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Lesa and the Bundle of Death


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(Lamba/Zambia)

Lesa (Lyulu, Mulungu, Nyambi, Shyakapanga), the creator of all things, is the high god, the supreme being.

The earth is flat, and the dome of the sky comes down and meets the earth at its confines. At the ends of the earth, the clouds come downward to touch the earth, and the dwarf dwellers at land's end cut off slices of the clouds, take them to their homes, and eat them as their staple food. The sun, a huge globe, travels across the dome of heaven until it reaches land's end, then it secretly travels back at night, very high up, behind a bank of clouds. On the sun are people of a different creation from humans, who have daily duties. During its night journey, when it has cooled off, they polish it to make it shine brightly, and then they light the fires, so that great heat is given out. It begins to cool down as it gets to the west. There is another army of workers who drag and push the sun on its daily journey, and yet another who take it back at night. The moon does its work by night. It too has workers, who wash it clean. Every day they cleanse it, rubbing it vigorously. The stars are the favorite attendants of the moon, who is their chief. All are round, and the twinkling of some is because of the making of fires on them. Above the dome of the sky is a great lake of water, kept back by a bank or weir. There are guardians of this lake, and it is their duty to guard the bank. The lightning is believed to be caused by the people guarding the weir. Thunder is said to be a noise made by the guardians of the weir; they shake huge metal drums.

Lesa is conceived of as living in his great village, seated on a metal throne. The village is so great that the ends of it cannot be seen. Lesa sits alone on his throne—he has no wife. All the people in the village of Lesa eat food from the great eating table of the chief, and the food is so good that if any drops onto the ground they pick it up and eat it. There is no river in Lesa's country, nor is there grass in the courtyard, which is smooth and made of metal. There is no water, only honey. Only at night does Lesa leave his throne to enter his house. There is no sleep there; sleep will end when Lesa takes the people from the earth. He sits on this throne judging the affairs of people in his country. He has councillors who assist him in these cases and watchmen who carry messages to his headmen.

Long ago, the chief on earth used to travel from place to place, but eventually he desired to settle down. He therefore sent some of his people to Lesa to fetch seeds, that he might sow them and have his own gardens. When his messengers reached Lesa, they were given some little bundles tied up, and instructed not to undo a certain one of the bundles, but to deliver them to their chief. The messengers had to sleep on the road, but their curiosity overcame them. They began to undo them. When they opened the forbidden package—the package of death—death spread abroad. Fearfully, they went to their chief, and confessed to him that one of their number had opened the little package and let death escape. And death entered the world.

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Subjects: Religion.


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