Apr 11, 2012

Weapons & Warriors: The Makrigga of the Zande Warrior

No two cultures seem to make the spear the same way or with the same materials. The Azande people were no exception. They called their special iron tipped spear the Makrigga.

The Makrigga has to be one of the most terribly vicious spears ever designed. Unlike most spears made in the world, if the victim survived the piercing, they would be better off not pulling the spear out of the wound. With most of the spears in Asia, Europe, or America; even at the risk of bleeding out, you might have a chance to live longer if the spear is removed. This was not the case with the Makrigga.

You would be better off not attempting to remove it at all without a surgeon assisting you. You could try forcing it completely through like an oversized arrow, but seven feet (more than 2 meters) of wood is no small weapon to shove through your body. You would need help if you planned to push the spear through and to break it. The wooden shaft would be pretty hard to break by yourself without causing more damage hacking away at it. Don't forget the other problem with pushing something through that hasn't already pierced completely through, the risk of cutting something you might need to live.

Better to just avoid picking a spear fight with a Zande Warrior unless you were trained to handle excruciating pain. These warriors trained to throw and use these weapons with a shield. They didn’t have the formations that Spartans used, but most of the enemies of the Azande were not wearing metal armor and even the shields were made with animal hides.

Still wondering what the cause of all this extra pain is? It starts below the spearhead of the Makrigga. The shaft is lined with hooking barbs that curve away from the spear tip. At first glance, this would make some people believe they are merely a decoration to make the spear more intimidating to look at. In fact, these hooks are one of the things that make the Makrigga stand apart from other spears, and make it one of the most deadly spears in history.

These barbed hooks were designed to point away from impact, so that they would not interfere with the penetration of the spear blade. As the spear would sink deeper into its target, the hooks would then slide in easily with the blade. Once the hooks entered the body, their reversed directions allowed them to snare the victim like a fish if the spear was pulled.

If the Zande Warrior or anyone else came to retrieve the Makrigga and yanked it out of the victim, they would literally pull out any organs, muscles or additional skin that gets hooked. Trying to remove one of these from your abdomen would nearly impossible without losing part of your intestines.

Someone pierced and hooked by a Makrigga would more than likely remain incapacitated throughout the remainder of the battle. Ripping out the spear could cause more damage or could be fatal. Leaving the spear in would make movement difficult as a seven foot wooden shaft flopped around.

Going to war against the Azande people was terrifying for many reasons. The most terrifying was not their arsenal of frightening and extremely deadly weapons, but that story is for another day.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. Had to show this to hubby. The warrior in him approves.

    1. Awesome. It is definitely a spear I want hanging on my wall someday.

  2. Replies
    1. It's a great heritage, and an amazing history. I loved learning all about the Azande.

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  4. I actually found one of these in a pawn shop in the desert, it looks really old and ridiculously sharp but obviously used, yet great condition. anyone happen to know who would buy/how much they are? i can send pics.