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Mregho, the Sacrifice to God


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(Chaga/Tanzania)

Mregho, a gentle, beautiful girl, was very popular, especially with men. Girls would go together to cut grass, but, because of their jealousy, they stopped taking Mregho with them so that they could plot against her. They were also annoyed because she always carried home the biggest and best bundle of grass. One day, they asked Mregho to go with them so that they could show her a new game. Unsuspecting, she watched each girl jump in and out of a big hole they had dug. Her turn came and she jumped into the hole; while she was in it, the girls moved a big stone across it, and Mregho was trapped. Her parents were told by the girls that she had come back with them from grass-cutting and had been seen taking her usual path to her parents' house. Whenever the girls went to cut grass, they passed by the hole where they had trapped her, and they would call her name. Each time they thought she must be dead, but to their astonishment she would answer with a song. Her younger sister, Mlyakicha, started going with the girls to cut grass. They persuaded her to cut on her own while they went to see if Mregho was still alive. She always was, singing her song. Mlyakicha became suspicious. One day, keeping out of sight, she followed them. She heard them call her sister, and heard the song in answer. Later, she went to Mregho and heard the whole story from her. She could not move the blocking stone, so she told her parents. At first, they would not believe her; she persuaded them to go to the pit where they heard their daughter's voice. The three of them rolled away the big stone and helped Mregho out of her prison. She looked healthy. Ruwa, God, had sent small bees to her, and she had lived on honey. Mregho had been engaged to marry a young man called Kiwaro; he was overjoyed to find her still alive. But they could not marry until she had undergone the circumcision ceremony, which fate had delayed. While she was undergoing it, the rains failed. There was no food, and the usual sacrifices were of no help. A doctor said that Ruwa wanted Mregho to be the sacrifice, with small bells tied to her legs, to make the country fertile again. Her parents, adoring her yet unwilling to believe that she had not brought the drought, felt they must obey the doctor, who was the voice of Ruwa. Mregho found herself with bells tied to her legs, and she sang a song of farewell to her parents, proclaiming that she was going to the creator, to the protector. As she sang, a great storm came up, with thunder and lightning, but, although it began to rain very heavily, nobody would open a door to let her out. It went on raining, until the countryside was green again. The people offered their thanks to Ruwa. The chief explained that it had been necessary to offer Mregho as a sacrifice, and it had worked, the rain had come. In fact, Mregho's grandmother had taken pity on her that dark and stormy night, and had hidden her granddaughter in the house, taking the bells off her legs and tying them onto a sheep, which was let loose in the storm. For a time, she had to keep Mregho hidden. But soon it became known that Mregho had been too beautiful to die, and that Ruwa had accepted the sheep in her place. Mregho's troubles finally came to an end—accepted as so beautiful that Ruwa himself wanted her kept alive, she was released from hiding, and was married to Kiwaro.

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Subjects: Religion.


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