David getting the fire started in the small kiln – investments are already loaded. Should take today and overnight to burn out and then a pouring later on tomorrow.
Informants here: Muhinda Jofet and Marahi Kihuka (15,000/-)
David and l went to visit the muramura graves near his and his brother’s home village. This place was called Kinyangoye. The older grave also had a tree planted inside the muramura circle called a Enkegha tree which had grown big. This tree was rare and was not planted there but seemed to arrive from nowhere. Not much was known about the two graves, except the man buried in the large grave was Kihuka Bagheni, who was an uncle to David’s father on his mother’s side. There was traditionally no inscription about who and when the person was born or died. The second smaller muramura grave was the grandson to Kihuka Bagheni, whose name was Simon Baluku. The cement grave to the side of these was Mwenkehule Baluku, the son of Simon Baluku, and the grave is only 15 years old and yet is not in too good a shape. The 'Musambya' tree, which is found near the graves, seeds itself all over the place on the wind.
Opposite was a clan meeting place with benches.
Name: Daniel Baluku Dinji
Place: Ruoni, Ibanda
Interpreter: Owerangi Enock
To be a storyteller you have to be 50 years or above and who has met all the people who have told him about all the stories from the past. This is mainly from parents and grandparents and his father was a clan leader and anyone could approach him for stories.
Daniel Baluku Dinji was a mountain guide for the Ruwenzori mountains but now he does a bit of farming and telling stories to earn a living – he appeared on crutches.
Asked which were his favourite stories as a child he said his parents told him about the gods who lived in the mountains. The spirits were Nyabibuya (who controlled women) and Isebebuya (who controlled men). The men and women make sacrifices for both spirits. Special sheep, black and brown, are used as sacrifices to the gods, depending on the needs of the spirits eg. for hunting and if they wanted rain after a drought. The clan leader would do the sacrifices but it could also be the chief, if the clan leader was not available. Chicken, eggs, sugar cane and some matoke were also used in the sacrifices, & often roasted these things when calling for the spirits. These dishes (which would vary) would be left in the shrines. The shrines were special houses. Palm leaves and banana leaves would be put into the shrines like a carpet, which would form a ‘plate’ to put the food on. There would be two shrines opposite each other on a pathway, one for the males and one for females, not big enough for humans to get into, as these were for the spirits alone.
Kitasamba is highly respected as he takes care of the whole mountain and the others were lesser gods. The whole pantheon consists of Nyabibuya (associated with females, giving birth and helps fertility), Isebebuya (associated with males, fertility, importance, and madness) and Kalisha (associated with wild animals, hunting and controls them). Kalisha had a farm of wild animals, but as well as assisting with hunting, she could take care of the animals too. Sacrifices could be made using animals and therefore killing animals would be condoned. Kalisha could take on the image of a sheep, and birds and therefore could trick you, and so you might have to make a small sacrifice, otherwise you might get lost in the mountain. The spirit would whistle and confuse you, so the mountain guides were told to ignore it and go straight ahead, otherwise the spirit would make you loose control and focus. Even the hunter’s dog could loose it’s way and aim. Often Kalisha would be in the form of the blue monkey or colobus and she can also be seen around large groups of buffalo for instance, as when asked for evidence of this he said he had seen her as a smoke plumb in the middle of them.
There are separate spirits for the lakes and rivers and general spirits, which are everywhere too. The ‘Octopus’ is not a spirit, it is a snake and is considered by David to be a bad totem which needs regular sacrifice to stay in control. As it is associated with water it is often linked with rain, as well as rivers and he said his grandfather (witch doctor), who was a rainmaker, had it as one of his totems. It can be a reason for drowning too. It normally changes into a snake or fish. The healer can make someone poor or rich if he/she brings a sacrifice – he is told to bring a ‘snake’ otherwise someone within the family may die. Families could have a relationship with the ‘octopus’ but would have to take a large sheep (black) to the river as a sacrifice to make sure they maintained some peace. These sacrifices would have to take place twice a year. Often though you would have to make more regular sacrifices of young sheep depending on the problem within the family. If the ‘octopus’ gets too tiresome a party of men, who are clan leaders, have to go out to kill it, over a period of three days and people have to stay indoors whilst this is done, as these men must not be seen. Then, if successful, the proof that this had been achieved would be a red sky in the morning, according to David. When collecting water in water pots you can fetch the octopus by mistake, so you would have to do the sacrifices to live in peace.
David said there was another bad spirit of the snake that like the ‘octopus’ had to be readily appeased and is often acknowledged in the ‘gift giving’ as dowry on marriage. There is also a family spirit that is relied upon within the family.
Regarding other animals and stories associated with them the storyteller tells us that the zebra thinks of itself as the king of the jungle, as it is special to other animals, as the other animals watch it and surround it; whereas the leopard at the time of creation, because it is considered to be a dangerous animal, was separated and therefore solitary. The spots mean anger. The lion is tough so other animals hate it and that is why it is on its own too.
Death rituals: If you die in a village, there is a drum in every home that is played to alert the public and then people go there to pay their respects. The relatives make a fire on the verander and plan how the person would be buried. Usually they would be buried in clothes or bark cloth. Then they would look for trees that had a branch that you could dig a grave with. Before you dug the grave uncles and aunts would gather. The nephew would be responsible for digging the grave and other people would follow after this. If it was an old person then old people in the village would have to take him from the house to the grave, likewise if a young person then the younger members of the community would be called upon to do it.
For males the process before burial would last a week and on the 7th.day they would hold a party/funeral and decide who will take over the family. Drums and flutes would be playing. The person to inherit could be a brother of the deceased or clan member within the family, or could look for the oldest son of the dead person. He may have had five wives in which case he could now control all their families and have more children with the younger wives, whilst treating the older wives as surrogate mothers. Spears are inherited too and are used for hunting and usually given to the oldest son. The oldest son is the one to enter the house first where the body is lying and only then can the other younger brothers and the rest of the family enter the house too.
The muramura plant is placed in a circular formation around the grave, which is the job of the nephew, and indicates where the grave is. The family then used to move to another village, often after burning the house down. Sometimes they would not bury a person near the house because they did not like the young ones to know about death and it was considered bad to see the body. In those days they could have a clan burial grounds, which were sacred burial grounds, but they do not have these anymore. However the dead person needs to be considered part of the family still, so he is not buried away from the family house now, otherwise the dead person’s spirit may come back to haunt them.
Daniel Baluku Dinji tells us that a healer and witch doctor are different although now they are often the same.
Witch doctors - He says use bad spirits often to kill people and witchcraft is used as a business but often they say they are healers! Witch doctors just want money. He said before mobile phones a witch doctor, through the powers of the spirits or clan leaders, could 'assist' with enemies, for example, if someone hates someone else they could make a bad spirit fly between you and this other person which would be very effective.
Healers – are people who use good spirits and take care of people. He often calls upon Nyabibuya (the god of fertility) for good luck, as in the case of a 30 year old female who is not married they can consult him as to why this might be, as it was believed you might have something wrong with you. They use local herbs as well as the spirits.
Interview with Witch doctor 2
Name: Baluku Nudu
Place: Muhambo Village
He lived up this very steep hill and David and l managed to go up to a good height before continuing on foot into the hills – the road up was very scary as the edge was falling away, the road was lumpy with rocks and only enough room for the landrover tyres! He is the father of Musa, the security guard at the foundry.
His stool was very small although similar shape to the other stools l had seen. He had a hippo tusk dangling on a piece of string from the ceiling of the first room in the hut where l sat which was to ward off bad spirits that may come to him. He sat in the doorway to the other room, which seemed to be empty but I was told he had other things in, which caught bad spirits, but I was not privy to enter this room.
He said that Christianity had not effected the numbers of people coming to him, and that some of them were Christians anyway.
Some people come to him for mental health problems and epileptic fits are quite common. If people move at night (bad spirits) they can get affected for which he has a leaf (‘Eringa’) for the ‘octopus’.
His job is as a witch doctor but he also farms which gives him a means of survival. His clients are both male and female of all ages.
Even if someone has done something really bad, like murdered someone, he would still have to help them – a bit like Catholic confession maybe. There are physical and spiritual spirits. The charms he has can protect the client against the evil spirits but cannot protect him against other men, who may want revenge perhaps. Nzebe and Muhima are prophets who he calls upon, that can tell you what is wrong with you.
The sacrifices he makes are usually brown chickens, although he can use different colours depending on what is wrong with you. His twice a year sacrifices for himself are brown chickens. He uses a black one for the ‘octopus’, which is associated with valleys, and a white one for evil spirits from the mountain.
He thinks witch doctors will never die out. He will leave ‘his bag’ to choose who will be the son to be the next witch doctor, it cannot be him that chooses. He did not know he would be the one chosen but the bag chose him and being the eldest son he also inherited his father’s spears – these would be different sizes for different game.
His ritual objects were fascinating which he pulled out of two pots and a box and a small shopping basket. The pots had gourds and horns in them, the box had loads of objects in them, mainly animal parts (monitor lizard feet, piece of leopard skin, vertebrae and his headdress had three animal skins attached to it), some unreadable script, knotted fabric and shells and even pangolin scales. The horns were special and as with the other witch doctor he held a group of them in his hands to shake backwards and forwards as he would chant. The big one had an animal throat stuffed in the top (pangolin) and two tubes sticking out of it, one to call the spirits into his head and the other to call up the demons of the sick person. He starts with the former calling the spirits. The pots were used to put the herbs in.
His headdress is made up of a leopard conch shell, monitor lizard, Kasimba, and Akanyamulholhota (two flattened furry animals).
The pangolin scales he cooks up with water, if you have the shakes (epileptic fits) and administers it as a drink.
The piece of leopard skins he uses to cure measles because of the spots.
The monitor lizard feet he uses to cure diarrhoea by cutting a small piece of it and tying it to your hand.
The shell is for curing sleeping sickness and the client would drink out of it.
The metal hoe was very old and rusty and goes back beyond his grandfather’s generation…..so maybe ancestral.
He then showed me what he did with his clients to heal them. He wears the headdress for this but still appears to don his suit, shirt and shoes. He would take them outside, to his ‘herb garden’ shaking the gourd on his exit from the hut to indicate to others that he was on the move and people should stay away. Then he plants the horn smaller or larger into the selected plant or plunge it into the earth by it and then picks some of the plant to give to the client. Sometimes he picks up a rock or stone by the plant and holds it too. The prickly pear is for chest infections.