#20 The Burial of a King
     (R. C. A. Samuelson, 1929)

When a king dies the fact is kept secret for quite three months, and people are simply told that Inkosi Iyadunguzela, “the king is ailing.” So soon as he is dead a black bull is killed and its hide wrapped round the king, all over, and he is sewn into it and as it dries tightens up. Many other bulls of the same colour are killed after this and their hides wrapped round, in turn, over the first one until the hide coffin of the king has become very large and heavy. Towards the end of the third month all the soldiers of the king are called up to where he is lying in state, without being told what for—when they have arrived then only it leaks out that the king is no more. Some of them are sent to cut branches of the Umbambangwe (a thorny bush), others are sent to cut branches of the Umklele bush (a very tough bush) for the purpose of a fence being made round the grave, some, with the household officers of the king, are set to dig and prepare the grave. All the soldiers come to this ceremony fully panoplied. The nobility, consisting of those who were members of his Executive, carry him to the grave—perfect silence is observed while he is being carried to the grave. The grave is a very large one, and a special niche in the side of the grave is cut out for placing his body in. His personal household servants, “Izinceku,” enter the grave and receive him and place him in his last resting place. All attire he has worn and articles he has used are buried with him, but laid a little distance away from him. The king’s favourite wife, an Inceku, “personal servant,” who used to wash his feet, and another Inceku, who used to eat what the king left, are, or used to be, buried alive with the king, sometimes they were killed and then buried. With some kings it is said that a wife holding a mat for making his bed, another holding a snuff-box with snuff, another holding a calabash with water for him to drink, were buried with him. King Mpande’s Prime Minister, Masipula, was arranging to have such women and men buried with King Mpande, when he was about to be buried, but King Cetewayo stopped him doing so.

[#20] Zulu: “The Burial of a King,” from R. C. A. Samuelson, Long, Long Ago, Durban: Knox Printing and Publishing Co., 1929, p. 291.

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