Asis Banishes Men

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Asis is the supreme being. He created the sun and the moon, the sky and the earth first, then fire and water, and thunder with lightning. Then he created the first four living beings on earth: man, people with living souls, and the elephant, the snake, and the cow. He created trees on the hills and grass in the valley. Thunder was a gigantic bird flying through the sky with, in his talons, a spear with a long flashing blade, or a sharp matchet. Asista, the sun, who lives in the sky, is the giver of all good things, and prayers and offerings are made to him; he is a distant being but is the force behind everything. Between him and the living stand the spirits of the dead, Oiik, still members of the nation, who mediate between man and God, and punish the living to prevent them from upsetting the balance of nature by their crimes; they are responsible for sickness and death. They live under the earth, in hills and waterfalls. Two other superhuman beings, the kindly and malevolent thunder gods, Ilet nemie and Ilet ne-ya, engage in battles with each other. Chemosit is an evil spirit who lives on the earth and who devours people, especially children. Half man and half bird, he has one leg and nine buttocks; his mouth, which is red, shines at night. He propels himself by means of a stick, which he uses as a crutch.

When the first men lived on the earth, a dog came to them one day and said, “All people will die like the moon, but unlike the moon you will not return to life again unless you give me some milk to drink out of your gourd and beer to drink through your straw. If you do this, I will arrange for you to go to the river when you die and to come to life again on the third day.” But the people laughed at the dog, and gave him some milk and beer to drink off a stool. The dog was angry at not being served in the same vessels as a human being, and, though he drank the milk and beer from the stool, he went away angrily, saying, “All people will die, the moon alone will return to life.” So it is that, when people die, they remain dead, while the moon goes away for three days and then returns.

When Asista came to the earth to prepare the present order of things, he found three beings there, the thunder, an elephant, and a Dorobo, all living together. One day, the thunder said, “What sort of creature is this man? If he wishes to turn over from one side to the other when he is asleep, he is able to do so. If I wish to turn over, I have first of all to get up.” The elephant said, “It is the same with me. Before I can turn over from one side to the other, I have to stand up.” The thunder declared that he was afraid of the man and said he would run away to the heavens. The elephant laughed and asked why he was running away, for the man was after all only a small creature. “But he is bad,” the thunder replied. “He can turn over when asleep.” With that, he fled and went to the heavens, where he has remained ever since. The man, seeing the thunder go away, was pleased. He said, “The person I was afraid of has fled. I do not mind the elephant.” He then went to the woods and made some poison into which he dipped an arrow, and, having cut a bow, he returned to the kraal and shot the elephant. The elephant wept and lifted his trunk to the heaven, crying out to the thunder to take him up. The thunder refused, saying, “I shall not take you, for, when I warned you that the man was bad, you laughed and said he was small.” The elephant cried out again, and begged to be taken to heaven as he was on the point of death. But the thunder only replied, “Die by yourself.” The elephant died, and the man became great in all the countries.


Subjects: Religion.

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