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Literally, ‘high one’, the supreme deity of the Abaluyia of Kenya, a group of northern Bantu peoples. He is Khakaba, ‘the distributor’, and Isaywa, ‘the one to whom sacred rites are paid’.

Wele created heaven and ‘supported it all round by pillars just as the roof of a round hut is propped up by pillars’. Then he created two assistants, and together they placed the moon and the sun in the sky. But these luminaries fought each other: first the moon knocked the sun out of heaven; then the sun hurled down its eldest brother, ‘throwing him into the mud. Afterwards he splashed the moon all over with mud to stop him from being resplendent.’ Wele had to separate the rival brothers and decree that the sun would shine in the day, while the night would belong to the pale moon.

The next creations were clouds, the cock of lightning, stars, rain, rainbows ‘by which god stops rain’, air, and ‘the cold air’ which causes hailstones. This was the work of two days. The creation of the earth followed, along with the first man, named Mwambu, and the first woman, Sela. Then Wele stocked the earth with animals and completed the making of the universe ‘in six days’.

A myth concerns the marriage of the sun to an Abaluyian maiden. A beautiful girl, who had refused all the young men of her village, was carried to the sun by a rope. There she was received by the mother of the sun, who told her that her son wished to marry her. When the sun, conceived of as a wealthy chief, returned from his garden, he courted the maiden and won her with the present of his rays, which she placed in a covered pot.

After several years of marriage and the birth of three sons, she asked her husband for permission to visit her parents. Together with her children she descended to earth by the rope, and found a joyous welcome in her village. Her father, as custom decreed, killed cows because of her long absence from home. When she and her sons returned to the sun's dwelling, she opened the pot containing the rays so that they could shine upon the earth. As a result many cows fell into her father's homestead and the whole earth was warmed by the sun's rays. Thereafter the land was fruitful and people lived in plenty.

While the stars assist the sun and moon, the Abaluyia dread the appearance of a comet, since it is the sign of impending and ill-fated war. In the past all kinds of ceremonies were performed to avert such disasters. Yet Wele himself allows unpleasant events as a punishment for misconduct. Death, for instance, was only introduced into the world through man's meanness. Because a farmer once refused to share his food with a hungry chameleon, he was cursed. The chameleon said: ‘I am leaving now, but you all may die.’ On the other hand the generosity of a snake secured the chameleon's blessing and immortality.


Subjects: Religion.

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