Saturday, June 20, 2009

Encounter With ‘Tokoloshes’

This article appeared in today's Standard Newspaper

Saturday, 20 June 2009 21:21
I have heard about “tokoloshes” as creatures that bring fortunes or misfortunes to families. In all those discussions I have ended up even more sceptical. That is why most people crave for an encounter with the malevolent mythical human-like creatures.
Last weekend I went to my village in Mazvihwa in Zvishavane district in the Midlands. I wanted to reconnect with my roots.
On arrival on Friday evening I was greeted with news of the arrival of a “prophet” in the village who had come to conduct a cleansing ceremony. They said it was an awesome spectacle. I was not sure that I was prepared for this sort of thing.
I decided to walk the 5km journey to a mountainous range on Saturday morning where “Prophet” Jeremiah was conducting the cleansing ceremony.
My cousin Peter helped me negotiate the maze of footpaths to the rendezvous.
We met scores of other people on the way — from youths walking energetically to those whose pace was usurped by age.
“I am going to get my problem solved, my son,” a frail old man told me expectantly. I walked past many people who carried their food and water. This was obviously going to be a lengthy process.
We arrived just in time. Peter is a very resourceful young man. He negotiated so I could capture the cleansing ceremony on my digital camera.
A short stout youth in a white bib with stars came back to announce: “You are most welcome to get into the ring and do your business.”
About a thousand people formed a crescent. In the middle were five people who had brought their “bags”. They were lining up to be cleansed of their calamities.
The “prophet” poured some white powder into water that was in a bucket and then conducted a prayer.
Jeremiah then asked the individuals to stand by their bags. We waited with bated breath for Jeremiah was asking the owners to own up to having ‘tokoloshes’ in front of a whole community.
Jeremiah then took his wooden staff and pointed at the bags. He sprinkled “holy water” on the bags.
On approaching the first bag Jeremiah appeared to go into a trance. His assistant, opened the next bag , but it appeared the process went awry. He collapsed, as if struck by something invisible to those of us watching this drama. The others rushed to his rescue. He was able to dip the “tokoloshe” in the “holy water”, rendering it “powerless”.
The remaining bags were checked but nothing was found. It was suggested they had failed to trap the “tokoloshes”.
Fooled or was this real?
We were invited to draw closer to see the “creatures”. The first was a snake — a dead snake, grey in colour and metre-long but curiously wrapped with condoms.
“This snake has just engaged in a sexually activity with a human being,” Jeremiah claimed. “Hmmm,” I wondered.
The next “tokoloshe” was rather bizarre: beaded black stockings in half and garishly decorating a calabash with a carved head of a person.
This was the work of beautiful art turned gory, I muttered to myself. My thoughts were interrupted by an announcement from Jeremiah: “This has blood in it and it survives on human blood.” The cleansing process was repeated several times with spectacular “findings”. The “tokoloshes” were then taken away to be burnt. I followed at a distance, emotions of fear and dismay competing.
One of the men accompanied by his octogenarian mother, his wife and three female members of his family said they had undergone a transformation. There was a sudden change on their faces. They were fresh smiling. It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted off their shoulders.
Peter told me about his experience too. But he could not find a ready explanation.
Jeremiah said he was born Meryward Marara 30 years ago in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central. He is married and has two children who live in Gweru.
I left with more questions than answers. I need another take.

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