“My story begins as I die.”
Legend has it that the Lovedu tribe of the Limpopo province in South Africa migrated to their current location from the North a few decades before the Boers came, and that they trace their royal line back to the middle of the 16th century.
This story starts as Makaphimo, one of the first sorcerer-kings of the tribe is assassinated by his daughter. The powerful ancestral spirit that he becomes is the narrator of this book.
As an ancestral spirit, the narrator speaks in the first person. He is not omnipresent, but can transport from place to place instantaneously. He is not omnipotent, but he can and does meddle in the affairs of women and men. He is not omniscient, but can report what he sees and what he thinks. But more importantly, he has partial access to the minds of some of his descendants who still revere him as an ancestor.
Just after his death, he learns that there are mighty presences in the realm in which he now dwells, but he is unable to identify them.
He looks on as one after another of his king-descendants is born, rules and dies. Finally one of the kings, Mugodo, prophesies that black ants (the Swazis) will come from the East, but they will not conquer the Balovedu. But the red ants from the South (the Boers) will overcome them. He also predicts that the tribe will be ruled by a woman. And so it comes to pass that after this last king, the first Rain Queen, Modjadji I, a powerful rainmaker-sorceress, comes to power.
The protagonist (not the narrator) of the story is born in 1875, before Modjadji I comes to power. As spirit man of the Balovedu, he is responsible not only for the welfare of his tribe in relation to the spirit world, but also for the ascending of the first Rain Queen. In the year 1880 there is a magnificent upheaval in the spirit world, since this is the year—according to European esoteric sources—when the Lunar archangel Gabriel hands over the rule over humanity to Solar Michael for his term of 354 years and 4 months.
The narrator has a special bond with the protagonist and has substantial access to his mind. However, as the protagonist’s apostasy from the old Africa religion of ancestor worship grows, he knows less about what the man is thinking.
The crisis of the book comes in 1895 as General Piet Joubert conquers Magkoba and his tribe in Magoebaskloof.