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an excerpt from AUNT MAGGIE’S MOJO or The Devil in Angel Brown

by Patricia R. Corbett

     A little more than three months ago Chotsani (Sani) looked at her Agogo long and hard.  Sani was worried because her grandmother’s long garments hung from her frail body. Age was tracing a path across Agogo’s face. Her tired eyes were squinting upward into the dark. Sani, the eldest of the three granddaughters, knew to show respect for her Agogo’s knowing by silencing her lips when she stared deeply into sky. But Sani could not hold words in her mouth.

She hesitated, then whispered, “Agogo, what are you knowing?”


“There is something in the air mdzukulu.”

Sani sniffed the air. Fragrant white orchards kissed and tickled her nose. She watched the stillness of her grandmother. Agogo was moon reading. 


She persisted. “I hear a voice. It calls to me at night. I am afraid.”


“Sit still child. Speak to your fear.” 

Sani moved closer to Agogo.  Her brow curled at the strange voice she heard in her head. After seeing Sani close her eyes, Agogo closed hers. Although she sat calmly erect with her walking stick balanced against her shoulder, her heart pounded in her ears. Sani could hear one voice, but Agogo heard many. There were footsteps in the distance. They were coming.  Agogo smelled strange flesh, but she could not let her grandchild know what ached her mind and joints.  While she knew the raid would come, Agogo did not know when. This was the night before the three granddaughters were stolen.


The Birth of Agogo (Kantayeni)

     Before she was Agogo, she was Kantayeni.  Many were drawn to her, yet others eyed her with distrust. Kantayeni walked between worlds. She was feared just as her Mother Chiwa and her grandmother Liziuzayani (Lizi).  The villagers told their version of her story, but few new the secret.


Chiwa was a quiet child.  Her father, Chisolo, doted on her. Although he and Lizi were concerned about Chiwa’s silence, he nor Lizi would try to force her to talk.


While out gathering herbs, one of her friends asked, “What is wrong with her Lizi, has she no voice?”


Offering no explanation, Lizi and Chisolo chose to ignore whispers and worked hard to communicate with their daughter. They spoke in smiles, head nods, and hand motions.  Chiwa was sharp and created her own words.


     Sometimes Chiwa would ride Chisolo’s back while he hunted. When her legs grew long, she spent more time with Lizi learning to pick herbs and prepare soups. The child was never more than calling distance from her parents.


Although she called to shadows and animals while walking in her sleep, she spoke to no one, not even her parents Lizi and Chisolo. 



Lizi pressed her husband, “Chisolo, what makes her walk? What is this language? What should we do if she does not speak?  How will we protect her?”


Wearily he would console her. “Rest Lizi. Chiwa will speak when Chiwa is ready.  I will keep her close.”


When he and Chiwa were alone, Chisolo would ask her what she saw in her sleep, but she would not speak of the strange people and animals who sat at her feet in the stillness of the night. Chisolo learned to kept a careful eye on her, but there were times when he overslept.

For this reason, both Chisolo and Lizi were shocked when Chiwa began eating all day and her stomach began to grow at 13 years of age.

“Who would do such a thing to a baby?” Lizi cried.


“Harm will come to who dared touch my daughter.” Chisolo raged.


With anger in his eyes and weapon in hand, Chisolo threatened the boys and men in the in the village, but no one would admit to the violation. 

Lizi pleaded, “Daughter tell me who lay with you.”


     Chiwa had never spoken and was too afraid and too ashamed.  She remained silent. She had been picking herbs for Lizi when became a snared rabbit in the trap set by her father’s brother from the north. He approached her. She woke up dizzy and bleeding in an open field. She bathed herself at the river. She cried into her reflection in the water.

     After questioning everyone in the village, Lizi and Chisolo could do no more than wait for the birth of their mdzukulu. Chiwa went into labor under a gibbous moon. She pushed Yeni into the world. Sweat upon her brow and cheeks she looked to her father and whispered, “Uncle”. In the next moment she was lifted to the ancestors. Lizi gasped. Chisolo held his daughter’s still warm hand, turned his head and shed a single tear. The two wept together and plotted separately in sorrow. They both knew they could not kill the tree, less they kill the root. Lizi decided she would dig up the root that night.

Arriving at her brother-in law’s under a watchful full moon, Lizi was calm with rage.


“Sister why are you here.”


“I have come to bring the message of my granddaughter’s birth.”


Lizi reach into her bag and handed him a small bundle.


“A child?” he said as he unwrapped the cloth. He bit into the bread slowly. 


“Why did Chisolo not come? How is Chiwa and your mdzukulu?”

“Chiwa is dead. Her daughter lives.”


His face was quiet, but he eyed Lizi's suspiciously.  Before he could rise to run to the door, he felt her presence upon him. In silky coat with salivating mouth she encircled him. At first he froze in fear. He then stepped toward Lizi and lowered his head.


“It is better to die in shame before you, than to face my brother.”


“Death is too good for you.” 

Lizi pounced upon his twisted his genitals, tore out a chunk of his neck, then ripped his heart from his chest.


When Lizi returned home that morning, Chisolo knew that his brother was dead. They never spoke of that night.


This was the beginning of three generations of secrets

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