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


MwindoThe lightning god Nkuba looked down from the sky and prepared to attack the semidivine hero Mwindo in order to avenge his (Nkuba’s) friend, the monster Kirimu. That seven- headed creature had been slain, cooked and served as a meal by Chief Mwindo for killing three of his devoted corps of Pygmies. 

The morning after the village of Tubondo had feasted upon the remains of Kirimu, Mwindo had a premonition of impending danger. He announced to his people that his supernatural senses had revealed to him that the bad-tempered god Nkuba had taken offense at his actions against the monster Kirimu. The lightning god was coming for revenge.

Chief Mwindo’s subjects were nearly hysterical with fear. They were terrified at the thought that their chieftain and protector might be taken away from them forever. Mwindo was his usual boastful self, however, and sang songs bragging about how he was confident he would defeat Nkuba the way he had laid low other deities like Muisa the god of the dead and Ntumba the aardvark god.

Our hero prepared to face his divine adversary by dressing in the iron shirt forged for him by the subjects of his uncle Yana, the bat god. He slung his pouch of magic implements across his shoulder. He readied his battle axe and his conga-scepter, a riding-crop sized staff made of antelope tail. 

Amid the flash of one of his lightning bolts Nkuba arrived in Tubondo after a full day of unease for Mwindo’s people . The citizens and aristocracy all fled to their homes, leaving the lone Chief Mwindo face to face with his former ally. The pair acknowledged that Mwindo was not aware of Nkuba’s bond of friendship with Kirimu when he had slain the murderous creature.

However, that bond of friendship preceded the lightning god’s alliance with Mwindo, and so the Chief of the Tubondo must now pay the price for his actions. Throughout the night the chief and the lightning god conversed in whispers, discussing subjects kept secret from everyone except the initiates of the Nyanga people’s Mukuki Society. (Like many myths around the world this part of Mwindo’s tale is incorporated into initiation ceremonies for a secret society.)

Nkuba gestured and caused a solidified lightning bolt to form, connecting the Earth and the clouds overhead. The lightning god seized Mwindo by the back of the neck and forced him to accompany him up the solid lightning like it was a crude staircase. The semidivine chief was still singing a song about how he would defeat Nkuba.  

The people of Tubondo watched the two figures ascend until they were lost from view amid the clouds that Nkuba called home. Mwindo was a bit disoriented by the cold. The lightning god did not live in a hut like the other deities Mwindo had battled in his adventures. Nkuba was immune to the elements and needed no shelter. He lived a nomadic existence wandering wherever the clouds drifted to.

Nkuba and Mwindo expressed mutual admiration and then closed in combat. The lightning god quickly seized the advantage over his semidivine opponent. The chilled and disoriented Mwindo found his song-spells, his awesome strength, his axe and his conga-scepter inadequate against the mighty Nkuba.

For the first time Mwindo knew defeat. The victorious lightning god briefly lorded it over his fallen foe then turned Mwindo over to the rain goddess Kiruka. This elderly deity who dragged rain-clouds behind her wherever she went, subjected the humbled Mwindo to a soaking rain and pellets of hail for what seemed like months.  

As Kiruka at long last ended the ordeal she was inflicting on Mwindo she mocked him about his incessant bragging. She insulted him and told him his worldy accomplishments were as nothing to her. Nkuba appeared again and dragged Mwindo to the realm of Mweri the moon goddess. 

The moon goddess likewise insulted the semidivine hero, telling him there was no room in her celestial kingdom for his pride and vanity. She set his hair on fire and made him endure the pain of the undying flames for what seemed like months. At last Nkuba reappeared and dragged the helpless Mwindo to the realm of the sun god Kentse.

Kentse laid Mwindo out on the hot, arid plain of his kingdom, letting him suffer for what seemed like months from the heat like a hide left in the sun. Thirst tormented the hero every minute and he begged for water. The sun god told him there was no water anywhere in his realm and mocked Mwindo’s fragility, reminding him that many gods had no need for water. 

Nkuba appeared and dragged Mwindo to the even higher realm of Kubikubi the god of all the stars in the heavens. Kubikubi now presided over a council which included Nkuba, Kiruka, Mweri and Kentse. Kubikubi was not the supreme deity of the Nyanga pantheon – the fire god Nyamurairi was – but the star god’s power was such that even the hot-tempered Nkuba treaded lightly around him. 

This council of the gods informed Mwindo that they would have destroyed him if not for the fact that he was unaware of Nkuba’s bond of friendship with Kirimu when he had slain the monster. The gods did, however, forbid Mwindo and all the other chiefs of the Nyanga people from ever again killing any of the jungle creatures, either natural or unnatural. Nyanga chiefs may not even hunt for food – their Pygmy Rangers must hunt for them. 

(Obviously a secondary purpose of this myth was to provide an origin for the proscription forbidding Nyanga chieftains from hunting. In real life what probably happened was that immediately after some Nyanga chief hunted and slew some animal something terrible must have happened through sheer coincidence. As religious practitioners always do, they mistook this coincidence for “the will of the gods” and forbade chiefs from hunting.)

The council of the gods also warned Mwindo to never forget the lesson in humility they had given him. No matter how great a warrior is, no matter how powerful a magician is and no matter how large a chief’s kingdom is, it is all as nothing to the gods. A humble nature is a must for ruling over people, so that cruelty and tyranny can be avoided. 

(The ordeals that the gods inflicted on Mwindo are imitated in the ordeals inflicted on initiates into the Mukuki Society. As Balladeer’s Blog has covered in other myths from around the world this reflects the nearly-universal concept that true enlightenment – or wisdom or shamanic insight – comes only through suffering. Without such suffering humanity’s tendency toward hubris like Mwindo’s precludes them from achieving true enlightenment.)  

After the council of gods imparted further laws and rules for Mwindo to share with the Nyanga people they returned him to the village of Tubondo. The chief had been gone for exactly a year. His father Shemwindo had been ruling in his absence but he happily abdicated in favor of his returning son.

Chief Mwindo shared the lessons he learned with the royal families of the Nyanga people. Because of his semidivine nature Mwindo lived far longer than other chiefs and was forever after revered as a wise ruler, capable general and culture hero.  +++

*** For detail dorks like myself here are the “commandments” Mwindo brought back with him to share with the Nyanga people, as opposed to the secret teachings meant only for initiates into the Secret Societies of the villages:

*** Cultivate a variety of food sources to prevent over-reliance on one particular source.

*** Take pride in the appearance of your own home as well as in the appearance of the village.

*** Avoid quarreling with other citizens whenever possible.

*** Do not pursue another person’s wife or wives.

*** Kill any man who seduces another man’s wife or wives. 

*** Do not mock the disabled or the elderly.

*** People – you should fear your chiefs. Chiefs – you should fear the people. (I LOVE that one!)

*** Avoid hating your fellow citizens.

*** Bring forth children who have qualities necessary for all aspects of Nyanga life.

*** No children are evil. They should never be rejected, but should be cherished because the creator god Ongo gives nothing bad.

*** Heroism should be hailed but excessive pride must be avoided.

*** Mutual aid is essential at all levels of a society

*** No matter how much greatness one achieves they will inevitably encounter a man or a god who can lay one low.  




© 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. 



Filed under Mythology


  1. That was an unexpected finish but it made sense in view of the larger lesson Mwindo was being taught.

  2. The ending was worth the wait!

  3. The end was better than half the story.

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  7. This post is invaluable. When can I find out more?

  8. Dam! A hole year the gods kept him prisoner!

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  22. That was a lot of torture to go through!

    • Yep! It’s all part of the nearly universal concept that true enlightenment comes only through suffering. A pain-free life makes for callous, uncaring and shallow people.

  23. I just got done reading this! Mwindo needs a movie!

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