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God of the Nyamwezi people of Tanzania. It is said that Mulungu cannot be reached by worship. Through intermediaries—a hierarchy of spirits—communication takes place, leaving mankind very much at the bottom of a long ladder. The loneliness of the first men could well account for their rejection of a medicine of immortality: the first woman advised that death would return them to the spirit world. This idea occurs elsewhere in southern Africa, where far-sighted persons are supposed to have become uneasy at the prospect of overpopulation and welcomed the intervention of death, so that ‘the sons of men might qualify for admission to heaven by means of physical decay’.

The Nyamwezi believe in a monster spirit of evil, armed with boxes of diseases and misfortune, and it is this being who wields the scythe of death. Mulungu is not seen as indifferent; he is Kube, ‘the one who embraces all’; rather is he remote, at a distance, Limi, ‘the sun’. Another of his titles is Likubala, ‘he who counts every step’.

Subjects: Religion.

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