Shona Traditional Religion or Chivanhu is part of what is understood as African Traditional Religion (ATR) that is practiced all over Africa.

It is a belief in God or Mwari or Musikavanhu. However, there is no direct communication between the living and Musikavanhu but through ancestors. The religion is based on the belief that when a person dies, that is not the end. The spirit comes back to live among the descendents and relatives in an invisible community.

The ancestral spirits are collectively known as vadzimu and the community, nyikadzimu. Some call it ancestral worship but this is a misnomer because there are no concepts of worship and prayer in the religion.

However a deceased person does not automatically become a mudzimu the day they die. There are two rituals that have to be performed which are: kurova gata or kuenda kugata, immediately after death and their kurova guva, at least a year after death to turn a deceased person into mudzimu.

The vadzimu have their own hierarchy. Family spirits take care of the needs of their clan while to regional and national spirits called makombwe and mhondoro) are responsible for duties at those levels. The vadzimu influence the day to day lives of their descendents. They give and take, reward and punish, protect or leave you vulnerable.

The vadzimu work together with other spirits that are not related to them and these are called mashave or spirit of a non-ancestor. The most popularly known are njuzu (mermaids and mermen) and hombarume (hunter). Although are bad mashave such as of witchcraft, only good mashaves come at the invitation of mudzimu.

Some of the spirits communicate with the living through a spirit medium who is then called svikiro.

There are also spirits bad spirits such as ngozi (avenging spirits) and others that haunt people as a result of witchcraft. The common ones that torment many people are popularly known as “spiritual husbands or spiritual wives” and this will be the subject of our next article.