Before the arrival of Europeans, and modern scientific knowledge, Africans used their indigenous knowledge, gained over thousands of years, to navigate their existence. Astrology and the study of nature have always been part of us. 

Did you know what the seasons and months are called in isiXhosa; and why?

There are four seasons in a year in isiXhosa; they are all named poetically after the stars and seasonal flowers/plants. The time in isiXhosa tells you what is happening in nature, the stars, and the plants. The Xhosa year traditionally begins in June, the winter, and ends in May; this is when Canopus is most visible, and it signals the harvest time. The first season was winter, trees standing alone withered with no leaves, time for the trees to start over – a new beginning.

The Four Seasons

  • Winter – uBusika 
  • Spring – iNtwasahlobo or iNtlak’ohlaza 
  • Summer – iHlobo
  • Autumn – eKwindla

The Months

  • January EyoMqungu, the month of the Tambuki Grass. The tambuki grass is a species of grass native to most of the tropical and subtropical savannas of Africa; it grows in January in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • February – EyoMdumba, the month of the swelling grain. Once a pollen grain comes in contact with the stigma, a part of the pistil in female plants, a chemical reaction causes the pollen grain to swell and to grow a tube that reaches down to the ovule. As the temperature rises, the progressive swelling of the starch grains increases the viscosity of the paste. 
  • March – EyoKwindla (month of the first fruits). Before the modern era where you can buy produce at the store, people used to plant their own. In March was when the first fruits came.
  • April – uTshaz’iimpuzi, the month of the withering pumpkins. 
  • May – EyeCanzibe, the month of Canopus,. the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina, and the second-brightest star in the night sky; it signals the time of harvest.
  • June EyeSilimela, the month of the Pleiades. The Pleiades is an asterism and an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars in the northwest of the constellation Taurus. 
  • July EyeKhala, the month of the aloes. 
  • August EyeThupha, the month of the buds.
  • September – EyoMsintsi, the month of the coast coral tree. Erythrina caffra is a subtropical tree that occurs in the warm and frost-free to light frost coastal regions of the Eastern Cape and northern KwaZulu-Natal.
  • OctoberEyeDwarha, the month of the tall yellow daisies.
  • November EyeNkanga, the month of the tiny yellow daisies.
  • December – EyoMnga, – the month of the acacia thorn tree.

Tell us: Which is your favourite month?