Tikoloshe aka Tokoloshe The Tormentor

Tikoloshe came to me in a dream. The Zulu tribe and the Maasai are known as the world’s greatest warriors. The Tikoloshe haunts their nightmares.

I knew nothing about the “water spirit” nor the drinking water and turning invisible. Still, when Tikoloshe takes shape, it is out of mist and rain.

Satimu knew the basket wouldn’t hold the three of them. So, he told them he would send them across one by one and then come across himself. To everyone’s surprise, maybe even her own, shy little Nabulu said she would go first.

The rift was full of mist rising off the forest below. The mist added to the silence quieting even the wind, which swirled it as if it were alive. Nabulu peered over the back of the basket, watching her father and brother as she began her traverse.

She peered over and looked down intensely into the thickening fog. It sure did look alive. She stared deeper. There was a heartbeat within the swirling shifting mists. The rain fell then. A drizzle that mixed with the mist that engulfed her in moisture. The mist rose as the rain fell. She heard a rhythmic thumping coming from below, coming from behind where her father let her descent slow. Then the rhythm had a voice. Babu’s voice. The voice of the Laibon chanting spirits away and banging his drum.

“Tikoloshe, Tikoleshe, Tikoloshe, jua jina lako,” he repeated again and again. When she next looked down, she saw clearly what could only be seen when it wanted to be seen. Babu was commanding this beast to know its name and its nature. The tormentor, know your name. Tikoloshe, the heart eater. Tikoloshe, the shape-shifting vampire. Tikoloshe who takes pleasure in the torture.

From mist formed form. Form formed fear. The rain, mist, and mountain, even the rope and the basket, came to life, becoming his body. Head of the fanged serpent, tail of the scorpion, and body of the bear, now towering above the mountain. It took form around Nabulu, trapping her within its evil heart.

With a sweep of an arm, it uprooted every tree around Satimu, Lobulu, and Lamayan. The rope had come to life in his hands, like an umbilical connection father to daughter. Even with trees falling all around he tried to hold on.

The Tikoloshe takes many forms. It is a shapeshifter empowered by witchcraft or wizardry. (In my version it is summoned by the Maasai God(s) because all mankind failed to respect the cattle)

In Maasai beliefs, the Engai (a dual-natured God) had given all the world’s cattle to the Maasai to protect.

This is why the Maasai warriors will engage in unarmed combat with a lion. They typically will revenge the herd with spears but will fight unarmed to protect a calf–even if they die themselves.

In his true form, he resembles a teddy bear with a beard. A troll, small, and hairy.

Although his true form is small, he can dwarf mountains when he wants.

The Tikoloshe is very much real to the tribes like the Zulu and the Maasai.

Not all Africans or even Kenyans/Tanzanians are aware of the Tikoloshe, the myth, and the legend; however, those who are, live in fear of angering the witches and warlocks that summon such a terrifying beast.

Found in a Tanzania newspaper:

The Tikoloshe is taken so seriously that this couple used the local newspaper to seek help with erectile dysfunction. To the American, it is easy to suspect the husband is gay, and his fantasies of being with a man make him unattracted to his wife. Culturally church in these regions lasts four hours to all day. The interpretation of religious doctrine makes witches very real, and very fearsome.

When the Sagomas or the Laibon (spiritual leaders Americans might call witchdoctors) don this kind of costume it is easy to see why a shape-shifting vampire is so fearsome. It is also easy to imagine how homosexual fantasies can be viewed through the cultural lens as originating in witchcraft and the fearsome Tikoloshe.

The Tikoloshe in Ban The Taboo made one mistake. Never take the daughter of a warrior. Especially when that warrior is a lion hunting Maasai!

Even the mighty lions are smart enough to run the other way when they see the Maasai coming.

The Maasai are the only thing the lions fear.

Tikoloshe and my book Ban The Taboo will be available thirty days from today.

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