Kikuyu


  •  kemetic-dreams

    The Kikuyu are the largest ethnic group in Kenya. They speak the Bantu Gĩkũyũ language as a mother tongue. The term Kikuyu is the Swahili form of the proper name and pronunciation of Gĩkũyũ , although group members refer to themselves as the AgĩkũyũGĩkũyũ literally means a huge sycamore tree and Agĩkũyũ thus literally refers to the children of the huge sycamore

    Origin

    Mythically, the nation of the Agĩkũyũ came from two original parents who were created by God, namely Gĩkũyũ andMũmbi. The word Gĩkũyũ means ‘a huge sycomore tree. Ngai refers to the creator who happens to be a life companion to the sycamore, the sacred tree from which the nation originated.The Kikuyu are of Bantu origin.They constitute the single largest ethnic group in Kenya, and are concentrated in the vicinity of Mount Kenya. The exact place that the Kikuyu’s ancestors migrated from after the initial Bantu expansion from West Africa is uncertain. Some authorities suggest that they arrived in their present Mount Kenya area of habitation from earlier settlements further to the north and east,while others argue that the Kikuyu, along with their closely related Eastern Bantu neighbors the EmbuMeruMbeere, andKamba moved into Kenya from points further north

    The nation and its pursuits

    Until the arrival of Europeans, the Agĩkũyũ preserved geographic and political power from almost all external influence for many generations; they had never been subdued.Just before the arrival of the BritishArabs were involved in slave trade and their caravans passed at the southern edges of the Agĩkũyũ nation. Slavery as an institution did not exist amongst the Agĩkũyũ, nor did they make raids for the capture of slaves.The Arabs who tried to venture into Agĩkũyũland met instant death. Relying on a combination of land purchases, blood-brotherhood (partnerships), intermarriage with other people, and their adoption and absorption, the Agĩkũyũ were in a constant state of territorial expansion.Economically, the Agĩkũyũ were great farmers and shrewd business men. Besides farming and business, the Agĩkũyũ were involved in small scale industries with professions such as bridge building,string making,wire drawing,and iron chain making.The Agĩkũyũ had a great sense of justice(kihooto).

    Social and political life

    The Agĩkũyũ nation was divided into 9 clans. The members of each clan had a maternal blood tie in common, but were not restricted to any particular geographical area, they lived side by side. Some clans had a recognised leader, others did not.[18] However, in either case, real political power was exercised by the ruling council of elders, lead by a headman.

    Spirituality and religion

     Ngai – The Supreme Creator


    The Gĩkũyũ were – and still are – monotheists believing in an omnipotent God whom they refer to as Ngai. Both the Gĩkũyũ, Embu, and Kamba use this name. Ngai was also known as Mũrungu by the Meru and Embu tribes, or Mũlungu (a variant of a word meaning God which is found as far south as the Zambezi of Zambia). The title Mwathani or Mwathi (the greatest ruler) comes from the word gwatha meaning to rule or reign with authority, was and is still used. All sacrifices to Ngai were performed under a sycamore tree (Mũkũyũ) and if one was not available, a fig tree (Mũgumo) would be used. The olive tree (Mũtamaiyũ) was a sacred tree for women.[19]

    Philosophy of the Traditional Kikuyu Religion

    The cardinal points in this Traditional Gĩkũyũ Religion Philosophy were squarely based on the general Bantu peoples thought as follows:

    1. The universe is composed of interacting and interconnected forces whose manifestation is the physical things we see, including ourselves and those we don’t see.
    2. All those forces (things) in the universe came from God who, from the beginning of time, have had the vital divine force of creation within himself.
    3. Everything created by God retains a bond from God (Creator) to the created.
    4. The first humans who were created by God have the strongest vital force because they got it directly from God.
    5. Because these first humans sit just below God in power, they are almost like Gods or even can be Gods.
    6. The current parent of an individual is the link to God through the immediate dead and through ancestors.
    7. On Earth, humans have the highest quantity of vital force.
    8. All the other things (forces) on Earth were created to enable human vital force (being) become stronger.
    9. All things have vital force but some objects, plants and animals have higher vital force than others.
    10. A human can use an animal to symbolize the level of his vital force compared to other humans.
    11. There is a specific point within every physical manifestation (thing) of vital force where most that force is concentrated.
    12. A human can easily manipulate things to his advantage or to their detriment by identifying this point of concentration of vital force. There are human beings who have more knowledge of these forces and can manipulate them at will usually by invoking higher forces to assist.
    13. Higher forces are invoked by humans using lower forces (animal or plant sacrifice) as intermediaries. To approach higher forces directly is thahu (abomination which leads to a curse).
    14. The human society has some few elite people very skilled in the art of manipulating forces to strengthen a human(s) force or diminish it, strengthen any force below human force or diminish it.
    15. The leader of a human society is the one possessing the highest vital force as at that time or the one closest to God or both. Since the leader of this human society has the highest vital force and hence closer to God than any other person, he should be able to nourish the rest of the people by linking them to the ultimate God and by being able to command lower forces to act in such a way so as to reinforce the other humans vital force.
    16. The life force of a dead ancestor can come back to life through the act of birth of a new child, especially when the child is named after the departed ancestor and all is seen to be well.

    Gĩkũyũ nation, being of Bantu family held a belief in the interconnection of everything in the universe. To the Gĩkũyũ people, everything we see had an inner spiritual force and the most sacred though unspoken ontology was being is force.This spiritual vital force originated from God, who had the power to create or destroy that life force. To the Gĩkũyũ people, God was the supreme being in the universe and the giver(Mũgai/Ngai) of this life force to everything that exists. Gĩkũyũ people also believed that everything God created had a vital inner force and a connection bond to Him by the mere fact that he created that thing and gave it that inner force that makes it be and be manifested physically.To the Agĩkũyũ, God had this life force within himself hence He was the ultimate owner and ruler of everything in the universe. The latter was the ultimate conception of God among the Gĩkũyũ people hence the name Mũgai/Ngai. To the Gĩkũyũ people, those who possessed the greatest life force, those closest to God were the first parents created by God because God directly gave them the vital living force. These first parents were so respected to be treated almost like God himself. These were followed by the ancestors of the people who inherited life force from the first parents, then followed by the immediate dead and finally the eldest in the community. Hence when people wanted to offer sacrifices, the eldest in the community would perform the rites. Children in the community had a link to God through their parents and that chain would move upwards to parent parents, ancestors, first created parents until it reaches God Himself. The Gĩkũyũ people believed the departed spirits of the ancestors can be reborn again in this world when children are being born, hence the rites performed during the child naming ceremonies.The Gĩkũyũ people believed the vital life force or soul of a person can be increased or diminished, thereby affecting the person’s health. They also believed that some people possessed power to manipulate the inner force in all things. These people who increased the well being of a person spirit were called medicine-men (Mũgo) while those who diminished the person’s life force were called witchdoctors (Mũrogi). They also believed that ordinary items can have their spiritual powers increased such that they protect a person against those bent on diminishing a person vital life force.Such an item with such powers was called gĩthitũ.Thus, the philosophy of the Gĩkũyũ religion and life in general was anchored on the understanding that everything in the universe has an inner interlinked force that we do not see.God among the Gĩkũyũ people was understood hence to be the owner and distributor(Mũgai) of this inner life force in all things and He was worshiped and praised to either increase the life force of all things (farm produce, cattle, children) the Gĩkũyũ people possessed and minimize events that led to catastrophes that would diminish the life force of the people or lead to death. The leader of the Gĩkũyũ people was the person who was thought to possess the greatest life force among the people or the person who had demonstrated the greatest life force in taking care of the people, their families, their farm produce, their cattle and their land.This person was hence thought to be closer to God than anybody else living in that nation.The said person also had to demonstrate and practice the highest levels of truth(maa) and justice(kihooto), just like the supreme God of the Gĩkũyũ people would do.

    Mount Kenya and religion

    Ngai or mwene-nyaga is the Supreme Creator and giver of all things. He created the first Gĩkũyũ communities, and provided them with all the resources necessary for life: land, rain, plants, and animals. Ngai cannot be seen but is manifested in the sun, moon, stars, comets and meteors, thunder and lightning, rain, rainbows, and in the great fig trees (Mugumo). These trees served as places of worship and sacrifice and marked the spot at Mũkũrũe wa Gathanga where Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi – the ancestors of the Gĩkũyũ in the oral legend – first settled. Ngai has human characteristics, and although some say that he lives in the sky or in the clouds, Gĩkũyũ lore also says that Ngai comes to earth from time to time to inspect it, bestow blessings, and mete out punishment. When he comes, Ngai rests on Mount Kenya and Kilimambogo (kĩrĩma kĩa njahĩ). Thunder is interpreted to be the movement of Ngai and lightning is the weapon used by Ngai to clear the way when moving from one sacred place to another. Some people believe that Ngai’s abode is on Mount Kenya. In one legend, Ngai made the mountain his resting place while on an inspection tour of earth. Ngai then took the first man, Gikuyu, to the top to point out the beauty of the land he was giving him.

    Political structures and generational change

    The Agĩkũyũ had four seasons and two harvests in one year.

    1. Mbura ya njahĩ (the season of big rain) from March to July,
    2. Magetha ma njahĩ (the season of the black bean harvest) between July and Early October,
    3. Mbura ya Mwere (short rain season) from October to January,
    4. Magetha ma Mwere (the season of harvesting) milletà
    5. Mbura ya Kimera


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