Prophetess: a cautionary tale 9

The Democratic Party is now led by a girl full of passionate intensity, little learning, and dreams of an all-powerful Democrat government supplying everything to everyone free of charge. She is counseling that all cattle be eliminated because they pollute the atmosphere. That aircraft be scrapped for the same reason. That no coal or oil be taken from the earth ever again. She declares that never again must vehicles running on gas pollute America’s roads. That every building in the country, homes and businesses, be torn down. If her prescriptions are carried out, she promises, the world will be renewed fresh and clean, and everyone will prosper.

“Kill all the cows,” she says.

Her rise to be the hypnotizing prophetess of her tribe recalls the story of Nonqawuse.

Nonqawuse was an orphan girl of the Xhosa, a nation of herders and farmers on the east coast of South Africa.

In 1856, when she was 15 years old, she returned one April day from the fields and told her uncle Mhlakazashe that she had met three spirits who said they were her ancestors. They had given her certain instructions for the tribe. If they were obeyed, the white colonists would be driven into the sea.

The instructions were that all the cattle of the tribe must be slaughtered because they were polluted. All cultivation of the fields must be abandoned. All the huts in which everybody lived must be demolished. Then not only would the evil whites be drowned, but the Xhosa would have more crops than ever before, pure and clean. New cattle would arise out of the earth, fresh and strong, and the tribe would prosper as never before.

Mhlakazashe believed what his niece told him because he recognized his dead brother from her description of one of the spirits. He went to see the chief, Sarili, and told him the story. Sarili believed it too. He ordered that all cattle must be killed.

The Xhosa obeyed. They destroyed their herds. No crops were attended to. They waited, shelterless, for the whites to be driven into the sea, for new cattle to appear, for their fields to become filled with sturdy grain.

They hung on the lips of the prophetess. Nongqawuse predicted that on February 18, 1857, the prophecy of the drowning would be fulfilled. On that day, she said, the sun would turn red and all the whites would be swept into the Indian Ocean.

February 18 came and went.The sun did not turn red. The whites stayed where they were carrying on with their white ways as usual. Chief Sarili went to see the prophetess. She told him that some people had not obeyed the spirits’ instructions, so the day of liberation had been postponed. The new date was eight days on. The chief had Nongqawuse’s word spread through the land. In eight days time a blood red sun would rise, there would be a heavy storm, and the dead would rise from their graves. Then the dramatic change would take place and the world would be made new. Before the eight days had passed, any cattle still alive must be slaughtered.

“Kill all the cows,” she said.

The eighth day dawned. The sun did not rise redder than usual. There was no storm. The Xhosa had no cattle and no crops. In the famine that resulted, most of the tribe, tens of thousands, died of starvation.

A hundred and sixty three years have passed since an ignorant girl full of passionate intensity made promises of a clean fresh world to her tribe, if only they would give up the filthy things on which they depended; a hundred and sixty two years since they followed her to ruin and death.

In 2019, the Democratic tribe of America might find a salutary message in the story of Nongqawuse if by some chance they should come to hear it.