I hitched back from Swaziland, and got back in time for a visit to KheKheKe - the Zululand Sangoma near the Tugela river. The National Geographic film crew had showed up, and we set off on Tuesday to his Kraal. the film is called “Snakes of Africa”, and our interest in KheKheKe was his use of snakes during his rituals.
He had collected several local Sangomas to be a part of the ceremonies, and after a nice lunch and a beer, and selection of a site for filming, the action began ..
Leading the procession was the man himself, holding two snakes by their tails - a mamba, I think, and something else. After a bit of song and dance, he laid his shield down in the grass - something for the snakes to hide under while they were not being swung around.
He then produced a puff adder from somewhere - about 2 feet long, and a foot or so in circumference - a fat one. He held it by the head, opened the jaws, so we (and the camera) could see the all teeth were present and correct .. and ran a piece of grass through its mouth. He then - I kid you not - placed the head of the puff adder in his mouth, and held it there without his hands. Serious stuff.
We had several minutes of this sort of display, with a few of the snakes, after which he put them all back under the shield, and the ceremony continued. Graham understood imperfectly, but gathered that he was recalling the history, and bravery, and the deaths, of Zulus from that area. There was a chorus of response from the other Zulus there, and we went into the traditional Zulu dance - consisting of high kicks and stamping in time to drums, shakers and long horns reminiscent of Alpine instruments.
The cameraman complained (back in Eshowe) that his field of vision was a little restricted through the viewfinder, and he couldn’t always see the snakes that were flung at his feet ..
Pretty amazing stuff, destined for a minute or two in the resulting film.