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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Setlhabelo sa kgomo (sacrifice of a cow) and other items

This service was made by the son for his confused mother. The son worked in the mines and was a member of B.U.C.Z. The family had previously tried various other methods to help their mother. This was the most elaborate sacrifice service I attended, involving the offering of a larger number of sacrificial items. The preparations were made on the Saturday afternoon preceding the service. Some of these I observed, such as the killing of the cow and preparation of the feast .

The service and sacrifice were held in the evening. The congregation of B.U.C.Z. collected at the Moruti's home at about 10.00 p.m. and processed to the Setlhabelo home, singing hymns on the way. The other churches who had been invited collected first either at their churches or at a member's home which was conveniently situated on the way to the Setlhabelo home. I arrived back at the service at about 11.00 p.m., the other churches had not yet arrived, only the B.U.C.Z. congregation.

The service commenced in a square, thatched  house in the family home.  To the right end of the house was a table on which was a candle. Most of the men stood near this table. The confused woman was crouched in a corner at the end. There was a candle burning in each corner of the house, and in each corner, where the rafters met the walls, there was a little bottle of Holy Water. These articles had been put there the previous year, and since they had been put there the woman's condition had improved a little - she did not wander off so much.

After a short time, the other churches started to enter, entering in the customsry way.  Then the Evangelist of B.U.C.Z. who was in charge of the service welcomed them, and after a few Biblical references and some hymn singing, the Secretary was asked to read Acts 10, v. 29-35 (Cornelius’ request for Peter to visit him following his vision).

The owner of the home was asked to speak and give his permission (in fact the oldest son, a Zionist, who was holding the service did this.) He explained that they had called the Zionists to make a sacrifice due to the illness of their mother. The Evangelist asked him if they should make the prayers just for the mother or for the whole family. The Headman of the Kgotla  replied on behalf of the family. He said he himself was a Zionist and, as Headman of the kgotla, he wanted to say that they had called the Zionists to find out what was causing the problems in that family. The Evangelist thanked him and called the Secretary to continue  reading 1 Corinthians 6, v.1-2 (Paul’s warning that they should only go to law before Christians.) Then the Evangelist referred to the reading from Acts. He said because of God's calling they had come. They should work together before Christ. Everything that God commanded them to do should be followed without concealment.

After a further hymn and the arrival of another church, the Evangelist warned the congregation that they should all try and behave, although the house was very crowded (by now we were literally like sardines). We were told that we should all try and be the same because they wanted the sacrificial place to be Holy. The sacrifice was to put the owner of the home before Christ. He referred to the reading from Corinthians. Then he repeated, for the benefit of the late-comers, that they were putting this troubled family before Christ with the sacrifice of a bullock. This sacrifice had been ordered by a prophecy and they had brought "bola”,(prophecies) - again the reference to a traditional doctor’s divination with bones. He said their method when making sacrifices was to do the sacrifice first, then to give a chance to the prophets, so that if the rain came they would not be disturbed. He explained that the Bible tells us that the sacrificial animal represents the family's problems and, when they make the sacrifice, they also want to make the sacrificial animal happy so that it could see that it was created to serve its owners an& to help them in their troubles. (An interesting idea, that animal spirits also have to be appeased.) Next the hymn "I can hear love, I'm very happy, I can see the sacrificial place" was sung.

The leaders of the different churches were given a chance to speak on behalf of their churches. These speeches took the usual format, where the leader introduced himself and outlined the problems both of himself and the church. After another hymn the Secretary was told to read Numbers 8, v. I and the 7 candles were lit, the ones that had previously been placed on the table. A further hymn followed before the B.U.C.Z. Evangelist replied, thanking the different Baruti for their words. He encouraged the prophets to reveal whatever they might "see" that night. He said that when the cow had been slaughtered that afternoon and he had read the Bible, he had "seen" that the bullock had been given according to a prophecy, they had followed the Bible's instructions and therefore the prophets should reveal their prophecies. The Dikhosa were now to go out and prepare the sacrificial items. These things were in special places, for example, the blood of the bullock had been hidden away from dogs. There was another hymn, and then the Evangelist told the church choirs to come forward and each to take a candle as it was lit.

Then the dikhosa brought in the sacrificial items and placed them on the table. The Secretary was told to read  Leviticus 4, v. 1-11  describing this type of sacrifice, and, as this part was read, the different parts of the cow (fat, kidneys, liver etc) and other items were held up one by one.

Next Acts 20, v.8 was read repeatedly ( “,,and there were many lights in the Upper Chamber where they were gathered..”) and the candle packets  were opened, the candles lit and handed out to the members of the church choirs to hold. The Evangelist announced that the candle holders should go out first, followed by the owners of the service, then the women, men, and lastly the Baruti. They should return to the house after the sacrifice had been made in the same way.

"Halleujah" was then sung. The Evangelist warned people against making false prophecies just because they may have a grudge against the family. Here they should forget all hatreds and concentrate on the work of God. He warned people that the sacrificial place was very dangerous and so if people did not like sacrifices or were not powerful they should not try and dance around the sacrificial fire or they would find themselves roasting. The B.U.C.Z. Moruti added that in that church they liked to warn people in advance about what they were going to do, so that they should not be frightened. He wanted to choose a person from another church to help make the sacrifices. While the prophets looked for their prophecy sticks, that they had had to put down because the room was so full, the hymn "The Jews are not a good tribe because they killed the son of Man" was sung. During this and another hymn "Ali, Ali" we all went outside in the above order. The family sat near the fire in a semi-circle, the rest of the congregation stood in an outer circle around them and the fire.

During three more hymns the B.U.C.Z. Moruti led, and other male prophets followed, dancing around the fire and around the family inside the circle of the congregation. Then two Baruti started to make the sacrifice. Each item was first prayed for, raised and lowered three times, before being thrown into the fire. The sacrificial items were collected in turns from the Dikhosa, who were keeping them at the side of the circle. First the parts of the bullock were burned, and then the other items of bread, oil, meths etc. (the items mentioned in Leviticus 24, v. 1-8). While the bottle of meths was being burned, an enormous flame shot into the air, and one of the prophets caught on fire - the other Baruti attributed this to the fact that  he was not "clean from sin".

After a few hymns and more dancing the B.U.C.Z. Moruti called the prophets to reveal what they had "seen". One prophet from Kanana said that he could "see" that there was a man who wanted to marry a daughter of that home but he was not honest, he had not come yet. If he brought the engagement presents (blankets, clothes etc.) they would be stolen ones. One of the daughters agreed that there had been such a person but he had disappeared. The prophet continued that,that man had once brought meat from a slaughtered cow for them but the man's father was angry because he had slaughtered the beast without permission. The prophet did not understand why one of the sons of the home looked so unhappy, because no one was dead. He could "see" in his Spirit everyone of the home being struck by lightning and everyone in the family being killed, including the mother's family. He could even "see" in his  Spirit that opposite to their Lands there was a home made of matlaku fencing (walls or fencing made of thin branches woven into poles stuck into the ground) and there was a cart. This cart held him in his prophecy. He could "see" that there was a lonaka at the home in the kgotla. He said that one of the children of this home had a pinkish wooden trunk striped with red (the family said they could not understand this part of the prophecy). He could prophesy one of their relatives who would  come   home from working at Mafeking  with nothing (prostitutes  and shebeen queens would have taken all his earnings). He could "see" that there was  someone  in  the  family   who always  dreamt  about  a tree and lightning hitting   their home,  but they need  not fear that  lightning  as it would disappear without harming them. The prophet continued that  he would like  to  prophesy  the son who was making the  sacrifice.  He could "see" he had already been struck  by  lightning  before  (the  son agreed   to   this).  He could   "see" some of   his   clothes were missing  there was a  family  where he  had agreed   to marry  their   daughter,  then  later  he  had  changed  his  mind without telling them.  When he passed  near their  home, he never went there. He (the prophet) could "see" that on the way there the son passed thorn bushes and a trench, when the son was on his way there he felt  shocked and changed his direction.   He could prophesy the  napkins and blankets  that  he had  bought for his child with  that woman. He could "see" that those people had red cattle. These people had spoken badly about him and that was why-be had withdrawn himself.  The prophet said that  these  people  had  stolen  his underwear  and bewitched  it,  and they had even stolen some of his beard  while he  slept  at night,  and used it for sorcery. The son agreed to all this.

The prophet continued that now he was having trouble with his head  and eyes.    He could  "see" in his prophecy  that a dead child had been stolen and  the sorcerers had argued over the bits of the body as there was not enough   for all  of  them. He asked  the mother if she knew about a dead child.  She replied that all she knew was that a child had died and the body had been stolen by people after the burial, but she did not know  anything more.  The prophet  said he could  "see"  that  dead child was of a relative in the kgotla. He could "see" the mother had problems with noise in her ears and a bitter taste in her mouth, this was caused by  being  poisoned   by this dead child,  so that she  would be quiet and become like   a dead body.  The  intestines  and  liver  of  that  child had been used to  poison  her.  This  was  what was causing  her children to neglect her when they came from the mines. The prophet continued that he could "see" that the mother (a widow) had  had a quarrel over cattle with  the  older brother  of her dead husband.  He could  "see"  that  an old man and a  girl were missing  from that  family.  The  old  man had gone to  the mines  and had not returned. The mother could not understand  this  part  and so  the  prophet  said the missing girl was about 10.

Next another prophet spoke. He was from New Israel church and knelt before the family to prophesy - he wore sack cloth and spoke in a high whining voice.

He said that he could "see" that the family badly needed prayers as they had so many problems. He could "see" them quarrelling over some things but not reaching any agreement. He could "see" that the Headman of that sub-kgotla (the dead father's elder brother) was causing their troubles. He could "see" that there had been a time when they had quarrels over cattle as they had tried to have more cattle than anyone else and this had caused jealousy. They often felt like forbidding their Rre-Mogolo (father's older brother) to visit them in their home.

At this point the B.U.C.Z. Moruti called the Dikhosa to close the gates because so many sorcerers were arriving to challenge them. The New Israel prophet repeated his prophecy but said that there were many sorcerers present who had been sent to spy for the Rre-Mogolo.

Another prophet continued that he could "see" that the family's Lands were badly bewitched. The family was as yet unaware of this because they had never consulted a traditional doctor or the Zionists. On this point, he could "see" that they had once had a kgotla chair that had been bewitched and also he could "see" a goat that had been used to pay a traditional doctor. The sisters agreed that such a goat had once been used to pay a traditional doctor.

Some more hymns were sung and dancing continued to strengthen the powers of the prophets. Then a Kanana prophet took over. He said that he had heard one prophet mention a bewitched kgotla chair. He said that he could '~see" that the mother had been cheated during Boswaa (inheritance) - The mother had been cheated of her rightful inheritance of cattle. Following Tatolo (when the dead person’s possessions are taken to his maternal Uncle’s kgotla for distribution) The chair was obviously part of her inheritance but had been bewitched and this was part of the cause of her problems . Another cause of her sickness was because they had had a field which someone else wanted, took, and gave to their daughter. He could also "see" a dam where a person would be drowned. This was their dam and they had many quarrels over it, and sometimes the water of that dam made a frightening movement. The son replied that they had no dam like that, but the prophet insisted that the Spirit showed him such a dam.

The B.U.C.Z. Moruti expounded that there was a dam at their Lands where they fetched water and the owner of the dam was not letting them fetch water in it. He could "see" the sister taking a bucket from that dam and after that she would have trouble with her breast and never suckle a child. She had been poisoned and she had had headaches and could not see properly. She had been poisoned when she had gone to help people harvest and thresh their corn ( a common co-operative practice). The girl said she could not understand this and she had never gone to anywhere for work. The Moruti said he was not referring to a job, but when she had gone to help her in-laws. He could see that she would have bad luck, boys loved her but did not marry her. She was always insulted at her in-laws. He could "see" how she tried to ignore them and went to fetch wood or water when they started to insult her. He could "see" that these problems were being caused by a girl who pretended to be her friend. She had been employed to help with the harvest at the home of the in-laws and she was trying to steal the sister's husband-to-be. When the sister had noticed this, that is when the girl had started to bewitch her, this other girl had bewitched her at night with sorcery to make her wake very late in the morning. The other girl would then have a chance to sleep with her husband. She had started to get problems in the middle of her back and leg and some of her underwear was missing. The sorcerer girl wore a dress of many colours.

Next followed another hymn "Judas is a Crook". Then the B.U.C.Z. Moruti continued the prophecy, he said that there was another man who had promised to marry her but he could “see“ that that man was involved in cattle theft and, when he pretended to love her, he always asked her about their Cattle-post as he was trying to make a plan to steal their cattle, which he would then sell far away or exchange for other cattle he would use to pay her bogadi (bridewealth)

The Kanana prophet took over. He could "see" this man also in his Spirit. This was the man who had brought meat to their house as a gift - the meat of the stolen cow. The New Israel prophet continued that he could "see" this girl having problems with her legs and again he could "see” her having a pain on the side of her shoulder. He repeated the prophecy about her breast. He could "see" her having sores inside her chest which will end up in T.B.. He could "see" a lonaka (evil medicine horn) which had been kept by their Headman (the Rre-Mogolo) - a white one, and that is what was causing the trouble. This Headman used this to bewitch them, their cattle, goats and sheep therefore died.

The hymns "I feel pity, Amen Messiah" and "Halleujah" were sung. Then the New Israel prophet continued that the family all had trouble with their legs and people insulted them because they were jealous of their possessions and the way their sons worked in the mines. He could "see" that at night they were always disturbed by sorcerers coming in the night, making noise outside, and disturbing their sleep. There had once even been a trial about this after all the family had become very ill following buried sorcery, and the older brother (the one making the service) had even been injured in an accident in the mines. (He had been buried under rocks and trapped by his foot which was amputated and he now had an artificial foot.) The sorcery  buried in their lolwapa had been causing, and was still causing, all their problems.

The B.U.C.Z. Moruti said that in their church they were not powerful enough to dig out the sorcery, but if New Israel had power they could help them.

The New Israel prophet continued that he could. "see" in his Spirit that many of the prophets could "see" this buried sorcery, but instead of revealing this they were hiding the fact. He wanted to know if those prophets would agree with him that this sorcery was present before they dug it out. The B.U.C.Z. Moruti answered that in the Bible it said that if you are given a gift you should use it. He called on all the Baruti to dance around, and anyone who' saw where the sorcery was, should go on his own and mark where he' saw it. Then they would dig where the marks were.

The Kanana Moruti announced he could -"see" this buried sorcery too. He could "see" that there had been a time when a traditional doctor had been called to heal the whole family and that  was when the sorcerers had buried the sorcery  to fight against the traditional doctor's medicine. This sorcery was buried near the corners of the house but kept moving from corner to corner. When he first arrived he had "seen" it in one corner but now in his prophecy he just “saw” it moving around, not remaining stationary. He said that when they danced to get their prophecies, they kept knocking into each other - the sorcery was making this happen to them to try and make them lose their power of prophecy. At this service, as has already been stated, one prophet had caught on fire during the sacrifice stage and another later fell into the fire. Several members of the congregation "got the Spirit" very strongly, and one girl even rolled over and over and became unconscious.

More hymns were sung and the dancing became very vivacious. The prophets were trying to find the direction of the exact spot of the sorcery. The New Israel prophet stopped us at one point and said the singers were not singing strongly enough. It was now very late and some people had fallen asleep - they were woken up by the Oikhosa to "help with the singing". Following another hymn the New Israel Bishop "saw" that the sorcery was buried by the door of the house where the service started. Spades were brought and the New Israel Baruti dug out a large Vick tin containing the sorcery that had been placed there by the sorcerers and had been causing all the trouble.

The family later told me that they felt they were much helped by this service. The confused woman's condition improved and she became "normal" again - this was up to the time I left in 1983.

New Israel Church was renowned for its ability to do this. On this occasion they had even come with their Bishop, who did not dance but stood to one side. He wore long purple robes with silver trimmings and a Bishop's mitre on his head. He used cowrie shells to prophesy and, although he did not prophesy publicly like the other prophets, he stood to the side and the other prophets kept going to consult him.