Sacred Custodians of the Earth?: Women, Spirituality and the Environment

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Alaine M. Low, Soraya Tremayne
Berghahn Books, 2001 - Social Science - 260 pages
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Literature on women, development and environment is abundant. The relationship between women and ecology has been analyzed by various disciplines, by specialists from the North as well as the South. This book offers a new perspective, specifically to challenge the assumption that women have a special affinity with the Earth and therefore a historic mission for the care of the environment. The book explores spiritual, religious and philosophical beliefs concerning women and ecology, and whether women are truly "sacred custodians" of the Earth. This concept has evolved from ideas developed by eco-feminists. Whether and how different belief systems can be put to use to create an awareness to protect, preserve and improve ecological conditions is discussed. The collection of papers demonstrates the complexity of the issues and the variations and vulnerability of the assumed relationship between women and the environment in different cultural and political contexts. The book challenges policy solutions which are devised to be on a global scale and to create unrealistic global aspirations, and the value of targeting women in a particular attempt to achieve environmentally sustainable development.


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Mawaraidzo the rainmaker
The story of the Chief Mutasa's sister so called Maredzwa needs to be reinvestigated. I happen to be born out of this lady's tree and we call her Mawaraidzo Nyangani...or
Nyakuwanikwa. The Mutasa and the Nyangani family were from the same father and Nyangani was from a senior wife (umba huru) while Mutasa who got the paramount Chieftancy was from a junior wife (umba doko).
My understanding is Chief Mutasa gave his cousins an area under him to rule and a lady was sub-chief of this area. From family oral history, Ishe (sub-chief) Mawaraidzo was chief at the end of the 1900s of the area between Mutare river crossing Ruvue river on the Mozambican side to Manica.
She kept rain making tools (zvombo zvekunaisa mvura). She was born in the same womb with mother to Kangai (who worked at Rhodesia Railways) and mother to sister Felistas Makoni (nun at St Augustine) and Sepi. As a medium, she was not supposed to get married though she could have children.
During the last war between Mutasa and Makoni over their shared boundary, a Ndebele soldier called Muteweragombe (for during a raid his other soldiers had been killed and he continued going eastwards until he was captured by Mutasa walking along a riverbank hence the name Muteweragombe later shortened to Mugombe) was coopted together with the Saungweme people (the Dhliwayos from Chimanimani) and Mutasa made inroads during that war.
In return Muteweragombe was given a wife - the rainmaker Mawaraidzo. Mawaraidzo had her headquarters at Nyamombe around Penhalonga/Nyaronga in what is now called John Meikle Forest Reserve. However, due colonialism the Nyanganis were moved to various areas like Nyangani in Bocha/Marange area, Manica Bridge, Honde while Mawaraidzo/Nyakuwanikwa refused to move and relocated to Mukudu (below the Zimbabwe/Mozambican border but on the Mozambican side) where she latter died.
Mawaraidzo gave birth to Tendi,Kanera, Shereni, Ziyera, Madanzi, Edward also known as Makiyi and Emilia/Tsverukai who died on 01 September 2011 aged 95. The rain making tools are still in our home at Mukudu and the culture of rainmaking stopped when mbuya (granma) Mawaraidzo died. The situation was further complicated by the split of Chief Mutasa's Mozambican territory and the adoption of Christianity.
I challenge historians to perfect this account which is largely a true fact of history.


Gender Nature and Trouble with AntiDualism
Religion and the Natural
Aboriginal Women and Sacred Landscapes in Northern
The Separation of the Sexes Among Siberian Reindeer
Priestesses and Environment in Zimbabwe
Rice Women Men and the Natural Environment among
Ecology and Christian Hierarchy
Women and Nature in Islam
Soil as the Goddess Bhudevi in a Tamil Hindu
Nature and Gender in Theravada Buddhism
A Chinese Worldview
The Quest for Wholeness
Select Bibliography

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About the author (2001)

Soraya Tremayne has a D.Phil. in Social Anthropology from the University of Paris, Sorbonne and currently is the Co-ordinating Director of the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group, University of Oxford. She was formerly the Acting Director of the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research on Women, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, and has carried out research in Iran and Malaysia. She is a Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

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