Lightning Bird – Reality or Myth?

The lighting bird is a significant part of African folklore shared and believed by several people of South African states such as Zulu, Xhosa, and Pondo.

According to their belief, this bird can call upon lightning and thunder through its wings and talons.

In African culture, there are several other names for a lightning bird, such as the impundulu, inyoni yezulu, izulu, and thekwane.

What Does The Lightning Bird Look Like?

According to African culture and traditions, the lightning bird is described in several ways.

Some highlight the bird to be as tall as a human with black and white feathers.

However, descriptions of the lightning bird vary depending on the area where one is from. One village claims the lightning bird looks like a black rooster while others say it is very similar to a peacock.

Some other variations highlight how the lightning bird has a red tail, red legs, and a red beak.

Perhaps, the most interesting description is that a lightning bird is as tall as a man and can appear as both a bird and a human when it wants to.

Some African tribes believe that the lightning bird can destroy someone’s house through its ability to call upon lightning if they disturb it or its nest.

On the other hand, some say that the lightning bird only becomes visible to the human eye during lightning in the sky, but others believe it to appear as a bird to females of the village.

There has also been some speculation that perhaps the lightning bird is a form of inner parts and visions, which is why it appears in different forms across the continent.

The Lightning Bird Egg

as the belief goals, African tribes believe that the lightning bird lays its eggs exactly at the point where the lightning strikes the earth.

This can be a symbol or an omen.

Beliefs about the woman being good or bad very as well, which is why some people believe it is best to dispose of the egg if one ever finds it.

The Lightning Bird & Witchcraft

The African folklore tradition and culture associated with the lightning bird is also closely linked to witchcraft.

In some situations, people have highlighted the lightning bird to be a vampire or a servant to a witch or old witch doctor.

Given this predicament, the lightning word is and Martin because it cannot be killed, shot, stabbed, poisoned, or even drowned.

According to the people of Africa, the only way to kill the lightning word is to burning it by fire.

The African belief highlights how the immortal lightning bird can outlive most of its masters and how it’s inherited from the family Enders.

This particular family is associated with a witch or witch doctor who does their bidding.

Owning a lightning bird is often associated with someone who wants to wish you bad luck or illness.

The master can come on the lightning bird to transform into a young man or woman to seduce the opposite sex and drink their blood.

Considering the bad omen, l thirst for blood, and the ability to change appearances, the lightning bird is said to be a servant of the witches and inherently an evil being.

Some stories highlight how the witches of that time could transform themselves into a hyena.

The lightning bird was then seen riding on the back of the hyena, which is why they associate the mythical creature with witchcraft.

Lightning Bird Behavior & Abilities

The lightning bird is often described as a dangerous bird that can be incredibly territorial over the tribe or witch doctor it belongs to.

African mythology highlights that even damaging the nest of the lightning bird slightly can bring about storms and thunder to whoever is responsible.

As in the name, the lightning bird can create lightning and storms as well as shapeshift from a bird to a human. In some cases, the lightning bird is also compared to a vampire – another popular mythological creature.

Considering its vampiric nature, the lighting bird is said to suck human blood from its victims and capture unprotected babies and children.

Some tales highlight how poisoned milk can be a way to exterminate lightning birds because they are fond of drinking milk.

Another African belief is that the lightning bird can take human form to impregnate women, whose offspring would be birds instead of human children.

This is another reference to the fact that the lightning bird is linked with witchcraft and sorcery.

In West Pondoland, people believe that the lightning bird can give its victims tuberculosis by sucking away their breath.

Similarly, in these parts of Africa, a nosebleed is also referred to as the work of a lightning bird.

Lightning Bird Nest

There is no doubt about the fact that the lightning bird is definitely one of a kind. What’s more interesting is the details surrounding the lightning bird’s nest.

According to several sources in African mythology, a lightning birds’ nest has an approximately 50-centimeter tunnel to create an accessible entrance and exit for the bird.

Other than this, the main chamber of the nest is 60-centimeter in diameter, which acts as a shelter for the bird to rest.

The outside of the nest is constructed with leaves, plastic, sticks, or any similar material that the bird can find.

Some lightning bird nests weigh more than 200 KG and can take several days to build.

In addition, other creatures such as lizards and snakes are often seen using the nest made by the lightning bird.

These creatures are highly feared in African mythology, which adds to the concept of fearing the mighty lightning bird.

Lightning Bird & The Concept of Death

According to African mythology, people believe that if the African lightning bird flies over your home or village, bad luck very soon follows.

Either the village will go through a severe storm or even burn down with fire.

Some also believe that if a lightning bird is in sight, someone from the family or village will pass away during the night.

Many farmers in South Africa believe that it is best to chase the bird away to stop it from flying over villages and rafts because of the bad luck that follows.

On the other hand, some people like to think that good rains will follow after a lightning bird sighting, making the land fertile.

The Lightning Bird And Its Medicinal Properties

Even though it is said that a lightning bird’s egg brings bad luck, several shamans use them in their recipes.

According to African belief, the fat procured from the lightning bird is useful in medicine because it can track down thieves.

However, capturing and killing the bird is an incredibly difficult task as it only appears when there is lightning and thunder.

The Lightening Bird in Other Cultures

There are several other cultures that also mention the lightning bird.

In Chinese mythology, the lightning bird is known as the Thunderbird, bringing strong rains and storms.

A unique feature about this special bird is that it can stand on one leg and blow out rain.

In today’s modern culture, we can see the lightning bird’s reincarnation in the popular TV series Pokémon.

Here, the bird is male Zapdos with similar control over thunder,  lightning, and rain.

Some also believe that the Lightning Bird may be a myth based on the popular Phoenix or Firebird.

Wrapping Up

The lighting bird is a popular belief that has trickled down from African folklore.

People are known to be afraid of the lightning bird’s ability. This fear stems from the myths and legends that surround the blood-sucking, thunder-bringing bird.

Regardless of the beliefs, the lightning bird isn’t a bird species that has been scientifically discovered yet.

Hence, it all just might be speculations to justify storms and mysterious fires in olden times.

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