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Mulungu and the Origin of Fire


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(Yao/Malawi, Mozambique)

Mulungu is the supreme being, the creator. He is the great spirit of all men, a spirit formed by adding all the departed spirits together.

Ntembe came to the people, and they were eager to see him. They found him sitting on a stone, and he spoke to them. They said they wanted to come and see the great Ntembe, the owner of this land. Ntembe told them they were welcome: “I have come to teach the mysteries.” A serpent came along, and Ntembe twisted it around his head. Then, when people passed, they were bitten and died. Mulungu told Ntembe that he had a bad heart, he was killing God's children. Ntembe told Mulungu to take the people away and dwell with them, that Ntembe would remain where he was. Mulungu took the children then and went on high with them. They were happy with God, and Ntembe became a mountain.

In the beginning there was no man, only Mulungu and the beasts. When men were created, Mulungu lived on earth, but went up into the sky because men had taken to setting the bush on fire and killing “his people,” the beasts.

Some say that Mulungu was not responsible for the creation of mankind. He and his people, the beasts, lived on the earth. A chameleon found a pair of humans in his fish trap—it was the first man and woman, who had blundered into the trap during the night. The chameleon reported this to Mulungu, who said to wait and see what these humans would do. The man started making fires by twirling a hard stick on a piece of soft wood, setting the grass alight. The beasts fled to the forest, and the chameleon climbed a tree. Mulungu was forced to leave the earth, but he was unable to climb a tree to get there. He therefore asked a spider for help. The spider spun a thread that reached to the sky. Mulungu then ascended to the sky on the thread of the spider to escape the wickedness of humans. Mulungu then said that when men died, they would come up to the sky. So it is that men, when they die, go to heaven to be slaves of God.

Subjects: Religion.


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