Impundulu the Lightning Bird

The Lightning Bird / Impundulu / Inyoni yezulu is a South African mythological creature that feature strongly in the tribes of the Pondo, Xhosa and Zulu folklore.  Some of the tribes believe the Hammerkop is the Lightning bird because of its long shaggy crest and curved bill, whilst other tribes believe that it manifests itself through lightning or to women in its true form.

Derek Ramsey Hammerkop

Thunder is created when Impundulu / the Lightning bird (or the Inyoni yezulu in Zulu) flaps his wings, and lightning when he descends to earth to lay his eggs.  Fairy circles that are created in the fields, usually by mushrooms, show where the lightning struck and where you have to dig to get the Impundulu’s eggs.  When the eggs are grounded into a fine powder and mixed with a fish that shines in the dark (and a few other medical ingredients), then you can supposedly use this concoction if you want your enemy to be struck by lightning!  Although some believe the eggs to be bad luck, and will therefor be destroyed immediately.


When the Immpundulu is not creating meteorological havoc, it is believed that he caries children away and drinks all the milk. The Impundulu is also a rainmaker, with powers to cause people to have sex, can afflict disease and some even believe that it can suck blood or suck the breath out of people with Tuberculosis.

Even if you don’t believe any of the stories, there are a lot of South African folk tales that focus on birds and the mythology around them. For instance, if the shadow of a flying Bataleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) falls on you, you will never have the same intelligence again…

bataleur - dewi - flight

If you think this is all superstitious nonsense, ask yourself if you see the dove as a symbol of peace?  It’s a tradition that goes all the way back to the time when these birds where seen as the messengers of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love in ancient Greece.

The only way to capture the Impundulu is at the moment lightning strikes the ground.  Apparently the fat from the bird contains a very special component that the witchdoctors use in traditional medicines.  Another belief is that a piece of the bird’s flesh could be prepared into a remedy to trace thieves.

Ken Wilson impundulu-notxt

The Impundulu is also a confidant of witchdoctors, and is sometimes seen riding the back of a hyena (witchdoctors can shape shift to hyena).  It is mostly considered as an evil creature, and can cause illness and very bad luck.  It is also said that the lightning bird is immortal, and will outlive its masters.  Legend tells that the bird can be passed down in the witch’s family from mother to daughter.  If the Impundulu is not handed down, it is called an Ishologu, an ownerless monster that will cause chaos.

The Impundulu cant be shot or stabbed, drowned or poisoned.  The only way to destroy the creature is by fire.  Most reported sightings describe it as a huge winged black and white creature the size of a man.  You are most likely to encounter the Impundulu in the eastern Cape region of South Africa. Contact us to arrange your visit 😉