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Ipupi and the Magical Gourd-bow


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(Kimbu/Tanzania)

Ipupi, terror of those who wake, was a great mythic chief of the Nyisamba. He lived on a hill that had a very high rock.

Ipupi played a magical instrument, a gourd-bow called Isimeli. With this gourd-bow, he could summon people from far distances. Chiefs from many areas would respond, and, when they had gathered, Ipupi gave them their orders. They called him Mwijuxa, the one who knows all things. Then they returned home. Ipupi would punish any chief who refused to come to Nyalanga when called, causing a drought in his chiefdom, sending rats to eat his harvest. Only when such a leader begged for mercy would Ipupi relent, affirming his power to eliminate the chief's lineage. By an act of will, he caused the rain to fall again, or destroyed the marauding rats. If a chief warred on Ipupi, he would stop the army by sending lions. People feared Ipupi because he needed no messengers, he simply used Isimeli. Toward the end of his life, Ipupi climbed the high rock for the last time at sunset and played the gourd-bow. He sang, “Isimeli, you are sweet and fair,” and told his people to build a round house. They did that, and he then asked for water; he summoned his great wife. Then, having bathed and anointed themselves, they sat down on stools beside each other. Ipupi played Isimeli for the last time, and, as he did so, he and his wife descended, living, into the earth. The stools went down also, as did Isimeli, the gourd-bow. Ipupi was not buried by the hand of man. No grave had to be dug for him. The place of his descent is where the offerings are made today, but the great rock has split, and the summit has tumbled down.

Subjects: Religion.


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