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Spirits are an essential component in Indigenous Religion.” How valid is this assertion?

It is a truism that spirits are an essential component in Indigenous Religion. Spirits refer to inhabitants of an invisible world which is distinct but not separate from the visible one since they are deemed to have effective powers over the material world. Spirits in Indigenous Religion include avenging, alien, ancestral and lion spirits. On one hand, these spirits promote the sacredity of human life, profitable enterprise in Indigenous Religion, communication between the indigenous people and their Supreme Being as well as safeguarding the indigenous peoples from harm. On the other hand, there are other critical elements in Indigenous Religion apart from spirits such as totems. The impulse of this essay is to look closely into the position that spirits are an essential component in Indigenous Religion.

Avenging spirits are significant in Indigenous Religion as they promote the sacredity of human life. This is because the existence of avenging spirits which are spirits of people who died mysterious deaths and are seeking revenge instill a sense of fear in adherents of Indigenous Religion. This promotes peaceful living and working together as opposed to latent conflicts, hostility and enemity which may trigger murder prompting avenging spirits to surface. However, the significance of avenging spirits is questionable on the basis that they in most instances undermine the rights of women or the girl child who is demanded as a form of compensation. This cannot be used to dismiss their pivotality since it serves to safeguard the essence of human life. Therefore, avenging spirits are an integral component in Indigenous Religion.


Alien spirits are another pertinent type of spirits in Indigenous Religion as they enhance profitable enterprise. This is because good mashavi, such as shavi rekuruma and shavi rekuvhima promote farming and hunting respectively. These mashavi enhance one’s skills in the crafts aforementioned making the ventures greatly profitable as well as improving food security. On the contrary, mashavi spirits have been questioned on the basis that they trigger acculturation since they are spirits of foreigners. This really should not be used against the vitality of alien spirits as they foster cultural multiplicity and diversity which are pre-requisites for growth and sustainable development. Thus, alien spirits are critical in Indigenous Religion.


Ancestral spirits are another important form of spirits in Indigenous Religion which enable the communication between the religion’s adherents and their Supreme Being. This is because ancestral spirits are spirits of people who died married, with children, living a morally upright life with all pre and post burial rituals performed for them. Ancestors plead with “Mwari” on behalf of his people in times of crises such as drought following adherents’ rain-requesting ceremonies(mukwerera). However, ancestral spirits are accused of turning their backs on the living at times of turmoil and awaiting sufficient ceremonies to be gratified, then respond. These accusations however are unsound as the procedures taken formulate the Indigenous Religion cosmology and should be appreciated likewise. Hence, ancestral spirits are greatly important in Indigenous Religion.



Lion spirits are yet another type of spirits which are of utmost importance as they safeguard the indigenous people from harm. This is because lion spirits are powerful and act as benevolent guardians or custodians of the indigenous peoples. They protect people from spiritual and physical attacks such as spells and diseases. On the contrary, lion spirits have been put on the spotlight for failing to safeguard indigenous people at all times especially when angered. This cannot be taken seriously since lion spirits withdraw their benevolent protection under circumstances of facing ingratitude from the indigenous people. Therefore, lion spirits are key in Indigenous Religion.


Apart from spirits, totems are also essential component in Indigenous Religion. This is because totemic identities are a source of unity in the region. For instance, those of the same Hungwe totem have closely knit and unified relations by virtue of having the same totem. More so, totems also promote wildlife and acquatic conservation since those of an ascribed animal totem value it and are restricted from slaughtering it for meat. For example, the Nzou totem confines those who possess it from killing elephants for meat or any other reason. However, totems are a source of segregation as those with varying totems consider each other strangers. This cannot challenge the great centrality of totems in Indigenous Religion. Thus, totems are vital in Indigenous Religion.


To conclude, this essay has interrogated the position that spirits are an essential component in Indigenous Religion. On one hand, spirits promote sacredity of human life, harness profitable enterprise, enhance communication between the indigenous people and their Supreme Being while on the other hand totems also are a notable element in Indigenous Religion. From the above arguments, one can conclude that indeed the assertion that spirits are an essential component in Indigenous Religion carries great momentum.

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