Literature OMA 2019 (The religion, beliefs and myths of the Gikuyu Tribe)

Literature OMA 2019 (The religion, beliefs and myths of the Gikuyu Tribe)


From the highlands of Kenya to the valley of life of which the Gikuyu reside in, all can be seen from the highest peak where the sacred tree takes root. As people toil away in the streets and fields, God stands on the peak watching his creations prosper. When it comes to Gikuyu religion, there are many aspects of it whose origin we may not truly understand, until we dive deeper into the history of the Gikuyu tribe. In the beginning, the supreme creator Ngai or Murungu, descended onto earth and created the first humans. The man was named Gikuyu and the woman Mumbi. They were also known as the first parents and gave birth to a long line of descendants that most, if not all Gikuyu people claimed to be descend from. Ngai then brought them to the highest mountain and showed them the land that he would bestow upon them. In this land he promised to Gikuyu and Mumbi, he provided precious resources such as land, rain, plants and animals. This marked the beginning of the Gikuyu tribe and its culture. While the omnipotent God is said to live in the skies or the clouds, he is believed to come down to earth occasionally to inspect it, gift blessings and punish evil. During his time on earth, he is thought to have sojourned on Mount Kenya and Kilimambogo. The natives believed that Ngai was manifested in the sun, moon, stars, comets and meteors, thunder and lightning, rains rainbows and in the great fig tree. The great fig tree, also known as the Mugumo Tree was thought to stand atop Mount Kenya, where Ngai presented the land of the Gikuyu to the First Humans. The Gikuyu people believed it was a sacred tree and so they carried out sacrifices to Ngai under the tree. They had many other religious practices, but first, we should understand their philosophy to grasp the meaning of their practices. In Gikuyu religion, the people believe that the universe composes of interacting and interconnected forces whose manifestation is physical things we see and spiritual things we don’t see. Ngai is said to have had the vital force of creation within himself, which the First Humans also received from Ngai. All things are believed to have vital force as well. But some objects on earth have a greater vital force such as plants and animals, with humans standing on top. People believed humans could manipulate things to their advantage or detriments through a concentrated point of vital force in everything. They too believed, by using animals or plants as intermediates, they could invoke higher forces. Whereas, to approach those forces directly would be thahu, an abomination that leads to a curse. In Gikuyu society, the leader is thought to have the most vital force and the one closest to God. Using his vital force, he is able to link the people to God and reinforce their vital forces. To the Gikuyu people, those with the greatest life force were the First Parents created by God as they were directly gifted with vital force. They were so respected that they were treated almost like God. Followed by them were the ancestors who inherited life force from the First Parents, then the immediate dead, and lastly the eldest in the Gikuyu community. The Gikuyu were strong believers of their religion and had many customs that held great significance in their lives as it represented various aspects of the Gikuyu religion and philosophy. In history, they were known to be great farmers and shrewd businessmen during the 19th century. Their land was in a constant state of expansion through multiple methods they implemented. In the book, The River Between, Waiyaki, the younger leader of the Gikuyu tribe, struggles to lead his clan due to the conflict of religious beliefs. When the white man came, they brought the idea of Christianity with them. Many were invested in this new belief, causing a divide between the people. Waiyaki goes through many hardships and confusion as he tries to educate the tribe, and he needed to take a leap of faith to unite the two opposing sides. This correlates with the Gikuyu people of today. Most of them have converted their religion to Christianity. Currently, they are the largest religion in Kenya and continue to speak their native tongue, Bantu Kikuyu. While the book is left hanging with the Gikuyu tribe still being divided, history shows the outcome of the passage of time. While the Gikuyu religion has diminished among its people, their legends and beliefs that paved the way for today’s Gikuyu culture will forever be remembered in the records of history.

local_offerevent_note October 6, 2019

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