MWINDO: EPIC MYTH OF AFRICA PART THREE

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this epic myth of the Nyanga people.

PART THREE

Nyanga mask

Nyanga mask

One day six of Chief Shemwindo’s seven wives gave birth. Their babies were female, thus saving the child from the villainous chief’s threat to kill any male child. Only the preferred wife remained pregnant and as her pregnancy dragged on she became the object of hushed whispers and ridicule from the Tubondo villagers.  

One morning the preferred wife woke up and was prepared to go fetch her firewood when she noticed an entire pile of it was already waiting for her inside her hut. She was puzzled by this but did not yet know that Mwindo -her unborn, semidivine male child – had slipped out through her vagina while she slept, gathered the firewood and climbed back into her uterus before she woke up.

Eventually Mwindo took to bringing his mother jars of drinking water and isusa vegetables while she slept, always completing his tasks and returning to her womb before daybreak. Once back inside the unborn child resumed debating with himself which body part he would be born through.

He did not want to be born like every other child through the vagina, nor did he want to be born through his mother’s mouth out of fear that people would say he had been “vomited out” like a bat’s children. (A reference to the mistaken ancient belief that bats vomited their young.) Mwindo could not decide on which other body part he wanted to emerge from.

Previously Balladeer’s Blog has dealt with the significance of mythical figures being born from other body parts of their mother and how such unusual births mark them early for greatness. The most recent instance was in part one of the Baybayan Epic of the Philippines. 

As time went on and the preferred wife’s pregnancy continued her female relatives moved in with her to help coax her through the difficult time. At long last the day arrived when Mwindo decided to be born. The midwives were summoned but proved unneeded as the child chose to emerge from his mother’s medius instead of her vagina. 

To the horror of the assembled women the baby was a male. Traditionally the women would either shout the sex of the newborn OR walk to the father and convey the sex with a distinctive laugh (versions of the Mwindo Epic vary in this). The entire village was soon buzzing with word that the seventh child had at last been born but the women refused to specify if it was a male or female since they knew Chief Shemwindo would kill it if he knew it was a male.

The chief and his court grew increasingly impatient but even his other wives refused to disclose the sex of the child. This solidarity among the wives was part of the oral version of the Mwindo Epic AT LEAST as early as the 1950’s and was not a modern-day revision just for the sake of it.  

Through the eyes of one of the creatures he was the lord of, Kitundukutu the cricket god was observing the events in the hut of Mwindo’s mother. Kitundukutu and his “people” were the bearers of bad omens and the breakers of secrets in Nyanga myths. The trouble-causing deity was happy to share with Chief Shemwindo the fact that the favored wife had given birth to a boy.  

Infuriated, Shemwindo sharpened his spear on a whetstone and set out to kill the male child in accordance with the threat he had issued to all his wives. The other wives and the female relatives of the preferred wife fled the hut at the news of Shemwindo’s approach.

Mwindo and his mother were the only ones left in the hut and the semidivine infant began singing a spell to protect the two of them. Shemwindo entered the hut and threw his spear at the newborn child but, per Mwindo’s spell, the spear always wound up lodging in the central post that supported the ceiling of the hut. 

Again and again the villainous Shemwindo retrieved his spear and threw it at the child but every time it curved back and lodged in the central post. Finally giving up the chief returned to his counselors and ordered them to dig a hole and toss Mwindo into it so the child would starve to death.

They did as ordered but the infant began singing another spell, defiantly taunting his evil father that he would suffer for trying to kill his newborn son this way. Shemwindo ordered his men to refill the hole with dirt, burying Mwindo alive. They complied but the baby’s singing could still be heard through all the dirt.

After dark the semidivine child dug his way out of the hole and returned to his mother’s hut. The next morning when the chief visited his preferred wife he was stunned to see Mwindo there, talking with his mother and walking around the hut as if nothing had happened.

Angrier than ever Chief Shemwindo ordered his men to hollow out a tree trunk into a drum, place Mwindo inside and then seal the drum with the hide of a bongo antelope. (The superstitious respect for music that was common to many cultures around the world accounts for why a drum was considered to be more effective than burying Mwindo alive was.) 

Again, Shemwindo’s men obeyed. They seized the child from the arms of his crying mother, sealed him in the drum and tossed it into the river. The drum floated for a time then sank beneath the surface, presumably drowning Mwindo. +++

I WILL EXAMINE ADDITIONAL PARTS SOON. CHECK BACK ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK FOR UPDATES. 

FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE: PART ONE OF MWINDO

FOR ANOTHER EPIC MYTH CLICK HERE:  https://glitternight.com/2013/03/17/iroquois-epic-myth-hodadeion/

FOR SIMILAR ARTICLES AND MORE OF THE TOP LISTS FROM  BALLADEER’S BLOG CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/top-lists/

© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

10 Comments

Filed under Mythology

10 responses to “MWINDO: EPIC MYTH OF AFRICA PART THREE

  1. You explain this myth better than other sites.

  2. Boring. How much more to go.

  3. Nice! Killing your own son!

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