For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit the sacred Lake Fundudzi. This lake is the most holy site for the Venda people who believe in water spirits, which live partly in the world of the living and partly in the spirit world and are therefore a bridge between the living and the ancestors. It is also the home of the mythical giant python who was once a man, and the home of the mythical white crocodile.
The Lake is steeped in legend and surrounded by mystery. Among my recollections are rumours that in the past maidens would be sacrificed to the crocodiles of the lake and that white people were not permitted to see the lake. Although at the time of my visit, local people denied any truth about human sacrifice in previous times, a little research shows that this story was not simply a figment of my imagination.
Similarly my memories regarding a prohibition on white visitors was also not baseless. In his book “Valley of the Mists”, Harry Klein relates his visit to Lake Fundudzi in the late 1930’s and writes ” . . . an emissary of Netshiaba, the custodian of the lake and the high priest called at my camp.” “What did I want? The spirits of the lake were not happy about white men prying into their secrets”
Although times have changed and many of the old ways have been forgotten, some customs remain and it is a requirement that when seeing the lake for the first time, one must initially view it through ones outspread legs.
Sadly other changes are also apparent. The beautiful indigenous forests that once surrounded the lake have largely been replaced by monoculture timber forests, which has had a noticeable impact on the water level of the lake.
And respect for the lake seems to have disappeared too. Here, at what is possibly the most sacred cultural site in South Africa we found four wheel tyre tracks, a fireplace and broken beer bottles. How shameful!!!