Demythologization of the Agikuyu Creation Story Essay
Updated: Mar 3rd, 2021
I have read the foundational story that individuals from your tribe ascribe their existence to and I would like to show you that the story might be just a myth especially since I can illustrate that it is based on any solid grounds.
First, though, I would like to briefly summarize the myth as is known to members of your culture. The story starts by explaining that in the beginning there was God, whom your people call Ngai. The myth then goes ahead to spell that Ngai picked out a man, Gikuyu, and allocated him some land and other resources available on earth including animals and fruits. After this allocation, Ngai relocated to the top of Mt Kirinyaga -now known as Mt Kenya(Kenyatta, 1978). As the story goes, one day Ngai decided to take Gikuyu to his residence at the top of Mt Kirinyaga. He (Ngai) led him to the highest point of the mountain and pointed him to a certain point on the land where there were lots of fig trees referred to as Mugumo in your native language. Ngai instructed Gikuyu to go and build a house in that specific region choosing to name the place Mukurwe wa Gathanga, meaning God’s chosen land. Ngai realized that Gikuyu would from time to time require to communicate with Him.
He told him that should he need anything all he had to do was slaughter a goat and roast it in an open fire. Gikuyu then descended the mountain and headed straight to the spot where he was met with a beautiful woman whom he promptly married and named her Mumbi (meaning: creator). The two then started a family and together they had nine daughters. It should be noted here that according to the story, no sons were born into the family. Gikuyu then proceeded to communicate with Ngai via the method they had agreed on earlier and when Ngai summoned him, he went to the mountain to complain that he had many daughters but no men to marry them. Ngai in His mystical way told him to go and slaughter a lamb and a young goat and then take the blood and fat collected from these two animals and pour it at the foot of a giant Mugumo tree which grew near the homestead. A fire was then made under the tree and all the slaughtered meat would be burnt as a sacrifice to Ngai. Once the sacrifice was over, Ngai was to take his daughters and wife home and then come back to the tree where he was to find nine handsome men who were willing to marry his daughters (Killam, 1984). I believe this is the entire story of how the Agikuyu community came to be.
I know members from your tribe have a very strong inclination towards believing the story as it is and because of the strong repercussions that doubters face, they cannot question its truthfulness. However, as an outsider, I believe the story has a lot of misgivings. The first issue I have regards the beginning of the story. Just like the Christian creation story, yours also start with the existence of a supreme deity, in this case, Ngai. Any individual who does not ascribe to this mystical existence of a supreme being would want to question how Ngai came to be. Your story does not either tell of the location he used to reside in before relocating to the mountain top. I have read various versions of the story and have even confirmed with some of my friends from your region and none seemed to explain how Gikuyu came to be either. Was he created by Ngai? If so, what materials were used in this creation process? It is very challenging for a person to go past this point especially since it had already been pointed out that Ngai was on this earth alone. Given your creation story and the Christian version where it is said that God molded man out of some clay and water, the latter would sound more credible even though it has its weaknesses (McFarland, 2009).
We are also told that after allocating Gikuyu a share of the earthly resources, Ngai relocated to the top of Mt. Kirinyaga. Since the physical appearance of Ngai has not been described we are forced to believe that he takes the similar form of a man judging by his conversations and relation with Gikuyu. In his stay at the top of Mt Kirinyaga (Kenya), He must have built himself a house. However, the peak of Mt Kenya is covered in ice and the air above there is too thin to support any existence. Even if Ngai could have survived up there based on His superhuman powers, it is obvious that Gikuyu could not have whenever he went there.
After Ngai had instructed Gikuyu to go and build a homestead, He also advised him to always slaughter a goat whenever he needs to communicate. The issue I have with this part is that even though the usage of smoke to pass across messages has been utilized in various communities, the method was only effective in short distances. Mt Kenya (Kirinyaga) is at least 5000 meters from base to peak (Jackson, 2007). This means that even if the goat that Gikuyu was burning could produce as much smoke as a forest fire, it could only be visible over a certain amount of distance. A single goat on fire can only produce so much smoke.
The meeting between Gikuyu and Mumbi is also very difficult to believe. Even if Ngai had placed her thereafter creating her using the method she had to create Gikuyu, it would have been difficult for Gikuyu to tell that Mumbi was a woman and that he was supposed to marry her. I also don’t see the point of him marrying her if she was the only woman on earth. Marriage, I believe, is a way of isolating an individual from the attention of other people by laying claim to him or her. In this case, Gikuyu cannot be said to have married Mumbi.
When the couples’ nine daughters had grown up, we are told that Gikuyu consulted with Ngai. He climbed up the mountain without any special climbing gear or protective clothing. The sides of Mount Kenya-then, Kirinyaga- are rugged, and even modern-day climbers with their specialized equipment would find it difficult to ascend its slopes to the snow-capped peak. The ritual that Ngai instructed to be performed for Him to solve Gikuyu’s issue is also not justifiable. It almost appears like Ngai was just having fun watching Gikuyu and his family polish a tree with blood and animal fat. In fact, after the ritual, they all left, and then the man (Gikuyu) had to come back to collect the men for his daughters. The myth insists that the men were willing to marry Gikuyu’s daughters. It is difficult to think that the men had any other option but to marry the girls. After all, it was their sole purpose on this earth, and we are left wondering what would have happened had they refused to do so.
Finally, the story in all its various versions always ends with the part where Gikuyu’s daughters found themselves husbands and began multiplying the earth. We do not get to know whether Ngai relocated or is still living at the peak of the mountain. If so, then individuals who have climbed to the peak must have met Him or seen signs of His existence there. These individuals include your country’s own Kisoi Munyao in 1963 when you received independence (Davidson, 1996).
With all these shortcomings, Mr. Kamau, it is amazing that the members of your tribe have taken this as a representation of the whole truth regarding their origin. Please note that I am not urging you to abandon your traditional religious beliefs. I am simply trying to show you that as passionate as you may be about culture, there are some basic questions you have to ask yourself about the things you are told.
Davidson, J. (1996). Voices from Mutira: change in the lives of rural Gikuyo women, 1910-1995. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Jackson, J. (2007). Trekking Atlas of the World. Australia: New Holland Publishers.
Kenyatta, J. (1978). Facing Mount Kenya: the tribal life of the Gikuyu. Michigan: University of Michigan.
Killam, G. (1984). The Writing of East and Central Africa. Nairobi: East African Publishers.
McFarland, I. (2009). Creation and Humanity: The Sources of Christian Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
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