3 Rare Malawian Traditions I’ve Learned


Over the past few days, I made it a point to learn about some rare Malawian traditions I might not know. These Malawian traditions are very rare to me, mostly because I’ve never seen them in play. However, during the course of me learning them, I realized that most urban people might not know them too.

There are so many traditions that Malawi enjoys. But as I write this, one can’t help that notice that as a country, we are becoming too westernized to care about them. Thus, we do not care to know our mother tongue, in favor of English. We ridicule traditional medicine, in favor of modern medicine and technology. Not that any of these are fine, however, I find this as our biggest flaw. One should be able to embrace their own cultures fully and find ways to incorporate it to what is modern.

Also, during the moment of learning, it was clear to me that our cultures are our capital. Especially to those of us that are creatives. There is something about them and our traditions that intrigue and leave the world at a stand point. Don’t think so? Go watch a video of Daniel Kaluuya who was star struck at the Zulu chants during the filming of Black Panther.

Oops, started ranting for a minute there. As I said, there is some learning that has been done which I wanted to share with you. These are traditions that are still practiced but those that are blind would never know. Without any further delay….

Rare Malawian Traditions

3 Rare Malawian Traditions To Know

1. Rain Stalling

This is famously known as “kumanga mvula” in Chichewa. Ever since I was a child, I have heard of this. When people tie the rain, so that it does not fall at all. This is common during the rainy season. All through my childhood, I had thought that it was only those that practiced witchcraft that did this.

Mind you, Malawi as a country, does not recognize witchcraft under its jurisdiction. However, as a people, we do recognize it. 😉

As I was saying, witches were more famous for rain tying. It just made sense. So imagine going to a funeral and finding the elder arguing about why the rain was not tied until after the burial.

This is when I got nosy, so I asked if the ones who were discussing such act were witches. And unfortunately was told no. A more great reason behind their discussion was explained to me and I was left mind blown.

In their words, rain stalling was actually an act that was done during prominent events such as funerals. More especially during the rainy season. Rain was stalled to only fall after the burial was done. They went further to explain how this was done. So I will try to do the same with you. I’ll try to explain in Chichewa and English.

Kalekale amatenga nkhwangwa ndi khasu maliro akachitika. Akatelo, amakoleza moto wa nkhuni. Pamotopo, amayikapo mpini wa khasu ndi nkhwangwa zija ndikumangoukolezela. Mpaka zonse ziwiri zifile psuu.

In some broken English, a fire is made. One from wood and not charcoal. Separately, they take a hoe and an axe. The wooden part is removed from the hoe, together with the axe, the metal parts are put on the fire. Almost the same way they do when they are molding metals. During the time that the burial is taking place, more wood is added to the fire. Both the axe and hoe are only removed from the fire once burial is done.

All they do is try and buy time to make sure that the funeral, especially the burial process is not disrupted by a pouring.

Sounds cool right? I know I found that cool.

2. Accident Deaths need Medicine

Another thing I found fascinating was the medicine that is done and performed after a death by accident. Although I was privileged to see how the medicine is done, it was interesting to know that there is such after all.

I know you’re still wondering what exactly I’m talking about. So again, let me try to explain this the best way that I can.

No one ever wants to lose a loved one to an accident. It is devastating. However, when a family does go through such tragedy, they try and make sure that no one else in the family has to die in such a painful way.

Now, a lot of my Malawian readers will know one thing. When one dies on an accident, the body is never allowed to enter the family home. Likewise, face viewing is mostly done at the mortuary and not at home. This is because of the fear that once they are taken inside the family home, there is a likelihood of deja vu.

Maliro angozi salowetsa nyumba

When I say accident, this entails a lot such as:

  • Car accident
  • Suicide
  • Murdered and more

The funeral is conducted outside and after, the burial process is done. However, something that the lot of us do not see is that, some family members do not go to the cemetery with the rest of the flock. They remain behind t make medicine arrangements. By the way, not some paracetamol mixed with bufen kind of medicine. Lol.

The African kind of medicine. Once it is done, it is then sprayed across the home to make sure any such of accidents never occur again in the family.

3. Traditional medicine for pregnancy

Yea, not everyone just falls pregnant like the rain falls. Some have to use different things just to make sure that it is possible. Unlike a bunch of people that are able to go and see their doctors for such. But, our parents’ parents used to use a different way. A way that is still believed to work till now in the rural areas of Malawi.

I must say, it is such a cost effective way of doing this. And guess what the medicine ingredients are?

  • Sweet potato leaves
  • Water

I kid you not. That is all you need. Boil the leaves and drink the water. It is said that the water cleans the womb making it ready to conceive.

You’re rolling your eyes, but some people have been conceived after their mothers took this.

There is something about the Malawian traditions that tickle my fancy. But, it also breaks my heart that such traditions are slowly being washed away without any proper documentation for those that wish to learn them.

You should not worry though, in my moments of learning, I want to make sure I share with you. That way, we are all able to learn.

Share your thoughts about these down below. I’ll be happy to read them all.


14 thoughts on “3 Rare Malawian Traditions I’ve Learned

  1. Is it true that kumanga mvula is only done by last born? And I heard about a thing of kupolama what what ….amatinamiza eti?

  2. The accident medicine I’ve seen it done, though only the immediate members of the family had to drink the medicine. And other elders of the family.
    A very nice read this one!

    1. That’s the piece of info I forgot to add 🙈indeed only family members drink or are there during the spraying

  3. Well the common one have heard of even in Uganda is the rain stalling thou it’s really less practiced right now like you said these are dying away.

    Pregnancy medicines are very much still used all around us…..thou honestly I believe most youth are not open to the kind because of lack of information and yes most likely to associate some of these things to witchcraft in a way.

    The way you handle accident deaths is definitely new to me

    Thanks for sharing

    1. I’m glad that some of these things are almost the same regardless of the drawn border lines

  4. Honey, get us (you and I) a big farm there near a river. I’m coming we plant lots of sweet potatoes okay?

    PS: I’ll finance the cash for the farm 😊

  5. Honey, get us (you and I) a big farm there near a river. I’m coming we plant lots of sweet potatoes okay?

    PS: I’ll finance the cash for the farm 😊

  6. Loved this article. Keep digging and educating us. Kumanga mvula is a common joke kwathu😂🤣

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