Using Muti for Protection (2)

Last week we wrote about how thieves often turn to sangoma’s for protection from the police, but obviously it’s not just criminals who use the power of traditional medicine, in fact in most cases it’s the other way around.

Intelezi refers to a wide variety of bulbs and tubers that are used to ward off evil. Normally mixed with water, the muti can be sprinkled around a house to offer protection, and is often used as part of other rituals. For example, it may be used as one part of a larger ceremony when someone has died, in order to protect the living. Intelezi is also used to detect evil – some believe that if you bathe someone in muti mixed with intelezi, and they don’t scratch themselves afterwards, it’s a sign that the person is possessed.

The African wild potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)
The African wild potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)

Inkomfe, or African wild potato, is a tuber that’s used to deflect witchcraft. A mixture of muti, combined with the blood or saliva of the person concerned, is inserted into the inkomfe, which is then buried in a remote spot. The person buries the potato, and walks away without looking back. The idea is that the tagati will confuse the tuber for the real person, protecting the original intended victim from harm. A more evolved version of this ‘spell’ sees it rebounding, returning to the original person who cast the spell.

The bark of a special tree can also be used as a security measure for a house. The bark is first soaked, and then thrown over a person’s shoulder. It is believed that the person’s home will then be protected from would-be intruders, who when they arrive at the house, will hallucinate and see members of the household standing at front door. Believing the house to be occupied the thieves will leave empty-handed.

The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature looks at the relationship between various religious and cultural groups and nature, and includes further information on traditional Zulu medicine.

Image courtesy of

Leave a Reply