Myths: The Lightning Bird

The Lightning Bird, or impundulu, is a creature from the folklore of several South African tribes, including the Zulu, Xhosa and Pondo tribes. Some tribes believe the hammerkop bird is the Lightning Bird, whereas others believe it only shows itself as lightning, except to women, where it reveals itself as a black and white, human sized bird. It can also take human form if necessary.

Hammerkop

Hammerkop

The fat of the Lightning Bird is a valuable component in traditional medicine. In order to collect it, the bird must be caught at the moment the lightning strikes the ground, or by digging up the bird from an underground cavity at the site of the strike. This is also where the bird may lay its large egg, which could be good or bad luck, and needs to be dug up either to procure it or destroy it.

The Lightning Bird is apparently difficult to kill – it’s impervious to stabbing or shooting, it can’t be poisoned or drowned, it can only be destroyed by fire.

It is likened to vampires in that it is believed to live off blood – in animal form, it feeds off other birds, but in human form, it needs the blood of humans.

Sadly, in 2005, a South African man was convicted of culpable homicide after killing a two year old he believed was an impundulu.

artwork by artbybluedaisy

artwork by artbybluedaisy