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Zulu Culture and Traditions
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The chief is frequently buried in a sitting position in his cattle kraal, sown into the skin of a black bull killed that day. Should he die elsewhere, a delegation takes a small branch of the buffalo thorn tree to the location where the chief's spirit enters the branch.
The branch is then taken to the home kraal whilst being reassured the whole distance so that the spirit is not lost. Arriving, the branch is placed in the cattle kraal where it is eaten. A similar procedure occurs if the kraal is moved.
Other members are often left to the wild animals after death. To the Zulu, it is the spirit that is important, not the body.
Ancestors are thought to live in the spirit world of unkulunkulu (the greatest of the great) and are regarded as intermediaries between the living and the spirit world. As a consequence, they are praised and offerings are made to them.
Should something untoward occur, the sangoma (spiritual healer) is consulted to determine whether the event has been caused by witchcraft (in which case there is a witch-hunt) or failure to appease the spirits. In the latter case, a sacrifice is made whilst complaining at the apparent attitude of the spirit.
Spirits are thought to exist also in animals and in the forest and in caves. A female spirit - inkosazana - is thought to make maize grow and is fêted in the spring.
It is believed that all ancestors must be kept in the memory of the family otherwise, if forgotten, they may seek to be remembered by visiting trouble on them.