The Lightning bird or Impundulu or Thekwane (or izulu, inyoni yezulu) is a mythological creature in the folklore

A hammerkop

of the tribes of South Africa including the Pondo, the Zulu and the Xhosa. The impundulu (which translates as "Lightning bird") takes the form of a black and white bird, the size of a human, which is said to summon thunder and lightning with its wings and talons. It is a vampiric creature associated with witchcraft, often the servant or familiar of a witch or witch doctor, which attacks the witch's enemies. It is said to have an insatiable appetite for blood. Sometimes it takes the form of a beautiful young man who seduces women. Among certain African tribes the Hammerkop is believed to be the lightning bird. Among others the lightning bird is believed to manifest itself only through lightning, except to women, to whom it reveals itself as a bird. In these instances the bird is of imaginary nature and may take several forms. In one

A rendering of the chicken version

instance a village girl described a black rooster-like bird that ran up her hoe and left claw marks on her body before it flew back to the clouds. In other instances it is described as having iridescent feathers like a peacock's or a fiery red tail, bill and legs. Most supposed sightings describe the Lightning Bird as a winged creature the size of a man, when needed it can indeed masquerade as a human, but usually it's a huge black and white bird of prey. The fat of

Big peacock.png

the bird is believed to be of significance either as the fuel that the bird sets on fire when it throws down a lightning strike or as a component in traditional medicine. The fat is believed to be procured by catching the bird at the moment when the lightning strikes the ground, or by digging the bird up from an underground cavity at the spot. The bird is furthermore believed to lay a large egg underground at the location of the lightning strike. This may be a good or bad omen that may require digging to procure or dispose of the eggs. This creature has another similarity to vampires, it is said that the Lightning Bird is immortal, because it outlives its masters. Legend recounts that the bird is passed down in a witch’s family from mother to daughter, doing the bidding of its owner, and the Impundulu has only one known weakness. The Lightning Bird is impervious to gunshots or stabbing, you cannot poison it or drown

A simple rendering of the peacock version.

it, but it’s said that the creature can be destroyed by fire. In most instances the tribe's witch doctor plays the essential role in dealing with the lightning bird. A supposed extract from the bird's flesh may for instance be prepared into a remedy for tracing thieves. In this way the witchdoctors may exert control over the minds of both law abiding and criminal members of their society. The Impundulu is known to be a confident of witches, it’s sometimes spotted riding on the back of a hyena, because witches can turn themselves into a hyena. The Lightning Bird is widely feared as a witch’s familiar, it’s considered an evil creature because it does the bidding of witches, if a Witch doctor dispatches an Impundulu it can cause illness and bad luck to a person. In 2005, a South African man was convicted of culpable homicide after killing a two-year-old child believed to be an impundulu.

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