Editor’s note: Saturday morning of the Living Lakes Conference began with a speech from Credo Mutwa, a Zulu leader from South Africa. Credo’s heartfelt words, sense of humor, and spiritual wisdom reveal the heart of what the conference and the Living Lakes Partnership is all about. The following essay is drawn from his keynote address.
I stand before you as a man who is stunned and shaken by what he has seen, what he has heard, and what he has experienced. First of all, did you know, you who live around Lake Mono, that your lake joins together Africa and the Native American people? Did you know that the most amazing word I’ve ever heard when I arrived here was the word Inyo. Which is said to mean the dwelling place of the creator, or rather, the place of creation. Did you know that that word occurs in Africa as a reference to the sacred organ of a mother? Did you know that the word Mono is a name for something delicious and nutritious that you eat? Perhaps one day if I return this way I shall share more of these things with you.
No matter whom we are, no matter in which part of the world we dwell, we are one. We are one with each other. We are one with the earth. We are one with the moon, the sun, the stars. Please, please remember that. It is useless to conserve entities such as water and trees if you have severed yourself away from those entities. You cannot conserve something which you do not feel within you. You cannot conserve something which is not part of you.
When I was initiated for the first time in 1937 into the mysteries and knowledge of Mother Africa I was ordered by my teacher who was my aunt. She said I should go outside and fill a small clay pot with water. And then she said to me, “Look into the water-what do you see?” I was caught in a trap because an initiate is not supposed to have an ego. An initiate is not supposed to refer to himself. I said, “ Aunt, I see a person in this water.” She said, “Who is that person?” I did not dare say it was me. I said, “It is the person I know who is the son of my mother, the only son.” And she said, “Yes, you are in this water, and the water is in you. Until you know that, that you and the water are one, you must not even drink the water, you must not even think about it, because you have cut yourself off from it.”
No matter where you go in Africa you will find African people referring to water by very interesting names indeed. And all of these words mean one thing no matter where you go: the fluid of creation, the thing that did something, the thing that caused something to be.
In olden days Africans used to risk their lives in protecting water. In olden days our people used to severely punish anyone they caught urinating into a stream or a river. There are some ants which you find in my country that, when you hold one in your hands, look as fat as myself, and it fights like nobody’s business. And if you were caught, wise guy, making water into the water, one of those babies was made to bite you, closing the hole for several hours, and it will be the biggest lesson you will ever learn.
Our people believe many strange things regarding water. They believe that water is a living entity. That water has got a mind, that it remembers. The reason why a lake forms where it is, the reason why a river flows through where it flows, is not because it happens to be the right place for water to flow. No! It is because in that place where the river flows, there is an energy, an invisible spirit that moves like a snake, under the ground through the fine sand and which moves in the direction opposite to the one down which the river flows. If this great fire snake, as we call it, this unseen energy, if it dies, then the river dies too.
In the language of my people, the Zulus, a lake is called icibi. Now this word icibi gave birth to a verb icibella which means “to patch.” If there is a hole in a cloth and you put a patch on it that patch is called icibi and you icibella. Now why do we say that a lake is a repairer? We believe that a lake controls the life forces of all living things around it. A lake controls the life forces of every bird, every fish, every tiny creature that you find in water, and it also controls and stimulates the life forces of bigger animals up to and including human beings. And each time there is an illness in the land, our kings used to prevail upon the tribespeople to go closer to lakes to get into that field. There is an invisible field of power all around a lake. If you take off your clothes and moisten your skin slightly and walk into that field, you will feel a tingling. That is what we call the spirit of the water, the icibi, the repairer of life.
Our people believe that there is a music, a sort of communication that goes on between streams, and rivers, and lakes. That if you destroy a lake 20 miles away from another one, this music is cut off and the lake that you have destroyed dies, and so does another lake which has been in communication with it.
Our people further say that water has got ears. We have a proverb amongst my people that says: he who makes love to another man’s wife on the bank of a river must be careful not to utter loud and stupid noises. Because why? Because of water. If there is a fierce emotion near a stream, that stream somehow records that. And guess what will happen? What you did near the river will be heard by every person in the surrounding villages one day. And you will wonder how they got to hear about it.
There is much I could share with you. But our people say that he who talks too much makes people tired. So I am not here to make you tired, I am here to tell you this: let us by all means conserve the beautiful song of nature. Let us regard each lake and each river. Not simply as an interesting stretch of water across whose expanse spoiled millionaires will zip around in their powerboats. No! Let us feel the water, let us hear the water, let us be one with the water.
Please, let us bring back the earth, let us accept one thing which our mothers accepted and our grandfathers knew: that the earth is a living entity where everything is joined to everything else in eternal marriage. And if you destroy something in one part of the world you create a chain of destruction that destroys things somewhere else.
Let me tell you one last thing: I am told by the great storytellers of our tribes that fresh water is not native to our earth. Once, many thousands of years ago a terrible star, the kind of star with a very long tail, descended very close upon our skies. So close that the earth turned upside down and what had become the sky became down, and what was the heavens became up. The whole world was turned upside down. The sun rose in the south and set in the north. Then came drops of burning black stuff, like molten tar, which burned every living thing on earth that could not escape. After that came a terrible deluge of water accompanied by winds so great that they blew whole mountaintops away. And after that came huge chunks of ice bigger than any mountain and the whole world was covered with ice for many generations. After that the surviving people saw an amazing sight. They saw rivers and streams of water that they could drink, they saw that some of the fishes that escaped from the sea and were now living in these rivers. That is the great story of our forefathers. And we are told that this thing is going to happen again very soon. Because the great star, which is the lava of our sun, is going to return on the day of the year of the red bull, which is in the year 2012.
Well, I’m glad I won’t be there to see the fun. My wish is this: that there may be blessing over everything that you have done, over everything that you are going to do. May whatever power there is beyond the stars strengthen your efforts, because each lake that you bring back to life is a whole world saved.
For more information visit the official Credo Mutwa website.