The Abagusii and Luo Cultural Practices

The Abagusii (Mwanyagetinge)

This is a group of Bantu language speakers that settled mainly in the south Nyanza (Nyamira and Kisii County). As a community, it has its own culture – cultural practices that kept the community together and ensured continuity of the same from generation to generation. Some of the practices include the following:

  • Rites of passages (Birth, Initiation, Marriage, Death)
  • Ritual practices – Pleasing the ancestors.
  • Worshiping and Praising their Gods.
  1. Rites of passage.
  2. Birth. The Abagusii culture couldn’t see it a just usual thing, no. During the eve of the expectancy, the expectant mother’s mother-in-law always stayed next to her. The midwifery extended to all elderly women in a clan. They usually assembled in the homestead giving particular herbal medicine and particular attention to the labored expecting mother. Mostly, the man to the unborn child during this period, could go away and stay with his father until a particular messager has called him (usually they call it ekeiririato). The birthday to the community is just a holiday. All clan members could assemble and celebrate with dances and special drinks such as (ebusa, omokora).
  3. Initiation – in the Abagusii culture, no matter how old you are in years, if you are not circumcised you are just a minor. They call it (omoisia). Now each year a group of teenagers who had matured in age and able to perform some of the roles and responsibilities assigned could qualify for the same. Some of the interviews attached were funny indeed. You may be told to touch your shoulder over the head using the opposite hand, and if you could not, you failed, go back and remain young although you are aging. Talking about those teenagers who are going to face the cut, youths could wake them up before dawn and take them to the river – those cold mornings before dawn. They are then put in the water while naked. The aim is to make their skin numb. After this, they would be taken to an elderly man, a specialist who could perform the act. They are put in a line, and a statue of hyena brought in front of each to scare them not to scream. Threats such as cutting the whole organ if screams were heard from them did not miss. Using cultural knives made from melted minerals and treated with special herbs, the expert could take off the foreskin without even the notice of the owner. And of course put some ashes and herbs to stop bleeding.

Then for a month, they are treated specially, taught dos and don’ts and above all, the way of an elderly man. Any training, has got its toughness/difficult moments. This includes beatings from the elders to provoke their anger and also revenge for what they also had gone through.

  1. Nothing was exciting as marriage. There wasn’t courtship and any man who qualified or felt like marrying could identify a lady who he wanted, inform his parents, and it was the responsibility of the man’s parents to go and convince the girl’s parents, pay the dowry (mostly livestock) and agree to make a bonding (oboko) relationship. The lady was then taken to the man’s hut amidst celebrations.

Luo Cultural Practices

Tero Buru: In the Luo culture, when a man died, mostly an old man, he was buried normally like other men but after two weeks, there was a ritual that had to be done. This was believed that it makes his spirits to rest in peace. During that ritual (celebration) this is what was to be done:

  • Young men used to go to the nearest hill, then with them they would carry food, specifically a cock then they were to slaughter it in the hill and pour libation and then cook it there and eat it. With them, they could also carry musical instruments specifically drums. They also could color themselves and markings on their bodies. After eating, several practices were to be done then they could start a journey back home to the home of the deceased while chanting, beating drums and singing till his home. Then they surround his grave several times and that they would be convinced that the soul had rested in peace and that he could not return to haunt people.

Tero (Inheritance)

This was (is) done to the widows. When a man dies, more so, a young man and leaves his wife back, then she had to be inherited. Mostly when the man died when he was still living in his Simba (Cottage): Simba in Luo land is the house that a man died without building his home before establishing his home. When a man died without building his home but instead in Simba, it is believed that a home could not be built or established without a man, so the widow had to search for a man who was to act  as her husband to help her establish the home. And this man would inherit her and remain to be her forever husband. It is and was also very shameful for a widow to remain without being remarried, such were being seen as outcasts.

Goyo Dala (Establishing A Home)

When a man married, he had to establish a home that is, he moves form his father’s compound and builds his own. But in the parents’ compound, it was practiced that when a boy reaches puberty stage, he was to be built a house (Simba) and this was the order; the first boy was to build on the right hand side of the home, second boy on the left side, the third on the right hand side again and the trend would move this way, this was because of the order. The same trend was to be followed when establishing a home. The first born was to establish his first, in that order, then the last boy wasn’t to leave the compound but established his home within the compound.

But the ritual comes in when establishing a home, when you have children. When still in the Simba and you have to establish a home from the Simba, the man was to take the lead towards where he is to build the home on his hand. He could carry a slasher and a machete, followed closely by his elder son holding an axe on his shoulder and a cock then the other family members would follow. When reaching the place the man would point for other elders the place, the cock had to be slaughtered, libation poured, the elders cleanse the place then the man had to dig and put the first pole of the house then others would follow. So the man and the wife were subjected to spend in that home, to spend the night there, whether the building was complete or not, they call it ligala. They were to sleep in that ligala and cleanse that home by having ‘sex’ despite of the prevailing conditions though it used to be very cold those nights.

Chwoyo Kodhi And Golo Kodhi And Kayo Kodhi

These activities had to be done in different times of the planting seasons.

Golo Kodhi – This was the first ritual. This was done when the seeds that are to be planted in particular season were to be removed and be prepared for planting. The night before their planting, they had to be cleansed and obviously the cleansing was done through sex at night before their removal

Choyo Kodhi – Just as the previous one, it was to be cleansed also that night. But this Chwoyo kodhi means the day now for the exact planting of the prepared seeds.

Kayo Kodhi – This means the day of harvesting, the farmer used to go to the shamba and investigate whether the maize is ready for harvesting. (Goyo Kogno). Then when its ready, they were to organize a particular day of harvesting. The night to the harvesting, they had to cleanse the activity by having sex that night.


2017-08-07T11:03:57+00:00 1 Comment

About the Author:

Eunniah Mbabazi
Poet by passion.

One Comment

  1. Kelvin August 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Informative and impressive

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