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The Lightning bird or impundulu is a vampiric bird from southern African myth.


Frequently described as the hammerkop, the impundulu is a human-sized bird with black and white plumage. It has the ability to manifest itself as lightning. In some accounts it takes the form of a rooster, but in others it has peacock feathers, or even a red tail, beak, and legs. It has the ability to turn into a beautiful man to seduce others.


It is most infamous for its thirst for blood and pain, which it is known to take from humans, birds, and cattle. If its attacks did not kill, it would leave its victims with infertility and tuberculosis. It has the ability to bring rain, bad luck, and cause people to have sex. It may abduct children or steal milk from households. The flap of its wings is the source of thunder, and it can shoot lightning from its talons. Occasionally it will strike the earth as lightning, and it will lay its egg where it lands. It can be caught either by catching it at the moment it strikes or finding it in an underground cavern where it hit the ground. The easiest way to find it or its eggs is to search for fairy rings, which indicate the place it struck.

Impundulu are frequently the familiars of witches, and are passed down from mother to daughter as they are immortal. However, should a witch fail to pass hers down, the bird will become an ishologu, a masterless force of chaos and destruction. While it is a familiar, it can be sent to wreak havoc on the witch's enemies. However, if not kept fed, it would ensure the witch's death. In some accounts, the impundulu and the witch become lovers. It is often seen riding on the back of a hyena, which witches are known to shapeshift into.

The impundulu's body and eggs have many magical properties. While often eggs are destroyed, they can also be used (along with glowing fish and other ingredients) to create a potion that causes lightning to strike an enemy. Its fat could be used in medicinal remedies. Furthermore, its flesh could be used to discover thieves. However, it could be difficult to get these ingredients, as its only known weakness is fire; it is impervious to all other attacks.

Similar creatures[]