Tag Archives: marriage
February 5, 2013


Ayanda Ncgobo

Umemulo is a ritual which is very similar to umhlonyana but it is like a 21st birthday celebration. It is a ritual done for a girl who has reached the age of 21; it is a token of appreciation from parents to daughter. To appreciate that their daughter has behaved herself until the age of 21 as it is usually for girls who have never been pregnant. It is also a way of saying that our daughter has grown and ready for marriage. In some instances you find that girls, especially first born child, may be faced with problems or get seriously ill if they did not have this ritual. Even if they already had children, they may need to do umemulo, especially before they get married. Usually when a girl is getting married and they did not have umemulo, the parents may take one of the lobola cows and perform the ritual.
The process of umemulo is very much like that of umhlonyana but the main difference is that, when doing umemulo a cow is slaughtered, if the girl did not have umhlonyana they may start with slaughtering a goat. And it is done for a girl that is 21 years or older but not younger unless a girl is getting married before the age of 21, it is to say you are old enough to get married, you have reached womanhood and the young men can come and make you their bride.

Umemulo for me, is important, your parents show that they appreciate the way you have behaved until reaching this stage. You are also prepared for marriage, you are taught on how to be good bride and wife. I would much rather have umemulo than a 21st birthday party, it has more meaning, you learn more about one’s culture and also about being a woman.
Ayanda Ngcobo, October 2012

November 9, 2012

Sacrificing a goat

How to prepare (slaughter) a goat (Xolani Magwaza, September 2012)
My name is Xolani Magwaza, a 24 year old male from Inanda Township in a place called (UMzinyathi) I am currently doing my Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching at Edgewood campus University of Kwa- Zulu Natal (South Africa). I am writing this article to share my interesting story about “killing a goat” and things to consider. The reason why I want to share my story with the rest of the world is because I am proud of my culture and I using this article as a way to encourage young people all over the world to love, respect, research, document and embrace their cultures. To me culture is not a lifestyle, but it is who I am, born to be and vision to be. Without it, I am not whole.

I will prefer to use the word “prepare” because slaughter sounds harsh/evil thus the process and the aim of such act/ ritual is not, it same as preparing a meal. In my culture (Zulu Culture) minding a difference in different clans, there is a difference between male and female duties at home. What boys are expected to do when they are young and grown up is different from what girls are expected to do in the passage of growing up both at home and in the society. For an example there is a big “misconception” that it girls duty to clean the house and wash dishes and it boys duty to look after cattle or clean the yard. If you are a boy and you are found doing “girls duties”, you will be bullied by boys and even some girls sometimes. You will have names like “sissy, mother’s baby or you not a man enough”.
Preparing a goat is a duty of a male person/ boy. The feeling is the same as hunting birds as a boy. If you have never shot a bird with a sling shot “oh!!! Boy, you will be bullied”. It will feel like you are in a lower rank of boyhood/ manhood. Even younger boys will be challenging you to fight with you because they feel like you not strong enough. For one to graduate and earn respect, one has to have a kill.

A goat is an important animal amongst the Zulu nation and in Africa at large. The Zulus sees a goat as their main animal. It valued more than a cow. The cow is only good for meat, milk and ploughing. However a goat can be used for it milk, meat and as a coupon/passage to communicate with the ancestors, to ask for good luck and to wash away or prevent bad lucks. If a child is born a goat has to be prepared to formally introduce a child at home. If a woman is getting married, she has to be formally introduced at her husband home to be her real home. A goat will be prepared for such ritual. Lastly if a girl gets pregnant before marriage, the boy has to pay a goat as a way to cleanse the home/family of a pregnant girl. Getting pregnant before marriage amongst the Zulus is seen as bad luck. The goat for such ritual is normally prepared outside the yard/ homestead of a girl to prevent bad luck from entering to the girl’s family. There are so many things that a goat is used for amongst the Zulu’s. Therefore this article does not have all the answers and information is due to be critiqued.

• Preparing a goat
Due to the urbanisation effects people have lost their cattle as they don’t have land for grazing. This has forced people to buy goats from farmers. However, one has to understand that there is a difference between a goat boat from the farmer and the one that grew up at home. The one that grew up at home is seen as the right goat to prepare for the rituals as the ancestors know it. Therefore if one buys a goat from the farm. One has to have a white (silver) coin. This white coin is used as a form of a convector. The goat will then be exchanged and formally be for that family. In this way the ancestors will welcome the goats as theirs. The white coin is given to an elder member of a family to use it.
Once the goat is at home. It can be prepared/ killed. Before it is killed an elder male person at home has to burn a herb called “Impepho”. Impepho is an incent that is used to communicate/ speak with the ancestors. He will than pull the goat next to the incent smoke and deliver his message to the ancestors. If the goat was prepared without impepho, that ritual will not be successful.

Boys from age ten to adults will gather with their knives. An elder or a boy who is confident to do the “preparing” will than hold the goat horns tightly while two young boys or an elder will hold its hind legs. The same will happen with the front legs. The sharp knife will be used to cut the cartilage and the veins in the neck. Underneath the goat there is a big dish washing dish to contain the blood form pouring down to the ground. The blood is important as it is used to prepared another meal called “ububende” a mixture of goat blood and it intestines. Once the goat has stopped moving. It has to be stretched to prevent it from getting hard.

After that, a big stand is used to place the goat. This can be a door of a house or any big flat substance that can contain a goat. The leading boy or man will than skin the goat from the neck, round it chest, passing the stomach down to the tail. Other boys will be removing the skin from all four legs. Sometimes feasting is used to remove the skin from the body. Once the goat is skinless. The skin is placed to protect the meat from getting dirty. The following face is removing intestines and all insides. An experienced person must do such procedure because gall bladder “Inyongo” is one of the important parts of the goats that are used in a ritual. If the gall bladder busts, it can spoil the meat because it has a bitter taste. Therefore an experienced person must perform such task or a beginner can perform it under the guidance of an experienced person. The insides “intestines” are not thrown away. They are cleaned and stoned in a bucket or a dish. They are used to prepare a nice meal called “umgxabhiso”.

The goat will then be hanged in a room that is prepared for the ancestors. In that room there is a Zulu beer pots full of Zulu beer and a burned incense. The reason why it is hanged and not cooked in that day is that the ancestors have to see their food, eat it before any one has a bite. Next morning, the boys will chop the goat, separating it in two pieces than cooked in a big pot at the same time.
Things to consider

• If a male person passes away and you want to do a ritual for him a male goat has to be bought. However if it is not found, the silver coin can be used to change it gender visa vi.

• A black goat is not used. Black symbolises bad luck amongst the Zulus. A silver coin has to be used as a way to change it colour.

• A sheep is not used for rituals but for feasting, the reason being that they don’t make a loud noise, even when they are being killed. However a goat screams. That screaming is seen as talking to the ancestors.