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DateOriginal Topic
3rd June 2003isllandlwana
By paul
is it true that as well as having their stomachs cut open to realease evil spirits the soldiers were also buggered
3rd June 2003Dave Nolan
Paul, I would imagine that after having your stomach cut open you would, indeed, be buggered. Dave
3rd June 2003Chris John
Yes Paul
Once a zulu had stabbed you either in the gut or armpit, he would rip off your buttons and slit your stomach from groin to mouth. At Isandhlwana, they cut off their heads and made rings, or strung them up on meat hooks and cut off their privates and placed them in their mouths. A dirty job!!! Hope this helps!!!
4th June 2003PAUL
5th June 2003Miguel
Chris, thanks for the info, as usual. A couple of questions:

the reference to the armpit is confusing, why the gut or the armpit?

About the cutting from groin to mouth, can assegais cut thru the solid chest bones? At any rate that must demand a decided effort.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I think that slitting stomachs were a rite performed in order to free the spirit of the slain person. Sort of a favour, if you follow my trend. But, and this is my question, did the beheading and placing genitals in the mouths have the same meaning, or were a last insult or show of contempt to the dead?

Paul, if I understood you correctly, the zulus would do the following to the dead British: rip off the tunic or other garment as a trophy, gut the dead body, turn it around and bug it, cut the genitals and heads, placing genitals in the mouth... quite a ceremony. That takes time, was that done after the battle or during it (which would distract forces from the battle against the British)? I can only imagine the feelings of the remaining soldiers watching such a thing if that was done during the battle.

Has anyone noticed thatt cutting the genitals and placing them in the mouths is also an arabic/islamic war habit, as French legionaries in Argel can attest? Any reason or just a coincidence?

5th June 2003paul
i would imagine all this took place after the battle when the zulus looked for souvenirs. could any expert enlighten us on this matter?
5th June 2003Mark Hobson
The ritual of cutting open a slain enemies stomach -known as qaqa - was indeed an attempt to release the persons spirit. A body lying exposed in the heat of an African afternoon soon begins to swell and it was this swelling of the corpse that led the Zulus to believe the spirit was trying to escape. If it remained trapped inside the corpse, then according to Zulu belief it would haunt the warrior who had delivered the fatal blow. It was therefore in his best interests to release it, hence the ritualistic opening up of the abdomen.

Another common occurence was the repeated stabbing of a body by several different warriors long after the person was dead -this was known as to hlomula - an act that served the Zulu wish to share the 'kill', as each warrior who stabbed the corpse could claim to have taken part in the defeat of a worthy opponent. The more times the corpse was stabbed, the greater his courage was said to have been, therefore the greater the Zulus' skill in defeating him. British soldiers were looked on with the same respect as lions - equally as brave and feared.

As for the removal of certain body parts; these might be used for making medicines to be used in later battles, to give the warriors more courage
5th June 2003Peter Ewart

Although there is at least one apparent "firsthand" account referring to the genitals in the mouth mutilaton and the reference to the little circle of severed heads (both supposedly seen on the night/dawn of 22/23rd and/or on the 21st May?) as well as later claims of witnessing the drummer boys hanging from butchers' hooks, doubt has been cast on the reliability of the latter story and - more importantly - these particular methods of mutilation appear not to have been routine at Isandlwana (if they occurred at all) whereas the opening up of the dead victim's front clearly was. It would be wrong to assume that this was normal Zulu procedure, if it occurred at all.

Many of the accounts of the drummer boys' fate appear to have been repeated by those who weren't even there, or at least hadn't seen the bodies themselves. As far as I know (someone tell me if I've missed it) there is no account at all claiming that victims were "buggered", or whatever term one likes to use. (But, as Dave Nolan said above, if you have a rip from throat to groin, you are most definitely buggered! In fact, it looks to me as if every soldier in the camp was buggered the moment Chelmsford decided to wander off into the dark).

This cropped up not long ago on this forum, I believe from a source over the pond, and I suspect we have here one of those examples of our "common language dividing two peoples." One of the recorded accounts of a soldier writing about the drummer boys contains his description of the Zulu perpetrators as "buggers." I suspect this is where the misunderstanding comes from. Over here, when we call someone a bugger, as he called the Zulus, there is not the slightest suggestion of the original meaning of the word, nor was there, I'm sure, in 1879.

The soldier using a very strong swearword (nowadays it would probably be considered mild) was simply describing the Zulus as such because he was so angry. He might just as easily have said blighters or bastards. He certainly wasn't suggesting the Zulus had treated them in this way, either alive or dead! No-one on the field who escaped could have seen any such thing & the dead don't tell tales.

Raw may well have gasped "Well, I'll be buggered!" when he stumbled on the Zulu army, and Chelmsford's reported reaction to Lonsdale's devastating news was no doubt sanitised by "Noggs" - in reality, don't you think his Lordship said "Well, bugger me!"???

6th June 2003Keith Smith
I have read the above comments with great interest and what has been said in answer to the original question by Mark and Peter is correct. There is some evidence of mutilation of bodies, beyond qhaqha, as stated by two Zulu sources. A Zulu deserter said "To my knowledge no one was made prisoner, and I saw nobody carried away or mutilated. If the doctors carried away any dead bodies for the purpose of afterwards doctoring the army, it was done without my knowing of it; nor did I see any prisoner taken and afterwards killed."

Mehlokazulu, an junior induna with the inGobamakhosi regiment säid: "All the dead bodies were cut open, because if that had not been done the Zulus would have become swollen like the dead bodies. I only know of one man whose head was cut off, I hear that some bodies were otherwise mutilated."

There is another (non-Zulu) reference somewhere to removal of parts of the face for medicine - if I find it, I'll post it.


6th June 2003Keith Smith

Yes! Just found it. Nzuzi of the uVe regiments had the following to say "Some of our bad men cut away the lower jaws of those white men who had beards and decorated their heads with them."

7th June 2003Steven Sass
If I'm not mistaken (as I often am), I've read accounts suggesting that mutilation was not done purely for altruistic purposes but to sufficiently cripple the victim, rendering him unable to pursue the warrior and seek revenge upon him in the afterlife.

There appears to be a commonality as this practice is also ascribed to several American Indian tribes. Unfortunately these are just recollections and presently I'll be searching through piles of book attempting to locate their origins.

9th June 2003James Garland
I realise that Zulu tradition advocates the disembowelling of dead warriors but I doubt if that is the real reason it was done. I think the reason for disembowelment and all the other mutilations is much simpler.
The Zulu weapon was the stabbing spear and therefore Zulus killed their enemies up close like the Vikings and Romans etc. To just psych yourself up to use these sort of weapons you would have to immerse yourself in the sheer brutality it requires. It's not like shooting someone at a distance it requires the soldier to use violent primeval instincts. After killing someone in that frame of mind it woulld be impossible to stop and calmly move on to the next objective. You only have to watch boxing (which is only mildly violent in comparrison) to see that some boxers find it hard to stop when their opponent is down. It must have been much worse using close quarter weapons.
2nd May 2005Nigel H Crosby
Keith Smith is correct; the Zulu would do the kill; assegais being the main wepon and using it with such force and speed that they could stab unser the arm pit and out the other side cutting all the main organs; the Zulu whom sturck the killer blow would then cut the body to let out the sprit; other zulu would wash their spears; some did take beards or other body parts for medecine; I know of no know beheading or sexual torture to any british soldiers. As for the fate of the drummer boy; this is a fictional story made up by the press to keep the intrest in the zulu war alive and to keep the british soldier highly charged.
3rd May 2005John Young

Rather than declaring the fate of the boy soldier was a work of fiction, can please refer to my posting of 4th December 2003 'Drummer Boys - the myth becomes reality' - or would you have it that the soldier who wrote those words not telling the truth?

John Y.
3rd May 2005John Young

Using the search engine on the site there is also a comment by Private Mason, one of the Rorke's Drift defenders who states, based on hearsay: '...There were 5 boys belonging to the Band, poor little fellows, they were left in camp, the black buggers got the boys and tied them up by the hands to the wagons and butchered them, cut their privates off and stuck them in their mouths. ...'

His use of the phrase 'black buggers' might well have influenced some people, who have taken him at his word?

John Y.