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Kibo and Mawenzi, Atop Mount Kilimanjaro


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(Chaga/Tanzania)

Kibo and Mawenzi are mythic beings.

The majestic symbols of the land are the two giant glaciers, Kibo and Mawenzi, that make up Mount Kilimanjaro. Kibo, the spotted one, is so called because the dark naked stone appears in big, steep patches above the snow and ice fields. Mawenzi (or Mawenge) means the crumpled, the jagged, broken one. One day, the fire in Mawenzi's hearth had gone out. He went to Kibo to get some fire. Kibo was in the middle of pounding dried bananas. Mawenzi greeted him. Kibo returned the greeting, gave him fire, and made him a gift of a few bananas. Mawenzi went away and put out the fire, then went back to Kibo. He said that his fire had gone out on the way. Kibo muttered, but once again gave him a few bananas. When Mawenzi had gone a little way, he once again put the fire out, and returned for the third time to Kibo. But when he was greeted, this time Kibo did not answer. Instead, he raised his pestle and beat him with it. This is how Mawenzi became so jagged.

In a broad pit on Kibo is supposed to live a giant cow, called Rali. From its tail hang big tufts that contain a fat that tastes like honey and conceals supernatural powers. For this reason, people have climbed up to cut off some of these precious tufts. The cow stands with its tail toward the opening of the pit. The people creep up very carefully, cut a few tufts very quickly with their swords, and move away rapidly. Because of her size, the cow can only turn around slowly since its body fills nearly the whole pit. But if she has managed to turn around, she lets out a mighty sound and the break from her mouth is like a hurricane that blows down onto the plains. It carries the offender through the air and smashes him on the plain. Twenty men once went up to get these tufts for the chief, and only two came back. This cow has only one calf, which takes her place when she dies. This cow sustains the sun so that it always renews its strength to overcome the clouds, which in the rainy season often keep its rays from the earth for months at a time. If the cow were found and killed, endless rain would start to fall that would kill everybody.

Subjects: Religion.


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