Shona People and Their Spirituality

Shona people have always believed in God whom they called Mwari  or Musikavanhu. They also believed that Musikavanhu is so great that no mere living human being can have direct access to him. The intermediates between Mwari and people have been known as vadzimu or mudzimu (singular).

   Vadzimu is a spiritual community believed to exist parallel to the world of the living.    When a Shona adult person who had a family of his own dies, his/her spirit is believed to wander until it is invited back “home” in a ritual called kurova guva. Once the kurova guva ceremony has been performed the spirit of the dead person joins vadzimu.

 Vadzimu are responsible for guidance and protection of the living family. They can orchestrate luck, great harvests, abundant rains among other beneficial things.When they went out to hunt or one of the family members leaves home The Shona people would seek guidance and protection from Vadzimu by pouring home-brewed beer to the ground.

  The most powerful mudzimu spirits are known as Mhondoro. These are responsible for the protection of the Shona people as a tribe.

Mbuya Nehanda
Mbuya Nehanda

They manifest in a chosen individual through possession. The individual becomes sacred and powerful enough to be a rainmaker. Mbuya Nehanda, the Heroine behind the Zimbabwean liberation struggle was a mhondoro.


 Mashavi are wandering spirits, often of strangers who died away from their homes and were never invited back home. Mashavi can possess people in a biblical legionic manner causing a person to take on the traits of the shavi . Not all mashavi will bring out morally detestable behaviour such as witchcraft, prostitution or thieving. Some mashavi though regarded as evil can impart good talents such as hunting.

 The Shona people also believe in Ngozi. This a vengeful spirit oten of a stranger who was murdered or died full of unresolved grudges.Ngozi from unresolved grudges often is of a wife or mother who died full of anger. Ngozi destroys everything associated with the killer or the one whom it holds a grudge. It can kill their family members and destroy all their property.

 The family being haunted by Ngozi must visit a spirit medium to identify the source of its grudge. They must go and confess to the family of the victim who will often require a token in order to perform the appeasement ritual for their murdered relative. The token can be cattle or in certain circumstances the victim through the spirit medium can demand that a girl child be part of the token.

 The Chiefs were responsible for making sure that people followed customs. Modern day Zimbabwe has been overwhelmingly taken over by Christianity. Shona beliefs were to some extent suffocated by colonialism since Europeans demonized everything to do with them. Today only a few people , mostly found in rural areas still revere these beliefs.




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