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Literal meaning: ‘father of grace’. The Luo of Kenya have numerous names of their supreme deity. He is Wuonwa, ‘our father’; Wuon Kwere, ‘father of the ancestors’; Wuon ji, ‘father of all’; Ja Mrima; ‘the one with a temper’; Jan’ gwono, ‘the kind one’; Jahera, ‘the merciful’; Nyakalaga, ‘the ancient one’; Janen, ‘seer’; Wuon Ogendi, ‘father of all peoples’; Wuon lowo, ‘lord of the earth’; Hono, ‘worker of miracles’; Ratego, ‘almighty’; Jalweny, ‘great warrior’; Polo, ‘god of heaven’; Piny k'nyal, ‘unconquerable’; Wuon oru, ‘lord of the future’; Ruodh Ruodhi, ‘king of kings’; and Wang Chieng, ‘eye of the sun’.

A potent and active diety is Were, whom the Luo believe causes both the births and deaths of individuals. Nature is securely under his control, and he uses the thunderbolt to strike down wrongdoers. Offerings and sacrifices are made to Were under large trees, in which his presence is often discerned. The closeness of the divinity is a feature of Luo life: prayers, invocations, and signs are commonplace. Every social event is reported to Were and the elders call down his wrath on the disobedient members of the tribe. The usual time for worship is in the morning, though young people ask the moon, ‘his other sun’, for marriage partners and children.

Subjects: Religion.

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