Waka and the Message of Life

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Waka (Waqa, Qak) is the supreme being, the creator and lord of the earth. Some believe that he once came to earth and talked with men.

Waka called men and all the animals together and explained to them that he was about to make a time for sleeping, and commanded them all to cover their faces with their hands while he did so. All obeyed, but the lion, leopard, and hyena peeped between their fingers and saw night being created. It is not stated what they saw, but the result is that they can see in the dark, while men and other creatures are unable to do so and put the night to its legitimate use.

Two stories about the origin of death: The Galla attribute the mortality of man and the immortality of serpents to the mistake or malice of a certain bird that falsified the message of eternal life entrusted him by God. The creature that did this great wrong is a black or dark blue bird with a white patch on each wing and a crest on its head. It perches on the tops of trees and utters a wailing note like the bleating of sheep. The Galla call it the sheep of God.

Once, God sent that bird to tell men that they should not die, that when they grew old and weak they should slip off their skins and so renew their youth. In order to authenticate the message, God gave the bird a crest to serve as a badge of his high office. The bird went off to deliver the glad tidings of immortality to man, but he had not gone far when he met a snake that was devouring carrion in the path. The bird looked longingly at the carrion and said to the snake, “Give me some of the meat and blood, and I will tell you God's message.” The snake responded that he did not want to hear the message, and he continued his meal. But the bird pressed him to listen to his message, and the snake finally consented to hear it. “The message,” said the bird. “is this. When men grow old they will die, but when you grow old you will cast your skin and renew your youth.” That is why people grow old and die, but snakes crawl out of their old skins and renew their youth. For this perversion of the message, God punished the wicked bird with a painful internal malady from which he suffers to this day. That is why he sits wailing on the tops of trees.

Subjects: Religion.

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