October 26th, 2010
When I was young I use to be a little hyperactive and innocently naughty as all children tend to be. Whenever I got too out of hand, my nanny would tell me that the Tokoloshe was going to come and get me! I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but I knew the Tokoloshe was scary enough for her to put her bed on bricks, so naturally I would calm down.
As I grew older I forgot about the Tokoloshe until someone mentioned it recently, so I started researching this mythical creature - only to discover many theories and beliefs surrounding this little troublemaker
Here are just a few characteristics. Don't say you haven't been warned.
The best way to describe a Tokoloshe is to conjure up images of better-known European counterparts, namely the goblin, elf or gremlin. Whenever something goes wrong, it's useful to have one of these nimble creatures to blame.
In African folklore the Tokoloshe is a little creature, usually described as small, hairy and animal like in stature. He can also be described as the henchman of crafty witches. Some descriptions claim that he also has two animal horns that protrude from the side of his head. He causes trouble everywhere he goes and loves to upset people. He is a mischievous and evil spirit that can apparently become invisible by swallowing a pebble.
Like a poltergeist, the Tokoloshe gives away his presence by uselessly destroying things and can apparently be “called up” to punish an individual or household. It is believed that spiteful people who dabble in witchcraft, cause trouble for their enemies by calling upon the Tokoloshe. As a sort of curse its powers extends to causing illness and even death in certain instances.
One of the Tokoloshe’s main characteristics is that he has giant male genitals which he needs to carry on his shoulder - making sexual domination one of his many forms of guile - visiting women at night and apparently having sex with them. Although he is ugly to men he can cast a spell to make himself handsome to women. Being sexually well endowed, his duties include making love to his witch mistress. In return, it’s rewarded with milk and food while the witch keeps him obedient by cutting the fringe of hair that hangs over his eyes.
Certain cultures believe that raising their beds above the height of this little man is one way to keep him at bay. His notoriety even allegedly extends to the dreaded HIV and AIDS virus.
The Tokoloshe loves to play with children and befriend them.
Adults that suspect that a child is secretly friends with a Tokoloshe will try and have it banished before it becomes too attached to the child and steals it away. It is said that the only time a Tokoloshe will disobey an order from his witch is when he has been summoned to kill a child.
Images: elledeco.blogspot.com (L) www.commons.wikimedia.org (R)
Where these creatures come from still remains a mystery to many. One belief is that the Tokolosh is a fully” spirit demon" that can be summoned from the “other world” by witchdoctors or, in some cases they simply choose to visit our world out of lust and a desire to cause trouble.
Another belief is that they are recreated out of the dead bodies of people and animals, given life and forced to serve the witchdoctor that created them. Both of these theories are based on stories and neither have been proved as true.
The way to get rid of a Tokoloshe is to call in the n’anga or witch doctor who has the power to banish him from the area. The Witch doctors' spiritual weaponry includes making a magical substance from the body of a dead Tokoloshe, which makes the Tokoloshe visible and paralyzes him, allowing the witch doctor to kill him. This ‘muti’ is sold throughout Africa as protection against Tokoloshes and the genuine article is reported to leave a cold mark on the skin where it is applied.
It seems incredible to most of us that there could be any truth in the legend of the Tokoloshe. But they do exist in some parts of Africa where superstition and legend is very much alive and well. Although the Tokoloshe is seen by many as an imaginative being created by village elders to scare children or as just a part of the rich vivid African folklore, every year cases crimes in the name of Tokoloshe are reported, many with fatal outcomes.
So the next time something breaks or disappears without reason…watch out, it might be the Tokoloshe.
If you've had any encounters with the Tokoloshe, tell us your stories below.
Book: Verlore Skakels by Rob Marsh