The Himba people are an indigenous ethnic group primarily residing in the northern region of Namibia, particularly in the Kunene region. They are a semi-nomadic pastoralist society, with an estimated population of about 50,000. The Himba people possess a rich cultural heritage steeped in beliefs, mythology, and rituals that revolve around deities, heroes, and mythological creatures. This article provides an overview of these aspects of their culture, emphasizing the unique aspects of their beliefs.

Religious Beliefs

The Himba people predominantly practice a monotheistic religion, centered around a supreme deity called Mukuru. They believe that Mukuru is an omnipotent and benevolent entity who governs the universe and is responsible for the creation of all things. Mukuru is often associated with the sky, the sun, and the rain, embodying the life-giving forces of nature.

Mukuru's Personality

Mukuru is often depicted as a remote deity, residing in the heavens, and does not directly interact with humans. Instead, he communicates with them through a series of intermediary spirits known as the Okuruwo. The Okuruwo are ancestral spirits that act as a bridge between the living and the divine, serving as the guardians and protectors of the Himba people.

Unique Beliefs

One noteworthy aspect of the Himba's belief system is their reverence for the fire (Okuruwo Omuvere). Fire is considered a sacred and divine force that connects the living with the ancestors and Mukuru. They maintain a sacred fire in their homes called the "Okuruwo Omuvere," which is never allowed to go out. The sacred fire represents the presence of the ancestral spirits and serves as a focal point for their rituals, prayers, and offerings.

Deities and Mythological Creatures

Although Mukuru is the primary deity in the Himba religion, there are other deities, heroes, and mythological creatures in their cultural narrative. Some of these include:

  • Ovazemba: A lesser deity who is believed to control the forces of nature, such as the wind, thunder, and lightning. Ovazemba is often invoked to protect the Himba people from natural disasters.

  • Kapezembuwa: A hero figure in Himba mythology who is said to have brought the gift of fire to humans. He is also associated with wisdom and is credited with teaching the Himba people the art of cattle herding.

  • Hai//om: Mythical creatures that are half-human, half-animal beings. These creatures are believed to live in the wilderness and possess supernatural powers. They are often invoked in stories and rituals to explain unexplainable events or phenomena in the natural world.


Rituals play a central role in the daily lives of the Himba people, reinforcing their connection with the ancestors, deities, and mythological creatures. Some important rituals include:

  • Ancestral Offerings: The Himba people regularly make offerings to their ancestors in the form of food, drink, and other items. These offerings are typically made at the sacred fire, and the rituals serve to maintain the connection between the living and the ancestors.

  • Initiation Rituals: Puberty rites are an essential part of Himba culture, marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. These rituals often involve symbolic acts of cleansing, such as the application of red ochre, which is considered to purify and protect the individual during this important life stage.

  • Livestock Rituals: As a pastoralist society, the Himba people place significant importance on their cattle, sheep, and goats. Livestock rituals are performed to ensure the health and fertility of their animals, as well as to seek protection from diseases and other threats. These rituals may include offerings, prayers, and the use of specific plants or substances believed to have protective properties.

  • Rainmaking Rituals: Given the arid environment in which they live, the Himba people place great importance on rainmaking rituals. These rituals are performed to appease the deities and ancestral spirits and to seek their intervention in bringing life-giving rains to the land. They typically involve prayers, dancing, and the use of sacred objects, such as rain stones.

  • Healing Rituals: Traditional healers, or "ombandja," play a vital role in the Himba community, providing both physical and spiritual healing. Healing rituals may involve the use of medicinal plants, prayer, and spiritual intervention from the ancestors and deities. These rituals aim to restore balance and harmony within the individual and the community.