Embu & Mbeere - Fables and Legends

Mwenda Mwea

This story, narrated by Nthia wa Geteria - a 70 year-old Embu elder from Thau - recalls Mwenda Mwea, a celebrated medicine man who predicted the arrival of the British and colonisation. From Ciarunji Chesaina's outstanding book "Oral Literature of the Embu and Mbeere" (1997: East African Educational Publishers, PO Box 54314 Nairobi, Kenya). See the copyright notice for textual extracts.

A historical legend: Mwenda Mwea, narrated by Nthia wa Geteria

Mwenda Mwea was a famous medicine man as well as a seer. He lived here in Thau. Although he lived beyond Ndega's Grove, Mwenda Mwea was well-known all over the areas surrounding Ndega's Grove. If anybody claimed to be from Thau, Gicera, Kyeni or anywhere in Kagaari but did not know Mwenda Mwea, then that person was a liar. Mwenda Mwea foresaw all that happened in Kenya at the beginning of the colonial era. It happened like this:
   One day, a man called Kanyange took his son to Mwenda Mwea. He wanted Mwenda Mwea to tell him whether the son's forthcoming marriage would be blessed. Now when father and son arrived, Mwenda Mwea received them with sternness mixed with friendliness as was his habit.
   After listening to the problem at hand, Mwenda Mwea touched his goat known as Giceru, the White One, and listened. The goat bleated. Mwenda Mwea listened carefully to the bleating and shook his head. At this point, Mwenda Mwea told Kanyange to tell his son not to marry a woman from the opposite ridge. He said the marriage would portend evil. The son was very upset.
   "Isn't there a ritual you could perform or a sacrifice you could give to ward off this evil?" Kanyange asked Mwenda Mwea. In response, Mwenda Mwea told Kanyange to bring several items for further divination on another day.
   On the appointed day, father and son came back with the things Mwenda Mwea had asked for. This time Mwenda Mwea whispered something to Kanyange's son and told him to keep it secret throughout his life.
   After he had finished with this marriage problem, Mwenda Mwea went into a trance and began foretelling the future.
   "I see a black snake coming, coming from Naicuru, passing through Embu and going, going, going going... But we shall not be there at that time. I shall be hiding with my goat, Giceru. Giceru', won't we be hiding?" The goat bleated.
   "I see a white bird with a metal beak coming, coming, I see a bird with a metal beak flying this way, coming, coming.... But by the time it arrives we shall not be there. I shall be hiding with my Giceru. Giceru, won't we be hiding?" The goat bleated.
   "I see all our cattle gone. Plundered from us by red people. Whoever has a bull, he had better slaughter it now.
   "I see us being beaten at Rukanga. But when these things happen, we shall not be there. I shall be hiding with my goat, Giceru. Giceru, won't we be hiding?" The goat bleated.
   After he had finished saying all these things, Mwenda Mwea cried.

A few years later a lot of cattle were plundered by the British.

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