Ngewo, Lonely, Creates a Man and a Woman

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(Mende/Sierra Leone)

Ngewo is the supreme being, the creator of the universe. He created man, the animals and fishes, as well as the trees and plants. The more common of the two names of God is Ngewo; the other name, Leve, seems to be more ancient. In ancient times, the Mende may have conceived of Leve as the female deity consort of Ngewo, forming the feminine half of a cosmic creator couple. Ngewo or Leve, chief and father protector, is transcendent, living away from the everyday activities of this world.

Ngewo was once a very big spirit who lived in a cave. He was so powerful that all he said would be done took place. But he lived alone with no one to talk to or to play with. So he went to the entrance of the cave and said, “I want all kinds of animals to live with me in this cave.” So the animals came in pairs. Ngewo, having created a primal pair, a man and a woman, used to live among men, offering them free access to him whenever they had a request to make. But the requests came so fast that he felt constrained to remove himself to a safe distance to avoid being worn out. He therefore retreated to the sky, where he now lives. Ngewo did return to bid mankind farewell, advising men to be charitable to one another and not to wish each other evil. He gave them two chickens, which he had created before making the descent, telling them that when one does another wrong, he must call God back to adjudicate, and when God returns the people must return his chicken to him.

Ngewo sent two messengers to a certain town to carry news of death and life. The dog was sent to say that the people would not die, and the toad was sent to say that death was coming. They set out together. On the way, the dog met a woman cooking food for her child. He lay down and waited, and in due course received some food from the woman. The dog then ran on. But the toad had not stopped along the way. He reached the town first and entered, crying, “Death has come!” Then the dog came running, crying, “Life has come!” But he was too late. The toad had brought death first. That is why people die. See also: Leve.

Subjects: Religion.

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