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Ruhanga Fails to Prevent the Coming of Evil


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(Nyoro/Uganda)

Ruhanga (Katonzi, Kazoba, Mukameiguru, Nyamuhanga, Rugaba) was the creator of all things. People did not call upon him for assistance, because he had done his work and there was no need to ask further favors of him. Other gods could assist in multiplying humans, cattle, and crops; they could also heal sickness and prevent plagues. The creator was therefore not troubled about these matters, nor was he thought of except when they desired to give him the honor that was due him as the maker of all things. The spiritual beings with whom Nyoro have most organized interaction are Chwezi spirits and ancestral spirits. The Chwezi spirits, Mbandwa, derive from the legendary Chwezi, who founded a dynasty in Bunyoro centuries ago, then, after ruling for a generation or two, vanished mysteriously. They possessed remarkable wisdom and skills, and left behind them a technique of spirit possession, of which they themselves were the subjects. By this means, their successors could gain access to the power and knowledge that they embodied and enjoy through them protection, well-being, and, especially, fertility. The Chwezi spirits traditionally numbered nineteen—some were associated with plenty, smallpox, harvest, royalty, healing, weather, and cattle.

Bunyoro traditions distinguish three dynasties. The source of the first, very obscure dynasty is the supreme god called Ruhanga. He separated the sky and the earth, retired forever into the sky, created the conditions of life on earth, but failed to prevent the advent of evil and death, and finally established the unequal roles of the three social components: the king and his clan, the herdsmen, and the farmers.

The last king of this mythical dynasty, Isaza, was approached by the king of the netherworld, who proposed a blood pact and sought to take over entirely the earthly world by the other two. A shrewd little servant maid invited Isaza to thwart the plan by sending not his own blood but that of his servant, Moon. But the king of the underworld, informed about this trick, decided to lure Isaza into the netherworld against his better judgment by first sending him his daughter, Nyamata. This trick failed. He then sent him two beautiful cows, who made him fall into a fatal abyss and finally made him a captive of the netherworld. But Nyamata bore him a son, Isimbwa, who later went hunting on earth with his own son, Kyomya. On earth, a usurper reigned, Bukuku, Isaza's former porter, and the diviners foretold that the son who would be born of his daughter would kill him and succeed him. To forestall his daughter's seduction, Bukuku shut her up in an enclosure without doors and left her only one eye and one ear. The wandering Isimbwa found her nevertheless and gave her a son, Ndahura, who was taken in by a potter; later Ndahura killed Bukuku, and after a few more adventures became the first king of the supernatural dynasty of the Chwezi, who originally came from the sky and from Ruhinda, but reemerged from the netherworld to reign on earth for the great happiness of mankind. Ndahura expanded his dominion over a vast empire, the Kitara, which encompassed the whole western zone and beyond. He did not die, but disappeared, and left his succession to his son Wamara, who brought the dynasty to a close. See also: Chwezi, Ndahura, Nyamiyonga, Wamara.

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Subjects: Religion.


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