Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this epic myth of the Nyanga people.
Still pursuing his evil father, Mwindo arrived at the subterranean realm of Sheburungu, home of the Nyanga creator deity Ongo. (Though Sheburungu was often used as an epithet for Ongo.) Ongo’s kingdom was inhabited by children who never aged. (Michael Jackson’s ideal world!)
The children of Sheburungu gathered around Mwindo and followed him as was the custom in all Nyanga villages when a newcomer arrived. The little boys and girls asked the semidivine hero for food and – as an indication of Mwindo’s good heart despite his tendency to egotism and boastfulness – he resolved to feed them all.
Mentally communicating with his Aunt Iyangura back on the surface world, the hero told her to prepare as many meals as she could from the food in the ruins of the depopulated village of Tubondo. She did as she was asked and Mwindo teleported the meals to Sheburungu to feed all of the children surrounding him.
Our hero watched as the children ate their fill then teleported all of the dishes and utensils back to Iyangura to be cleaned. (The Nyanga people believed black magic could be worked with any leftover food or dirty dishes from a meal so Nyanga women were known to feel a certain anxiety until all the dishes and utensils had been cleaned and put away safely.)
With the children satisfied Mwindo climbed the ladder up into Ongo’s elevated hut. The creator god was inside and greeted him affably enough. Due to Ongo’s incredible power Mwindo was more respectful than he had been with the previous deities he had encountered in the various realms honeycombing the land beneath the Earth.
Mwindo asked Ongo to turn his evil father Shemwindo over to him but the creator god politely declined, saying Mwindo could not enter the realm of the gods and demand something without earning it. Ongo challenged Mwindo to the Nyanga gambling game called Wiki, promising to turn his father over to him if he defeated him at the game of chance.
The semidivine hero had no choice but to comply, and so Ongo produced the black seeds of an Isea tree. Wiki was played by one player taking an undisclosed number of seeds into his hand. If the second player accurately guessed the number of seeds he won. If he guessed wrong the first player won. This continued until one player gave up or had nothing left to wager.
The first few hands Ongo and Mwindo wagered bundles of butea money. Ongo won those hands as Mwindo failed to guess the number of seeds hidden in Ongo’s hand. The creator god kept the right to make Mwindo do the guessing until Mwindo could guess correctly.
(Around the world gambling and the concept of “luck” were often seen as a reflection of a figure’s power or their standing with the gods. My coverage of Hodadeion, the Iroquois god of magic dealt extensively with Iroquois games of chance. My coverage of Nohoilpi, the Navajo god of gambling dealt with the details of Navajo games of chance.
These ancient superstitions have left faint echoes in stories of American western gunslingers who viewed prowess in card-playing as part of their machismo. In Japanese Samurai tales success at gambling is similarly highly regarded. James Bond and other spies are often depicted playing high-stakes games of chance, too. For all those figures success over their gambling opponents was part of the metaphorical dick-measuring contest. )
When Mwindo was out of butea money to wager he wagered the goats left in the village of Tubondo. Again Ongo won. Mwindo wagered the other cattle and poultry of Tubondo but Ongo won again and again. The semidivine hero wagered his Aunt Iyangura but lost to Ongo again. (It was common for Nyanga men to wager their wives and daughters in Wiki games.)
Mwindo next wagered his axe. Ongo won. Mwindo wagered his magic pouch and Ongo won again. Our hero wagered his last and most valuable possession – his conga-scepter (a riding-crop sized staff made of antelope tail).
Mwindo’s enchanted conga-scepter turned the tide. He at last won a hand of the Wiki game by accurately guessing how many black seeds Ongo had in his hand. Now the “deal” as it were passed to Mwindo and Ongo had to guess how many seeds the hero had in his hand. Over and over again Mwindo won until he had regained all the possessions he had lost.
From there Mwindo went on to win all the subsequent hands as well, until he had wiped out Ongo by winning all his possessions. The creator god was as good as his word and prepared to turn Mwindo’s evil father Shemwindo over to him.
Shemwindo once again sought to escape – this time to the realm of the supreme Nyanga deity Nyamurairi the fire god – but Ongo had two of the giant birds of his kingdom swoop down and seize the villain. The birds delivered Shemwindo to Ongo’s elevated hut and at long last Mwindo was face to face with his father and ready for revenge. +++
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.
8 responses to “MWINDO: EPIC MYTH OF AFRICA PART FOURTEEN”
I loved what you wrote about the luck and gambling and that with gods and heroes and samurai and gunfighters.
Thank you for saying so!
Great article. This myth should be more widely known.
Thank you. Yes, it should.
This notion of a place where babies dwell as spirits before being born is intriguing!
I know what you mean.
Ongo is the shit! Very interesting!