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This Week's Feature

The Incwala

The Incwala is a sacred ceremony of Kingship and a first fruits ceremony, a mystical rite of powerful spiritual significance for the Nation. The Incwala is really a process rather than one ceremony, it starts at the last new moon of the year. Runners are sent to the main rivers and to the sea to fetch water and on their return rituals are performed, sacred songs are sung and ritual dances performed. Thousands of young men march 60 kilometres to gather special branches (Dichrostachys cinerea) which are later used to decorate the King’s private sanctuary. In it secret parts of the Incwala are performed. Sacred songs (which may not be recorded) are sung while a black ox is put into the shelter and slaughtered. Rituals are performed over the carcass of the bull for the revitalising of the King and his powers. There is a huge celebration in the middle of the ceremony. After alternate days of dancing and meditation the bones of the ox are gathered, a huge fire is lit over them and the ancestral spirits are asked to bring rain to show their favour and acceptance of the rituals performed. Inevitably it does rain, usually putting out the fire. Traditionally, the nation does not eat of the new harvest until after this occasion. The Incwala is the most sacred annual event; spectators are permitted, but not encouraged. The sacred parts of the ceremony are held in secret and members of the public are not permitted to be present at these times. Visitors are allowed, but you will be told exactly when and where to take your photos. Do not take any outside of these times and places. This is not a re-constructed ceremony, it is the real thing, centuries old.

Related pages:
The Incwala
Swazi Culture


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