Ladies of Fire – Growth through Responsible Change


This week our two ladies of iTongo come from the Xhosa, People of the South, and their lives were intertwined by destiny.

In mid-1856, Nongqawuse believed she saw her ancestors in a pool of water in the Gxarha River. She claimed that the ancestors told her they would arise and sweep the British settlers into the sea, replenish the granaries and fill the kraals with healthy cattle. As an act of good faith, she said the Xhosa people should destroy their crops, the grain stores and kill their cattle. Those who refused would be turned into frogs, mice, and ants and blown into the sea by a mighty whirlwind.

Queen Suthu was a shrewd woman of substance and ruled alongside her son King Sandile. They were influenced by Nongqawuse and gave their blessing. Had they not done this, the terrible tragedy could have been averted.

What do we learn from these two ladies? We need to take responsibility for the choices we make. There is of course the danger of over reaching our capabilities and with that comes the burden of assuming responsibility. Sometimes life adds certain restrictions to our actions, which often delays our personal growth and blocks our energy. At times like this we need to remember that for every action there is a reaction, so we need to be mindful of our expressed intent.

When we are in a situation that could have possible negative outcomes, the best is to take a moment to reflect. Take a step back and reassess the possible damage. We need to understand our own power in action. What it takes to manifest our passions in a practical way. Simply allow that ray of light within to guide us. Be vigorous and strong within your self-assurance. Feel – think – act – change!

Remember to be gracious, warm and outgoing when approaching others or a situation. Maintain your personal integrity with maturity. These two ladies represent the feminine power in action.

iTongo Tarot CardTEN of ISIBANE (Fire/Wands) – People of the South – Key word – RESPONSIBILITY
Nongqawuse (c.1840 –1898) was the 14 year-old girl whose prophecies led to the Xhosa cattle-killing crisis of 1856–1857.

She predicted that the ancestors’ promise would be fulfilled on 18 February 1857 when the sun would rise as a blood sun, stand still in the sky, and then set again in the East. Chief Sandile, on hearing the prophecy from Nongqawuse’s uncle, Mhlakazi, ordered his followers to obey it.

For ten months, the Gcaleka acted as men possessed, killing their livestock, and destroying their crops until all that was left was their faith. The cattle-killing frenzy affected the whole of the Xhosa nation, and it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 head of cattle were killed. It is reported that the Xhosa population dropped from 105 000 in January 1857 to 26 000 in December 1858.

As the appointed day dawned, a breeze blew off the sea and the Gcaleka people sat waiting. The sun rose, made its passage across the hot February sky, and set in silent majesty in the west. Darkness fell on a ruined people. Those left to rebuild the nation survived only through the help of neighbouring tribes and the Europeans.

Nongqawuse, fled to King Williamstown where she sought sanctuary with the British. There are conflicting reports of what became of her. Some believe she was sent to Robben Island, but there is no record of her ever having been there; others believe that she settled on a farm in the Alexandria district in the Eastern Cape. She died in 1898. Today, the valley where Nongqawuse met the spirits is still called Intlambo kaNongqawuse (Xhosa for Valley of Nongqawuse).

Queen of iSibane (Fire)QUEEN of ISIBANE (Fire/Wands) – People of the South – Key word – RADIANCE
Queen Suthu: According to Xhosa tradition, when a chief or king dies and the heir is under age, his mother, or uncle acts as regent on his behalf until he becomes a man.

Queen Suthu was the youngest wife of Chief Ngqika. She was a great beauty in her youth and a knowledgeable politician. On Ngqika’s death in 1829, Suthu became regent of the Rharhabe Xhosa on behalf of her son, Sandile, until he came of age. Suthu’s prestigious and important position was consistent with Xhosa tradition where the mother of the chief is always held in high esteem and occupies a place as major adviser and counsellor to her son.

Queen Suthu was a shrewd woman of substance and a survivor. She overcame witchcraft accusations in 1842 and was well known to British missionaries.  Because of her experience in dealing with the British, she often served as an emissary between tribes and the British officials and missionaries.

More than once, she appeared in court on behalf of her son Sandile when he was captured by the British during the War of the Axe in 1846. Sandile was shot by the British in 1878.

Queen Suthu attended church services frequently and was respected by the British; however, she would not tolerate their demands to desist from holding traditional ceremonies on the Christian Sabbath.

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