Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bagisu religious beliefs - #Uganda #Religion


The Bagisu worship a supreme God called wele lunya- also known as wele Namanga/Weri Kubumba. According to Naleera (2003: 10-12), Namanga is derived from NANGA, denoting a cloth, a view indicating that God wears a white cloth to symbolise his ‘holy’ nature. And yet, Khamalwa (2004) notes that wele wemungaki, the God who resides above, is the supreme God of the Bagisu whom the latter consider to be a porter, one who is able to do anything or the one who has power (2004: 22).
Since wele is invisible and resides above, the Bagisu expect him to be everywhere and dwell in every activity they perform including imbalu circumcision rituals. Similarly, the Bagisu believe that everything which takes place comes from him thus respecting wele as much as they can. Wele Lunya has three assistance in performance of some of his duties.
Three assistants to wele (called wele Lunya) are as follows:wele Maina, the one responsible for animal wealth (buhindifu) and is the one who removes barrenness from cows. To appease wele Maina, a person sacrifices a barren cow to him in a special shrine. The priest (normally a diviner) brews beer, blesses it and then sprinkles it over the remaining cows to “remove” barreness from them.
There is wele Nabende who was responsible for rich crop yields and was in charge of banana plantations. The Bagisu sacrificed to him by deliberately leaving some bananas to ripen in the banana plantations. Further, wele Nabulondela was responsible for births and was symbolised
by millet put on the pillar of the house. While brewing beer, the Bagisu keep it under the pole which holds the house in order to allow this deity have her share (see also Turner 1969).
When a woman is in labour, she gets hold on the pillar of the house and the Bagisu believe that wele nabulondela is there to help her. In
addition, since millet is used to symbolise this deity, the Bagisu expect the house wife to be as productive as millet and produce as many children as possible. As imbalu (male circumcision) symbolises the second birth, when the boy is brought to the courtyard for circumcision, the mother runs to the house and gets hold on this pillar to symbolise the second birth of her son.
Another deity, wele namakanda was responsible for fertility and was symbolised by the frog. As such, when frogs enter peoples’ homes, they are not supposed to be pushed away since they are believed to bring blessings to the woman of the home to have as many children as possible. Among the Bagisu, people, especially children are forbidden from hitting frogs. It is believed that since frogs “bring” blessings to women to have as many children as possible, hitting them causes the breakage of the back of one’s mother. As such, the mother may not be able to have more children.
Wele is not only responsible for bringing blessings to the people but also inflicting punishments on wrong doers. To do this, the Bagisu believe that God uses small deities among whom is wele matsakha who resides in thickets and is responsible for punishing his victims with sudden illness and fevers. Another dangerous deity is wele lufutu who was responsible for draining blood from people especially pregnant women. Wele lufutu is believed to reside in the river and is symbolised by a rainbow. Whoever could see a rainbow was not supposed to go to the river lest wele lufuutu drains his or her blood.
While wele Wanyanga was responsible for causing drought, wele Murabula was responsible for breaking the legs of people and animals. Murabula could also cause peoples’ and animals’ eyes to swell and was also appeased around the pillar of the house. Wele Kitsali was responsible for causing epidemics like diarrhoea,
typhoid, fever, cholera and plagues. A “real” Mugisu man is expected to know how to avoid and also appease these deities.
During the performance of imbalu and other Bagisu rituals, these deities (especially those which are not
harmful) must be called upon to come and bless the candidates or persons. In fact, these gods are believed to have power which can make candidates bleed profusely if neglected. The Bagisu believe that next to the gods are the ancestors who also have power to bless or harm people. Indeed, ancestors are believed to be part of the candidate since the candidates’ name is that of his grandfather or uncle who has recently been part of the human race.
Missionaries introduced the Bagisu to Christianity in the late 1890s. These European immigrants established an “Anglican” system that improved roads and infrastructure, subsequently dividing the area into districts. The Bagisu have been fighting with their neighbors, the Sebei, but the Bagisu tribe is larger and more affluent due to coffee and cotton production.
Above is some of the research being done and uncovered by REBECCA LEFRANC to learn about the other half of her roots.

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