After Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the Mwindo Epic many readers expressed an interest in Nyanga mythology. I’m all about giving readers what they want so here are brief looks at the deities of the Nyanga people.
KATEE – The god of hedgehogs. Katee spoke through one of his animal avatars to warn the semidivine hero Mwindo about some of Kasiyembe’s death traps.
MWERI – The moon goddess. Her domain is the moon itself and is composed of alternate hot, sandy wasteland and lush blue waters. Mweri sees everything that happens at night and therefore has ties to lovemaking, fertility, sleeping, thievery and assassinations. She can send dreams or nightmares as well as prophetic messages in those dreams. Visitors to Mweri’s domain can be left wandering in the hot wasteland or even set on fire by her, depending on the goddess’ whim.
KASIYEMBE – This deity was the majordomo of the river god Mukiti. Kasiyembe’s duties included the summoning of the river deity’s subaquatic army, serving as a bodyguard for Mukiti’s ritual wife Iyangura and attempting to assassinate the semidivine hero Mwindo.
MITANDI – The spider goddess. She and the creatures who are her subjects entertained the river god Mukiti and his retinue when he was on his way to claim his bride Iyangura.
MUSOKA – The sister of the river god Mukiti. Musoka ruled over the quiet, calm shallows of the long, winding river near the village of Tubondo. Her sovereignty over calm waters compared to her brother’s command of the rapids and strong-flowing waters is similar to the way many pantheons feature male deities of hard rainfall and female deities of soft rainfall. Musoka would often stretch her serpent form across the river to allow Nyangans to use her as an emergency bridge.
KITUNDUKUTU – The god of crickets in Nyanga myths. The creatures he is the lord of are considered bad omens and supernatural gossips. Crickets hear everything and maliciously pass it all along to Kitundukutu, who is often happy to expose secrets or to deliver bad news. In the Mwindo epic a cricket informs Kitundukutu that Chief Shemwindo’s wife has given birth to a male in spite of the evil chief’s warnings and threats. The cricket god then spitefully passes the word along to Shemwindo.
MPACA – The deadly god who ruled the nighttime dangers of the jungle. All of the nocturnal creatures answered to him as did all of the unholy monsters like the seven-headed Kirimu. Mpaca is the closest the Nyanga pantheon comes to a Satanic figure. He is always associated with unspeakable acts and with everything vile that can happen to humans during the vulnerable hours of darkness.
NYAMURAIRI – The fire, volcano and earthquake god who was the supreme deity of the Nyanga pantheon. He ruled over the largest of the subterranean kingdoms and the realms of all the other deities who lived under the Earth were his vassal states. Earthquakes and volcanoes were his weapons just as much as fire itself was. Nyamurairi was not to be trifled with because of the obvious importance of fire for cooking food, for light and for metalworking. Significantly, the cocky and irreverent Mwindo never dared challenge Nyamurairi.
MUKITI – The god who rules the river near the Nyanga village of Tubondo. Mukiti could appear in serpentine or humanoid form and it was in his human form that he courted and married Iyangura, the sister of the evil Chief Shemwindo. The deity commanded all the creatures of the body of water he lived in, be those creatures natural or supernatural. Mukiti could hear everything said near the river he ruled and he was greatly revered since the river was necessary for drinking water, for fishing, for crops, for transportation on boats and for water to do the washing.
KAHINDO – The goddess of good fortune and of one’s personal “luck” also called Kahombo. She was the daughter of Muisa, the god who ruled the land of the dead. Oddly, Kahindo suffered from yaws for a time until she was cured by Mwindo. The goddess lived in her father’s subterranean realm and often greeted newly arrived souls. Kahindo fell in love with Mwindo and helped him survive Muisa’s death traps.
YANA – The bat god. Because he and the creatures he was the lord of lived in caves the fire god Nyamurairi assigned them to be his forge-workers. Yana was an uncle of the hero Mwindo, who was only semidivine until his posthumous elevation to godhood. The bat god and his subjects forged the iron shirt and boots that Mwindo wore in his assault on the village of Tubondo. In addition to that Yana sent an entire army of bats to aid his nephew in that undertaking.
KUBIKUBI – The god of the stars, sometimes more generally considered a sky god. Kubikubi was not as powerful as the Nyanga people’s supreme deity – Nyamurairi the fire god – but he was considered to have Chiefly authority of the heavens, with the gods and goddesses of rain, wind, lightning, the sun and the moon to be his “cabinet” of advisors, just like the advisors who served human Chiefs. In the Mwindo Epic Kubikubi chaired a council of gods sitting in judgment on the semidivine hero Mwindo.
ONGO – The generous god who provided life and created children in the womb. Ongo also controlled the growth of those children all the way through life. Ongo was one of the Nyanga deities who ruled over a subterranean realm, in his case called Sheburungu, which was also an epithet for the god himself. Sheburungu was inhabited entirely by children who had yet to be born. Since children love games Ongo was also the patron deity of games for children as well as the games of chance or gambling done by adults. Ongo lived in an elevated hut in Sheburungu, a village guarded by giant versions of birds. The creator deity famously played the Nyanga gambling game called Wiki with the semidivine hero Mwindo.
KIRUKA – The Nyanga rain goddess. Kiruka was depicted as a very old woman who dragged rain clouds behind her wherever she went. The goddess could change the falling rain to hail if she so chose. In some myths Kiruka is the mother of the lightning god Nkuba.
NTUMBA – The aardvark god of the Nyanga people. Ntumba ruled the subterranean kingdom called Munundu, which was often used as an epithet for Ntumba himself. To the Nyanga aardvarks are special creatures, hence the extraordinary reverence accorded their deity. The high regard comes from the way aardvarks walk the surface world – called Oto – but can prey on bugs who live under the ground, with that subterranean realm being known as Kwirunga. The Nyanga viewed aardvarks as being uniquely gifted as birds, who are mobile on both the surface world – Oto – and the sky – Butu. Mwindo used his magic to repair Ntumba’s realm after it was destroyed by the lightning god Nkuba.
KENTSE – The sun god. Kentse’s domain was the sun itself, a scorching landscape with no trace of water anywhere. The Nyanga people would strive to stoically endure the heat of the jungle the same way their rugged sun god functioned in his hostile realm with no water or shade. Kentse was also the patron deity of leather-workers and other craftsmen who worked with hides left to dry in the sun. Eclipses were thought of as the time Kentse and Mweri the moon goddess had sexual relations.
MUISA – The god who ruled over the land of the dead. Nothing could grow on the trees in his realm and his favorite food was ashes, and he was so fond of them he would even wallow in them uncontrollably. If non-Chieftains dared to enter his realm while they were still alive Muisa would try to trick them into a seat which would paralyze them and hold them helpless until he beheaded them, making them dead and their soul at his mercy. If they declined the seat the death god would try to get them to eat or drink poisonous food or drink. Muisa was dishonest and untrustworthy, forever plotting against his human victims. He used the souls in the land of the dead as spies and informants so he always knew everything going on in his domain. Muisa offered his daughter the goddess Kahindo to Mwindo as a wife but Mwindo declined the offer.
NKUBA – The god of lightning. Nkuba was known and feared for his quick temper and his great power. Powerful Chiefs and shamans could call on Nkuba to kill their enemies with his deadly lightning bolts. The lightning god was immune to cold and heat and lived a nomadic existence on clouds in the sky. He could solidify lightning to use it as a makeshift staircase between the heavens and the Earth. Nkuba admired anyone who killed with the same merciless swiftness that he himself demonstrated. The god even became a blood brother to the seven-headed monster Kirimu because of the creature’s prowess at killing.
Nkuba befriended the hero Mwindo, who impressed the deity by surviving his initial attempts to slay him. He then assisted Mwindo by freeing him from the death god Muisa’s trap, by devastating the subterranean realm of the aardvark god Ntumba and by striking dead all the citizens of the village ruled by the evil Chief Shemwindo. Later the two had a falling out and Nkuba stole away Mwindo for an entire year of punishment by the heavenly deities.
MWINDO – The semidivine hero who was elevated to full godhood after his death. The cycle of myths involving Mwindo form a large part of Nyangan lore. The figure’s adventures and ordeals are even simulated in initiation rituals into Nyangan secret societies.
Mwindo was born to Nyamwindo, his mother, and Shemwindo, his evil father. Chief Shemwindo had forbidden his seven wives from having male offspring to avoid any potential claimant to his throne. Even as a fetus Mwindo would slip out of his mother’s womb while she slept and do chores for her like gathering firewood or fetching water from the river. After the semidivine hero was born he had to survive multiple attempts on his life by his father.
Mwindo grew at a rapid rate and was soon a man. He was a master of magic by way of song-spells, was supernaturally strong, and used a pouch of magical implements, an axe and a conga-scepter – a riding-crop sized staff made of antelope tail. The scepter enabled him to fly and served as a weapon that always returned to his hand like Thor’s hammer.
Among his figurative “labors” Mwindo –
a) defeated the subaquatic army of the river god Mukiti
b) survived the death traps of Mukiti’s majordomo Kasiyembe
c) brought an army of bats back to life after it had been slain
d) made bananas grow in the anti-life realm of the death god Muisa
e) harvested honey from Muisa’s deadly bees
f) defeated the death god in solo combat
g) defeated the aardvark god Ntumba in solo combat
h) defeated the creator deity Ongo at the Nyangan gambling game called Wiki
i) slew the seven-headed monster Kirimu, unintentionally inviting the wrath of the lightning god Nkuba, who had sworn blood loyalty to the beast
j) survived a year of torment at the hands of the heavenly dieties
and k) returned to Earth with a body of laws by which the rulers and the people had to abide.
Mwindo’s semidivine nature enabled him to live for much longer than a mere human, and after his death he was worshiped as a hero, founder and culture deity.
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.
27 responses to “TOP GODS OF THE NYANGA PEOPLE”
My people’s gods! Thank you!
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What exactly is your source for this information? Not questioning your credibility, I’d just like to know where this is coming from so I can maybe check it out myself.
Hello! I will round up my source-books and then post that list on here Saturday.
Awesome, looking forward to it. I’ve been on the hunt for good African mythology outside of Yoruba polytheism, so this is really helpful for me.
Hello! Horribly sorry I forgot. I am getting the books RIGHT NOW (literally) and will post them here in a few minutes. Sorry again. I’m a football nut and forgot.
Here we go:
THE MWINDO EPIC OF AFRICA (1962)
EPIC TRADITIONS OF AFRICA
THE EPIC IN AFRICA
ORAL EPICS FROM AFRICA
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TRADITIONAL EPICS
AQUARIAN GUIDE TO AFRICAN MYTHOLOGY
AFRICAN MYTHOLOGY (1982)
AFRICAN ORAL LITERATURE
THE MWINDO EPIC (1969)
HERO AND CHIEF (1978)
AFRICAN FOLKTALES (1983)
THE MAGIC FLYSWATTER
Plus two French Language books I will list if you speak French. AND THERE’S MY MULTI-PART LOOK AT THE MWINDO EPIC COMBINING STORY ELEMENTS FROM ALL OF THOSE BOOKS.
Thanks, looks like a lot of work went into this.
No problem! Thanks for noticing!
I like this web blog so much, saved to my bookmarks.
It’s nice to see African gods looked at.
Thanks. I love writing these.
I liked your treatment of the Mwindo story better than this.
I liked your look at the Mwindo epic too.
Thank you very much!
Don’t mess with Nkuba!
You said it!
Your site has such little known African goddesses!
Thank you for noticing!
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Nkuba is the bomb!
An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who was conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this matter here on your web site.