Madi Culture


The Madi people live in the district of Moyo at the boarder of South Sudan. The Madi are known to have originated from Sudan and their language is similar to that of the Bari of South Sudan.

Regarding birth, the Madi carried a lot of significance to birth and most of their beliefs were based on reproduction. Rubanga was the Supreme Being responsible for births. Rubanga was also known as the creator of everything. Regarding the birth of twins, the Madi regarded it as an ill-omen and was attached to Rubanga’s will. The twins were regarded as mysterious creatures and the elder twin would be named Ejaiya literally meaning take him to the bush and the younger one would be named Rubanga.   Following the birth of twins, the father and the mother’s family would bring a sheep that would then be eaten by the twin parents along with the woman who had looked after the mother of the twins during confinement period. This ceremony is locally called Lati. The family of the mother was also required to provide other sheep that would be tied on a bed lke structure which was made up of sticks at the slide of the hut of the mother both morning and in the evening. The sheep would be allowed to live a usual life just like the sheep apart from morning and evening periods when it was put on the bed. When the sheep gave birth, it would then be killed as a sacrifice for the twin parent’s wellbeing. The special bed comprised of sticks where the sheep would be continually placed was named Rabanga and the sheep its self was named Rabanga-Bilo.

Regarding religion, the Madi’s entire life would be centered on the belief that their ancestors had life after death and thus lived as spirits called Ori. The Madi believed that the spirits would intervene directly in the life of the living. The misfortunes were attributed to the anger of the spirits and the people would approach Odzogo (the witch doctor) to ascertain which ancestor was behind the misfortune following that, respective sacrifices would then be offered to a certain spirit in order to neutralize its harshness on the living. According to Madi, the powerful families were known to have strong spirits that would help them.

Regarding the Rain making, in the entire Madi community, there were only forty five (45) centers for rain making. The rain could be made by the rainmaker using special stones that are white in color. The rain stone were believed to have come with rain from the sky and they were grouped into male and female. The Male stones were conical in shape with relatively sharp points whereas the female ones would be round or conical with no sharp points. Though some stones would look alike, the rain maker would easily identify them without difficulty. The rain stones would be reported to the chief once discovered and were kept in pots and would not be looked at without the permission of the rain maker or the chief as it was believed that one would get impotent. Once the rain took long to rain, the people would approach the rain maker for assistance and the rain making process was exclusively rain makers preserve. The stones were smeared oil or fats and appeals were made to Rubanga and to the former chiefs. The offertory food was eaten and the stones would be perched in little water. The rain maker would take the offertory food locally known as Mtami, Wimbi and beans along with shear butter nut oil to the huts whee the stones were kept. A clay pot would be put on a wooden basin, remove the rain stone from their pot, cleanse them while calling upon the ancestral spirits of the Rubanga and the dead chiefs to provide them rain. The rain stones would then be out in a bowl where they were anointed with little oil. The rain maker along with the chiefs principle wives were the only people noted to be present at the rainmaking function. The food prepared on the function would be eaten by the rain maker and the two principle omen who had prepared it. The rain stones would then be placed in the pot that and enough water which was not too much and not too little and the rainmaker and two women would not move out of the hut or consume any other food throughout the day. The rain was expected to fall on that very day.

madi people

If the rain did not appear, the odzo would then be consulted or the rain maker would extend the rain making function to incorporate the killing and eating of a sheep. And may be if there was unnatural phenomenon, the rain would be expected to fall. If the rain was too much, the rain maker would then get a branch of a bush named erewa and would smear it with red ochre and put it on the huts roof where the rain stones were kept. It is note that there were two (2) clans that would make rain using rain stones and their elders would meet at a worship place and pray to Rubanga to grant them rain.

Regarding political set up, the Madi were arranged in chiefdoms and every chiefdom was led by Opi a hereditary chief who had both religious and political powers. This person was accorded maximum respect and regarded as the political center and a collective point for the former chief’s influence. The rainmakers and the Vudipi who was responsible for the issue of the land were other two notable personalities of religious significance in the Madi Community. These two were also believed to be descending from the ancestral lines that carried out such acts and were thought that they would retain their powers even after their death.

Regarding the Judicial system, in case one Madi pleaded innocent over staling or adultery accusations, the witch doctor would be approached to ascertain the truth. The doctor would take a handful of spear grass and order the accuser and the accused to hold each end of the grass then the grass would be cut by an arrow. The guilty would fall sick and the truth would come out through consequences. The guilty would be cleansed by paying a sheep which would then be slaughtered. The dung and blood on the sheep’s intestines would be smeared on the back of the hands of the accused and accuser and others on the chests. Their legs were tied with the sheep’s skin and the elders of the two families of the two parties would convene to eat the mutton as a reconciliatory act.

The cases that involved poisoning, the witch doctor heat a spear and touch the accused thigh with the spear’s hot end. If the weal appeared the accused would have proved guilty and would be speared to death. Though it appears automatic that by touching the thigh with a hot spear would attract selling, the traditions indicate that at time it would not.

Regarding the Superstitions, the Madi believed that if a man met a rabbit, a wild pig or a bush buck while on a journey, he would go back to consult a witch doctor to ascertain what to do before embarking on the journey. Also if a man owl hooted while perched on top of some ones house, or if a man met a leopard or a snake, then family might lose a member. Is a jackal barked in a compound of someone, the family would relocate as the old home would be considered cursed.

Regarding the economy, the Madi were agriculturalists and their main crops were Mtami, Wmbi and a range of beans not forgetting shear butter. They would practice barter trade and carried out impressive trade with their neighbors. On top of crop growing, they would rear chicken, sheep, goats and cattle.