itongo, noun

Forms:
ithongo, itongoShow more singular ithongo; singular and plural itongo; plural amathonga, amathongo, amatonga, amatongo, isitongo.
Plurals:
usually amatongo.
Origin:
Xhosa, ZuluShow more Xhosa and Zulu ithongo (plural amathongo). For notes on plural forms, see ama- and i-.
Among Zulus and Xhosas: an ancestral spirit, venerated as an agent of guidance, protection, and prophecy. See also badimo, idlozi, isituta, izinyanya, umshologu.
1855 J.W. Colenso Ten Weeks in Natal 58All the Kafirs of the Natal district believe in iTongo (plural, ama-Tongo) and amaHlose;..the former may be regarded as having..universal tribal influence...These words are certainly used by them only with reference to the spirits of the dead — not to the Great Being, whom they regard as their Creator.
1870 H. Callaway Religious System of Amazulu (1884) I. 5Itongo, p. Amatongo — An itongo is properly the spirit of the dead, — a disembodied spirit. The notion that it is in the form of snake, or becomes converted into a snake, is probably something superadded to the original tradition.
1870 H. Callaway Religious System of Amazulu (1884) I. 146The Itongo — a collective term meaning the inhabitants of the spirit world..are also said to ‘live underground’...They are also, like the Abapansi, called ancestors.
1895 H. Rider Haggard Nada 24We heard the Itongo, the ghosts of the dead people.
1895 H. Rider Haggard Nada 84Ah! my father, there, as I rolled among the ashes, I prayed to the Amatongo, to the ghosts of my ancestors.
1918 H. Moore Land of Good Hope 117It is better, they say, to honour the amatongo, the spirits of people we know and remember.
1923 W.C. Scully Daniel Vananda 58He had accepted, as a child, the current theories regarding the ‘itongo’ and the ‘idhlozi’ the spirit of the clan and the spirit of the individual.
1954 W.D. Hammond-Tooke in A.M. Duggan-Cronin Bantu Tribes III. v. 39Bantu religion consists of the worship of the ancestral spirits (amathongo) who are believed to take a deep interest in the affairs of their children and who, if annoyed, send sickness and death.
1963 A.M. Louw 20 Days 114The one who sleeps must not be woken suddenly. For then his ithongo will not have the time to return.
1979 M. Matshoba Call Me Not a Man 167To learn the laws of life, to heal, to gain immunity against witchcraft, the power to know the future and to bring the messages of amathongo unto the people.
1986 P.A. McAllister Xhosa Beer Drinks. 43In Pondoland such beer was left to mature for three days at the back of the hut (a place closely associated with the shades), where ‘the amathongo are thought to come and drink it at night’ (Hunter 1936, 256).
1987 L. Nkosi Mating Birds 48He prayed to the ancestral spirits, amathonga..for guidance, for prudence in the government of his household, for wisdom in the conduct of his personal affairs.
an ancestral spirit, venerated as an agent of guidance, protection, and prophecy.
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18551987