Woot Takes Language from the Fly, the Tortoise, and the Dog

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Woot (Woto) was a mythic hero. The god, Mboom, had nine children, called Woot (Woto); each assisted in creating the world. Death came into the world when the eighth Woot killed the ninth Woot in a quarrel.

Woot, drunk on palm wine, lay naked on the ground. His sons mocked him, but his daughter covered his nakedness after approaching him modestly with her back turned. When Woot awoke, he rewarded his daughter by declaring that only her children would inherit from him. This is the origin of the matrilineal system. Woot punished his sons by making them undergo rituals of initiation.

After committing incest with his sister, Mweel (Muele), Woot fled to the east and set himself up beside the Sankuru River. Mweel tried to make her brother return, for the village had been plunged into perpetual night since his departure. First, she sent human messengers to him. But these found the imprint of royal feet on a rock and turned back. Mweel then sent the tempest to her brother. But Woot refused to receive him. Next, Mweel sent the dog, Bondo, to whom Woot gave a bundle of meat wrapped in the mottled skin of the wild cat. He explained that day would come if the skin became white; but if it became completely black, night would continue to reign over the village. Woot forbade the messenger to eat the meat. But on the way back the dog could not resist temptation, and he therefore lost the power of speech.

In a variant of the myth, the dog had two traveling companions, the fly and the tortoise. Woot offered his guests a house for the night, at the same time telling them not to touch anything. But the fly drank the palm wine, the tortoise smoked the pipe, and the dog ate the meat and cassava. To punish them, Woot deprived them of speech. He sent them back and blocked the road with a great stone. Then Mweel sent the woodworm, Bombo, which bored a way through the rock. The insect found Woot asleep. The cry of the leopard awoke him. The new messenger begged the fugitive to return to his sister so that daylight might reappear. Woot did not accede to this plea, but he called his daughter, Bibolo, and told her to collect presents for Mweel; these were a monkey, a cock, a sparrow, other birds, and a cricket. He gave these animals to Bombo, who returned with them to Mweel. The next day, the animals presented by Woot began to make their cries and the sun came up again. See: Mboom.

Subjects: Religion.

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