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Heaven on EarthThe Varieties of the Millennial Experience$
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Richard Landes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199753598

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753598.001.0001

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Suicidal Millennialism

Suicidal Millennialism

Xhosa Cattle-Slaying (1856–1857 CE)

Chapter:
(p.91) 4 Suicidal Millennialism
Source:
Heaven on Earth
Author(s):

Richard Landes

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753598.003.0004

This chapter explores the dynamics of apocalyptic expectation among the Xhosa in South Africa. After a series of millennially inspired uprisings against, and crushed by, the British, and the advent of a terrible cattle plague and crop plight, the Xhosa responded to an apocalyptic prophecy. This time it came not from a messianic warrior leader, but from a young girl who promised that if they killed their cattle, the ancestors would return with better cattle and better crops and sweep away the British. With each new moon, expectations rose; with each disappointment, believers blamed themselves for not having killed all their cattle. Eventually they killed 400,000 head of cattle and thousands died of starvation.

Keywords:   Xhosa, British colonialism, female prophets, Cattle-Slaying, Nongqawuse, South Africa, disappointment

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