A person is identified through an animal which symbolizes one’s origins and ancestral lineage. Totem names include elephent (nzou), fish eagle (hungwe) or monkey (soko). It is very important for one to know their totem as it helps in tracing their background and family history in the African set up.
People with the same totem cannot marry in the African society as they are seen as members of one family. It is also taboo for a person to eat an animal that is their totem. For example a person whose totem is fish eagle cannot consume that same animal. Legend has it that the teeth of a person who does so will fall off.
Another important rule is that a person of a different totem cannot bury another person who has a different totem name. A break of this rule warrants payment of a fine either in the form of cattle or money.
Although most young people might dismiss the relevance of totems in morden society it must be noted that it is an integral part of the development of our society. Youths must not shun their origins or underestimate the power of maintaining such heritage. Indeed our forefathers have been known to boast of their cultural practices. Furthermore the issue of totems is of paramount importance in tracing one’s roots.
Young people should be proud of their totems and be able to recite their totem praises at events such as lobola negotiations, funerals and weddings. Even when chiefs aresworn in, they are oblidged to recite the history of their totem.