One of the most uprising facts about the traditions of the Shona is that they appear to have been an official traditional historians or groups of people with the special task of recalling the past.

Great Zimbabwe

This was true not only of the less important dynasties of the Mutapa and Changamire States as well,for the Portuguese documents and traditions agree that the rulers of the states were surrounded by elaborate courts.

Mutapa Empire 

It has been suggested that the Spirit mediums (Svikiro) of an ancestral spirit (Mudzimu) corresponds in Shona Society. Certainly the spirit mediums themselves and many Shona people believe this and a knowledge of the history relevant to the particular spirit is usually regarded as essential if the spirit medium it to be accepted as genuine by his or her followers.

Spirit Medium Nehanda Charw Nyakasikana (Left)




The Shona believe in two types of spirits which are (Shave Spirit) or Wandering spirits and Vadzimu (ancestral spirit). Shave spirit are connected to populations living outside of Shona territory. These spirits maybe either malevolent or benevolent, Bad spirits are associated with witchcraft and bad luck while good spirits may inspire an individual talents associated with healing gifts, music or artistic ability.

Ancestral spirit (Vadzimu) represent all that is ideal and moral about a Shona way of life. They are usually associated with recent ancestors or with more remote culture heroes whose exact genealogy has been forgotten. They save to protect Society but may withdraw this protection if the Shona moral ideas are not respected.

When the Shona people wanted to seek for guidance and intercession they could conduct a Ceremony which was Called (Bira Ceremony), which was an all-night ritual in which members of an extended family call on ancestral spirit for guidance and intercession. The attendees at a ceremony participate in singing, dancing, playing their traditional music instruments like drums, mbira, hosho and marimba. In this ceremony music favoured by the ancestors when they were alive is used to summon the spirits to possess living mediums (svikiro) thus the religious belief systems help to preserve older musical.

Below is an example of the Mibra and story told by Chiwoniso


Shona people held rain making ceremony every year which was called Mukwerera.It was held in the end of September when the rain season began. The ceremony goes on for a week, the ritual was held at the shrine of a female spirit medium, the medium of the greatest spirits of the Clan.

By Donald Marocha Analyst

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