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Nzambi and the Land of the Dead


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(Kongo/Angola)

Nzambi (Nzambi Mpungu), the sovereign master, is invisible. When people heard thunder, it was Nzambi and his people talking in the sky. Nzambi made the rain fall and planted seeds to grow into food to preserve mankind; he was responsible for their health and the birth of their children. Nzambi was very good, but there was also the matter of death: he killed people. Nzambi's body was like an immovable stone.

Earth is a mountain over a body of water that is the land of the dead, called Mpemba, where the sun rises and sets just as it does in the land of the living. Between these two realms, the lands of the dead and the living, the water is both a means of access and an impenetrable barrier. The world is like two mountains opposed at their bases and separated by the ocean. At the rising and setting of the sun, the living and the dead exchange day and night. The setting of the sun signifies man's death and its rising his rebirth, or the continuity of his life. Man's life has no end, it constitutes a cycle. The sun, in its rising and setting, is a sign of this cycle, and death is merely a transition in the process of change.

Subjects: Religion.


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