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Unkulunkulu


Unkulunkulu "the Very old" is a predominate figure in Kaffir mythology (Zulu and Xhosa). The reason this seems true is because there existed extreme importance on the cult of royal or family ancestors among the Bantu tribes. These ancestors were intermediaries between mortals and the supreme god. The images of Unkulunkulu are that of the first man, ancestor of the human race, and of a demiurge, in so far as he iis the son of the Unvelingauge. This means "He who exists" and is delegated powers of creation by the supreme being. He arose from a bed of reeds, therefore the ground, Mother Earth, and seems to have been the creator of the customs and techniques typical of Kaffir civilization. Even though he is recognized as the founding ancestor, like many creator deities in world mythology, this god is too distant figure to be a focus of worship.

But as he a culture-hero, and benefactor of humanity, he also is indirectly responsible for death. This indirect responsibility is told in legend. Unkulunkulu said to the Chameleon, "Go! Go tell the men that they will not suffer death." But the slow and lazy Chameleon lingered on the way. This angered Unkulunkulu who sent a second messenger, the Lizard who was to tell the men that death would come. When the Chameleon finally got there, the Lizard had already been there, and that is why men are mortal.

This myth is prominent among Bantu tribes, such as the Basuto or Baranga. It is associated with the idea that the Chameleon is supposed to be one of the first living creatures; he is said to have appeared before the earth emerged completely from the primordial waters, and since he had to learn to walk in mud he acquired a slow movement which caused the coming of death. It is said in myth as retribution Unkulunkulu instituted marriage so people could have immortality through their children A.G.H.


Sources:

Mirosoft Encarta Encyclopedia. "Unkulunkulu." 2005
Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965. p. 522



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