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Imana and the Quest for Death


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(Hutu, Rundi, Tutsi/Burundi)

When Imana, the supreme being, reached the hills above Lake Tanganyika and in the north of Burundi, he was tired. This is because all the center of Burundi is beautiful rolling downland, while to the north and in the Rift Valley, the hills are very steep and high. He was fresh while he was creating the central country, but got tired toward the end, and finished in a hurry.

Death came into the world during the period of Imana's sojourn on earth in visible form. Once Death did not live among people, and whenever he appeared Imana gave him chase—according to some versions, with the aid of his hunting dogs. On one occasion, he was being hunted very violently, and was chased into a narrow place, where he collided with a woman coming from the opposite direction. He asked her to hide him, saying, “Hide me, and I will hide yours.” She opened her mouth, and he jumped inside and she swallowed him. Imana then came up and said, “What has happened to Death? Did you see which way he took?” The woman denied having seen him. Then Imana, who knew what had happened, said, “Seeing you have hidden Death, Death will destroy both you and yours.” And he departed from her in anger. From that moment, Death spread throughout the land. In Rwanda, the same tale exists, but it is a king, not Imana, who is hunting Death.

At first, Imana lived among men, and he went about among them and talked with them, creating children, causing their development in the womb, until one day he created a crippled child. The parents were very angry, and one of them took a knife and began to watch for an opportunity to kill Imana. Imana, being Indavyi, the seeing one, knew all about it, and said, “If they are going to behave like that, I will depart to my own place, and not show myself anymore. Then I can create as I please, and if they are not satisfied, they can just grumble.” Accordingly, he never shows himself anymore, though a few people can see him if they are lucky enough to catch him in an unguarded moment. See also: Gihanga.

Subjects: Religion.


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