Venda Sacred Places

Lake Fundudzi and Mashovhela Rock Pool

Lake Fundudzi

Possibly the most sacred spot of all in Venda Culture is the enchanted body of water known as Lake Fundudzi in the Thathe Vondo Forest, in Venda and is the home to the mythical python and white crocodile.

Lake Fundudzi, the only natural lake of its kind in South Africa, was originally formed by a landslide, say scientists. But the local people see it in a far more mysterious way. They’ll point out that three rivers flow into the lake, yet it never overflows and there is no obvious outlet.

Thathe Vondo Forest

Lake Fundudzi is surrounded by the Thathe Vondo forest – so full of spirits that few Venda people venture into it for fear of the two mythical creatures keeping guard, namely the white lion (the spirit of Nethathe an important chief) and the thunder and lighting bird called Ndadzi which according to myths flies on the wings of thunder, its eyes flash lightning, from in its beak it bears rain and when it drops an egg at a foot of a tree this tree will be destroyed by fire.

The forest has giant trees (jakkelsbessie, yellowwood), a wide variety of ferns, creepers and a wealth of plants and trees which makes the forest nearly impenetrable on foot. One can also find the giant edible mushrooms, Nkoa in these woods.

Venda Legends

  • The Venda people say that the Mutale River that flows into the lake actually flows underneath the lake and does not move the surface water.
  • A legend tells of a Venda man who had a broken heart because of the loss of a great love. In his sorrow he walked into Lake Fundudzi at which time he turned into a python. This python is the god of fertility and cares for the crops and who is pacified annually by the pouring of sacrificial beer onto the water and by young virgin Venda maidens performing the famous Domba-python dance.
  • A white crocodile guards the ancestral spirits who inhabit the lake. The fullness of the lake and its colour indicate the mood of the ancestors, and predicts the coming rainy season. This crocodile might have really existed because this Lake is still today infested by large crocodiles, and an albino might have once occurred. No-one washes in this lake.
  • One legend is that a leper begged for food at one of the villages where the lake is now. He was refused food and subsequently cursed the village, which was suddenly covered by water and that one can still see the people living at the bottom of the lake.
  • When any object is thrown into the lake, locals say the spirits will catch it and throw it back out onto the bank to be discovered the next morning.
  • Sometimes you can hear singing, although no one appears to be present. It is believed to be buried ancestors which are are said to come alive singing and playing drums beneath the water.

However, to truly appreciate its importance, do our Mystical Venda Tour of the area and hear the local stories.

Respect for Venda Culture

  • The Venda will truly appreciate it if you show the proper respect by doing the requisite greeting when you first see the lake. Turn your back to it, and bend down to look at it upside down through spread legs, a salute known as the ukodola.
  • Then please the gods of the lake further by walking down and throwing a few of your hairs into the lapping wavelets. The Venda will love you for it.

Mashovhela Rock Pool

Mashovhela, “the place where the drums can be heard”, is the second-most-sacred place in Venda culture. This sacred site is still used occasionally by Sangomas in rain-making ceremonies, like a few years ago – shortly after which Venda had the heaviest rains and most devastating floods in living memory.

The Venda Culture Legend

According to Venda tradition the legendary and powerful Venda King, Thohoiyanda, had a mystical drum, Ngoma Lungundo, “drum of the dead”. As his enemies approached, this drum was played and the foe just dropped dead.

One night, King Thohoiyanda and the sacred drum mysteriously disappeared from his royal kraal. Neither were ever seen again. It was believed he disappeared into the Western Soutpansberg, where Mashovhela Lodge is situated.

Tradition has it that it is this sacred drum that can sometimes be heard in the echoes from the rock cliffs of Mashovhela pool.