January 2012


Dear ndugu,

Thank you for empowering us, thank you for your sacred leadership…. I borrow from Black Looks, the Coalition of African Lesbians & Alice Walker and say en echo everywhere –

“David, rest. in us, the meaning of your life is still unfolding….”

Na kwasababu it is not taboo to go back for what you forgot, hii ni hadithi of where we come from……

The Child-confirmation and naming ceremony and festival

(Okwalula abaana) – among de Baganda

The naming and confirmation of children is marked as an important occasion and is therefore followed by ceremonies and rituals. The process literally means “hatching and coming out of the shell” by the child, signifying coming to the new world. The rituals are considered sacred. They are therefore performed in an atmosphere of sanctity. All people who are to participate in the rituals are supposed to abstain from sex and certain foods for no less than 9 days before the ceremony and during the duration of the ceremony. The occasion is marked by much feasting and rejoicing.
The children affected by the ceremony.

All the children of the family who have never been confirmed or officially named are included in the ceremony.

In traditional Kiganda society, the family includes children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters who may have their own children, and other immediate relatives. The Kiganda concept of family also includes the unborn members who are still in the loins of the living and members who have departed, while the household is the smallest unit of the family. The Euro or western concept of family is largely restricted to the household.

Preparing the Event
Members of the family, as in the manner described above, convene at the home of the children’s grandfather. Parents from the various homes which made up this family bring forward all the children who have not undergone confirmation and naming.

A big feast is prepared. The banquet signifies communion of the family, friends and neighbours in celebrating new members of the clan and the community. The ritual banquet consists of many selected local dishes, including matooke, millet bread, beef or goat meat plus the essential ritual items: unripe, unpeeled green bananas (empogola); mushrooms (obutiko obubaala); and sprats (enkejje). Simsim (sesame) in groundnut sauce and other vegetables are also part of this meal. The drinks consist of banana juice and beer. All items for the feast need the prior approval and ritual blessing of the clan elder or main celebrant.

Steamed unripe, unpeeled bananas (empogola) symbolise communion with twins since this type of dish is considered to be their specialty. Special songs for twins precede the rituals involved in the ceremony.

It is believed that mushrooms connect the departed with the living. It is believed that mushrooms contain properties that can protect the child from misfortune and from all manner of evil including witchcraft, magic, sorcery and taboos. Mushrooms are very much valued because the Baganda believe that they have high nutritional value and can be used to combat malnutrition and disease.
Sprats symbolise the spiritual connection of the Baganda with Lake Victoria (Ennyanja Nnalubale) and Ssese Islands, two major sources of the mythology and beliefs of the Baganda. It is believed that the lake and the islands of Ssese are the home of Buganda divinities.

Lubaale Mukasa is the chief divinity of the lake, while the sprat is the king of all the fish species found in the lake. The sprat is the totem of Mukasa, the chief divinity of the lake who lives in Ssese Islands and who is God’s agent for child-birth (ezzadde), wealth and bounty (obweeza). The Baganda therefore believe that the sprat when used their rituals connects their children with spiritually with Mukasa. The sprats are, on the other hand, considered nourishing and good for preventing and combating children’s diseases, such as measles and malnutrition.

Simsim (sesame) symbolises plenty, prosperity and multiplication; and is regarded as nutritious because it contains oil and vitamins and nutrients which are considered good for proper child growth.

Millet indicates bounty and strength. It is regarded as highly nutritious and resistant to disease attacks. It is believed that it gives vitality, endurance and longevity. It is used in the feast to wish the children a long life and a life of plenty and a life in which they can use stamina and endurance to overcome difficulties. Millet is also associated with the myth of Kintu and Nnambi, the first people on earth and the original ancestors of the Baganda. It is a symbol of the children’s origin and a reminder that their great ancestor, Nnambi, had gone back to heaven to collect millet when she was accompanied by her brother Death (Walumbe) who causes misery to mankind. Millet was the main food of the Baganda before the arrival of matooke (bananas) from Asia.

Beer brings unity as it is shared by all regardless of status. Quite often, part of the beer is offered as libation to appease ancestors and family spirits and exorcise them not to harm the child and to protect it from enemies.

The sweetness in juice is an indication of the sweetness of the world which should be enjoyed by the child in life.

The coffee beans, which are shared and used in the rituals, symbolise brotherhood. They are used as an offering to the ancestors and family spirits in order to create a bond, a brotherhood, between the child and ancestors and family spirits, and seek protection for the child from harm, as well as long life and prosperity for the child. Coffee beans are also used to consolidate brotherly ties and understanding among family members, friends and the community.

Drums and other musical instruments are played at the ceremony as a sign of rejoicing and marking a great event in the history of the clan and the community. Of special importance is the clan’s drum (omubala) which is sounded to mark the theme of the occasion.

Key celebrants 
The chief celebrant at the naming is the clan elder, usually the head of the family or kinship circle. His role is that of traditional chief priest. He is the link between the departed, the living and those not born who are still in the loins of their parents. He interprets the environment where the ceremony is going to take place. He offers libation and sacrifices to appease ancestors not to harm people but instead protect them. He supervises the rituals which are central to the ceremony. He blesses whatever takes place that day. He is assisted in this role by grandparents of the children, particularly the grandmothers. The clan elder and the grandparents are considered to be the custodians of wisdom. For this reason, they are present to guide the young through this process and to ensure that the rituals are performed in accordance with the traditional norms of society.

Another key figure in the rituals is the mujjwa. This person is the son or daughter of a man’s married aunt or sister. The mujjwa belongs to his father’s clan, and not to the clan of his or her maternal uncle. The mujjwa therefore represents the “external” wing of the family, while his uncle’s sons and daughters belong to the “internal” wing of the family. The mujjwa is by custom always considered a child (zoboota) by his/her uncle’s side regardless of his/her age or status. The role of the mujjwa role in respect of child-naming is that of a traditional priest who sweeps away all that is considered impure or unwanted or unbecoming. He thus cleans his uncle’s home of any abominations, curses, magic, witchcraft, sorcery, misfortune, sickness, and all manner of evil prior to the ceremony. He therefore brings purity, good fortune, prosperity and blessing to the home of his/her maternal relatives. It is his/her duty to give his clearance for the rituals to go ahead once he/she has done the cleansing. As a custom, the mujjwa is entitled to a high fee for his/her services. His/her maternal relatives make sure that their mujjwa is satisfied and comfortable. Any grumbling by the mujjwa about poor pay is to be avoided as it is a bad omen; and his maternal relatives make sure they pay him/her handsomely for wiping away the dirt which would otherwise make the ceremony imperfect and unholy.

The ritual banquet 
When the feast is ready, the main celebrant leads the songs of the twins, and asks the children’s paternal grandmothers to prepare the children’s mothers for the on-coming rituals. The mothers adorn themselves in special bark cloths and sit in a line with their children on a big bark cloth in the porch or on veranda. They sit with their legs stretched out. Each of the mothers has with her the child’s dried umbilical cord. It is customary to place a girl’s umbilical cord on her left, while that of the boy is put on her right. Until their acceptance and confirmation by the clan, these children are regarded as outsider and, because of this, their mothers, too, are considered outsiders.

Then, the ritual meal and drinks are served. The children’s paternal grandmothers and aunts serve this meal. The food and drinks are placed in front of the clan elder before they are served. The clan elder blesses the food and drinks, and offers prayers to the family’s spirits and ancestors for the smooth running of the rituals by dedicating the banquet and the benefits therein to the departed, the living, and those who are not yet born but are in the loins of their parents. After this, he allows the meal to be served. He and fathers of the children are served inside the house together with relatives, friends and neighbours. Part of the meal (ekitole ky’emmere) is given to the children’s mothers, grandmothers, children and other relatives who are seated in the porch or on the veranda. This food is served to them while they are still seated on the aforesaid bark cloth.
Part of the food is put aside for a subsequent ritual.

Establishing ownership of the children in the clan
After the ritual meal, the paternal grandmothers ask the children’s mothers to bring forward children of both sexes with the dried umbilical cords which they had kept with care after the birth of the children. Next, the grandmothers smear the umbilical cords with cow butter and clearly mark them so that their ownership as per child would not be disputed.

A dry sprat is also clearly marked for each of the children.

After this, the grandmothers drop the umbilical cords into a basket, which contains sprats, water, milk and beer. If the child’s umbilical cord floats, the clan elder or main celebrant accepts the child as legitimate, and there is much jubilation because this is an indication that the child belongs to the clan; but if the cord sinks, the child to whom it belongs is considered born in adultery and disowned. The mother concerned is in big trouble. She is put to task to name the father of the child.

This ritual has great significant and meaning to the children and their mothers. After this ritual, the child has received official acceptance, confirmation and recognition as indeed a child of the family and clan. The child has now deep roots and an identity. The mother of such a child is given recognition and great honour and respect as a mother and faithful wife within the family and clan. She is highly relieved from the state of having a child whose ownership was in suspense and doubt. In Buganda, a child who has no clan is a great stigma to the mother.

The sprat belonging to each child is carefully preserved and kept during the lifetime of the child until that moment after death when, at the last funeral rites, it will be thrown into the fire and burned to ashes.

The umbilical cords are kept by the grandmothers until they are ritually buried later in the day.
The liquid in the basket that was used in the child-confirmation ritual is kept until it is used for the bathing ritual.

All these actions are supervised by the clan elder with the assistance of the grandparents….

Kwa hivyo, kwasababu ni muhimu kuuliza tena na tena. Who among us carry the sage secrets of loving?

[read more at http://www.njovu.org/home.htm]

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[ To the ‘Godfather’ of the KuchuLGBT movement in Uganda with infinite gratitude, kama sharing ni caring, then wot wealth we got to harvest in reclaiming indigenous ideas about mapacha?]

Background

The Njovu Clan is one of the 56 recognised clans of Buganda. Therefore, its traditions, customs and norms are not different from those of other clans. They are part and parcel of the culture and heritage of the Baganda people. The Clan has no culture peculiar to itself.

It must be pointed out that these traditions and customs exist in a traditional religious environment. They have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries, and they have become part and parcel of people’s lives. For this reason, the Baganda have been described as being notoriously religious…..

The birth of twins

The birth of twins in the family is regarded as a great blessing to that jamii. It is a wish that almost every woman entertains. It is an honour for a woman in Buganda to be called Nnalongo (mother of twins).
The additional child was not looked at as burden or challenge in the past. This is because the Baganda had a settled life and did not have to roam around with their families in harsh conditions. This situation still obtains today.
However, the birth of twins was and is still seen as an event out of the ordinary. Therefore, twins were and are still treated with fear and special care and respect. Children of such births were and are still believed to have special powers. There is still a belief that twins bring blessings to the family and community, but can be nasty and dangerous if not treated well.
Many beliefs, taboos, rituals and ceremonies are associated with twins. People fear them; and this fear is associated with the unusualness of their birth.

After birth 
On the birth of twins, special names are immediately given to the twins, their parents, and the children in the traditional family who come either before or after the twins. The twins are named: Wasswa or Babirye or Kato or Nakato, depending on their sex. The father is named Ssalongo, and the mother Nnalongo. The child who precedes the twins is named Kigongo. Children born in the extended family after the birth of twins are also given special names, as it will be seen later.

These special names become permanent identities for everyone concerned, but they are not clan names. The names given to the parents accord them special honour and respect and enhance their status in society.

Ssalongo (the father of the twins) has an obligation to deliver the news of the birth of twins in person to his parents and to the parents of his wife. Two things happen here:
1) Ssalongo is given a surrogate Ssalongo (Ssalongo omukulu=the ritual Ssalongo) from his family; and from the family of Nnalongo he gets a surrogate Nnalongo (Nnalongo omukulu=the ritual Nnalongo); and
2) all contact, between Ssalongo and his parents and between Nnalongo and her parents, is cut off until after the ceremony that is held for celebrating the birth of the twins. This ceremony is the equivalent to the naming ceremony for ordinary children, though the rituals involved are somehow different.

The surrogates play critical roles in the rituals associated with the twins. These two persons are minors. The significance of this is that the rituals in which they are going to participate are sacred; these persons need therefore to be people who are holy or at least people who have not yet engaged in sexual activity. Apart from acting as surrogates, and still innocent, they should be the natural people to care for the twins who are considered to be holy.

A variety of intricate and complex taboos, rituals, and ceremonies accompany the birth of twins. The rituals and ceremonies are intended to: put an end to the period of taboos which begun with the birth of the children; ensure the safety of the twins and that of the family; and establish the twins’ legitimacy as complete members of the clan and of society at large.
The rituals and ceremonies slightly differ in families. It is the responsibility of Ssalongo’s father, the grandfather of the twins, to make arrangements for the performance of the rituals and ceremonies in accordance with his family’s norms. However, characteristically, there are big ceremonies and festivals to mark the birth of twins.

There is, however, one big ceremony for celebrating the birth of twins (okumala abalongo; entujjo y’abalongo) which seems to be common. This ceremony is characterised by a lot of rejoicing, feasting and general merrymaking not only by the relatives concerned, but by also the surrounding community.

On the vigil of the appointed day for the ceremony, Ssalongo’s family, led by a clan elder, performs the child-confirmation and naming ceremony for the family’s children who have not yet undergone that ceremony.

On the appointed day, Nnalongo’s mother and her relatives prepare a one pulp of cooked matooke. Ssalongo’s side does the same. At the agreed hour, both Ssalongo and his relatives and Nnalongo’s people gather in the main house of Ssalongo’s father to share a common meal. The two separate pulps of food (emiwumbo gy’emmere) are meshed into one pulp.

Then, Nnalongo’s mother picks a morsel of this food and hands it directly to Ssalongo, her son-in-law (Maama wa Nnalongo akoleza mutabani we, Ssalongo, bba wa Nnalongo, ekitole ky’emmere n’akimukwaasa mu ngalo butereevu ye kennyini). Ssalongo’s father also picks a morsel of food and hands it directly to Nnalongo, his daughter-in-law. Relatives from both sides do the same to each other. As this is going on, omujjwa comes and steps in the food and carries away. This is followed by a ritual dance, similar to a bump dance, in which Nnalongo’s mother and Ssalongo dance together and Ssalongo’s father and Nnalongo do the same. The pinnacle of this dance is the coming into contact, through bumping, of Ssalongo’s rear and his mother-in-law’s rear and Nnalongo’s rear with her father-in-law’s rear. The relatives from both sides also engage in this bump dance.

This ceremony has special significance and meaning. The meshing of the two separate pulps of matooke into one big pulp which is shared by all present is a sign of unity and communion between the twins’ paternal and maternal families. It is also the meeting place of the dead, the living, and those not yet born but are in the loins of their parents.

Communication, cut off immediately after the birth of the twins, is re-established. The ceremony puts an end to the period of taboos which begun with the birth of the twins. It also ends for good all the sexual marriage taboos which are common with other people who are not parents of twins. Henceforth, there is no longer avoidance and the in-laws from the families affected by the birth of twins can meet and talk freely to each other (obuko buweddewo).

The action of the mujjwa of spoiling the food symbolises the wiping away of any evils and problems that would otherwise normally have resulted from breaking sexual and marriage taboos.
After the big celebrations (entujjo), the twins’ umbilical cords are not buried as it is the custom with normal children. Instead, they are firmly tied and made into a beautifully decorated necklace which is kept and adorned by Ssalongo at ceremonies and festivals of his household or of the traditional family……..
  
Modern Changes

A lot of changes have occurred to the way twins are treated in modern times. These changes have occurred as a result partly because of the spread of foreign universal religions, partly because of intermarriages, but mainly because of changed outlook and new lifestyles in urban settings.
Some parents have abandoned the twin culture as a result of the various intricate and quite complex activities accompanying the ceremonies and rituals. The activities are considered as wasteful and hard to fulfil; and this has forced them to opt for the less complicated and less expensive church services. In many cases, it is economic hardship which has probably forced people to abandon these customs.

However, the aura surrounding the twins still exists in the minds of many parents and their relatives. It is believed that twins should not be mistreated since many taboos are attached to them.
The special naming of close relatives of twins continues, but the naming in modern times is increasingly becoming restricted to the household of the twins’ parents. This is because of western education and influence where the family means only the small unit of husband, wife and children (if any). This is in sharp contrast to the traditional view of the wider or, in western eyes, the extended family which includes brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, etc. Under western education and influence, members of the traditional family are more or less regarded as outsiders.
In these cyber days, the Ssalongo informs both his parents and the parents of Nnalongo by telephone (sms). He therefore does not engage in certain rituals which were mandatory in the past. If at all his household is ready to get involved in traditional rituals pertaining to the twins, he asks for the surrogates on telephone (by sms again).

Whereas it was a strict requirement in the past that the surrogates be children who have not engaged in sexual activity, these days the surrogates are mature persons, often people who already have children, thus destroying the sense of sanctity that, in the past, was associated with the birth of twins.
Whereas in the past all channels of communication were cut off between Ssalongo and Nnalongo and their parents until they engaged in the ceremony celebrating the birth of twins, nowadays this is no longer the case. They meet freely and exchange ideas.

Some of the intricate and complex taboos, rituals, and ceremonies accompanying the birth of twins are dying out. Except in very remote communities, it is no longer possible for Ssalongo to drum for a whole month day and night. Also, gone are the days of wild rejoicing and feasting during which lewd songs were sung and irresponsible acts, including free sex, were committed.


In some families, the umbilical cords are not bundled and decorated. Neither does many a Ssalongo find the time to wear the umbilical cords as required by tradition.

Some non-Baganda wives dislike engaging in Kiganda traditional practices pertaining to twins, even although they very much love to be called Nnalongo.

However, some families nowadays combine the traditional and the modern under modified form. In some Christian families, the twin babies are baptised and then a small party for celebrating their birth is held at home.
These days, the tendency in many modern families is to treat twins as normal as any other children. These people do not see any reason to fear twins or regard them as having more power than other people………

Reblogged from http://www.njovu.org/traditions_customs.htm

There’s a story I know bout how the spaces between de diaspora en Mama Afrika are bridged all de time by hadithi.

The hadithi we tell ourselves and others, they’re all we know…….few hours to a year filled with changing faces (in ever mo) quickly evolving spaces (lakini bado pole pole ndio mwendo) en I share with you a hadithi that was given to me in neo-colonial Afrikan style, a story I shared with others for the first time at a vigil last year in Tdot.

Dis story blessed by the elders, pulled from the internet, (but true say transcribed from the mouths of great granmas en griots) and approved with words of caution & mystery still.

A Muganda will never betray the secret of his, hir or her friend.

reminds me of the beginning of that powerful poem by Mukoma wa Ngugi. Recipe: How to become an immigrant and an exile.

Listen. Do you hear ghosts? Connect them to the sound of a canoe
on Indian Ocean. Listen to that tape of familiar beats that has weathered
foreign seasons. Sukus found in Salsa. Fela Kuti meets Masekela
in Appalachia. Do not inhale the coal fumes. Hold a memory……

Remember that hadithi? Listen..

THE STORY OF THE FAIRY FOXES

Hapo zamani za kale there was a King of Uganda who wanted to make a Zoo, and he called all his chiefs together and told them to bring animals of every kind from the forests and jungles and swamps

Then he planted a beautiful garden and put cages into it, and people came from all over the country to see it. But the animals were very miserable; night and day they thought of their homes, and they hated having food brought to them instead of hunting for it themselves, and they hated having water brought to them in water-pots instead of drinking it from the deep forest pools, but no one was sorry for them except the King’s dwarf, and he had lived in the jungle and knew their language.

One day when the King was walking in his Zoo and the dwarf was with him, he said:

“Am I not a great King? No one has ever made a Zoo like this before, in which all the animals of the country are collected together.” But the dwarf said:

“All the animals are not here; there is one animal which lives in the Mukono Forest which no chief has brought, because, though it cries all night and everyone hears it, no man has ever seen it. Some people say it is a bat, and some say it is a sloth, and some say it is a fairy fox with wings made of the night mists.”

When the King heard this he said:

“I will not be beaten by any animal; I will go to Mukono and fetch this fairy animal myself.” So he sent for Sekibobo the chief and told him to build a big encampment near the forest, and the men worked night and day till it was finished. Then the King and his whole court went to Mukono.

For three months the King lived in the encampment, and every night he went into the forest, but though he heard the fairy foxes crying all round him he never saw one. Sometimes the sound came from above his head, but there was nothing there; and sometimes it came from the ground at his feet, but there was nothing there; and sometimes to the right hand and sometimes to the left, but nothing was there; and the people called them “enjoga,” which means “bullies,” because they teased the King every night.

At last the time came to return to the capital, and the King sat sadly in his house, and the dwarf sat near him and said:

“Why is the King so sad?” And the King answered:

“I am sorry I have no fairy fox for my Zoo, but there is another reason. I have learnt to love the beautiful forests and jungles and the deep glades and shady paths and water pools, and the moonlight nights are never so lovely in the capital as they are in the country, and I am sad that I must leave it all and return.”

Then the dwarf said: “If you are so sad at leaving the country after only three months, how much more sad must the animals be, for this is their home, and in your wonderful Zoo they are only prisoners.”

#To David with Love

When the King heard that he was thoughtful and silent for some time, and then he called Sekibobo and said: “Send a messenger quickly to the capital and tell the Katikiro that all the animals in the Zoo are to be sent home, everyone to his own forest or jungle or swamp.” “I will have no more prisoners,” he said.

And now there is a broad road which goes from Kampala to Jinja and passes quite near to the Mukono Forest, and if you go there you will hear the “enjoga “crying in the forest all night, but no one has ever seen them. Some people say they are bats, and some say they are sloths, and some say they are fairy foxes with wings made of the night mists.

reposted from http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/baskerville/king/king.html, via the healing orality of  Afrika.

[C novim Godom! Jana, bringing in new years – russian orthodox style, we share(d) hadithi that we heard from our elders, captivating us till (someting like) jouvay morning. Spoiler alert: de beginning of dis story is in de previous post, leo ni leo is de end of dis firendege, de horse of power, and Princess Vasilissa hadithi.

Jana, De young archer brought Vasilissa back to de Tzar, en when she woke, she asked bout de her boat en de music, en looked pon de young archer…..]

De Tzar was angry with de Princess Vasilissa, but his anger was as useless as his joy.

“Why, Princess,” says he, “will you not marry me, en forget your blue sea en your silver boat?”

“In de middle of de deep blue sea lies a great stone,” says de Princess, “en under that mawe (stone) is hidden my wedding dress. If I cannot wear that dress I will marry nobody at all.”

Instantly de young Tzar turned to de young archer, who was waiting before de throne.

“Ride swiftly back,” says he, “to de land of Never, where de red sun rises in flame. There- do you hear wot de Princess says?- a great mawe lies in de middle of de sea. Ride swiftly. Bring back that dress, or, by my sword, your head shall no longer sit on your shoulders!”

De young archer wept bitter tears, en went out into de courtyard where de horse was waiting for him, champing its golden bit.

“There is no way of escaping death dis time,” he said

“Master, why do you weep?” asked de farasi of powah.

“The Tzar has ordered me to ride to de land of Never, to fetch de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa from de bottom of de deep blue sea. Besides, de dress is wanted for de Tzar’s wedding, en I love de Princess myself.”

“What did I tell you?” says de farasi of powah “I told you that there would be trouble if you picked up that golden feather from de benu’s burning breast. Well, do not be afraid. The trouble is not yet, de trouble is to come. Up! Into de saddle with you, en away for de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa!”

De young archer leaped into de saddle, en de farasi of powah, with his thundering hoofs, carried him swiftly through de green msitus en over de bare plains, till they came to de edge of de dunia, to de land of Never, where de red jua rises in flame from behind de deep blue sea. There they rested, at de very edge of de sea.

De young archer looked sadly over de wide wotas, but de farasi of powah tossed its mane en did not look at de sea, but on de shore. This way en that it looked, en saw at last a huge lobster moving slowly, sideways, along de golden sand.

Nearer en nearer came de lobster, en it was a giant among lobsters, en it moved slowly along the shore, while de farasi moved carefully en as if by accident, until it stood between de lobster en de sea. Then when de lobster came close by, de farasi of powah lifted an iron hoof en set it firmly on de lobster’s tail.

“You will be de death of me!” screamed de lobster-as well he might, with de heavy foot of de farasi of powah pressing his tail into de sand. “Let me live, en I will do whatever you ask of me.”

“Very well,” says farasi of powah, “we will let you live,” en he slowly lifted his foot. “But this is wot you shall do for us. In de middle of de blue sea lies a great stone, en under that mawe is hidden de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa. Bring it here.”

De lobster groaned with de pain in his tail. Then he cried out in a voice that could be heard all over de deep blue sea. And de sea was disturbed, en from all sides lobsters in thousands made their way to de bank. And de huge lobster that was de oldest of them all en de tzar of all de lobsters that live between de rising en de setting of de sun, gave them de order en sent them back into de sea. And de young archer sat on de farasi of powah en waited.

After a lil time de sea was disturbed again, en de lobsters in their thousands came to de shore, en with them they brought a golden casket in which was de wedding dress of de Princess Vasilissa. They had taken it from under de great mawe that lay in de middle of de sea.

De tzar of all de lobsters raised himself painfully on his bruised tail en gave de casket into de hands of de young archer, en instantly de farasi of powah turned himself about en galloped back to de palace of de Tzar, far, far away, at de other side of de green msitus en beyond de savannas.

De young archer went into de palace en gave de casket into de hands of de Princess, en looked at her with sadness in his eyes, en she looked at him with love. Then she went away into an inner chamber, en came back in her wedding dress, mo refreshing than spring itself. Great was de joy of Tzar. De wedding feast was made ready, en de bells rang, en de flags waved above de palace.

De Tzar held out his hand to de Princess, en looked at her with his old eyes. But she would not take his hand.

“No,” says she, “I will marry nobody until de man who brought me here has done penance with boiling wota.”

Instantly de Tzar turned to his servants en ordered them to make a great fiya, en to fill a great cauldron with maji en set it on de fiya and, when de maji should be at its hottest, to take de young archer en throw him into it, to do penance for having taken de Princess Vasilissa away from de land of Never.

There was no gratitude on de mind of that Tzar.

Swiftly de servants brought wood en made a mighty fiya, en on it they laid a huge cauldron of maji, en built de moto round de walls of de cauldron. De moto burned hot, en de maji steamed. De fiya burned hotter, en de maji bubbled en seethed. They made ready to take de young archer, to throw him into de cauldron.

“Oh, misery!” thought de young archer. “Why did I ever take de golden unyoya that had fallen from de firendege’s burning breast? Why did I not listen to de wise words of de farasi of powah?” And he remembered de farasi of powah, en he begged de Tzar:

“O lord Tzar, I do not complain. I shall presently die in de heat of de maji on fiya. Suffer me, before I die, once more to see my farasi.”

“Let him see his farasi,” says de Princess.

“Very well,” says de Tzar. “Say good-bye to your horse, for you will not ride him again. But let your farewells be short, for we are waiting.”

De young archer crossed de courtyard en came to de farasi of powah, who was scraping de ground with his iron hoofs.
“Farewell, my farasi of powah,” says de young archer. “I should have listened to your words of wisdom, for now de end is come, en we shall never more see de green miti pass above us en de ground disappear beneath us, as we race de wind between de dunia en de sky.”

“Why so?” says de farasi of powah.

“De tzar has ordered that I yam to be boiled to death-thrown into that cauldron that is seething on de great fiya.”

“Fear not,” says de farasi of powah, “for de Princess Vasilissa has made him do this, en de end of these tings is better than I thought. Go back, en when they are ready to throw you into de cauldron, do you run boldly en leap yourself into de boiling wota.”

De young archer went back across de courtyard, en de servants made ready to throw him into de cauldron.

“Are you sure that de maji is boiling?” says de Princess Vasilissa.

“It bubbles en seethes,” said de servants.

“Let me see for myself,” says de Princess, en she went to de moto en waved her hand above de cauldron. And some say there was someting in her hand, en some say there was not.

“It is boiling,” says she, en de servants laid hands on de young archer; but he threw them from him, en ran en leaped boldly before them all into de very middle of de cauldron.

Twice he sank below de surface, borne round with bubbles en foam of de boiling wota. Then he leaped from de cauldron en stood before de Tzar en de Princess. He had become so beautiful a youth that all who saw cried aloud in wonder.

“This is a miracle,” says de Tzar. And de Tzar looked at de beautiful young archer, en thought of himself- of his age, of his bent back, en his gray beard, en his toothless gums. “I too will become beautiful,” thinks he, en he rose from his throne en clambered into de cauldron, en was boiled to death in a moment.

And de end of de hadithi? They buried de Tzar, en made de young archer Tzar in his place. He married de Princess Vasilissa, en lived many years with her in love en good fellowship. And he built a golden stable for de farasi of powah, en neva forgot what he owed to him.

[multilayered readings of Black Russians in revised excerpts from p. 414-422, Best Loved Folktales of The World – selected  by Joanna Cole]

Hapo zamani za kale a strong en powerful Tzar ruled in a country far away. And among his servants was a young archer, en dis archer had a farasi – a horse of powah – such a farasi as belonged to de wonderfull men of long ago – a great farasi with a broad chest, eyes like fiya, en hoofs of iron. There are no such horses nowadays. They sleep with de strong wanaume who rode them, de bogatirs, until de time comes when Russia has need of them. Then de great horses will thunder up from under de ground, en de valiant wanaume leap from de graves in armor they have worn so long. The strong wanaume will sit those farasi-s of powah, en there will be swinging of clubs en thunder of hoofs, en de dunia will be swept clean from de enemies of God en de Tzar.

“So my gran-father used to say, en he was much older than I as I am older than you”, I give thanks for hekima na ustadi wa hadithi za great-dedushka in de spaces between celebrating community en radical healing rituals, “eto vot takyii ckazki moi dedushka ckazal, lil’ one(s) on bil ochin staryiii…za shto (so) he should know”

Well one day zamani za kale, in de green time of de mwaka, de young archer rode through de msitu on his farasi of powah. The miti were green, there were lil blue maua on de ground under de miti, de squirrels ran in de branches, en de sunguras in de undergrowth; but no ndeges sang. De young archer rode along de msitu path en listened for de singing of dege, but there was no singing. The msitu was silent, en de only noises in it were de scratching of four-footed animals, de dropping of fir cones, en de heavy stamping of de farasi of powah in de soft path.

“What has come to the ndeges?” said de young archer.

He had scarcely said this before he saw a big curving unyoya (feather) lying in de path before him. De unyoya was larger than a swan’s, larger than an eagle’s. It lay in de path, glittering like a flame; for de jua was on it, en it was a unyoya of pure gold. Then he knew why there was no singing in de msitu. For he knew that the fire bird (aka. Benu) had flown that way, and that de unyoya in de path before him was a unyoya from its burning breast.

De farasi of powah spoke en said:

“Leave de golden feather where it lies. If you take it you will be sorry for it, en know de meaning of fear.”

But de brave young archer sat on de farasi of powah en looked at de golden unyoya, en wondered whether to take it or not. He had no wish to learn what it was to be afraid, but he thought, “If I take it en bring it to de Tzar my master, he will be pleased; en he will not send me away with empty hands, for no tzar in de dunia akona unyoya kutoka the burning breast of de benu.”

And the more he thought, the more he wanted to carry de unyoya to de Tzar.  And in de end he did not listen to de words of de horse of powah. He leaped from de saddle, picked up de golden unyoya of de benu, mounted his horse again, en galloped back through de green forest till he came to the palace of the Tzar.

He went into de palace, en bowed before de Tzar en said:

“O Tzar, I have brought you a feather of de benu.”

De Tzar looked gladly at de unyoya, en then at de young archer.

“Thank you,” says he; “but if you have brought me de feather of de firebird, you will be able to bring me de bird itself. I should like to see it. A feather is not a fit gift to bring to de Tzar. Bring de bird itself, or, I swear by my sword, your head shall no longer sit between your shoulders!”

De young archer bowed his head en went out. Bitterly he wept, for he knew now what it was to be afraid. He went out into de courtyard, where de farasi of powah was waiting for him, tossing its head en stamping on de ground.

“Master,” says de horse of powah, “why do you weep?”

“De Tzar told me to bring him de benu, en no man on earth can do that,” says de young archer, en he bowed his head on his breast.

“I told you,” says de farasi of powah, “that if you took de unyoya you would learn de meaning of fear. Well, do not be frightened yet, en do not weep. De trouble is not now; de trouble lies before you. Go to de Tzar en ask him to have a hundred sacks of maize scattered over de open field, en let this be done at midnight.”

De young archer went back into de palace en begged de Tzar for this, en de Tzar ordered that at midnight a hundred sacks of maize should be scattered in de open field.

Next morning, at de first redness in de sky, de young archer rode out on de horse of powah, en came to de open field. De ground was scattered all over with maize. In de middle of de field stood a great oak with spreading boughs. De young archer leaped to de ground, took off de saddle, en let de horse of powah loose to wander as he pleased about de field. Then he climbed up into de oak en hid himself among de green boughs.

De sky grew red en gold, en de sun rose. Suddenly there was a noise in de msitu round de field. De trees shook en swayed, en almost fell. There was a mighty wind. De sea piled itself into waves with crests of foam, en de firebird came flying from de other side of de world. Huge en golden en flaming in de sun, it flew, dropped down with open wings into de field, en began to eat de maize.

De farasi of powah wandered in de field. This way he went, en that, but always he came a lil nearer to de benu. Nearer en nearer came de farasi, en then suddenly stepped on one of its spreading fiery mabawa en pressed it heavily to de ground. De dege struggled, flapping mightily with its fiery wings but it could not get away. The young archer slipped down from de tree, bound de benu with 3 strong ropes, swung it on his back, saddled de farasi, en rode to de palace of de Tzar.

De young archer stood before de Tzar, en his back was bent under de great weight of de benu, en de broad wings of de dege hung on either side of him like fiery shields, en there was a trail of golden feathers on de floor. De young archer swung de magic dege to de foot of de throne before de Tzar; en de Tzar was glad, because since de beginning of de dunia no tzar had seen de benu flung before him like a wild bata (duck) caught in a snare.

The Tzar looked at de benu en laughed with pride. Then he lifted his eyes en looked at de young archer, en says he:

“As you have known how to take de benu, you will know how to bring me my bride, for whom I have long been waiting. In de land of Never, on de very edge of de dunia, where de red sun rises in flame from  behind de sea, lives de Princess Vasilissa. I will marry none but her. Bring her to me, en I will reward you with silver en gold. But if you do not bring her, then, by my sword, your head will no longer sit between your shoulders!”

De young archer wept bitter tears, en went out into de courtyard where de farasi of powah was…..en like before  de farasi counselled him en said, “Do not weep-do not grieve. De trouble is not yet; de trouble is to come. Go to de Tzar en ask him for a silver tent with a golden roof, en for all de kinds of food en drink to take with us on de journey.”

De young archer went in en asked de Tzar for this, en the Tzar gave him a tent with silver hangings en a gold-embroidered roof, en every kind of rich wine en de tastiest of foods.

Then de young archer mounted de horse of powah en rode off to to de land of Never. On en on he rode, many days en nights, en came at last to de edge of de dunia, where de red sun rises in flame from  behind de deep blue sea.

On de shore of de sea de young archer reined in de farasi of powah, en de heavy hoofs of de farasi sank in de sand. He shaded his eyes en looked out over de blue maji, en there was de Princess Vasilissa in a lil silver boat, rowing with golden oars

The young archer rode back a lil way to where de sand ended en de green world began. There he loosed de farasi to wander where he pleased, en to feed on de green grass. There on de edge of de shore where de green grass ended en grew thin en de sand began, he set up de shining tent, with its silver hangings en its gold embroidered roof. In de tent he set out de tasty dishes en de rich flagons of wine which de Tzar had given him, en he sat himself down in de tent en began to regale himself, while he waited for de Princess Vasilissa.

Vasilissa dipped her golden oars in de blue maji, en de lil silver boat moved lightly throught de dancing waves. She sat in de lil boat en looked over de blue sea to de edge of de dunia, en there, between de golden sand en de green earth, she saw de tent standing, silver en gold in de sun. She dipped her oars, en came nearer to see it better. The nearer she came the fairer seemed de tent en at last she rowed to de shore en grounded her lil boat on de golden sand, en stepped out daintily en came up to de tent. She was a lil frightened, en now en again she stopped en looked back to where de silver boat lay on de sand with def blue sea beyond it. De young archer said not a word, but went on regaling himself on de pleasant dishes he had set out there in de tent.

At last de Princess Vasilissa came up to de tent en looked in.

De young archer rose en bowed before her. Says he:

“Good day to you, Princess! Be so kind as to come in en take bread en salt with me, en taste my foreign wines.”

And de Princess Vasilissa came into de tent en sat with de young archer, en ate sweetmeats with him, en drank his health in a goblet of de wine de Tzar had given him. Now dis wine was heavy, en de last drop from de goblet had no sooner trickled down her throat than her eyes closed against her will, once, twice, en again.

“Ah me!” says de Princess, “it is as if night itself had perched on mi eyelids, en yet is but noon.”

And de golden goblet dropped to de ground from her lil fingers, en she leaned back on a cushion en fell instantly asleep. If she had been beautiful before, she was lovelier still when she lay in that deep sleep in de shadow of de tent.

Quickly de young archer called to de farasi of powah. Lightly he lifted de Princess in his strong young arms. Swiftly he leaped with her into de saddle. Like a feather she lay in de hollow of his left arm, en slept while de iron hoofs of de great horse thundered over de ground

They came to de Tzar’s palace, en de young archer leaped from de farasi of powah en carried de Princess into de palace. Great was de joy of de Tzar; but it did not last for long.


“Go, sound de trumpets for our wedding,” he said to his servants, “let all de bells be rung.”

De bells rang out en de trumpet sounded, en at de noise of de horns en de ringing of de bells de Princess Vasilissa woke up en looked about her.

“What is de ringing of de bells,” says she, “en dis noise of trumpets? And where, oh, where is de blue sea, en my lil silver boat with its golden oars?” and de Princess put her hand to her eyes.

But de Princess turned her face away from de Tzar; en there was no wonder in that, for he was old, en his eyes were not kind.“The blue sea is far away, says de Tzar, “en for your silver boat I give you a golden throne. De trumpets sound for our wedding, en de bells are ringing for our joy.”

And she looked with love at de young archer; en there was no wonder in that either, for he was a young man fit to ride de farasi of powah….

to be continued….

Paukwa! Pakawa! Hadithi? Hadithi? If diasporic encounters indigenus narratives ni kama vile mwezi wapasua wingu, wachimbuka, waleta anga, basi ni ukweli – si mpya…
Kwa hivyo leo, tutaendelea kusimulia hizi hadithi za kale, kutoka kitabu ya Tobe Melora Correal – Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa
SEHEMU YA PILI: PART TWO

SHAMBA YA MSAMBWA: GARDEN OF DE SPIRITS

…To get to de soul of Orisa, we begin wid de egun, de wahenga, ancestors.  [Not only,] De Yoruba [abanyore, bukusu, chokwe, Dagara, kikuyu, luo, shona, na swahili] believe that de spirits of our wahenga walk among us. Having shed physical form, they continue to function on Earth as powahful forces that bring healing en good to de living. De Yoruba [en other spiritual traditions] also believe that de living give longevity to de dead. We keep them alive

through our memories of them, en their energies en energetic imprints on our souls shape who we are and how we live our lives. The living en de dead are inextricably woven together in a sacred tapestry of interrelatedness. We exist in different places on de same continuum. We belong to a single hadithi….

Orisa teachings say that de nearest resolution to any problem resides with de spirits of your bloodline…Any elder you choose to learn from will start you on de path of Orisa by first making sure your feet are firmly planted in de soil of de wahenga. Working in de ancestral shamba will become fundamental to your daily maisha en will provide de foundashun upon which you learn to breathe with God.

In order to know de deities, you must first know yourself, which involves knowing intimately en paying homage to your roots, your origins, de egun.

Cultivating a soulful connecshun with wahenga requires our full commitment, focused attention, hard work, en consistent care. As we do  de daily, often heart-wrenching en back-breaking kazi (work) of turning over, seeding, weeding en tending de ancestral shamba, de

rhythms of our lives start to badilika (change). When we learn to share our existence with a palpable en wise spiritual presence, our relationship with de wahenga becomes a sheltering arm that protects us when we are vulnerable, embraces us when we are lonely; en carries us when we are too weak to walk alone.

Gradually we learn how to give our plot de right balance of mwangaza na maji (light en wota) en how to protect it from de spiritual predators of fear and soulless ritual. We develop de ability to work gently through difficult feelings about those wahenga whose actions when alive caused harm to us or our loved ones. We (re)discover spiritual resources for tending to de unmourned losses en unhealed rages within our family histories, those tangled vines that live alongside de succulent vegetation in all lineages. With kazi en time, we find ourselves in an abundant shamba overflowing wid sweet fruit to sustain us on our journeys en strengthened by de vital roots out of which our existence has sprung.

mlango kwa akina baba, mama na watoto wa Afreeka

It takes years to grow a lush ancestral shamba, to discover which fruits grow well beside which vegetables, which rituals en practices will strengthen your bond with de wahenga. It takes continual practice to discern which parts of your plot are loamy, sandy, clay en rocky en  how best to enrich each. You’ll need certain tools, materials, en basic informashun.

I share these werds with you, as one of mi elders gave me dis kitabu, as I sit at the knees of wazee wenye busara sharing ukweli na ustadi, as de elder that wrote dis book, Mama Tobe Melora Correal, was given dis knowledge en wisdom by her elders, en as she (en we) learned to work with them in caring for her (en our) own shamba ya msambwa (garden of the spirits). Make them your own en work with them as your moyo (heart) tells you. Ase….

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo….

Kuna hadithi najua bout vile dis dunia inafloat in space on de mgongo wa kobe, na kila mara mtu husimulia hii hadithi inabadilika, sometime’s de change is in de voice of de storyteller, but in all the tellings, dis dunia neva leaves de kobe’s back.

Paukwa! Pakawa!

I remember so many stories starting wid one of de sacred orders of pan-africanism, Kenyan style!

Sometings were jus’ like dat, (whether ulikuwa ocha, mjini, pwani au mlima za Elgon na Kilimanjaro), sometings we understood, were indigenus to de land, en stayed on de continent, within our tribes en clans, slums en bourgeoise hubs, the spaces between our ‘school’ & ‘holy’ days, tribes of neo-colonial patterns.

Hii hadithi is about growing up in de arteries of Nairobi – (Matatu) Route 44 & 45; surrounded by de hoods of Baba Dogo, Kariobangi, Zimmerman, Githurai, Mathare, en de lavishness of Garden Estate, Kiambu, Muthaiga,Runda, the army barracks…..

Na bado moyo wa Afreeka ni shambani kama mwezi wapasua wingu, wachimbuka, waleta anga……

bunge la mwananchi

kama ni ukweli, what is the right way nyumbani?

I give thanks for Tdot en dis renaissance groove we (been) in, nashukuru wahenga wa Kobe Island, for allowing me/we to walk pon dis land, nashukuru their guidance en protecshun. Nashukuru wahenga wangu ninaowajua, wale sijui, na wale wanaonijua deeper than I know myself, I give thanks munavyotubeba.  Wa Mungu uwazi na wewe, ubarikiwe.

….De concepts presented here are by no means inclusive. They are merely de ones that [I, and] Tobe Melora Correal, as a student of [dis Bukusu, Swahili en] Yoruba tradishun making her [our] own journeys toward deeper understanding, feel are some of de most important. They are also among de fundamental metaphysical ideas that inform de core practices en daily experiences of practitioners around de world.

In de Yoruba (Bukusu en kiSwahili) cosmos, there is one Supreme Being – the source, the Almighty Owner of de entire universe, God – whose work on dis galaxy is carried out  by one Creator, whose work on Earth is aided by 401 gods en goddesses. Both Source (Olorun/Were) en Creator (Olodumare/Gulu/Mungu) exist in de invisible realm (Ikole Orun), while de “helper” god/desse/s (the Orisa) exist as divine immortals on Earth (Ikole Aye).

De energies of Source flow into en join with de energies of de Creator, which combined flow through en join with de manifold energies of de Orisa, which then flow through all that exists in Creashun.

Chapter 1                            In de beginning…..

Yoruba (en Bukusu) divinity actually begins before de mwanzo, with Olorun, de Supreme Being en  Source of de entire universe. According to Yoruba teachings, Olorun is so profound an intelligence en mystery, such an intense force, that we can never fully understand what IT is or how IT organizes en runs de universe. Although often referred to by practitioners as Father and He, Olorun is neither male nor female. For de sake of simplicity en also because it feels comfortable for me personally, I often use de feminine pronoun when referring to Olorun.

Ukweli ni, Olorun is an infinitely divine force that is minimized by assigning it either/or/any gender. Indeed, Olorun’s composition en potency are beyond de capacity of de human body to experience consciously with our physical senses.

Although de Supreme Being is beyond our intellectual en physical grasp, Yoruba teachings maintain a fundamental oneness exists between God en creashun. For Yoruba en Bukusu practitioners, holiness resides within all tings of nature, both animate en inanimate. People who look at life through an either/or  lens may have trouble with de concept of every single ting being at one with an indefinable entity that we cannot touch, see, hear, smell, taste, or fully explain.

How, they might ask, can someting be so elusive at de same time so integral to who en what we are? If we can neva physically experience or even describe Olorun, how can we find oneness with God here on Earth? How can we human beings live spiritually connected to de Supreme Being? How can we breathe God’s breath in every moment?

[Not only] The Yoruba [en Bukusu] path follows a both/and  approach to living, which allows for en embraces all facets of any situation, even forces that appear to cancel out each other. Dis ability to see multiple sides of tings makes it possible for us to accept de idea that God is near us en far away. It enables us to acknowledge that although God is mo powahful than we can envision or articulate, God is in our breath, our blood, en every moment of our daily lives…….

For de Yoruba, Olodumare functions as the creative divine intelligence, birthing en sustaining all matter. S/he does so without error en allows only that which has met hir approval to manifest.

Olodumare, like Olorun, is often designated as male, but like Olorun, Olodumare also transcends gender. De tendency to refer to Olodumare en Olorun as male is de product of partriarchal thinking en cultural systems. Because Olodumare represents de sacred womb of Creashun – en because womben create new life through their wombs – I choose to use de feminine pronoun for dis hadithi.

Nonetheless, please remember that although feminizing de Creator is, in a basic sense, appropriate to dis hadithi, it is not metaphysically accurate. While Olodumare and Olorun encompass both feminine en masculine energies, neither is exclusively male or female.

Na pia, while it is entirely appropriate to refer to Olorun, Olodumare, and Orisa as God, Yoruba teachings are very clear that there is only one source, Olorun. Olodumare and Orisa perform functions as extensions of Olorun’s unchanging Essence. Their divine powahs derive from Olorun; without Hir they could not even exist….

It is precisely because Yoruba tradition recognizes de singular greatness of Olorun that de Orisa are so important to practitioners.  We acknowledge ourselves as de children of Orisa, who are de watoto of de Creator, who is the child of Source, de Supreme Being. We understand that all pouring of divine maji – from Olorun to Olodumare, through de Orisa, en into Creashun – has endowed all maisha with de sacredness of de One Source. We realize that de Orisa are immediately responsible for filling our dunia en each of us wid Olorun’s magic.

Because we know dis about de Orisa, we revere them and we thank them. We pay speciall attention to them through our rituals en shrines, in private en in community, because our relationship with Orisa keeps us mindful of de powah, beauty, en presence of Olodumare. In loving Orisa, we acknowledge the flow of Olorun’s essence running through our lives.

For de Yoruba (en other traditions), de more intimately we know Orisa, de more intimately we know God…ase….

[revised excerpts from one of mi favourite books, zawadi kutoka mama wangu wa tatu] Finding Soul on The Path of Orisa by Tobe Melora Correal. mama ubarikiwe.

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