Today’s issue of American Thinker hosts an excellent essay by Rael Jean Isaac, where she compares the cattle killing cult of the Xhosa tribe to the ‘tree hugging’ culture of global warming. The comparison is a fair one, but it’s the background story of the Xhosa that most fascinated me. I’d never before heard of this self-destructive prophecy, so to learn more, I did a little online sleuthing. (There’s a great article here).
It appears that the cult began in the post-British invasion period when the tribe’s cattle started to die off in large numbers. Convinced that the cattle had caught the illness from the animals belonging to the white settlers, the Xhosa farmers willingly followed the commandments of three spirits who allegedly spoke to a girl named Nongqawuse. These spirits promised a return to the golden age of pre-Settlers if only the Xhosa would kill all their cattle. Having obeyed, and seeing no change, the farmers heard the spirits tell them to kill all their animals and even destroy their grain. Needless to say, the tribe suffered near extinction due to famine!
Some believe it was the girl’s uncle, Sarhili, who was the true origin of these ‘prophecies’, and the coincidental death of a British general in the Crimean War, but the promised victory over the whites never materialized. Instead, the Xhosa resorted to cannibalism (allegedly), and those who survived became indentured to the British settlers. Richard Price’s book, Making Empire, claims as many as 400,000 cattle and 40,000 Xhosa people died during this disturbing, and spiritually influenced period.
(American Thinker) — Beginning in 1856, the Xhosa tribe in today’s South Africa destroyed its own economy. They killed an estimated half-million of their own cattle (which they ordinarily treated with great care and respect), ceased planting crops, and destroyed their grain stores. By the end of 1857, between thirty and fifty thousand Xhosa had starved to death — a third to a half of the population. The British herded survivors of the once-powerful tribe into labor camps, and white settlers took much of their land, as reported by Richard Landes in Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience.
The Xhosa had acted on the prophecy of a fifteen-year-old girl who promised that if they destroyed all they had and purified themselves of “witchcraft” (including evil inclinations and selfishness), the world before the white invaders came would be restored. The British oppressors would flee, and the Xhosa ancestors would return, bringing with them an even greater abundance of cattle and grain.