The Cultural Significance of the Omudhime

(Guarri bush- Uuclea divinorum) This type of shrub plays an important role in the lives of the Aawambo. It grows in the forests or plains.

The name comes from the verb stem –dhima (to extinguish, erase). The name, omudhime, therefore, symbolises the removal of misfortune, guilt or evil spirits. Its fruit are called oondhime or oombunyanga. These fruits are eaten by people and birds. If too much oondhime are eaten, they may cause nose bleeding.

The branches of this shrub are not used for knobkerries because it can lead to animals, such as goats and cattle, to vanish. The branches cannot be used as firewood because they cause the death of the husband or wife in a family. It can also prevent the guests from visiting the house.
In modern times, a wedding flag is not hoisted on the omudhime Pole and should that happen, the bride and the groom’s marriage shall not last long. Hoisting a wedding flag on omudhime stick causes permanent infertility and sudden death to the bride and groom.

Traditionally, when a mother gives the birth to twins, she is put into seclusion until she undergoes the purification rite. Traditionally, she lives in a poorly built hut in a mahangu field. The visitors who want to see the babies have to rub their hands and arms with a concoction from the leaves and barks of the omudhime.

It is believed that if one does not rub his arms and hands with the concoction, they will get swollen to death. The mother of the twins is washed in a hole dug near the omudhime to protect her against misfortune.

Girls who have abortions are washed under omudhime to prevent people from gossiping about them. The blood of a person who suffers from a severe nose bleeding is thrown into the omudhime to cure them of the diseases. The person who suffers from nose bleeding may also collect firewood from an omudhime tree and inhale the smoke to be cured from this condition.

Clansmen who are cursed to die one after another because of false or real accusations seek help from a traditional healer. The traditional healer makes the people dig a hole next to an omudhime tree. The cursed clansmen then go in the hole one by one to wash the curses off their bodies.

A black cow is slaughtered and its blood is mixed with the juice of omudhime. The fresh branches of the omudhime are set alight and the cursed people inhale the smoke of the omudhime.

It is believed that the smoke from omudhime removes the curses from the cursed. Every person is given a piece of omudhime stick to chew in order to cleanse their bodies of the misfortune.

Omudhime also predicts bad omen. For example, if the omudhime bears too many fruits in a particular ward many unwanted pregnancies can be expected in that ward. The Aawambo believe that some creatures such as chameleons, frogs and moles bring bad luck.

Once one of those animals is killed or found dead, it is thrown into an omudhime to find out if it brings bad luck. If the dead animal symbolises bad luck, the omudhime dies.

Certain symbolisms are associated with the omudhime stick buried in the door opening of a newly built house during the house warming party as some people might have evil thoughts while entering the house. However, as soon as they walk over that stick, their evil intentions are wiped off and so, peace is preserved in the house. Omudhime ensures that there will be no disagreements or bad talk in an egumbo (homestead).

Towards the end of the mourning period, the hegona (a female relative of the deceased) takes the ash from the fire and throws it in the omudhime bush to prevent death from occurring again within a short time. If the mourners dig the grave and leave it open for a night, they throw in the omudhime bush so that death does not strike many people within the family.

Traditionally, a person who dies during the mourning period of a king is not buried. The corpse is just thrown into the omudhime.

Hiltunen. M 1970,. Good and Bad Omens.
Helsinki Mbenzi, P.A. 2011, Oohedhi DhAawambo Ohela nOnena.

Memeo Negonga, T. 1999, Developing Student Teachers’ Writing Skills: An Attempt to Put Process Writing into Practice In Democratic Teacher Education Reform. Eds. Zeichner, K& Dahlström. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers.