What is a Tokoloshe?

On August 12, 2010, in Ghosts & Hauntings, Legends & Folklore, by James

TokolosheFrom July 1999 to January 2000, the Sejake family of the Motlonyane village in South Africa became victim to a tokoloshe.

Household items were thrown about, insulting writing appeared on the walls and doors, family members were spat on and swearing was often heard. Except for the Sejake’s young son, no-one ever saw the culprit.

This boy was particularly targeted by the tokoloshe. For some reason it hated him above all the other members of the family. It would take great delight in destroying his schoolbooks and homework, until the boy was forced to leave everything at school. At night it would pinch him to keep him awake, or rattle cupboard doors to create a noise.

The family members would often wake up at night with their bodies smeared in petroleum jelly, hand lotions, shampoo and other substances. Even more strangely, they reported that on occasion they would wake up and find themselves outside the house!

The desperate family sought the help of an “nyanga” (African Witch Doctor) and a local pastor. After some time, these strange attacks finally stopped and they were never troubled again.

What exactly is a “tokoloshe”? To many westerners this story sounds like poltergeist activity, but to the average South African, a tokoloshe is a whole lot stranger.

Originally the tokoloshe was a kind of water sprite, but this perception has changed to it being a familiar or household spirit belonging to a witch or witchdoctor.

A tokoloshe is usually described as being a brown, hairy dwarf ranging in height from about 20cm to 1 meter. Although usually naked, it is sometimes reported to be wearing a cloak of some kind. Its voice is usually soft and in most accounts it speaks with a lisp.

The tokoloshe is said to have only one buttock and an exceptionally long penis. In fact, it is so long that it has to be slung over his shoulder. As it is so well endowed, one of its functions is to sexually satisfy its witch controller. It also has a fondness of raping women while they sleep.

The witchdoctor often pays the tokoloshe with milk and food. As is common in many cultures, a tokoloshe should never be allowed to have salt with its food, as it may die. The tokoloshe has an unusual fondness of milk and they often try to steal milk directly from the cow. This is why some farmers find that their cows are not producing enough milk.

It is often said that a witchdoctors control the tokoloshe by trimming its long hair which often covers its eyes. Some reports say that they enslave them with magic and other say that they are created by the witchdoctor from the body of a dead shaman who wronged the witch when he was alive.

A tokoloshe is usually only seen by children. In many cases they try to befriend children by telling them jokes or stories, or offering them sweets. Even if the tokoloshe is on a mission from its mistress, they may disobey their orders in order to spare the child. Any friendship between a child and a tokoloshe is highly discouraged by the parents. It is thought that if the friendship persisted into adulthood, the child was in danger of becoming a witch themselves.

Adults usually can not see a tokoloshe, except on rare occasions. If they are spotted, it is best not provoke or annoy it be either pointing at it or trying to talk to it. The best course of action is to merely ignore it or pretend that it is not there!

The tokoloshe also has the ability of turning invisible by swallowing a magic pebble. It is then able to go out to do its malevolent work for its mistress without the fear of being spotted.

In South Africa, where many white families have maidservants, the maids would often raise their beds by placing the legs of their beds on bricks. It is a common belief, among white people, that this was to keep the occupant of the bed out of reach of the tokoloshe.

Getting rid of the tokoloshe is no easy task. You can either buy traditional medicine made of tokoloshe fat and apply it to your skin as a “tokoloshe repellant” lotion, or you can hire the services of another skilled medicine man or “inyanga” or “sangoma” (witchdoctor). They make a special powder made from the bodies of dead tokoloshes. This powder paralyses the tokoloshe which makes it visible again. At this point the witchdoctor can catch it and imprison it in a bottle, or they can kill it.

The belief in the tokoloshe is pretty universal across the tribes in southern Africa. It has become so embedded in the general culture that even some people of European descent believe in the tokoloshe and its power. Even the internationally famous South African actress, Charlize Theron, has mentioned her belief in the tokoloshe.

Having lived in South Africa for many years, I can not begin to describe the absolute and total belief that so many people have for the tokoloshe. The belief in this creature is so strong, that I am loath to dismiss it as merely a myth. With so many people claiming to have seen them or been harrassed by them, I feel that there could just be a grain of truth in there somewhere!

Links:

Van Hunks: The Tokoloshe
Funky Munky: South African Myths and Legends

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4 Responses to What is a Tokoloshe?

  1. [...] terrified children called for help. They thought that the small man was a ‘tokoloshe’ (click here to see my previous article) who would kidnap them and eat them. By the time the adults arrived, the object had disappeared. The [...]

  2. [...] The love for quick riches has backfired for a Bulawayo man who has confessed to buying five “goblins” which he said were now sexually molesting his wife. These are also known locally as a Tokoloshe. [...]

  3. [...] more about the Tokoloshe HERE Related Reading: Sands Of Silence: On Safari In Namibia Frommer's South Africa (Frommer's Complete [...]

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