible by swallowing a pebble. It may then go about different ways to terrorize the victim, ranging from physical attacks, illness and death to random appearances, the destruction of personal belongings and the home, all of which make the victim seem completely deranged to their surroundings as no-one else can see the Tokoloshe. The victim’s nightmare would be real only to them. The only way to get rid of a Tokoloshe is to call in the help of a witch doctor who would then trap, paralyze and catch the Tokoloshe with “muti”, a magical substance made from the body of a dead Tokoloshe. It will then become visible, allowing it to be killed.

The Tokoloshe can be described as follows: it is approximately 3.5 foot in height and is always male with genitals so large that it carries its penis slung over its shoulder. Some descriptions also claim that it has two animal horns protruding from its head. It appears as an ugly creature to men but may cast a spell to make itself handsome to women. It likes to wrap itself in hairy fur or dresses in the traditional way similar to the attire worn by witch doctors. According to some sources, the Tokoloshe has a single buttock. Regarding its oversized genitals, it is said that no man can beat the Tokoloshe when it comes to sexual skills. Some accounts of the Tokoloshe even include its function as a demon lover, having to satisfy the witch that controls it in bed.

It is a common belief among white people in South Africa that the black maids raise their beds on bricks in order to protect them from the Tokoloshe. The current joke in South Africa is about Skulk Burger, a great rugby player in the national team. It is said that Skulk Burger is so mean that the Tokoloshe sleep on raised beds. This joke proves just how current the Tokoloshe still is in South Africa.












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Copyright notice

All entered text is ©2010 of the author, unless otherwise stated.

In order to reproduce any material, permission needs to granted by the author, either Morgana Moonfire or Archangel Amitiel.

Dark Moon Circle

As a sister of the DMC, Morgana aka Funky Chicken would like to honour this wonderfully supportive circle of sisters who never hesitate to offer guidance and share their wisdom.
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