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Nhialic and the Separation of Heaven and Earth


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(Dinka/Sudan)

Nhialic (Nyalich, Acek, Jok), the supreme being, is associated with the firmament; the name means “in the above.” Nhialic is higher than the spirits of the dead, jok; it was he who created the world and established the order of things, and it is he who sends the rain. Deng (literally, rain) is closely linked with Nhialic (in some regions, Deng is regarded as the supreme being and Nhialic is not mentioned, while in others Nhialic and Deng are believed to be the same spirit).

Nhialic (and the sky) and men (and the earth) were originally contiguous; the sky then lay just above the earth. They were connected by a rope, stretched parallel to the earth and at the reach of a man's outstretched arm above it. By means of this rope, men could climb at will to Nhialic. At this time, there was no death. Nhialic granted one grain of millet a day to the first man and woman, and this satisfied their needs. They were forbidden to grow or pound more. Garang and Abuk, the first human beings living on earth, had to take care when they were doing their little planting or pounding, lest a hoe or a pestle should strike Nhialic, but one day the woman, because she was greedy, decided to plant more than the permitted grain of millet. In order to do so, she took a long-handled hoe. When she raised this pole to pound or cultivate, she struck Nhialic, who withdrew, offended, to his present great distance from the earth, and sent a small blue bird, the color of the sky, to sever the rope that had previously given men access to the sky and to him. Since that time, the country has been defiled, for men have to labor for the food they need, and are often hungry. They can no longer as before freely reach Nhialic, and they suffer sickness and death, which accompany their separation from Nhialic.

Nhialic created Garang and Abuk in the east under a tamarind tree or on the bank of a great water. He made them so small—only half the length of a man's arm, of clay, and laid them in a pot, which he then covered. When he uncovered it, the two stood up and were complete and fully grown. In the morning, Garang was grown and carried the spear (the penis), and the breasts of Abuk were big, and they married. They bore children. The creator told them that their child would die but would return after fifteen days. Garang disagreed with this plan, saying that if people returned from the dead they would be too numerous, and where would people then build their homes? There would not be enough land.

In the beginning, there was no light. In this darkness, Nhialic created the first people, including a man named Aruu Pabek. Aruu, Dawn, twisted a rope, and Nhialic gave him eyes and he saw that he was in darkness. Aruu caught an animal with his rope and gave the foreleg to the wife of Nhialic, who suggested that Aruu should be rewarded. Aruu asked Nhialic to make an opening in the world so that people could see, but Nhialic refused. Instead, he offered him a spear, which he refused, then an ax, which he accepted. With the ax, Aruu struck the earth, and a part went up and a part below. Aruu said, “Why do you not light up?” and the earth lit up. So he divided the sky and the earth. Nhialic, angry, pushed Aruu down to earth and closed up the earth. He speared anyone who tried to emerge. Aruu took a stone and put it on his head, and when Nhialic speared him, the stone deflected the spear. Nhialic seized Aruu by the neck and said, “Why are you like a man?” See also: Abuk, Deng.

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Subjects: Religion.


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