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des Forges et Acieries d'AvESTA (MM. A. Johnson 

& C:ie, Stockholm), Proprietaire-Directeur M. Axel Ax:son 

de M. Frans Kempe, Phil. D:r, a Hernosands^Stocks! 


de la Fabrique Suedoise des Roulements a billes, 

Soc. anon. (A. B. Svenska Kullager-fabriken) a Gotembourg 

de la Fabrique de Cuir de L. A. Matton a Gefle 
de la Soc. anon. NoRDSTjERNAN, Armateurs a Stocks! 

holm (Johnson Lignes: Suede — Bresil — La Plata, Suede — Chili 
— Sud Pacific, Suede — ^San Francisco — Nord Pacific), Admi- 
nistrateur-Directeur M. Axel Ax:son Johnson 

par J.-A. LUNDELL 

N:o 17 







Vol. 17 









The first edition of this monograph was published as a uni- 
versity dissertation (discussed publicly at Upsala, May 2y'^, igi6). 
This treatise comprised Chaps. I — XII, corresponding to Chaps. I — 
V, VII — XI^ XIII in this edition, hi the second edition numerous 
additions are made to the text of the first edition, and Chaps. VI, 
XII, XIV ff. are <juite neiv. 







Contents vii 

Introduction i 

Chap. I. The Akamba — their country and neighbours... 9 

1 . Geographical extension 9 

2. Earlier dwelling-places and kinship 13 

3. The neighbours of the Akamba 17 

4. Ukamba. The main features of its physical geography 22 

P. I. Individual life. 

Chap. II. Child-birth 29 

1. General Customs.. 29 

2. Abnormal parturition 37 

3. Abortion 38 

4. Appendix. Customs and rites connected with menstruation... 39 

Chap. III. Circumcision and initiation rites 42 

1. The real circumcision 42 

2. »The great circumcision* 45 

3. »The circumcision of the men» 60 

4. The occurrence of secret initiation rites and secret societies 

in these parts of East Africa 68 

Chap. IV. Marriage 72 

1. General Customs 72 

2. Special Cases 78 

3. Polygamy 79 

4. Divorce 82 

5 . Widows and the fatherless .' 84 

6. Statistics of Families 86 

Chap. V. Relations between persons connected by marriage 89 

1. The conception of ndoni 89 

2. Taboo of names 93 

3. Avoidance between a man and his daughter-in-law or daughter 97 

VIII Lindblom, The Akamba 


Chap, VI. Terms of relationship 99 

Chap. VII. Deatli 103 

1. Burial 103 

2. Purification after a death 108 

P. II. Sociology. 

Chap. VIII, The Clan system and Totemism 113 

1, The Kamba clans and their totems 114 

2, The relations between a person and his totem (The religious 

side of the totem system) 117 

3, Relations between persons of the same totem (clan) (The 

social side of the totem system) 121 

4, Further peculiarities of particular clans 123 

5, The admission of individuals to a clan 126 

6, The taboo-ing and worship of animals of non-totemistic origin 127 

7, Rudiments of a matriarchal community 128 

8, The Clan marks 129 

a. Clan marks on cattle, b. Clan marks on arrowheads, 
c. Clan marks on beehives. 

9, List of clans and their totems collected by the author 136 

10. The origin of the totem system among the Akamba 139 

11. Fictitious Relationship 140 

A. Among the Akamba themselves. 

B. With individuals of another tribe. 

Chap. IX, Social organisation 143 

Age- and Rank-Classes 143 

Chap, X, Government and administration 149 

Chap. XI. The administration of the law and judicial 

customs 152 

1. Criminal law 154 

Bloodmoney and blood-vengeance 154 

Adultery etc 158 

Theft 158 

Punishments for other crimes 160 

2. Civil cases 162 

Law of inheritance 162 

3. Land tenure 164 

4. kipitm and the taking of oaths over it 165 

The use of ktpitm in actions between persons who are 

related to each other 172 

Contents ix 


5. Ordeals 173 

6. The administration of justice by lynchlaw (kigob) 176 

7. The intervention of women in the administration of justice... 180 

8. Curses 182 

Chap. XII. Warfare and customs connected with it 186 

1. Preparations for an expedition 187 

2. Armament and equipment 188 

3. The attack 189 

4. The homecoming of the warriors after a successful plunder- 

ing expedition 197 

5. Defensive fighting 200 

6. Civil feuds 20 1 

P. III. Belief and Science. 

Chap. XIII. Religion 209 

1 . Spirit-worship 209 

The worship of animals 212 

2. The cult of sacrifice 216 

a. Sacrifices by individuals 216 

b. Public sacrifices 219 

3. Tales about mm«-spirits 225 

4. Spirits other than aimu 229 

5 . Exorcism of spirits and religious dances 230 

a. Exorcism of aitnti 230 

b. Exorcism of spirits of the mbevo-type 234 

c. Knsu 238 

Madmen 240 

Prayers and sacrifices to trees 240 

6 The conception of Mulungu (Ngai) 243 

Prayer and sacrifices to Mulungu 244 

The origin of the conception of a god 245 

The ancestor-hypothesis 245 

The nature-hypothesis 247 

N. SSderbloms theory of the »producer» 250 

7. Myths as to the origin of the world 252 

I. The Creation 252 

II. The coming of death to mankind 253 

Chap. XIV. Medicine men and magicians. 

1. General characteristics of the medicine man 254 

2. Divination 258 

3. The medicine man as a healer (of illnesses) 269 

The terms mnh and mtipcea 270 

X Lindblom, The Akamba 


4. The medicine man as a practiser of public magic (for the 

good of the whole community) ,.. 271 

The removing of epidemics 271 

5. The connection of the medicine man with agriculture. Rain- 

making 275 

6. Magicians 278 

7. Amulets 285 

8. Conceptions about the magic power in names 288 

9. Omens 291 

a. Omens taken from bodily action 291 

b. People whom one meets looked upon as omens 292 

c. Animals as bearers of omens 292 

10. Different substances {gondm) used at ceremonial purifications 295 

11. The illnesses ^a6"M and makwa 298 

12. Snake-charmers 303 

13. The magic significance of numbers 306 

Chap. XV. Medicine 311 

1. Illnesses (operations, wounds) 311 

2. Medicines 314 

a. External injuries 314 

b. Internal diseases 316 

Chap. XVI. Natural History 

1. Botany 321 

The part played by plants in magic 322 

2. Zoology 325 

Chap. XVII. Cosmology 

1. Meteorology 334 

2. Astronomy 335 

3. Determination of time 338 

4. Seasons and months 340 

Chap. XVIII. Geographical ideas and conceptions of other 

peoples 343 

Points of the compass 344 

Travelling 345 

Chap. XIX. History and historical traditions 349 

P. IV. Art and Games. 

Chap. XX. Decorative art 357 

Chap. XXI. Clothing and Personal ornaments 

1 . Clothing 371 

Contents xi 


2. Ornaments 375 

3. Hairdressing, treatment of the beard and of hair on other 

parts of the body 386 

4. Perfuming and painting of the body 389 

5. Cicatrization and tattooing 390 

6. Teeth-chipping and extraction 392 

Chap. XXII. Music and dancing 

1. Musical instruments 398 

2. Dancing 407 

ReUgious dancing 414 

3- Song 416 

Chap. XXIII. Toys and games 418 

P. V. Economy. 

Chap. XXIV. The village and the hut 

1. The village 431 

2. The hut 436 

Rites and customs in connection with hutbuilding 441 

Hutbuilding for the medicine man 443 

3. Home life 445 

Chap. XXV. Weapons 449 

Chap. XXVI. Hunting 465 

Elephant hunting 465 

Traps 469 

Chap. XXVII. Domestic animals 

1. Myths about the origin of cattle 475 

2. Cattle-breeding 477 

3. Other domestic animals 483 

4. Names for domestic animals in the Kamba language 486 

5. Rites connected with cattle-breeding 487 

Rites for twin-birth among cattle 489 

6. Cattle diseases 490 

Chap. XXVin. Beekeeping 494 

Chap. XXIX. Agriculture 

1. The fieldwork and the harvest 501 

2. Agricultural rites 507 

XII Lindblom, The Akamba 


Chap. XXX. Food 

1 . Animal food 511 

2. Vegetable food 513 

Chap. XXXI. Stimulants. 

1. Beermaking 518 

2. Snufftaking and smoking 521 

Chap. XXXII. Industries 

Nl. Metalwork 527 

1. Iron industry 527 

2. Other metals 530 

II. Woodwork ; 534 

III. Pottery-making 536 

IV. Making of strings and bags 540 

Chap. XXXIII. Distribution of woric between the sexes ... 543 

1. Woman's work 543" 

2. The man's work 544 

P. VI. Anthropology. 

Chap. XXXIV. Mental Characteristics, etc 549 

Chap. XXXV. Somatic characteristics 561 

Addenda 567 

Concluding remarks 580 

List of works referred to 585 

List of illustrations 593 

Errata 596 

^ndex 597 


During my linguistic and ethnographical researches in East 
Africa, which covered the period December 1910 to June 191 2, 
my work was centred on the Akamba, a Bantu people living by 
agriculture, cattle-raising, and hunting, in the highlands south of 
Mount Kenia. I lived among these people from January to No- 
vember 191 1 and from January to March 1912, and found among 
them a practically untrodden field of work. 

It is true that the Akamba were not discovered yesterday; Dr 
Krapf was the first European to visit them (in 1849), but the 
many travellers who have hurried through the country have not 
given themselves time to stay there, since they have had more 
interesting goals before their eyes, generally Kenia or Lake Vic- 
toria. Thus, although the Akamba are mentioned in many Travels, 
they have not hitherto been the object of systematic study (the 
literature in which the people is dealt with will be mentioned 
below). My endeavour has therefore been to collect the material 
for as complete a monograph on the Kamba people as possible, 
dealing with material and intellectual culture (language, folk-lore, 
&c), and also taking into consideration anthropological conditions. 
The present treatise includes the results of my investigations into 
the subject of the Akamba's intellectual and material culture. 
At the risk of seeming pretentious I consider that I may claim 
that, when once it is worked up, my total material will be sufficient 
for one of the more complete monographs that has been written 
about a people of the Bantu race. 

Anyone who has been engaged in practical ethnological re- 
search work knows how warily one must go to work in order to 
gain reliable information. As often as it has been possible, I 
have with my own eyes been a witness of most of the practical 
occupations, as well as of different customs and ceremonies. In 

a Lindblom, The Akamba 

cases when I have been driven to fall back on oral statements, I 
have made a special point of obtaining them from reliable author- 
ities. Information which has been obtained from one quarter has 
assiduously been verified by enquiries in other quarters. This is 
essential, for it happens all too often that one and the same indi- 
vidual returns different answers to the same question on different 

The putting of leading questions has been avoided, for the 
native easily guesses what answer his interrogator would have, and 
if he is on good terms with him, he gives the desired answer in 
order to please. Even when leading questions are avoided, caution 
must be observed, for it often happens that the interrogated indi- 
vidual answers at random, in order to get rid of the troublesome 
questioner as quickly as possible. Further, I have only in excep- 
tional cases turned for information to people from missionary stations, 
since the native unconsciously incorporates • a good deal of what he 
hears there with his own conceptions; or else he is, or pretends to 
be, superior to the customs and traditions of his own people, with 
the consequence that he does not give a true picture of their beliefs 
and ideas. If, for example, he is questioned upon a matter which, 
from our moral standpoint, is condemnable, he perhaps feels embar- 
rassed, and conveys the impression that the natives themselves also 
regard the custom in question as something repugnant, which is 
often by no means the case. 

Finally, it is important in any study of primitive conceptions, 
to abandon one's own standpoint and try to assume that of the 
natives, endeavouring to see things through their eyes. The author 
commenced his work with a somewhat limited acquaintance with 
general ethnology; but on the other hand, he set to work without 
the encumbrance of preconceived opinions and theories, and this 1 
think has facilitated his efforts to grasp the natives' way of thinking. 

If it can be managed, linguistic and ethnological studies ought 
to proceed side by side. From my own experience, I know how 
much nearer one comes to the natives when one knows their 
language. Especially in East Africa, there is a great temptation not 
to trouble oneself about learning any other language than Kisuaheli, 
the »lingua franca» of East Africa. But even the most intelligent 
and skilful interpreter is not always able to interpret exactly, for 
the corresponding expression perhaps does not exist in Kisuaheli, 

Introduction 3 

and the interpreter finds himself driven to resort to other words, 
through which the original meaning is lost. I have had opportu- 
nities of making this observation more than once at the English 
government stations, when questions concerning the natives were 
under consideration. 

It is of special difficulty to elicit the reason for a custom. 
Sometimes one succeeds after many if's and but's, but in most 
cases the stereotyped answer is : »It is a custom handed down from 
our fathers* {m matindu ma andu ala ma tcsnd). Of course the 
natives themselves very often do not know why they do this or 
that, but the African is very conservative and does not offend 
against time-honoured custom, even though he feels it to be trouble- 
some and oppressive; if he did so, misfortune would come upon 
him. Often, indeed, when the original reason for a custom has been 
lost sight of, a native will give secondary reasons, or even his 
own explanation. Ordinarily, it hardily occurs to him to reflect 
upon the reason for a certain custom, any more than it occurs 
to us to ask why it is considered impolite to shake hands without 
first drawing off the glove, the explanation of which is, of course, 
that many centuries ago the warrior used to protect his hands 
Avith iron gauntlets. However, the enquiring ethnologist is often 
helped by a comparative study of peoples; it often happens that 
the solution of a problem, which has to be abandoned for the 
time being as insoluble, is met with far away in another quarter 
of the world. 

The following works embrace all the literature of value that 
has been written about the Akamba, as far as I am aware. They 
are given in chronological order, since none of them can really be 
considered as quite scientific sources, and it would not be worth 
while to try to make any distinctions. On the whole rather few 
scientifically trained observers have ever been among the African 
negroes : 

J. L. Krapf, Reisen in Ost-Afrika 1837 — 55. Stuttgart 1858. 

Translated into English under the title of »Travels, Researches, 

and Missionary Labours» London i860. 
J. M. Hildebrandt, Ethnographische Notizen iiber Wakamba und 

ihre Nachbarn. Zeitschrift fur Ethnologic 1878 (pp. 347 — 406). 
G. Kolb, Im Lande der Wakamba. Luth. Miss. Blatt 1898. 
G. Sauberlich in Jahrbuch der Sachsischen Missionskonferenz. 

Leipzig 1899. 

4 Lindblom, The Akamba 

L. Decle, Three years in savage Africa. London 1900. 

J. Hofmann, Geburt, Heirat und Tod bei den Wakamba. Leipzig 

1901. Verlag der Ev.Luth. Mission. 24 pp. 
E. Brutzer, Begegnungen mit Wakamba. Leipzig 1902. Verlag 

der Ev.-Luth. Mission. 32 pp. 
E. Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube bei den Kamba. Leipzig 1905. 

Verlag der Ev.-Luth. Mission. 16 pp. 
E. Brutzer, Tierfabeln der Akamba. Archiv fur Anthropologie 1910, 

pp. 523-542. 

C. V. Hobley, The Akamba and other East-African Tribes. 
Cambridge 1910 (pp. i — 117). In »Totemism and Exogamy* 
Frazer has a chapter on »Totemism among the A-Kamba» 
(vol. II, p. 420), which is a reproduction of Hobley's account 
in The Akamba etc. 

C. V. Hobley, Further Researches into Kikuyu and Kamba Reli- 
gious Beliefs and Customs. Journ. Anthropol. Institute 191 1, 
pp. 406—457. 

C. V. Hobley, Kamba Protective Magic. Man 1912. 

C. V. Hobley, Kamba Game. Man 1912, pp. 179 — 180. 

Ch. Dundas, History of the Kitui District. Journ. Anthr. Inst. 
1913, pp. 480—549. 

Ch. Dundas, The Organization and Law of some Bantu Tribes 
in East Africa. J. A. I. 191 5, pp. 234 — 306. 

The reports of the German Mission work in East Africa contain 
various things of ethnological value, both on the Akamba and on 
other tribes^: 

Evangel. Luth. Missionsblatt, Leipzig, from 1898. 
Nurnberger Missionsblatt, from 1887. 

There are a considerable number of works in which the 
Akamba are mentioned more or less in passing: 

L. V. Hohnel, Zum Rudolph-See und Stephanie-See. Vienna 1892. 
J. W. Gregory, The Great Rift Valley. London 1896, pp. 346 — 351. 
H. B. Johnstone, Notes on the Customs of the Tribes occupying 

Mombasa Sub-District. Journ. Anthropol. Inst. 1902, pp. 263 — 272. 
H. R. Tate, Notes on the Kikuyu and Kamba Tribes of British East 

Africa, ibid. 1904, pp. 130 — 148. 

A short estimate of the respective values of the above-men- 
tioned books will not be out of place here. 

Mr Hobley, who is commissioner for the province of Ukamba 

^ According to information kindly given to the author by Herr 
G. Sauberlich, missionary, late of the Ikutha station, Leipziger Mission, 
East Ukamba. 

Introduction 5 

and a prominent expert in matters connected with various East 
African peoples, gives a certainly brief, but fairly comprehensive, 
account of both the intellectual and the material culture of the 
Kamba people. For a highly-placed official, who can only visit 
the natives for short periods at a time and can seldom associate 
freely with them, it is clearly difficult to obtain all the necessary 
information. It is therefore scarcely to be wondered at that Mr 
Hobley's book contains a number of inaccuracies and mistakes; 
to these attention will be drawn in the following pages. Further, 
his ignorance of the language has the result that the native 
terms and other expressions he has collected are often incorrectly 
reproduced phonetically, or misunderstood. In spite of that, the 
work is of great importance as a starting point and foundation for 
further investigations. 

Hildebrandt's work is interesting, as it describes the Akamba 
of over 35 years ago, but his work, too, contains much incorrect 
information. In spite of their popular style, the pamphlets of the 
Leipziger Mission contain much that is valuable and interesting; it 
is seen at once that Messrs Hofmann and Brutzer are well acquain- 
ted with the subjects they deal with. 

From many points of view, especially for the description of 
native law, the best of all the works mentioned is that of the 
Hon. Charles Dundas. As shown by the title, he deals chiefly 
with the Akamba of the Kitui district, where he stayed some time 
as District Commissioner and where I had the pleasure of making 
his acquaintance in 191 1 and getting to know of his studies, then 
in manuscript. As my own exposition lays the chief stress on 
the Akamba of Machakos, M"" Dundas's paper is valuable as com- 
pleting it. One reads his reliable and accurate description with great 
pleasure and notes that the author has tried and succeeded to 
get into close contact with the natives and understands them 
better than many other officials. Some points of detail, such as 
»the rite of Etumo», are unknown to me, and perhaps are not 
found in the Machakos district. On the other hand it is only in 
some few unessential cases that I should venture to assert that 
the author has come to a wrong conclusion. If there is any 
other criticism to make, it is only about the title of the work, 
as the essay can scarcely be said to deal with the »History of 
Kitui», but with the Kitui Akamba of the present time. The best 

6 Lindblom, The Akamba 

chapter, certainly on account of the author's profession, is that 
on Kamba Law, which is in many respects more thorough than 
my own exposition of the same subject (Chap. XI). 

For information as to existing literature on the Kamba lan- 
guage, reference may be made to my work, » Notes on the Kamba 
Language*, Archives d'etudes Orientales, Vol. lo, Upsala 1919. 

Perhaps I may also be allowed to mention the principal natives 
who have been of assistance to me in my work. 

In the first place comes my servant and language teacher 
Kwko wa Malata of the Machakos district. He showed great 
interest in the work, and I trained him systematically, until he 
understood exactly what I wanted. He is one of the most intelli- 
gent natives I ever met, and had served as an askari (soldier) in 
the English police troops, during which time he had learnt to asso- 
ciate with Europeans and to grasp their way of thinking. 

Malata wa K%ambi, the father of the former, an old man 
who is a specialist in ceremonial purification processes, of which 
he knows at least one that but few Akamba are acquainted with. 

MboTogd wa K^pome, an itima, i. e. a medicine-man, who 
differs from the usual type of medicine-men in that he confines 
his activities to the curing of diseases (Machakos). 

Muhndd, an old man of great repute (Machakos). 

Vindia, a mundu mud, i. e. an ordinary medicine-man from 
the district of Kibwezi. I pitched my tent near his village, and 
we were together every day. He conceived a great liking for 
me, and would gladly have accompanied me as a servant, if his 
occupation and reputation as a medicine-man would not have 
suffered thereby. Among other things, he initiated me into the 
secret ceremonies of the third circumcision, the so-called »men's 
circumcisions. The revelation of the abominable customs connected 
with these rites is punished with death, if the offence is discovered. 

Makiti, > headman*, a neighbour of the foregoing, for whom 
I had the opportunity of performing a service. 

Mull, a disreputable and half degenerate individual living near 
the mission station of Ikutha. His rapacity betrayed him into show- 
ing me, among other things, the place where a valuable hpiiui 
(see p. 166) was kept. 

Introduction 7 

Further I must express my gratitude and recognition to many 
other people, among whom are the following: 

Professor C. V. Hartman, to whom I owe the opportunity 
of undertaking my journey to East Africa; 

Professor J. A. Lundell, who by kindly accepting my work 
for publication in Archives d'etudes Orientales, has secured for it 
the possibility of greater circulation. He has also given me many 
good suggestions with regard to the printing of this work and 
has bestowed a great deal of disinterested work on reading proofs. 

Mr S.Charleston M. A. and Mr H. Alexander M. A., lecturers 
at the University of Upsala, who have helped me with the Eng- 
lish text; 

The Hon. Mr C. V. Hobley, C. M. G., who drew my atten- 
tion to the Akamba; The Hon. K. R. Dundas, D. C. in Machakos, 
who took an unfailing and kindly interest in my work, and rendered 
me great assistance. The same may be said of the three mission- 
aries, Mr C. F. Johnston, of the African Inland Mission, Macha- 
kos, Mr G. Sauberlich and Mr J. Hofmann, of the Leipziger 
Mission, Mulango and Ikutha. 

Finally, I will only point out that a work such as the present 
one should preferably be worked up on the spot, in the milieu 
which it deals with. When one gets home and begins to system- 
atise the material, one finds that, in spite of every care, a great 
many things have been overlooked which, for the sake of complete- 
ness, it would have been desirable to include. 

Chapter I. The Akamba — their country and 

I. Geographical extension. 

The Akamba are one of the most north-easterly Bantu peop- 
les in Africa, and one of the largest tribes in British East Africa. 
Speaking approximately, the Akamba inhabit the eastern slope of 
the East African highlands, between the upper course of the river 
Tana and Uganda Railway. More exactly, their country, Ukamba, 
forms approximately a right-angled triangle, one side of which is 
a line running from the summit of Mount Donyo Sabuk^ in a 
north-easterly direction along the Tana's tributary Thika, and the 
upper course of the Tana, up to the Mumoni range, the extreme 
northern outpost of the Akamba. The second side practically falls 
along the stretch of railway between the stations of Kiu and Mtoto 
Andei ^, on the Uganda line ; while the hypothenuse is formed by 
a chain of mountains which, running principally in a longitudinal 
direction from north to south, form the extreme eastern branch of 
the East African highlands, Ndau, Muutha, and Leopold chains, 
&c. The greatest length of the country from north to south (Mu- 
moni — Mutitu wandei) is, as the crow flies, 225 km.; its breadth 
from east to west, about 130 km. 

The stretch defined above is Ukamba proper, to which must 
be added the few villages which lie on the eastern slope of 

^ » Donyo Sabuk», under which name the mountain is generally 
known in East Africa, is Masai language. The Akamba call it kima 
Ijui nzaOi = 'the nzavi mountain' ; nzaGi is a sort of bean. 

^ This name is one of the many examples of how a native name 
can be distorted when adopted by Europeans. The word is mutiftt ivn 
ndeir in Kikamba, and means »the vulture forest ». 
Arch.Or. Litidblom l* 

16 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the mountain ranges of Ngolea and Kyulu, south-west of the 
railway ^ 

There are, further, a number of scattered Kamba colonies in 
both British and German East Africa. The settlement of these 
usually dates from earlier famines, and they are therefore prin- 
cipally composed of people whose ancestors, in such times of 
visitation (unfortunately not unusual in East Africa, at least in 
former times), left their native parts to seek their livelihood else- 
where, and who, when the famine was over, remained in their 
new homes. Thus, in the Kikuyu country, it seems there are to 
be found a large number of Kamba villages near the govern- 
ment station of Fort Hall, and in the eastern part of the Rabai 
district, in the hinterland of Mombasa, among the Wanyika, there 
live several thousands. Some of these lived there already when 
Krapf, the indefatigable missionary and explorer, came across 
them about 1850, and according to their own account they had 
lived there for about 15 years. They immigrated, says Krapf, 
during the great famine of 1836*. 

If we proceed to the Kilimandjaro territory, we come across 
a number of villages between Taveta and Lake Jipe, and a good 
distance south of this lake live a smaller number, in the most 
south-easterly parts of the Pare Mountains, on the boundary zone of 
the inhabited highland and the steppe. Still further south, also on 
German territory, there are found scattered villages in many places 
in Usambara, as for instance, north of the height commanding the 
Musi valley and the depression at Maramba, whose inhabitants, 
when Baumann came into touch with them at the beginning 
of the eighteen-nineties, said they had migrated there about two 
generations ago from Ukamba^. Very possibly they were driven 
from the soil of their fathers by the same great famine which 
drove to Rabai the Akamba now found there. Finally, Last* came 
across a great number of them still further south, in the province 

^ North of Ngolea there lies a small mountain, Noka, which is in- 
habited by the Anoka, a small tribe living largely by hunting. No 
European has yet visited them, but according to the account of the 
Akamba round Kibwezi, they speak a sort of Kamba dialect. 

^ J. L. Krapf, Reisen in Ostafrika, 1837 — 55. 

^ O. Baumann, Usambara und seine Nachbargebiete, pp. 165, 
171, &c (see also maps). 

* J. T. Last, Grammar of the Kamba Language (Polyglotta africana). 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 1 1 

of Usagara, near Mamboia (about 80 kilometers south-west of the 
most easterly point of the Pangani River). These had emigrated 
from the north. The tendency to penetrate in small detachments 
further and further south is still found to-day among the Akamba, 
and in some decades they may, especially if any great famine 
again occurs, be found south of Usagara. Perhaps they are al- 
ready there. 

The Akamba living in strange parts not only preserve their 
language and customs fairly pure and are loath to marry into the 
tribes among which they live, but they also maintain communica- 
tion with their kinsmen at home. In East Ukamba — whence the 
principal emigration seems to have taken place — I have often 
met with visitors from Rabai; and, on the other hand, I have at Lake 
Jipe met with people from Ukamba. 

In spite of this feeling of affinity, it is however natural that 
they cannot live a long time in a foreign country without being, 
to some extent, influenced by its inhabitants ; and this has caused 
many of the Akamba proper to look down upon their scattered 
countrymen. When talking of them, they may often be heard to 
say: »N. N. is no real Mukamba». Those living in Rabai have 
even got nicknames, and up-country are called atumwa (slaves) or 
madikilambua ('those who have followed the rain'). They got 
the first name because, when they emigrated, it was said they 
went to be slaves to the people on the coast; the latter name, of 
course, was applied because they emigrated on account of a con- 
tinued drought with its accompanying famine. To tell the truth, 
these » rain-followers » give the impression of being somewhat de- 
generate, and they have the reputation of being great cattle 
thieves — a suspicion which is not lessened by the fact that 
they prefer to build their villages as far in the bush as possible, 
where it is not easy to come upon them unawares. 

According to the official calculations for the collection of the 
hut tax, the population of Ukamba proper is about 230,000. 

If the great geographical extension of the Kamba people is 
taken into consideration, support is found for the reliability of 
my experience that it is one of the principal peoples, and that 

12 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Kikamba is one of the most widely spoken languages in that part 
of East Africa. This statement I should like to emphasize even 
to the extent of saying that, next to Kisuaheli, the » lingua franca* 
of East Africa, Kikamba is the most useful language to know for 
those travelling in the parts of East Africa mentioned above. It 
is understood and spoken by a large number of Akikuyu, the 
nearest neighbours of the Akamba to the west, more especially in 
the eastern parts of the Kikuyu country, and also by many Masai 
on the steppes in the south-west. My knowledge of the Kamba 
language stood me in good stead also during my visit to the 
Kilimandjaro district, among the Wataveta, Wadjagga, Wakahe, 
&c. If to this is added the fact that in by-gone days the Akamba 
were one of the leading trading peoples in the present British 
East Africa, there is additional support for what has been previ- 
ously said about the vSpread of the knowledge of their language. 
They not only were, and still are, skilful hunters, and brought 
quantities of ivory from elephants which they had killed themselves 
down to the coast, or were met on the borders of their country 
by Arab and Suaheli purchasers; but through their hands also 
went quantities of ivory which was obtained from the tribes in the 
tracts where elephants abound, round Mount Kenia and elsewhere. 
Ukamba lay like a wall between the coast and the interior, and 
it was too risky an undertaking for the inhabitants to venture to 
transport their ivory through Ukamba themselves. Thus masses of 
ivory from the interior also went through the hands of the Akamba. 
What has just been said about ivory applies also to the slave 
trade, though on a smaller scale. When there was a possibility of 
cattle-stealing also, they were prepared to cover considerable distan- 
ces. Krapf, the warm-hearted and enthusiastic missionary, was 
for these reasons very anxious for the conversion of the Akamba, 
as, on account of their roving propensities, they came into touch 
with many different peoples, and were therefore, in his opinion, 
more suitable than others to spread the message of the gospel. 
In his time, he says, they used — in large caravans, numbering 
from two to three hundred — to make trading and hunting trips 
200 to 250 »leguas» into the interior (i leg. = 3 English miles). 
The elephant hunter A. Neumann states that he met Akamba 
hunting by the Guaso Njiro ^, nay, even north of that river, among 

^ A. Neumann, Elephant hunting in Equatorial East Africa. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 13 

the Samburu; and according to Paulitschke, the »Miniidi am Guasso 
Njiro [a Galla people] wurden von den Wa-kamba bedroht» ^. At the 
little harbour of Mkunumbi, north of the mouth of the Tana and 
immediately west of the town of Lamu, the Galla residents told 
the author that marauding bands of Akamba found their way even 
thither^. As the crow flies, it is nearly 250 km. from there to the 
eastern boundary of Ukamba. According to Baumann, they used 
also to go — generally as traders — down to the harbour of Tanga on 
German territory, and then came from Ukamba proper. During the 
insecurity caused by the great Arab rebellion against the Germans 
(1888), the above-mentioned traffic ceased. 

2. Earlier dwelling=places and kinship. 

Statements as to the origin of the tribe are contradictory, 
and it seems impossible to come to a definite conclusion in the 
matter. So much is, however, certain, that the stretch of country 
east of the river Athi has been peopled from Ulu, the country 
west of the same river, and this cannot have happened so very 
long ago, since the differences in language and customs are al- 
most negligible. All statements on this point agree, and on 
matters of custom Ulu sets the standard for the whole country. 
Often, when in East Ukamba I made enquiries as to some cer- 
tain custom, I got the answer: »You ought to know that better 
than we, you who have come from up there* ^. From this point 
of view, it was lucky that I chanced to begin my studies in West 
Ukamba, where the ancient customs of the tribe have been best 

But if one wants to go further and find out where the people 
of Ulu came from, one gets at once on uncertain ground. Many 
Akamba declare that the tribe has never lived anywhere else, and 
refer to the current myth about the first men, some of whom 
are said to have been thrown from Heaven on a mountain in 

^ Paulitschke, Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas, I, p. 67. 

2 G. Lindblom, Krigforing och darmed forbundna bruk bland 
Kamba-negrerna i Brit. Ost-afrika, p. 136. 

^ ulu or tulu simply means 'up there', and undoubtedly the 
country has been so called because it lies higher than East Ukamba. 

14 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the Kilungu district in southern Uki. Some place the ancient home 
down towards the coast, in the neighbourhood of the Giriama 
country, while others mention the country round about Kilimand- 
jaro as the original settlement of the Akamba. This view is also 
advanced by Kraft, according to whom the Akamba were origi- 
nally nomads in the neighbourhood of Kilimandjaro, but after- 
wards, » probably under pressure from the Masai », emigrated 
to the present Ukamba. In the new country they could not, 
however, live solely as nomads, but were compelled to cultivate 
the soil. This statement must be taken with reserve, but so much 
seems certain, that in very early times Kamba colonies were found 
on Kilimandjaro^. Professor J. W. Gregory believes that the tribe 
came from the south, since east of Tanganyika there is a pro- 
vince Ukamba, which is mentioned already by Stanley^. Incidentally 
the word is also found as a place-name in Unyamwezi, in Ger- 
man East Africa. Such a similarity of names may be a pure 
coincidence, and on that alone nothing can be built. The question 
of earlier dwelling-places and migrations is, moreover, nearly every- 
where one of the most difficult to solve in the study of a people. 
A glance at the map shows that the migrations of small groups 
of Akamba during the last few centuries have been almost ex- 
clusively from north to south, never in the opposite direction, 
and that these migrations have been determined by the occur- 
rence of highlands, which have always been followed^. 

Difficult of solution is also the question of the meaning of 
the name of the tribe. Of at least a hundred of the older 
men questioned, none seem to have so much as thought of the 
matter. Hildebrandt thinks the word may be translated by »tra- 
vellers», from the verb hamba 'to travel, journey about'*. It is 

^ Cf. B. Gutmann, Dichten und Denken der Dschagganeger, p. 28. 
Cf. also A. Widemann, Die Kilimandscharo-Bevolkerung, p. 2, and 
M. Merker, Rechtsverhaltnisse und Sitten der Wadschagga, p. 32. 

^ J. W. Gregory, Great Rift Valley, p. 347, 363. 

^ Without proving in any way his statement or indicating the 
source from where he has drawn it, Deniker (Les races et les peuples 
de la terre, p. 536) writes about the Akamba and "Wataita: »Ces 
Bantous d'immigration rdcente sont venus du nord-est, du pays des 

* J. M. Hildebrandt, Die Wakamba und ihre Nachbarn, p. 348. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 15 

true that this verb does not occur in Kikamba, but it is found 
in several other Bantu dialects. The name would also be suffi- 
ciently descriptive, and reflect one of the fundamental characteri- 
stics of the tribe. I have not, however, been able to discover any 
support for this hypothesis about the original meaning of the name. 

Division. From an ethnological, as well as from a linguistic, 
point of view, various disparities are to be found among the Akamba, 
but these are slight and immaterial, compared with those found 
among other Bantu peoples. This is a remarkable fact, since the 
tribe occupies an extended area, and is divided up geographically 
into several centres of population, separated from each other by 
inhabited country. 

Geographically, as well as linguistically and ethnographically, 
the country is divided into two parts, between which the river Athi 
forms a boundary. Of these parts, Ulu or Yulu (i. e. »up there ») 
lies west of the Athi ; East Ukamba has no special name. Offi- 
cially it is called Kitui district, after the government station of 
the same name. Its inhabitants have, as already mentioned, emi- 
grated from Ulu. Judging from the slight dialectical differences, 
one is probably entitled to draw the conclusion that it cannot be so 
very long since the Akamba passed over the river Athi — most 
likely not more than 1 50 or 200 years. The Athi and the unin- 
habited table-land Yata, extending along its eastern bank, divide 
the tribe into two chief parts, having each its own dialect. The 
Akamba in the east are called apaisu by the people in Ulu, and 
their dialect hpatsu. Even this shows that they are conscious 
of diflerences between the different groups. The ethnological diffe- 
rences are, firstly, differences in clothing, and secondly differences 
in manners and custom^. It often happens in East Ukamba 'that, 
if they are uncertain what the ancient usage is in a certain case, 
they go over to Ulu to get enlightenment. Again, in the matter 
of language, when the people of Ulu hear a word that they do not 
use themselves, they say, »that is no k'hkamba hlu'ggalu^'> ('real 
Kikamba'), and then they call it hpaisu. The meaning of this 
word is uncertain; there is said to be a people apazsu, north of 
the Tana, but the Akamba have no communication with them. It 

i6 Lindblom, The Akamba 

might be possible that the present East Ukamba was formerly in- 
habited by another people; but according to most statements, the 
country was uninhabited when the earliest pioneers of the Akamba 
began to occupy it (cf. p. 20)^. 

Brutzer, the German missionary, holds the contrary opinion*. 
I venture to quote the following from his »Vorwort» : »Dort in 
Kitwi finden die Ngove [according to him, the real Akamba com- 
ing from Ulu] einen ihnen sprachlich verwandten volksstamm vor. 
Diese Akamba betreiben ackerbau und bienenzucht. Sie werden 
von den Ngove als Kamba anerkannt, erhalten aber den namen 
Kikuli (hundspavian), weil sie wie affen auf die baume klettern 
um ihre bienenstocke aufzuhangen. Die Kikuli geben auf die 
frage der Ngove als ihren ursitz 'Mbee' an». Mbee or Mbere 
lies north of the Tana, and is inhabited by a tribe closely related 
to the Akikuyu. 

In spite of persistent enquiries, I have not obtained similar 
information from a single old man, nor have I ever heard the 
words 'ggoGd or kikuli used, unless I have introduced the subject 
myself. In Ulu the words seem even to be unknown, at least to 
many people. What I gathered about the two ideas in East 
Ukamba agreed with Brutzer's statements in the following respects : 
Both ^goOd and tkuh are Akamba, but the former consider them- 
selves of greater distinction. They keep cattle for the most part, 
while the ikuli, who live chiefly east of Kitui, have a great num- 
ber of bee-hives, and have to climb into the trees a great deal 
to look after them. Hence the name tkuh 'baboons', which 
seems also to be the nickname for many poor people. On the 
other hand, no one was able to tell me anything about those 
tkuh as having alone inhabited the Kitui district in earlier times. 
A point in favour of Brutzer's hypothesis is the statement made 
to me by some natives that the 'ggoGd have certain peculiarities 
of vocabulary. The investigations I made on this point were not 
crowned with success. 

In Ulu, the most south-westerly district, Kilungu, occupies a 
unique position in many respects^. Its inhabitants were extra- 

^ Mr. Sauberlich, the missionary in Mulango, informs me that about 
south-east of Ikanga (East Ukamba) there is a small district Nthaisu. 

^ E. Brutzer, Handbuch der Kamba-sprache, p. i. 

' Cf. kilungu 'part, portion', a name which, whether intentionally 
or not, is very appropriate. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 17 

ordinarily wild and brutal, were notorious as great cattle-thieves, 
and had long been engaged in ruthless warfare with the other 
Akamba in Ulu, whom they called cgOau^. According to Gregory, 
they were descended from some Akikuyu who, about two genera- 
tions ago, had settled down in this district and succeeded in main- 
taining themselves there ^. 

The most south-easterly corner of Ukamba, Kikumbuliu, which 
projects towards the Taita country, exhibits less striking peculia- 
rities; the language seems to resemble h^aisu in certain cases. 
In East Ukamba again, the most northerly part, Mumoni, which 
extends to the upper course of the Tana, forms a separate whole. 
-Both linguistically and ethnologically its inhabitants resemble the 
neighbouring tribe in the west, the Akikuyu. 

On the whole, then, Ukamba can be divided into four centres 
of population: Ulu, in the west; the Kitui district, in the east; 
Mumoni, in the north; and Kikumbuliu, in the south-east. In the 
following account, attention will be paid to the differences they 
exhibit in the matter of customs, rites, &c, whilst the disparities 
in the matter of material culture must wait for consideration until 
the author has had an opportunity of working up his observations 
on the subject. The respective dialects have been treated in the 
introduction to the author's paper » Notes on the Kamba Language*. 

3. The neighbours of the Akamba. 

If a glance is now taken at the tribe's neighbours, we notice 
in the west and north-west the large Akikuyu tribe, also one of 
the Bantu peoples, with whom the Akamba have carried on a 
feud since time immemorial. The Akikuyu are said to have a 
tradition that they once separated from the Akamba^. Among 
the latter I have found no corresponding tradition, unless it is to be 
traced in the legend of the man with three sons, Mukavi (Masai), 
Mukamba and Mukikuyu. On the other hand, some clans of the 

^ Cf. mwi-Oau 'cousin'. Hofmann, the missionary, in the manu- 
script of his dictionary, translates this word by 'einer des gleichen 

^ Gregory, Great Rift Valley, p. 84, 347 
^ Routledge, The Akilcuyu of Brit. East Africa, p. 2. 
ArchOr. Lindblom 2 

i8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Akamba claim to be identical with a couple of clans in Kikuyu. 
It is very possible that once upon a time some Akamba emigrated 
to Kikuyu, became acclimatised there, and formed new clans. In 
this way a small fraction, at least, of the Akikuyu would origi- 
nate from Ukamba (cf. also p. Ii8). The last great famines have 
provided many examples of such migrations. That the two tribes, 
moreover, are closely connected is shown by the language, for a 
Kamba and a Kikuyu usually understand each other fairly well. 

South of the Kikuyu country, the highlands of Ulu border 
immediately on the Masai steppes, the old Masai province of 
Kapotei. The Masai were the Akamba's most deadly enemies, 
but they understand — perhaps better than any other black race 
— how to defend themselves and their herds against the dreaded 
nomads; nay, they often successfully took the offensive against them. 
In several places in the east it is claimed that the cattle-stock 
originated from stolen Masai cattle. The Akamba call the Masai 
akavi, doubtless a corruption of the old tribal name Wakuafi. 

In the south-east, Ukamba is connected by the lengthy Kikum- 
buliu with the Taita highland, whose inhabitants, Wataita, exhibit 
in many respects a likeness to their neighbours in the north. The 
Akamba seem to have been on a friendly footing with the Wa- 
taita, for they were obliged to travel through their country, when 
they went down to the coast loaded with ivory. In the east, 
there is no inhabited country until the river Tana is reached, and 
between that and the eastern border of Ukamba lies a belt of 
about 1 60 km. of desert, ill-supplied with water, which, as far as 
Europeans are concerned, is still a blank space on the map of 
Africa, and which the official maps are compelled to cover by 
printing the names Galla, Borana-Galla, &c, in all directions. Early 
in 1 91 2, I went through this territory in the company of A. C. 
Champion, A. D. commissioner in Kitui, who was sent out by the 
Government to follow the river Nthua, as to the course of which 
information had been lacking up to that time^. We found the 
country round Nthua uninhabited, though the Galla undoubtedly 
make periodical hunting expeditions thither, as there are plenty 
of elephants there. 

On the Tana live the Wapokomo, a Bantu people and an 
off-shoot of the more southerly Galla. Communication between 

^ Cf. A. C. Champion, The Thowa River. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 19 

these tribes and the Akamba was exclusively of a hostile character, 
consisting of cattle- and woman-stealing raids. Missionaries work- 
ing among the Pokomo told me that the Akamba were a real 
scourge to that peaceable tribe, and also to the Galla living in 
that neighbourhood. The latter, however, sometimes went over 
to East Ukamba in their turn, on plundering expeditions. In 
earlier descriptions of travels in these and neighbouring districts 
are found cursory references to the Akamba's plundering expedi- 
tions. To take one example. Captain F. G. Dundas (1892) men 
tions that the Wapokomo and Galla on the river Tana were much 
troubled by the Akamba and Somali, and he himself encountered a 
considerable body — according to his account several thousand 
men - — out on a plundering expedition along the upper reaches 
of the Tana ^. 

There is no doubt that only half a century ago Galla ex- 
tended in a more southerly and westerly direction, towards the 
middle course of Athi (Sabaki) and down towards Mombasa, than 
at the present time. Thus old Akamba men in the Ikutha region 
have told the author that the river Tiva, which flows practically 
through the centre of the present East Ukamba, was formerly the 
boundary between Ukamba and the Galla country. Even further 
south, at Kibwezi, Galla are said to have lived. However, after a 
succession of conflicts with varying fortune, the Akamba finally drove 
the enemy back, till the great desert east of the highland prevented 
any further advance. It is well known that the Galla were forced 
southwards by the Somali, and then a part of them went over the 
Tana. These in their turn undoubtedly tried to expel the Akamba, 
but were not successful. Instead, while the Somali beset them 
from the north, they were severely harassed by the Akamba and 
Masai from the south. Paulitschke probably summed up the position 
correctly twenty five years ago, when he wrote: »Die Oromo am 
Tana und Sabaki sind denn auch buchstablich dem untergang 
preisgegeben — — - — Das land zwischen dem Sabaki und der 
stadt Mombas ist auch bereits ganz frei von Oromo-elementen» ^. 
At the present time there are practically no Galla found south 
of the valley of the river Tana. 

^ E. Gedge, A Recent Exploration, under Captain F. G. Dundas, 
up the River Tana to Mount Kenia, p. 514. 
^ Paulitschke I, p. 24. 

ao Lindblom, The Akamba 

In this connection, I will take the opportunity to criticize the 
location of the Galla's most southerly distribution on many maps. 
In spite of what is quoted above from Paulitschke, the latter 
nevertheless colours red (Galla) one continuous stretch from the 
upper Tana in a meridional direction to the inflow of the Tsavo in 
Sabaki, and thence in a narrowing wedge, down towards Mom- 
basa. From this we naturally come to the incorrect conclusion 
that about 1890 the Galla occupied this territory south of the 
Tana. At most dots or some other slight indication would have 
been suitable to show the scattered colonies of Galla which were 
still found in this region. In the same way, Gerland represents 
the Galla as occupying a considerable region between the Tana 
and the Sabaki, larger than that he allots to the Akamba and the 
Akikuyu together ^ Even on the big English Ordinance Map of 1905, 
a number of names of Galla tribes are set out just in this region ^. 

Finally, if we turn from Ukamba towards the north, we find 
— north of Mumoni on the upper course of the Tana - — the 
small but warlike tribe of Tharaka, or Athaka, as the Akamba 
call them. Very little is known of them as yet, but the view has 
been advanced that they are an offshoot of the Pokomo^. Un- 
fortunately the author has had no opportunity of visiting them in 
their own country, but he has studied their language, which has, 
in many respects, been found to resemble Kikamba and Kikuyu, 
whilst Kipokomo shows closer relationship to the languages spo- 
ken on the coast, Kinjika and Kisuaheli^. According to some of 
the Akamba in the Kitui district, the Atharaka are descended 
from the Akamba''. 

^ Gerland, Atlas der Volkerkunde, in Berghaus' Physikal. Atlas, 
Pt. VII. 

^ Sheet »Kilimandjaro» in Maps published by the Topographical 
Section, General Staff (Africa i : 1 000000). 

3 C. V. Hobley, Akamba and other East African tribes, p. 2. 

* Cf. G. Lindblom, Outlines of a Tharaka Grammar (Introduction). 

^ According to Champion, one of the few Europeans who have visited 
the Tharaka-country, the Atharaka say that » their forefathers came from 
south-east, and that they occupied the Kitui district before the Akamba 
crossed the Athi, but that they were gradually driven back by the Akamba 

till they sought refuge amongst the hills which they now occupy 

No doubt many Kikamba customs have been absorbed, but I am strongly 
of the opinion that the Atharaka are not an off-shoot of the Akamba, 
but an entirely different race». A. C. Champion, The Atharaka, p. 69. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 21 

On the whole, the Akamba have natural boundaries on all 
sides, since nowhere do they live side by side with a neighbou- 
ring tribe, but are separated from their neighbours by stretches 
of uninhabited country, grass- or bush-steppes, which usually suffer 
more or less from lack of water. 

Of the Akamba's names for their neighbouring and other 
tribes, I have made notes of the following, besides those already 
mentioned : 

The Wasuaheli they call asumba, formerly mapomba, i. e. 
'those who carry burdens' {pomba 'to bear a burden'), probably 
because the Wasuaheli formed the larger proportion of the bearers 
in the caravans which used to be fitted out at the coast and go 

The Wagiriama are called anvi, their language ktswi, and 
their country usivini. 

The Wataita are called andi, which is said to come from ndi 
'strings'. When the Kamba merchants went to Kiswani (Mombasa) 
in former times, they used to meet people who carried ropes and 
strings of baobab fibre. Baobab, the bast of which is in great de- 
mand, grows in East Ukamba, but I have never seen it west of 
the Athi. 

The Waduruma = aluluma (the Akamba cannot pronounce ;'). 

The Wambee or Wambere, a tribe on Kenia = ambele. 

The Galla (less frequently Somali) = atwa. The Galla country 
= utwa. According to Paulitschke, the Watwa (Wa-Tua) are a 
hunting tribe between the lower Tana and Sabaki^. I do not 
think it is improbable that the Akamba confused these with the 
Galla, all the more since they sometimes occupy a sort of vassal 
position to the latter. 

The Somali = perhaps a^golo^go. 

The Nubians = anovi. A considerable number of them are 
to be found in the larger places in East Africa, many of them 
serving with the English and German colonial troops. 

^ Paulitschke, Ethnographic Nord-ost Afrikas, I, p. 34. 

32 Lindblom, The Akatnba 

According to Krapf, the Akamba were called Waumanguo by 
the Wasuaheli; according to Hollis, el lunghu, or » those with an 
evil smell» by the Masai. Hollis gives no explanation of this name^. 

The Akamba on the coast sometimes call their relations in 
Ulu nza^i. 

An old, now almost obsolete, name for the Masai is kipo}igo, 
remarkable on account of the use of h- (a prefix denoting a thing) 
in a personal name. 

4. Ukamba. The chief features of its physical geography. 

If one really wishes to understand a people and its develop- 
ment, one must have some knowledge of its milieu, the land it 
lives in, and especially the climatic conditions. As has already 
been mentioned, Ukamba comprises the eastern portion of the 
East African highland, which falls rather abruptly towards the east. 
Ulu seems to lie at an average height of about 1500 meters above 
the Indian Ocean, while about 50 or 60 km. east of the river 
Athi the altitude is less than 1000 meters. Numerous mountain 
chains, running principally from north to south, intersect the country, 
and have an elevation of as much as 1000 meters. Typical of 
the mountain chains and of the hills are the very narrow combs, 
which are sometimes only some 10 meters in breadth. One has 
hardly reached the summit before the opposite descent begins. 
The geological formation of these mountains is granite and "gneiss, 
which often protrudes in the higher parts. The loose layer of 
earth consists, especially in the east, of the same red laterite as 
is found so abundantly up in the Kikuyu country. 

Among the higher peaks may be mentioned Nzaui, in Ki- 
lungu, where, according to the legend, the first people lived. 
Between the chains of mountains, the country varies from undu- 
lating to level plains, often of the savanna type, but usually over- 
grown with a more or less dense bush, which, with its thorns of all 
shapes and sizes, is a plague to travellers. The boundaries bet- 
ween the different territories often consist of small rivers or streams, 

* Hollis, The Masai. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 23 

with deeply worn channels. All such isolated little heights are 
called titumo by the natives. 

In the matter of water-supply, Ukamba has been treated very 
scurvily by nature. There are no lakes, and the rivers, except 
the Tana and the Athi, are usually empty, except during and 
directly after the rainy periods. The Athi, under the name of 
Sabaki, empties into the Indian Ocean at Malindi. Conditions 
are best in Ulu, where numerous streams flow along the mountain 
slopes. Further east, the water question becomes a troublesome 
problem during the dry season. Large holes — sometimes several 
meters deep — must be cut in the dried-up river-beds, and the 
women will sometimes sit there for hours, before they can fill 
their calabashes with the water which slowly wells forth, and which 
is sometimes of such a colour that travellers hesitate to use it 
even to wash in. Down in the south-east (especially in Kyulu), 
there are villages which, during the dry season, are so far from 
their water-supply that if the women start out one morning they 
cannot get back again until the following day! However, time 
is nothing to the African native, and at the river they meet 
acquaintances and have plenty of time for talk and gossip, while 
waiting for the water. 

Ukamba lies in the equatorial zone, between about o^ 30' and 
3° south, and consequently has two rainy seasons: a lesser, in Nov. 
— Dec, and a greater, which begins in March and lasts until 
June. The rain is, however, often late in coming. The rainfall 
decreases from west to east. Thus in Kikuyu it is u.sually some- 
what greater than in Ulu, which in its turn gets more than East 
Ukamba. According to Eliot, the average during 6 years for 
Kikuyu station was 36.14 inches annually; for Machakos in West 
Ulu 34.76 ^. Hofmann, the missionary, during a long course of 
years, made observations of the rainfall at his station Ikutha, in 
East Ukamba. His observations are interesting, as they go as 
far back as the great drought at the end of the eighteen-nineties. 
They have never been published, and I therefore give them here, 
with Mr Hofmann's permission. The figures represent German 

^ C. Eliot, The East Africa Protectorate, p. 153. Cf. also Direc- 
tory of B. East Africa, Uganda, and Zanzibar, p. 38. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 


































1. 17 




















































Further, the annual rainfall in Ikutha amounted in 1905 to 24.57; 
in 1906 to 38.94; in 1907 to 26.34; and in 1910 to 20.49 *zoll». 

A great source of trouble in these parts of East Africa are 
the periodically recurring droughts, when the rain fails completely 
during one or more » rainy seasons », and the horrors of famine 
are let loose in the land. The last famine, a minor one, was in 
1908 — 9; the one before that, a very severe one, coupled with 
cattle-plague over large stretches of East Africa, was in^i898 — 99; 
a third was about twenty years ago, and so on. In 1898 — 99, 
in some places in Ukamba, 50 ^ of the population is said to have 
perished; in other places as much as 75 %^, and the bleached bones 
of such of the victims as were not eaten by hyenas lie there still 
to-day, scattered over the country. I found many such remains 
in the Ikutha district, and, in the east especially, there were many 
over-grown fields to be seen, while all too often were found frag- 
ments of clay vessels and the three cooking stones of the hearth, 
signs which show that once upon a time a hut had stood there. The 
famines still live in the memories of the people and have acquired 
special names after some particular characteristic. Thus, that of 

^ According to the calculations of Mr. Sauberlich, Leipziger Mission. 

The Akamba — their country and neighbours 35 

1898 is called »the carriage famine » {loa ia '^gah), because it 
raged while the Uganda railway was being built. It is certain 
that the risk of hundreds of natives dying of starvation is consi- 
derably diminished now, since grain can be quickly brought up- 
country from the coast by the railway. 

The climate in the western regions can, on account of their 
elevation above sea-level, be compared to that of the countries 
round the Mediterranean, and one is really only reminded of the 
proximity of the equator by the fact that Europeans must pro- 
tect their heads from the rays of the sun. The nights here are 
cool and refreshing. Even when the sun is directly overhead, the 
heat is seldom oppressive. During July and August, the sun is 
often hidden for several days in succession by heavy clouds and 
mists, and it is then often so chilly that one feels cold in the middle 
of the day. Mosquitoes and fever are seldom met with. Even a little 
further east it grows fairly hot, and in spite of the dry atmosphere, 
many places are considered dangerous for the health of Europeans. 
This applies especially to the most northerly district, Mumoni. 
Not only Europeans, but also the natives, suffer from fever. How- 
ever, no extremes of temperature occur. During my visit to the 
region of Kibwezi, in Sept. 191 1, the mean temperature at the 
middle of the day was 28 — 30° C. Besides, towards evening, there 
blows over the whole of East Ukamba a sometimes rather strong 
easterly wind — probably from the Indian Ocean — which lowers 
the temperature. 

With regard to the vegetation, the bush-steppe previously 
mentioned is predominant among the hills and mountains. It is of 
the same type all over great parts of Africa. Large trees are sel- 
dom to be seen; only those of medium height and under. They do 
not grow close together, but scattered about ; a coarse kind of grass 
grows between them, though not, as in Northern Europe, in continu- 
ous sward, but in patches, between which the soil is bare. Different 
species of acacia and mimosa are predominant among the trees. 
Typical of the drier bush are varieties of the genus Sanseviera. The 
several plants often grow close to each other, and they are easy 
to recognise from their long, fleshy, grey-green leaves. Further up 
on the hill-sides grow species of Euphorbia, resembling cactus. 
The Euphorbia candelabrum especially gives the landscape a cha- 

26 Lindblom, The Akamba 

racteristic appearance, where it is to be met with. In the east 
only, along the banks of the rivers, are found some palms, such 
as the dum palm (Hyphene) and the wild date palm (Phoenix 
reclinata). The baobab is only found east of the Athi — the 
climate of Ulu is far too temperate for it — but a couple of 
species of Ficus are found there. Around the villages, and as 
weeds on the fields, grow Rhicinus communis in abundance, often 
attaining the height of a smallish tree. 

No forests are found in Ukamba, if by » forest* we mean what 
we understand by the word in Europe. Only on the tops of 
some of the higher mountains, such as Mutitu, north of Kitui, are 
to be found small remains of primeval forests. These undoubtedly 
had greater extension in earlier times than they have now, but 
the Akamba are an agricultural race, and require the slopes of 
the hills for their fields. One can often see that a forest has 
once grown on a place which now is bare. Solitary trees and 
immense stumps bear witness to the fact. A small, thickly popu- 
lated district close to Machakos is called inutitnni ('in the forest'), 
and the old people say that it was once entirely overgrown with 
forest and the haunt of elephants. Now the district is almost 
entirely devoid of even fuel, to procure which women have labori- 
ously to dig up the remains of trees long since dead. 

p. r 

Chapter II. Child-Birth. 

I. General Customs. 

When a woman finds she is pregnant, she tells her husband 
{navttaneiie unvei I have passed the month'). They then sleep 
together once more only. During pregnancy the woman lives prin- 
cipally on milk and k^teke, a sort of porridge made of the flour 
of Sorghum or millet (Penicillaria). Fat, which the women are 
otherwise very fond of, is not eaten during the last three months, 
as it is considered to render the delivery more difficult; nor does 
the woman eat bananas or isU), that is to say beans and maize 
boiled together, otherwise the most usual food among the Akamba. 
Honey is thought to be especially injurious, since the foetus is said 
to derive much nourishment from it and so grows a great deal, which 
makes the delivery more difficult, and may even cost the woman 
her life ^. Others think that honey has the effect of checking the 
growth of the foetus. There are no other special regulations with 
respect to diet, but the person concerned decides for herself what 
she will or will not eat. I have only been able to discover one 
case of a certain food being »tabu» for a pregnant woman, and 
that is the meat of animals killed with poisoned arrows. \{ the 
mother eats of such meat, the child will die. It is not unusual to 
see them eat earth from white-ant heaps or the red laterite with 
which the ants cover the tree-trunks. They can usually give no 
reason for this, but declare that they have an irresistible longing 
for it. It seems as though this had something in common 
with the longings of pregnant women for certain kinds of foods, 
often quite extraordinary in character. In some cases the motive 
alleged was the belief that the birth is hastened by it, so that 

^ I have found this belief also among the Wataveta at Kilimand- 
jaro. G. Lindblom, Anteckningar ofver Taveta-folkets etnologi, p. 167. 

30 Lindblom, The Akamba 

such earth is eaten by women in the more advanced stages of 
pregnancy, immediately before the beginning of the rainy season. 
The woman then has much to do in preparing the fields for the 
rains, digging, sowing, &c., and she is therefore quite naturally 
anxious to free herself from a burden which hinders her in her work. 

As far as I could discover, the Kamba woman is not looked 
upon as » unclean » during pregnancy, and is not isolated in any 
way. It is very usual to see women, even in a fairly advanced stage 
of pregnancy, continuing their usual occupations^. 

The spirits of departed ancestors are supposed to create and 
shape the child in the woman; they also decide whether it shall 
be a boy or a girl, dispute about the matter, and try to forestall 
each other. While one spirit sleeps, his wife, perhaps, makes the 
child a girl, and when the husband wakes he finds himself fore- 
stalled ^. Of course this does not imply that the Akamba are igno- 
rant of the connection between sexual intercourse and conception. 
They only think that the spirits, as well as the husband, play an 
indispensable part^. 

^ If the above mentioned separation of husband and wife at the 
first sign of pregnancy, otherwise common among Bantu peoples, among 
the Akamba has anything to do with »uncleanness», I cannot tell. 

^ According to Hobley (p. 89), every married woman is at the 
same time wife to her husband and to one of his ancestors, and her 
fruitfulness depends largely on the latter. Personally I certainly never 
heard anything of such a » spiritual husband », but neither will I deny 
the existence of such a conception. 

' The numerous legends about conception without sexual intercourse, 
found among the most widely separated peoples — examples of which 
are also found in the author's collection of Kamba folk-lore — can- 
not possibly be based upon ignorance of the effect of sexual inter- 
course upon conception, not even as a survival from a by-gone time, 
when such ignorance may have existed. Those who are not content 
to look upon such tales as the products of a lively imagination pure 
and simple, may instead regard them in the light of the behef of a 
pwimitive people in magic powers, through which anything soever can 
come of nothing. Thus, primitive man is not ignorant of the necessity 
of sexual intercourse for conception, but that does not prevent his belief 
that fertilisation can take place without it — namely by magic. See also 
A. Goldenweiser, in The American Anthropologist, 191 1, p. 598 ff. (a 
criticism of E. S. Hartland, Primitive Paternity, the myth of supernatural 
birth, I, 1909; Hartland gives a selection of »myths of supernatural 
birth»). See also A. van Gennep, Religions, moeurs et legendes, p. 14 ff. 

Child-Birth 31 

When the woman's time has come, some of the neighbouring 
women are called in to assist at the delivery. There are no spe- 
cial midwives, but any old woman with experience in such mat- 
ters can help. The husband may not be present. The woman 
usually stands upright in front of the hearth in the hut. She holds 
on to two of the roof supports and stands in a straddling position. 
Some of the women take a firm grip on her legs, two hold on to 
her shoulders, and another receives the child. They talk and laugh 
if all goes well. The navel cord {inukauti) is cut with an ordinary 
knife. According to Hildebrandt, it has however first been tied 
with a piece of baobab bast, »die etwa 2 — 3 zoll vom nabel nahe 
bei einander umgeschniirt werden». The placenta {nsuu or "ggua 
la kana 'the child's dress') ^ is buried outside the hut. It seems 
as though no artificial means are employed, as a rule, to make 
its removal easier — a string of bast merely is bound round the 
woman's abdomen. But sometimes a sort of sea-snail, of which 
a part is powdered, is used. The powder is laid in the shell, 
which is filled with water, and this the patient drinks. The child 
is washed in warm water. 

The length of time a mother rests after the birth depends 
upon circumstances. Sometimes she returns to her work the same 
day, fetches water, works in the fields, &c. If she has daughters 
who can work, she usually keeps to the hut for a few days. 

To ease the birth, » medicine* can be obtained from the 
medicine-man. It is called n^esio (< pesha 'to help'), and usually 
consists of an antelope horn (for example, that of a Thomson 
gazelle) filled with various substances (a so-called k'hpitu). This 
is repeatedly stroked over the woman's abdomen and dipped in 
a calabash full of water, which she afterwards drinks. Whether 
any real, or supposedly real (that is to say, not magic), medicine 
is used in difficult cases, is unknown to the author. In his ethno- 
botanical collections, which contain some hundreds of plants, there 
are, however, none for such a purpose. Even when the birth is 
safely over, the child is sometimes subjected to special treatment, 
especially if the woman has previously lost many babies; for a 
desire is naturally felt to prevent the deaths of children. Hof- 

^ Called »the child's house » by the Ronga round Delagoa Bay. H. 
Junod, The Life of a South African tribe, p. 37. Cf. also Ploss, Das 
Weib in der Natur- und Volkerkunde II, p. 245. 

32 Lin db lorn, The Akamba 

mann describes such a case ^ Among other things, according to 
him, a special entrance to the hut was made for the mother and 
child, and the child was carefully concealed from everyone, until 
it had undergone a certain magic treatment. The diversion of evil 
influences by changing the entrance to the hut is very common 
among primitive peoples. 

A child which is born before term is carefully wrapped up 
and placed in a large clay vessel to keep it warm. Such a child 
is often called miiinde (< inda 'to sink, tuck down') ^. 

When the birth is over, the woman may not Ue on her bed, 
but takes the sleeping skin from it and lies on the earth floor of 
the hut, in the place she usually occupies when the family are 
assembled round the hearth. Neither does the woman seem to 
have to keep to any special diet. The following ceremony must 
then be gone through : Two small children, a girl and a boy, have 
their heads smeared with fat, and are sent with small calaba.shes 
to the river to fetch water. On the way there they may talk to 
each other, but not to anyone they may meet. They break off 
a branch of the wild fig-tree {knimd) and pick some blades of the 
grass ikoka, and then go and fill their calabashes. If the new- 
born child is a girl, the girl covers the opening of her little ves- 
sel with the twigs they took with them, and the boy his with 
tkoka; if it is a boy, they do the opposite. When they get back 
to the village, the mother again smears their heads with fat, be- 
ginning with the boy, if the new-born baby is a boy; in the cont- 
rary case, with the girl. Part of the water is used to wash the 
child and part for the porridge to be described below. The small 
quantity of water used shows clearly that this is entfrely a mat- 
ter of ritual ^. 

Preparations for the feast which is to take place on the fol- 
lowing day are now begun. A large cooking-pot is placed on the 
hearth and isio is prepared for the women who now come to pre- 

^ J. Hofmann, Geburt, Heirat und Tod unter den Wakamba, p. 6. 

- The verb is used specially for bananas, which are picked un- 
ripe. They are laid in a pot, which is buried in the earth, and so they are 
allowed to ripen. 

^ A custom which resembles that described here is mentioned by 
Routledge from the Akikuyu, a Bantu people west of Akamba. See 
Routledge, The Akikuyu of British East Africa. 

Child-Birth 33 

pare dishes for the feast. This isio is called utinditi. The num- 
ber of the women invited must not be odd, mwa, for odd num- 
bers are generally considered to be unlucky among the Bantu 
peoples. The women make porridge {'ggtma) of Eleusine flour. 
When the porridge is ready, the mother with her child takes her 
place at the entrance to the hut. A 'ggoi (the piece of skin in 
which a baby is carried) is bound on the back of a little girl or 
boy, as the case may be (cf. p. 32), who then carries the child 
to the entrance of the village and back again. This rite ushers in 
the important phase of a child's life during which it is carried on its 
mother's back. The mother then takes a leaf and removes the 
child's motions for the first time. The ceremonies are concluded 
with an offering to the spirits of the ancestors of the child: an 
old woman throws a big piece of 'ggzma over the roof of the 
hut, saying something to the following effect: »Ye who live out 
there, take this, and know that a child has been born here». The 
woman who makes this offering at once becomes barren, so it is 
always done by an old woman who is past child-bearing. The 
mother can then sleep in her bed again. 

According to an unconfirmed statement the following ceremony 
must take place before a confined woman can associate with the 
rest of the women in the following day's g^w^-eating. Her husband 
goes into the field and cuts four pieces of sugar-cane, two with 
dark and two with light bark. From one sugar-cane of each kind 
he removes the top and the leaves, which must not be done with 
a knife, but only with the hands. Then he goes home, carrying 
two canes on each shoulder, and brings them in above the door 
to his wife's hut. 

The next day a feast takes place on the nza, the cleared 
space in front of the hut, and friends and relations are invited. 
A he-goat, or if they are well-to-do people, an ox, has been slaugh- 
tered. Early in the morning, the women begin to eat ^gima 
and fat, all the while discussing eagerly what the child shall be 
called. Suggestions are made and rejected, till at last a certain 
name is agreed upon ^. No special ceremony occurs in con- 
nection with the naming of the child, nor need this necessarily take 

^ Hildebrandt states incorrectly that it is the mother that names 
the child; see above-mentioned work, p. 397. 

Arck.Or. Lindblom 3 

34 Lindblom, The Akamba 

place on the third day ^ The men's carousal takes place later in 
the day. In the evening, the women dance and sing songs, in 
which the child is called by the name chosen. The skin of the 
slaughtered animal ought not to be sold or given away to anyone 
else; very often the woman uses it to sleep on, or the husband makes 
clothes for her out of it. However, if the skin is disposed of, a 
strip of it is first cut off and fastened to the skin {ggo>) in which 
the mother carries her child on her back. 

On the fourth day, the father usually hangs round the child's 
neck a necklace, */>(?, consisting of one of the fine iron chains 
made by the Akamba. This chain may not be made of anything 
but iron, or it will bring bad luck to the child ^. As soon as the 
^pa is hung round the child's neck, the child becomes a real 
human being; before that it is looked upon as being in more or 
less intimate connection with the spirit-world, from which it has 
come, and is called knmu (cf. nmu 'a deceased relation, spirit'). 
In order that the new-born child shall be recognised as a real 
member of the tribe, it is therefore not enough that it is born and 
receives a name, which is otherwise, among primitive communities, 
usually the ceremony by which the new individual is taken up as 
an integral part of the tribe. 

The next night the parents must sleep together. The child 
is then placed between the mother's breasts, and afterwards always 
occupies this position at night, till the mother menstruates for the 
first time after her confinement. The parents then sleep together 
again. On this occasion the child must lie behind the mother's 
back. This is called olula kana 'turn the child' {ninontd ndakam^ 
mnaobuld kana 'I have seen the blood, I have turned the child', says 
the woman). If not placed as mentioned above, the child will die. 

If one takes into consideration the aversion to iron which, accor- 
ding to popular belief, spirits always entertain, it is not too bold 

^ My investigations into the names and principles for naming among 
the Akamba are worked up and will be published in connection with 
my linguistic studies. I will only mention, in passing, that later several 
additional names are given — suggested by different events in the 
life of the individual. 

" Perhaps one may conclude from this that the wearing of the 
>J)q is a very old custom, dating from a time when copper and brass 
had not begun to be imported and iron was, consequently, the only 
metal found in the country. 



to conclude that the object of ipq is to protect the child from the 
malicious spirits, atmti^, to whose attacks a baby is considered to be 
more liable than other people, especially if it comes from the spirit 
world, as they believe here -. If this is so, we may wonder why 
several days are allowed to elapse before this prophylactic is app- 
lied. We might think that they ought to be anxious to procure 
protection for the child as soon as possible after its birth. 

Hanging the ^pa round the child's neck and the subsequent 
coition are important ceremonies, which may on no account be 
omitted. If a girl has an illegitimate child and her lover deserts 
her, another must act as husband and father. Her father then 
takes her to one of his friends, who places the ^pa round the 
child's neck and performs the ritual coition, and then the girl goes 
home. The man receives a goat for his trouble. If he has the 
opportunity and can afford it, he gladly buys the girl, and she 
becomes his wife. It is very usual that children are born before 
marriage, but the lover generally makes the girl his wife. 

If a child dies while it is still kumu, the mother may not 
touch another baby, unless its mother is pregnant or has just had 
sexual intercourse with her husband. Otherwise the other child 
will also die. Nor may the mother of a child who has just died 
while it is still kizmu touch another woman — not even her be- 
longings. Neither when they go out to fetch wood or water to- 
gether may she help with the loads, &c. She is looked upon as 
unclean, but she is not isolated, and she is allowed to associate with 
the others, as long as she does not touch them. If this rule is viola- 
ted, the woman who has been touched is subjected to an ordinary 
purification ceremonial (cf. p. 103) in order to prevent evil con- 
sequences. The goat necessary for the purifying process is then 
presented by the husband of the unclean woman. The latter remains 
in her exceptional position until she next menstruates. Before 
that she may not sleep with her husband, for it would be fatal to 
the next child. 

If a woman who has been confined has relations with any 
other man than her husband before she menstruates for the first 
time after the birth of her child, the child will most probably die. 

1 Cf. Ch. XII, Religion. 

- Cf. Frazer, The Golden Bough II, p. 235. 

36 Lindblom, The Akamba 

The Akamba attach great importance to birth inarks, 
especially if the same birthmark has been borne by a deceased 
member of the family. They have no doubt then that the latter 
has allowed himself to be reincarnated in the child, and that 
settles the question of what the child shall be called. To cite 
an example of this, a child in the neighbourhood of Machakos 
had a scar on its forehead. The father's grandmother had been 
killed by a stab in the forehead from the spear of a Masai, 
and, according to all accounts, a deceased brother of his had 
had the same mark. In this case I could get no satisfactory 
answer to my enquiry as to whose spirit had taken up its abode 
in the child. There seems, however, to be no fundamental obstacle 
to a woman being reincarnated in a male child. It is most usual 
for the spirit of a deceased relation to come in the night (most 
probably in a dream) to the pregnant woman, and tell her that 
it intends to be reincarnated in the child she shall bear ^ 

The woman's experiences during pregnancy, and perhaps still 
more her mental life during that period, are not without influence on 
the child she is going to give birth to. If, for example, she is very 
fond of a man who is not the father of her child, and in consequence 
often thinks of him, the result will be that the child will resemble 
him when it has grown a little ^. The father's sayings and doings, on 
the other hand, seem to have no effect on the child. A very 
wide-spread belief, found also among Europeans, is that a preg- 
nant woman can be impressed by some particular thing. The 
author has not personally met with this belief in* Ukamba, but 
there is no reason to doubt Hildebrandt's assertion that it is pre- 
valent there. He also says: »Empfindet die frau rechtzeitig, dass 
sie sich versehen hat, so muss sie die arme nach hinten bewe- 
gen und dazu sprechen 'weggesagt', dann wird das versehen 

^ Frazer adduces a number of examples of the same or similar 
beliefs from, among other peoples, the Lapps. » Taboo and the Perils 
of the Soul», The Golden Bough II, p. 368. 

^ Writing of the Baganda, Roscoe says: »It was looked upon as un- 
fortunate if a pregnant woman came in contact with, or even saw, any 
child that was not healthy and strong ... If a woman laughed at a 
lame person, it was thought that her child would be lame». J. Roscoe, 
The Baganda, their Customs ^and Beliefs, p. 49. Cf. also Ploss I, 
p. 878. 

Child-Birth 37 

The birth of a child is a great event in the lives of primitive 
people, and they can never have too many descendants. One might 
think that girls would be more welcome, since, when grown up, they 
are a source of great gain to their fathers. But this is not the 
case among the Akamba. In by-gone days especially, a son was 
more welcome, for it was hoped that he would, when grown up, take 
part in the men's raiding expeditions and bring home many cattle 
as booty. The days of plundering expeditions are now past, but 
they are not so far distant that this point of view has changed. 
Another important point is that every head of a family desires to 
have as many people around him as possible, as his influence 
and importance are thereby increased. Grown-up sons build their 
huts close to or in the near neighbourhood of that of their father, 
and as long as he lives, they are under his authority. On the 
other hand, daughters do not help to increase his authority, since 
they leave their homes and clans when they marry. 

2. Abnormal Parturition. 

Anyone born with the feet first {niundu iva km or mundu 
lua innio) may not marry anyone born in the usual manner {cs na 
mau 'he has legs', it is said). This also applies to anyone born 
with ^gumkilia ^, that is to say with the bladder-like covering 
(caul), in which the child lies, unbroken. The prohibition has, how- 
ever, the nature of a ritual observance, and if such a man is rich, 
it may happen that a man will peremptorily order his daughter 
to marry him. But a girl born with a caul has no chance of 
getting a husband who has not had the same »defect». When such 
a person is circumcised, a special knife is used, so that the blood 
of others may not be mixed with his. If there is no other knife 
handy, the knife is smeared with mutton fat before being used. If 
a calf or other domestic animal is born with a caul, the owner 
may neither sell it nor give it away, but he may keep it for himself. 
The descendants of such an animal are held to be quite normal. 

Those who cut their teeth in the upper jaw first, mundu wa km- 
mtlo, or in East Ukamba hludu {uintla to come out in a certain 
place'), also occupies a unique position. Such a person is consi- 

^ Probably from ktinika 'to cover'. 

38 Lin d bio m, The Akamba 

dered to have an evil influence upon certain kinds of foods, and 
also upon the plants or animals from which these foods are obtai- 
ned. He may not drink milk until some other person has drunk 
of it, or else it will »be like water », and the cow which gave it 
could never give nourishing milk again. He may not eat bananas 
from the oldest trees in a plantation, or their fruit will become 
hard and uneatable. Of the fruit of more recently planted trees 
he may, however, eat, without working evil. When meat is eaten, 
also, he must wait until the others have eaten a little, otherwise 
the meat will be affected like the bananas. 

In the case of twins (maGapa), in olden times one was killed. 
The reason for this custom among the Akamba, as among some 
other tribes, may have been that the birth of twins was looked upon 
as something unnatural, which might bring bad luck \ Nowadays 
both are allowed to live; but though the native, under normal cir- 
cumstances, wishes to have as many children as possible, they are 
not welcome. They are troublesome for the mother and hinder 
her in her occupations, since she can only carry one of them on 
her back and the other must be placed on her breast. If, on the 
other hand, a cow has two calves, it is considered a great misfortune, 
and to ward off evil consequences, both cow. and calves are killed. 

3. Abortion. 

Ill connection with birth, a few words may be said on abor- 
tion, which is at times practised by young girls, v Free intercourse 
is permitted between unmarried youths and girls, but it is con- 
sidered a disgrace for a young girl to be with child, and she will 
have difficulty in getting a young lover, often being obliged to 
content herself with an older man. When the dances of young people 
are at their height, the desire to be able to take part in this recrea- 
tion wdll by itself be sufficient to induce a pregnant girl to try to 

^ If it were known that the birth of twins was a rare occurrence 
among a people, it would be easier to understand how this unusual 
event would be regarded as something unlucky. Unfortunately I have 
no information as to the frequency of the birth of twins among the 
Akamba (as far as I can remember, I have never seen any). The 
small amount of information which is to be found on this subject, from 
other Bantu peoples, is contradictory. Cf. Ploss I, p. 778 ff. and 
A. Post. Afrikanische Jurisprudenz I, p. 281 ff. 

Child-Birlh 39 

free herself of the unwelcome burden, which begins to weigh down 
her body. In the earlier stages of pregnancy, she consumes quan- 
tities of melted butter or soot from the roof of the hut {mzvae). 
At the more advanced stages, a decoction is prepared from the 
roots, leaves, and fruit, of several well-known plants, which are 
considered to be highly poisonous, namely kilta inbttt (Jatropha 
species), mutanda-mbq, or ma-mhnnhu (Phytolacca^). The decoction 
is drunk. It is considered very poisonous, and if the desired re- 
sult is not obtained, the woman seems in most cases to pay the 
penalty with her life. 

Customs and rites connected with menstruation {mzvcyggd)'^. 

It is a well-known fact that the first menstruation especially 
is regarded as an important moment in the life of the more pri- 
mitive woman, and we must therefore not be surprised to find 
that the Kamba girl as well must, during her first menstruation, 
observe extreme care, as it is believed that otherwise she may 
become barren. If she is out of doors when the event occurs, 
she leaves everything she is doing and goes home immediately. 
If, for instance, she has gone to fetch water, she immediately puts 
the calabash down, for if she brought the water home to the village 
and the young men drank from it and afterwards had connection 
with other women, she might become barren. Similarly if she has 
gone to fetch fuel, she must not bring her load home; for if the 
youths, who are continually running after girls, were to warm 
themselves by means of this wood, she would run the same risk 
as in the case of the water. 

As soon as possible the girl informs her mother about her 
condition and afterwards rests — without however being isolated — 
as long as the period lasts. Her mother informs her husband about 
the matter, and on the night of the following day the parents 
perform the ritual coitus. This is called kuseuCna mwitiu 'purify 
the daughter' and indicates that the girl is considered unclean to 
a certain extent, although she does not seem to be dangerous to 

^ Cf. Hobley, The Akamba, p. 65. 

40 Lindblom, The Akamba 

those around her, but she herself alone, in her capacity of a future 
mother, is exposed to danger. She is afterwards washed with 
water, and this washing takes place before her parents have had 
intercourse. If the washing takes place before this, it is thought 
that she will become barren. The water is poured out inside the 
hut at the entrance to the we, the partition where the parents have 
their sleeping-place. It is probably not incorrect to place these rites 
in the category of » imitative magic », designed to further the girl's 
task when later on she is confined. 

A menstruating girl carefully avoids all sexual connections, 
and even the young men are very careful on such an occasion, 
for they are afraid lest they should have to pay the goat which 
is imposed as a fine if the girl should become pregnant (see 
further Chap. XI). A man who cohabits with a menstruating girl 
has, in addition, when the girl gets married later on, to pay a 
goat to her husband, and from this the means of purification 
{gondui; see further Chap. VII. 2) is prepared, with which the girl 
is purified. If, in spite of this, her first child should die imme- 
diately after birth, her former lover is obliged to pay an ox to 
her husband. 

Married people on the other hand always cohabit when the 
wife is menstruating, since the Akamba believe that a woman can 
be impregnated only during the period of menstruation. On the 
other hand, however, many negro tribes regard even a married 
woman in this condition as unclean and she has tQ remain isolated ^. 

If again a father during his daughter's menstruation has inter- 
course with a woman other than his wife, he may not, if his daugh- 
ter afterwards gets married and has a child, see this grandchild 
of his before he has been purified with 'gondm. The goat needed 
for the preparation of this is brought to the daughter's home and 
there killed, after which a man skilled in 'gondm smears his eyes 
with the purifying substance. With his eyes shut he is then led 
forward to the child and told to open his eyes. Before he was 
purified these were »evil», and his glance might have had an in- 
jurious influence on the baby. 

From the following definite case, which came to my know- 
ledge, it seems to be clear that, with the exception of the parents, 

^ Se examples in Ploss I, p. 273. 

Menstruation 4 1 

— who on the contrary ought to do it — none of the menstruating 
girl's nearest relatives may have sexual intercourse, as long as she 
is in that condition. A man cohabited with his wife while his 
sister was having menses. When later the girl got married, her hus- 
band demanded that she should be purified, so that their children 
should not suffer. 

As we shall see in Chap. VIII, burial and the ceremonies con- 
nected with death are performed by elders, atmma. An elder 
whose wife has catamenia can, however, take no part in these. 
If he is invited, he refuses, saying: »I have an accident at home*. 
If he does attend a death and then cohabit with his wife — which 
always happens when a married woman menstruates — the child 
she bears may die or be injured in some other way. This idea 
should perhaps be placed under the heading » contagious magic ». 

Menstruation may sometimes influence the time for the burial 
of a dead person, because if a married woman in the family has 
inwo^go, it can not take place before she has had connection 
with a man. At the most, the corpse may be laid in the grave, but 
it may not be covered with earth. 

A man who takes a wife and wishes to bring her home to 
his village must not do this if there is a menstraating woman in 
his home. He waits until the menstruation is over. 

The author has not found any instance of the use of the 
menstrual fluid as medicine or any purely magical use; nor has 
he noticed, either, the existence of any fear of this fluid as specially 
mysterious or potent, a belief which is otherwise widespread even 
outside primitive people. Judging by the author's observation — 
which probably only yielded a cursory glance at the role played 
by menstruation in the everyday life of the Akamba (cf. p. 34, 35) 
there is nothing for men to fear in it. 

According to the statements of several of the Akamba, many 
of the customs connected with menstruation are probably founded 
on the ideas (mentioned on p. 30) of the role of the ancestral 
spirits at the impregnation of a woman. It is certain, however, 
that several different ideas have found expression in the customs 
here described. It may be added finally that these seem to have 
no connection with the rites of initiation discussed in the next 

Chapter III. Circumcision and initiation rites. 

In Kikamba circumcision is called nzmko, from mka 'to cir- 
cumcise'. The Akamba, however, do not employ this word to 
denote circumcision only, but use it to designate two other kinds 
of initiation rites, which really have nothing to do with circum- 
cision. The'y have therefore three nzmko festivals, namely: 

1. nzmko ila mm 'the small circumcision', also called nzmko 
%a ka6>o 'the circumcision with the knife', or nzmko lekondd 'the 
circumcision of the foreskin' {ikondd or i-kold 'foreskin'); 

2. nza>ko tla ncend 'the great circumcision', also called nzmko 
la mbusm 'the circumcision of the rhinoceros', or nzmko la 

3. nzmko la aumd 'the circumcision of the men', also called 
mbcB^am (in Kikumbuliu) or mbaGam (in Kitui and Mumoni). The 
German missionary Mr H. Pfitzinger told me that the word is 
derived from kuGaGana to surpass another in strength or power', 
also 'to be angry'. As the name implies, these ceremonies — in 
contrast to the foregoing — are undergone only by males. 

All these feasts are held in pano, the longer dry season, 
from August to October. They always follow in the above order, 
and, moreover, the first two take place yearly over the whole 
country, while the third is held only every few years and only 
in eastern Ukamba. 

There are no traditions about the origin of circumcision and 
initiation rites, nor does the former seem to be dictated by reasons 
of hygiene. 

I. The real circumcision {nzmko tla mm). 

The least important of the three nzmko is the actual circum- 
cision; yet all of both sexes must submit to it, if they wish to 
be regarded as members of the tribe. This is typical of nearly all 

Circumcision and initiation rites 43 

peoples which practise circumcision. There is no fixed age for 
the operation, and puberty has nothing to do with the matter. 

In passing, I will here call attention to the distinction which 
van Gennep has established between » physiological puberty » and 
»social puberty >, two essentially different things, which but seldom 
fall together^. With this distinction clear before our minds, we 
shall more easily understand the significance of especially the 
second and third nzmko. 

A father decides arbitrarily when he will have his child cir- 
cumcised. The maximum age is the marriageable age, for the 
simple reason that no one who is not circumcised can get a wife. 
Children of from 4 to 5 years old may be circumcised together 
with almost full-grown boys, whose circumcision is delayed by 
special circumstances, such as the poverty of the father; for a 
certain fee must be paid to the performer of the rite, and if a 
man cannot afford this fee, he must postpone the circumcision 
of his children -. The performer, mivatkt, is an elderly man of 
consideration who is versed in such things. Hence it can be said 
that the officiator is a paid professional. The medicine-man, as 
such, has nothing to do with the matter. 

In the circumcision of the males, the whole foreskin is re- 
moved. The foreskins are put among the refuse of the sugar canes, 
»so that the children may not see each other's »; for, as a rule, 
many children are circumcised at the same time, the parents club- 
bing together to engage an operator. When the ceremony is 
over, the foreskins are gathered up in a skin and thrown away. 
Curiously enough, they do not seem to fear lest the ablated pre- 
puces should fall into strange hands and be used in black magic. 
The instrument is a sharp knife of the usual native make, but 
any knife will not do; a particular knife is always used, and 
may not be used for any other purpose. The operation is simple, 
but if the knife used is blunt, terrible torture is caused to the 

^ A. van Gennep, Les rites de passage, p. 93 ff. 

- Routledge (p, 154), mentions the same circumstance in connec- 
tion with the Akikuyu and among the Amwimbe, one of the minor 
tribes of Eastern Kenya, akin to the Akikuyu: »the age varies con- 
siderably and depends largely upon the wealth and position of the father 
of the boy or girl » . G. O r d e Browne, Circumcision ceremonies 
among the Amwimbe, p. 137. 

44 Lindblom, The Akamba 

patient. The wound is not treated in any particular way, but a 
little dry, fine earth is applied to it. According to Hobley, how- 
ever, »the crushed roots of a reed are applied to the wound as a 
dressing*. The wounds heal rapidly, usually in about 2 to 3 
weeks; but the older boys sometimes have considerable trouble 
for several months, and cannot sleep at nights for the pain. 

In the case of girls, the labia minora and preputium clitoridis 
are cut away. An old woman, usually the wife of the mwaih, 
operates on them, and none but women are present. 

On the second night after the circumcision, the children's 
parents have coitus, »in order that the wound may heal well». 
Without this act, which is an essential element in so many Kamba 
customs, the circumcision is not complete. 

It is said that, after circumcision, the children develop ra- 
pidly, and soon reach maturity. 

The ceremony of circumcision is accompanied by a sort of 
public festivity. The young people put on all their ornaments 
and perform dances, and of course much beer {uki) is drunk. It 
must, however, be observed in this connection that a man who 
has not yet a child who is circumcised may not take part in 
these drinking bouts. Sacrifices are made to the ancestral spirits 
{aimu), but presumably only in order that the wounds may 
heal quickly. Circumcision is not to be regarded as a genuinely 
religious act among the Akamba. 

There still remain some details to mention: * 

A woman who wishes to have her child circumcised, but who 
has not yet got her own hut, must first build one. 

On the evening before the operation, the children may not 
drink water or eat sugar cane, »so that there shall not be so much 
blood » ; afterwards they may eat all sorts of food. 

If a child should happen to urinate during the process of 
circumcision, it is regarded as a sort of pariah throughout its 
whole life, and cannot marry anyone else than one who has been 
guilty of a similar offence. 

Unfortunately, the author has never had an opportunity of 
being present at an actual nzaiko. In 191 1 these ceremonies com- 
menced in the beginning of June in the district of Machakos, and 
I had been told that they were to be performed in a certain vil- 
lage at 4 o'clock in the morning. But when I arrived there 

Circumcision and initiation rites 45 

I found that the members of the council of elders had decided 
to postpone the operation for the time being, as the weather was 
considered to be too cold for the children (at 4 a. m. the ther- 
mometer indicated only 8.5° C). The reason for choosing such 
an early hour was stated to be that they wished to avoid »the 
evil eye». 

2. "The great circumcision". 

The great nzmko also has the character of a popular cele- 
bration, but it is regarded as much more important than the above- 
mentioned. Every Kamba man must have taken part in it, if he wishes 
to be regarded as a true member of the tribe and a properly 
educated person. When we know this, we can understand the 
meaning of the expression nda'hkwa nzaiko i^la ncend 'he has not 
yet gone through the great nzaiko\ which is often heard when 
anyone behaves badly. The person who has not gone through 
this nza>ko is looked upon as an inferior sort of person, and is 
put on a par with a knmu (see p. 34). If it is a young man, 
he has no chance of getting a wife; if it is a young woman, the 
young men will not have anything to do with her. The children 
born of such a union would die. 

This is true of Ulu, and is therefore certainly the original 
custom, but in the Kitui district they are not so particular. Ne- 
vertheless, if a child is born, it must be smeared with a purifjdng 
medium, 'gondui, in order to avert all evil. 

The chief idea underlying this initiation is no doubt con- 
nected with the emerging from childhood into manhood (woman- 
hood), the assumption of responsibilities, sexual and social. 

'" These rites are held annually during the longer dry season 
(Sept. to Oct.). Generally speaking, no nzahko may take place 
during the rainy season. In 191 1, the first was held at the end 
of September, and the second towards the end of the next month, 
mu6iM 'the hot'. 

There is no age limit for participation in the second nza>ko\ 
most of the children are certainly of ages ranging from 8 to 12, 
but there are always a number of older ones. The reason 
is that the candidates must pay a fee, which they or their parents 

46 Lindblom, The Akamba 

have not always ready at the appointed time, and they may then 
put it off from one year to another. It is very usual, too, that 
children do not undergo both the first and the second nzaiko 
during the same year. It happens, further, that a father punishes 
an obstreperous child by postponing the time for its undergoing 
the second nzmko. In Ikutha I saw a candidate for the second 
nzmko who looked about 40 years old. He had served for many 
years in distant parts as an askari (soldier), and had only recently 
returned to his native parts, which he had left at a quite early 
age. At present many Kamba boys enter the service of Euro- 
peans in Nairobi or elsewhere. Mr Pfitzinger, of the Leipziger 
Mission (Kitui district), told me that on one occasion he saw a 
married man of from 30 to 40 years of age at such a nzatko. 
Such examples show what importance the Akamba attach to the 
matter. A man such as the above-mentioned soldier may per- 
haps have been in contact with Europeans for many years, and 
may find the whole bissines somewhat unnecessary, but if he 
wishes to remain at home he must complete his education accor- 
ding to regular usage, however much he may have learned from 
contact with whites. 

The conductor of the ceremonies and festivities in connection 
with this nza^ko is also called mwatki, and is probably the same 
man as the conductor of the first nzatko. According to Mr Pfitz- 
inger, the same man was always the conductor in his district. If 
there is no fixed mwatki, a reputable elder, who has himself 
children that are to undergo the ceremonies, applies to the council 
of elders, nzama (p. 135), for permission to conduct them. He in- 
vites them home to a beer-drinking bout, and puts forward his 
proposal; if the elders agree, the matter is settled, and they ar- 
range the time, which is then announced. 

On the conductor's plot (pomd) is built a hut with two en- 
trances, one for the boys and one for the girls; the children have 
to sleep there on grass and leaves, on different sides of the hut. 
This is built by the elders under the direction of the conductor. 
Of course, the work proceeds to the accompaniment of appro- 
priate beer-drinking, during which the mwmkt pours out a little beer 
in the hut, as an offering to Mulw^gu, The Supreme Being, with 
prayers that the children may develop well. In East Ukamba such 
a hut is called t^unu. The one I saw near Ikutha, in 191 1, was 

Circumcision and initiation rites 47 

the usual bee-hive shaped type of hut that the Akamba use, but 
about three times as large as an ordinary hut. In Ulu only one 
such hut is used as a rule, namely that of the ntwa^kt, which, 
when used for such a purpose, is called kie'ggo kia nzatko^. If 
a special hut is built for the purpose, it is called ilnanda. 

The night after the nzaiko hut is ready, the conductor must 
have sexual intercourse with his wife, before the candidates move 
into it. The novices are called astggt. As instructors are em- 
ployed a number of mature married men called a^w^kti (presu- 
mably from Qwhka 'to cover'); in the same way, the girls are 
\mder the direction of elderly and experienced women. These 
adwiku are chosen by the parents of the asi^gt. When a really 
big nzohko takes place, one muOwikti may have as many as 
twenty candidates in his charge. The aQwiku meet in ad- 
vance, and draw up the programme for the ceremonies and the 
dances, which usually continue for seven days. They then practise 
the songs which are to be sung, for many songs are included in 
these festivities. The duties of a6w>kit in instructing and taking 
charge of the candidates are called kuta,-. 

The asi^gi take off their ornaments and are completely naked, 
with the exception of a piece of cloth or a piece of skin round 
their heads; for during the whole time they must take particular care 
not to touch each other's heads, or their hair will fall off. Their 
bodies they have rubbed with fat and ashes. 

Early in the morning, after the mwatki has had coition with 
his wife, the asi'ggt are taken to the nzwhko hut, where they pass 
a great part of the day singing. One of the songs runs thus: 

mivasha, e, lelo: You say eeh, listen: 

tata miuajnbaika, e, My father has me circumcised, eeh, 

zvaggilha aimu kutindaa He ? remains 

mutnba ta kana. in the hut like a child. 

mxuatim maendw ku? Whither have our mothers goner 

^ ^X^^S^ ^s the name of the hut in which the cowherds live when 
tiie cattle are tended at some distance from the village. 

" The author has never heard this word used in any other con- 
nection. Hofmann, however, has it in his dictionary, and translates it 
with »teach, instruct*. In every day speech, however, ^teach' is tnanes%a, 
causative of mama 'to know'. 

48 Lindblom, The Akamba 

ntaendtd kuua. They have gone to cook (food). 

txvi na nzq ncen3. We are very hungry. 

During this first n^aiko-A^y ^ all the asi'ggi must proceed to the 
female leader's hut, and that is done under the following circum- 
stances : 

On the ground, beginning at the entrance to the nza>ko-h.\x\., 
are placed a row of objects, which extend to the woman's hut. 
On one occasion, objects were placed as follows: a lump of wood 
{htt'ggt), a leather strap (ptukwd), a pile of ashes (wm), a large 
calabash vessel (««), and a calabash {k-hku). The asi'ggi advance 
in an ordered troop, and when they reach the first object (the 
lump .of wood), they stop and sing: 

madt'ggo mtvaGt'gga, a! You have closed the way with 

obstacles, aah! 

iwaOt'gguia m mukxamo. The way is closed to us by 

something that lies across it. 

Then the lump of wood is thrown on one side, and they 
proceed to the next object, where they sing: 

mwasia, e, leld: You say, eeh, listen: 

Whamu m nfend, the animal is large, 

\atinga mai'gga. it coils into coils ^. 

ikxa naOn mukxamo! Throw the obstacle over there 

(to one side). 

The strap is thrown aside, and they come to the ashes: 

mwasxa, e, lel^: You say, eeh, listen: 

ivakasaOuku, hare, 

wakasaGuku duha mu! hare scrape up ashes-! 

u6itd na6ij, mukxamo I Go to one side, obstacle ! 

Before the calabash vessel they proceed to sing: 

mivasxa, e, leld: You say, eeh, listen: 

ivombombo. wombotnbo (a sort of refrain) 

^ The strap is compared to a writhing snake. 

- The boys compare themselves to a hare, raising up dust as 
it runs, and they take up ashes and throw them at each other. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 


nzwe sia mutwd m 
s%a6ed kana nata? 
'ggwontd un\'Xnzd, aa, aa 
nzua ikumt niQcetwd, 


the hair on the head is burnt 
is'nt it^^ 

I have seen ? aah, aah! 

ten calabash vessels may be moved 


Now they reach the last obstacle, the calabash: 

mmwasxa, e, leld: 
mivwhiu, mwaOt'gga, e. 

mwaGtf^ga ua nzua 
na tku siondd. 

You say, eeh, listen: 

Our mothers, you have closed the 

way, eeh. 
You have closed with the vessels 
and calabashes all. 

The singers sing under the direction of a chief singer {^guf). 

All the obstacles are now removed, and they have reached 
the old woman's hut, where they are given beer to drink out of 
spoons. They sing again: 

asa, asokt. 

undu tambdhha kwtn^a 

na ndt la mutandt? 

Father, father, beer. 
Why should we begin to dig 
with a grave stake of the mutandt 

When all have got beer, the asi^gt return to their hut. They 
do not, however, sleep much during the two nights they spend 
there, but while away the time by singing songs. Some songs are 
sung alternately by boys and girls, and they are extremely obscene. 
One of them runs as follows: 

(the boys:) 
had, had, leld: 
kino m ndia 
kiiundumeld 'gguam 
had, had 

(the girls answer:) 
mwasia, e, leld: 

Hae, hae, listen : 
the kino^ is a fool, 
she dwells in the clothes, 
hae, hae. 

You say, eeh, listen: 

^ The calabash is compared with a bald head. 
^ A tree bearing red flowers, of which digging-sticks are made. 
^ The name of the female pudenda. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 4 

5© Lindblom, The Akamba 

kea m ndia the kea^ is a fool, 

htundumeld mcem^ it dwells among the testes, 

na, m ndta and is a fool 

k'hkundawa unou ni kino. to allow the kino to drink fat. 

The meaning is that, by much sexual intercourse, the man grows 
lean, while the woman thrives on it. 

Like the songs, the conversation also is of a very dubious 
nature, and, according to my informant, is directly intended to 
show that no feelings of shame exist under these circumstances, 
though in daily life considerable modesty is shown in connection 
with such matters. But now no consideration may be paid to such 
feelings, even if a mupom (chap. V) be present. 

In spite of the erotic character of the whole performance, and 
although the young people are accustomed to fairly free sexual 
intercourse, nothing of that kind takes place during the nzmko 
time, as it is considered to have a harmful influence on their future. 
The aGwiktt have carefully instructed them on that point. Yet others 
who have nothing to do with the ceremonies come and try to 
persuade them to disobey the instructions. 

During the second day, the ceremonies reach their height in 
the appearing of mbusya »the rhinoceros*. This, which has been 
prepared beforehand, consists of a structure resembling a box, 
joined together with sticks and covered with branches, so that 
it is impossible to see the man who goes into it and produces 
the bellowing noise, which is supposed to be an imitation of the 
roar of a rhinoceros, intended to frighten the women and children. 
The rnbus%a, which has up to this point been concealed in the waste, 
is carried by four men. When it is brought near the village, it 
roars. It is put down close to one of the entrances of the 
nza'hko hut, so that the man can enter it unseen; the hut is di- 
vided into two parts by hanging skins, so that the asi%gi shall 
not be able to see the mbusxa, but only hear it. The animal 
bellows continuously, and to show his courage each of the male 
candidates must go one by one to the hanging with a stick in his 
hand, with which he beats the hanging, saying: wikou m mwana 
wa 'ggaxna 'he who does this is N. N's son' (mentioning his 

^ The name of the male pudenda. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 51 

father's name). This is called kwapa mbusyi 'shooting the rhi- 

According to the description that was given me, the myste- 
rious noise is produced in the following way: The man who is 
playing the role of mbusya carries by a cord round his neck a 
small clay vessel, containing equal quantities of water and beer. 
By blowing into the liquid with a pipe (a twig of the mwaepa 
tree) he produces a sound which resembles the bellow of the 

Only the boys take part in what has now been described. 
After the mdusia has disappeared as mysteriously as it came, it is 
the turn of the girls to undergo a similar but less trying test. 
The sound which is to frighten them is produced by an old 
woman, who shakes a calabash containing seeds, probably wimbi 

In Ulu the mbus\a is not produced until darkness has fallen, 
presumably in order to make the whole performance more my- 
sterious, and to frighten the ast^gt more. At the nzohko at which 
I was present in Kitui, it was done at about five o'clock p. m. 

During the night before the third day, the conductor of the 
ceremonies must again have intercourse with his wife, the girls' 
mwohki. That night all the ast'ggi sleep on the open space before 
the nzwhko hut, and they must not light a fire. On the following 
morning, the fee must be paid to the mwrnki and his wife, and 
the aQwhkti are entitled to try to remove their charges in order 
to get them off paying. To prevent this, the relations and friends 
of the aOwhktt stand on guard round the place. They make fires 
round it, and some of them do sentry-go in turns, and even patrol 
between the fires, meeting half-way. These assistants of the con- 
ductor must also have their remuneration, which they lose if any 
of the asi^gi get away. It sometimes happens, too, that they 
fence the place in, so that it shall be even harder for the aQimkii 
to steal off with the asz'ggt. 

The third day. On the next morning, the ast'ggt pay the 
fee to the mwa'hkt and his wife. For a boy the father pays per- 
haps half a rupee, for a girl about 30 cents; but as a rule the 
parents club together, and 4 ast'ggt pay one goat, 10 to 14 pay a 
young bull, 16 pay an ox, which is considered to be worth more 
than a bull. For twenty girls one bull is paid. 

5a Lindblom, The Akamba 

When the fees have been paid, the aOwhkii take back their 
charges. They are now given miniature bows, a few decimeters 
long, and small, fragile bird-arrows {mwggi), which latter are made 
of the plants called mukulwa or muluila-mbia^ . The boys are sent 
with these weapons to hunt lizards, grass-hoppers, etc. These 
little animals then represent wild beasts, enemies, &c. Although the 
present-day Akamba are principally farmers and cattle-raisers, yet 
they are also skilful hunters, and, according to their own traditions, 
they were originally a hunting people. This pretence of hunting 
on which the boys are sent is, therefore, certainly symbolic of the 
occupation which was once upon a time the most important of 
the Kamba man, and is perhaps supposed to make them good 
shots, both in the chase and in war. The girls, on the other 
hand, are sent to break small twigs, that is to say, gather fuel, 
which is a part of every woman's daily occupation. 

After they have finished hunting, the ast'ggt return singing 
to the open place before the nzohko hut. The two mwa^ki each 
take a calabash vessel full of beer, which they drink and then 
spit out over the multitude as a blessing. The mwa^kis task is 
now completed, and the asi^gt may return to their homes. On 
the way home, they sing songs, one over the first cow droppings 
they see on their way, another over the first goat-droppings, and 
so on. * 

At home in the villages, the mothers have arranged madi'ggo 
'obstacles', to puzzle the asi'ggt, and still more to discover whe- 
ther the aOw^kii have given their children good instruction and 
thus earned the remuneration which, as we shall soon see, even 
they receive. From mu6ea (the entrance to the kraal) right up 
to the door of the hut, the women have placed various objects, 
such as a bow, a quiver, a calabash, a grinding stone, and so 
on. Every conceivable object is made use of, and even a baby 
may be laid in the row. The asif^gi may not enter the hut until, 
with the help of aOwhkzi, they have discovered the meaning of 
these obstacles, or have discovered what the women have done to 
the objects. Thus, for example, the giraffe- (or zebra-)hair binding 

1 With regard to the first-named, cf. Chap. XI. The latter is a 
plant with bright red flowers. The musical bow with which the medi 
cine-man gets into communication with the spirits is struck with a stick 
cut from this plant. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 53 

tied to the shaft in one or two places, has been removed 
from one arrow in one quiver; or the women have detached one 
end of the string of one bow and tied it in a different way; or 
one of them has concealed an object in her nostrils, or among 
the beads which they wear in a broad belt round the middle. The 
devices are even obscene sometimes. Thus, according to what I 
was once told, on one occasion the solution was that the novice 
had to insert his penis into the genital organ of the »hindering» 

When all the solutions have been discovered, the mother 
smears the musi^gi with fat, and then he may enter the hut. He 
receives a present from his father, and in the same way a girl 
receives a small gift from her mother. 

While the asiggi solve the » obstacles*, they continue with 
their singing. The following is a specimen of such a song: 

mwasxa, e, leld : You say, eeh, listen : 

'ggaOi'^giwa na mbni I shall be shut out by sword 

na niatumo na smu swnda and spear and by every possible 

e, nafnb\u na matumo, &c. eeh. By sword and spear, &c. 

That day the ast'ggt, provided with their miniature bows, go 
round from hut to hut and collect small presents, such as chains (in 
the fashioning of which the Akamba are past-masters), bracelets, 
and other ornaments. These objects are hung on the points of the 
bow, and the boys continue to wander round until their bows 
will hold no more. The ornaments go to the aQwikii as remune- 
ration for their work. Every father of a family, besides, gives 
his child's mu6unkn about one rupee's worth of beer, if he has 
had one pupil to take charge of; if he has had two or more 
children under his charge, he gets beer to the value of a goat. 

Further, on the third day, each boy is given a little stick 
about one decimeter in length. On the evening the songs 
and dances are in progress, they are to approach the unsuspecting 
girls and insert the stick into their genital organs. My informant 
emphasized that this is only a pleasantry i^gui), but it is consi- 
dered, nevertheless, that if any boy neglects to do this, the children 
which he may subsequently beget, will easily die. Here and there 
in our account we see traces of the great role which sexual matters 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

play in these initiation ceremonies. One of the most important 
duties of the aOwikti, too, is to instruct the ast'ggt in sexual mat- 
ters, and this is undoubtedly a way of preparing the young people 
for matrimony. 

I — 7. Figures from musa^ sticks, somewhat enlarged. 

I. Open space (yard, pom^) with paths leading to it. 2. Tortoise. 3. Ornamented 

seat of a stool {mumbo). 4. Python. 5. Cow's tail. 6. Star. 7. Star. 

8. Piece of musai stick, natural size. Millipede, clan-mark on beehive, moon, star. 

The fourth day. On the night before the fourth day, the 
novices sleep on the ground in their mothers' huts, and their 
parents must have ritual coition. On the fourth day are distributed 
the musax sticks, called uka\ in Kikumbuliu. The niusa\ is a thin 
stick of about 80 centimeters in length, made by the aOwikti from 

Circumcision and initiation rites 


branches of the mupiwa tree. In its bark are scratched figures 
winding round the stick, and as to the meaning of these figures 
they are examined by the aOwhkn, who explain to them what 
they do not understand. A father will often instruct his son 
beforehand as to the meaning of these »pictographic riddles*, as 
Hobley calls them, so that the son shall not appear all too ignorant 
at the examination. When the nzatko festivities are over, the 







9. Snake. 10. The sun. The Akamba call the rays »legs». 11. Stool with three legs. 

12. Moon and stars. 13. Chain withjshort side links. 14. Centipede. 15. Woman's 

belt with two rows of cowry shells. 16. Calabash with narrow neck. 

boys' parents place the musai sticks under the bed, and again 
have coition. After that the sticks are destroyed. 

There are several musai sticks in my ethnographical collection 
from the Akamba. A part of such a stick is shown in the figure 8 ; 
Hobley (p. 71) reproduces a whole stick. The most usual figures 
are of the sun, the moon, the stars, tortoises, lizards, millipedes, 
roads, dancing-places, clan-marks on bee-hives, &c. 

56 Lindblom, The Akamba 

I have collected such sticks with figures cut in them (though 
they are much longer and thicker than the niusa\ sticks of the 
Akamba) from the VVataveta near Kilimandjaro. They are given to 
the newly circumcised, who have to interpret the signs. Besides 
the sticks, they receive bows marked with similar signs. These 
are more conventional than the figures on the inusa\ sticks^. 

In addition to the figures just described, there are others which 
the aOwikit draw in the sand. Several of these are depicted in 
the figures 9 — 16. 

Although it is an embarrassing matter for anyone to betray 
too great ignorance in these matters, yet the figures have no deep 
meaning, but seem mostly to be looked upon as a joke. In the 
third nza'hko we shall meet with another sort of conventional signs 
with a far more serious practical significance. 

Further, on this fourth day, the ast^gt have to steal sugar cane, 
and prepare from it beer for the adwhkit. This beer is called iiki 
wa utulia wumbu 'beer to push forward the milk juice with' 
(see the following section). 

The fifth day. Early in the morning, the aQwikii go in search 
of a wild fig-tree {mumbu). It must be found in an easterly direction. 
All of them, commencing with the eldest, spit on the tree, praying: 
» Fig-tree, we have come to pray you to give us milk juice for the 
asi'ggi* {knimbu h^ mtuktd uku6oia, utuncB'ggd wumbu wa urKzioga 
asi'ggt). They make an offering of a little food and milk by the tree, 
and smear a little fat on its trunk, on the right side for the boys 
and on the left side for the girls. The juice is obtained by 
pricking the tree with a nail, after it has been smeared with fat 
in seven places. Each of the aQwhkit catches juice in a little 
calabash for his asi^gi. At nightfall they go and fetch the asi'ggi 
to the tree, where they take a little milk-juice on one finger and 
give it to the asi'ggi, who pretend to eat it^. During the preceding 
days, the asi'ggi have not been allowed to consume milk, meat, 
sweet potatoes, or certain kinds of beans (Phaseolus and Cajanus 
Indicus), but now they can have all sorts of food. Since the 

^ See, further, G. Lindblom, Anteckningar 6fver Taveta-folkets 
etnologi, p. 178. 

^ The fig-tree plays a part also in the initiation rites of the Aki- 
kuyu. See F. Bugueau, La circoncision au Kikuyu, Anthropos 191 1, 
p. 626. The fig-tree is a kind of sacred tree all over Africa. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 57 

beginning of the nza^ko, they have Hved on maize, Eleusine 
porridge, and gruel. We recognise here the well-known circum- 
stance that certain kinds of food are tabu for novices, and they 
may only eat them when they are initiated. 

At the fig-tree is performed another ceremony, which, in the 
second nzohko, is the only thing which has any connection with 
real circumcision. A slight cut is made at the base of the glans 
(muOwa), and a little beer is poured on the wound. 

If the selected fig-tree does not give any milk, the aQwtkii un- 
derstand that some malicious person who is conversant with such 
matters, has, for sport, » closed* all the fig-trees in the district, 
in order to cause them difficulty and compel them to search 
around for another tree, in doing which they tire themselves out, 
prick themselves on thorns, and so on. Usually, however, there is 
someone among them that knows how to »open» a tree » closed* in 
this manner. To this person the others must pay a fee, consisting 
of ornaments, a few cents each, and so on. 

The asi'ggt pass the sixth day quietly at their homes, where 
beer is brewed, and the women prepare gruel («jm) for the following 
day's festivities. 

The seventh day. The asi^gi carry out a sham cattle raid, 
the »cattle» being represented by the round, yellow fruits of a 
sort of Solanum {}ido'ggti)\ they have cowherds to watch them. 
All the ast^gi are equipped as for a warlike expedition, carrying 
bows, arrows, and a calabash containing provisions for the journey. 
When the enemy approaches, the cowherds pelt him with the 
Solanum fruit, calling out: ^The Masai (or the Galla) are com- 
ing!* This is the way in which the cattle stealing connected 
with the nsaiko is carried on in Kikumbuliu. In Ulu the practice 
is that, when the cattle are being driven home in the evening, 
the asz^gt rush out and attack the cowherds with ndoggu fruits, 
clods of earth, &c, and pretend to steal the cattle. The women 
wail: »The Masai have come! The Masai are here to steal our 
cattle ! » 

After a real war-expedition, when a young Kamba warrior 
returns home with stolen cattle as booty, his parents must have 
ritual coition. By analogy with this, the ast'ggis parents have 
intercourse when the above-described sham cattle-stealing takes 
place. This, however, does not take place until the evening of 

58 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the following day. The seventh day is not considered a good 
day, for odd numbers {mwa) are looked upon as unlucky in many 
respects, and this applies especially to the number seven ^. 

As has been mentioned, the festivities generally extend over 
seven days. During the whole time, the other young people who 
have already been circumcised, indulge in great dances, for which 
they put on as many ornaments as possible. These dances are 
called nmma, and those who have not yet been circumcised may 
not take part in them. 

The members of the great clan anzaum (chap. VII), who live i 
the neighbourhood of Machakos, extend the time for the second 
nia%ko to nearly a month, instead of the usual six or seven days; 
the reason for this is that so many young people of this clan are 
said to have died after the ceremonies. 

Now our description of the second nzatko is at an end. Naturally 
the procedure varies somewhat in different places, especially in 
the matter of the sequence of the different items. Thus Hobley's 
account differs in a good many particulars from mine, yet in the 
main our descriptions tally. 

Other songs in connection witti the » Great Circumcision >. 

On the whole, all these songs seem to be the same over the 
whole of Ukamba, with the exception perhaps of Kilungu, where 
they are said to be very old and interesting. We have already 
seen (in Chap. I) that that district differs in many particulars from 
the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I have not had an oppor- 

^ When the cattle are out at pasture, they are never watched 
by the same cowherd for more than six days at a time. And if the 
medicine-man shakes seven objects from his fortune-telling calabash, 
when he is consulted, this is looked upon as boding ill-luck. In his 
study over circumcision among the Kikuyu, Father Bugeau says : » Peu 
importe d'ailleurs le nombre, pourvu que ce ne soit pas sept: ce 
nombre est en effet de mauvaise augure. Aussi 6vite-t-on soigneu- 
sement d'etre sept dans les repas et les reunions*. E. Bugeau ibid, 
p. 623. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 59 

tunity of hearing any songs from Kilungu. The one which follows 
is from Machakos. 

sxua iapt>a ukaGi, e, The sun goes down in Masai-land 

tta kwitiu latia makcB'gga aaa. and leaves us its reflection, aah. 

fnwas\a, e, leh: You say, eeh, listen: 

tukatada, lela. We shall steal, lela, 

ad, ad, tukataOa 'gombd ae, ae, we shall steal cattle 

sxa akaGi, from the Masai, 

iukataGa maweo ondd. we shall steal over all the steppes. 

What I saw of the second nzatko in Kitui, in Oct. 1911. 

On Oct. 31, 191 1, I happened to learn that the second nza'iko 
was proceeding in a village in the neighbourhood of Kitui govern- 
ment station. I immediately betook myself thither, arriving about 
4 o'clock in the afternoon. I found crowds of people of all ages 
and both sexes assembled on an open place in front of the hut of the 
conductor of the ceremonies; dancing and singing was at its height. 
The dancers were divided into several groups. One of these 
consisted of such as had gone through the third nza'hko — conse- 
quently only men — and no others were allowed to partake in 
this dance {nzuma). Of the song that was being sung I could 
only catch the following words: tmtula cetm, m ta ta utula nia- 
cB'ggo 'We do not dance with the girls, it is like dancing with 
bee-hives'. The fact of the matter is that the women do not 
know the dances that belong to the third nza'hko, and those that 
came to look on were chased away. I heard them say: »We do 
not like this dance ». When I appeared on the scene, the dan- 
cing stopped, and I was politely but firmly requested to depart 
again. What I had the opportunity to see of the dance was not 
of an erotic character. All the nza'hko dances, however, seem to 
be different from the ordinary dances danced for amusement. 

Another group of dancers was composed of those who had 
gone through the second nza'hko, that is to say, both males and 

The principal personages in the third group were the ast^gz 
for the year. They had their heads bound up, were without or- 

6o Lindblom, The Akamba 

naments, and were covered with old blankets and pieces of cloth. 
Together with a crowd of girls and married women, they went 
ceaselessly round in a circle, clapping their hands and singing. 

In the middle of the open space stood the nkaiko hut, from 
the interior of which proceeded intermittently the roars of the 
nibusia. Every now and again some of the ast'ggt were taken 
into the hut »to beat the mbusia-». The asi'^gi carried thin switches, 
about 2 meters in length, and when the dance was ended, they 
went round pretending to beat people. Everything they did, 
however, gave the impression of being done in fun, and the whole 
performance resembled innocent amusement. 

I was told that this day was the last nzaiko day for the year. 

On the following morning, the asi'^gi, carrying bows of some 
two meters in length, were seen going round from hut to hut, 
begging for beads, which they strung on their bow-strings. Gene- 
rally they were given only two or four beads by the same per- 
son : it was considered that to give three, five, or seven beads 
would bring bad luck, and the ast^gi refused to accept such an 
odd number. 

3. "The Circumcision of the, Men". 

The third nzmko, which is only practised, in Eastern Ukamba 
(the Kitui district and Kikumbuliu), is much more secret than the 
second, and the proceedings are only known to those that have taken 
part in it. These are all bound by oath to secrecy. The breach of 
this oath was punished by instant death in earlier times, and 
even nowadays such punishment is not out of the question. At 
best the delinquent escapes with the payment of a fine of ten 
cows. A Kamba may not refer to these rites even in general 
terms, and merely to ask about them costs two bulls. A man 
may not even talk about them to his wife. When I had become 
initiated into these matters, I used sometimes to amuse myself by 
putting questions to my bearers, during rests between marches, 
in order to see their amazed and scared faces. My first questions 
were generally ignored, but if I persisted, they answered: »Master, 
we know that nothing in Ukamba is unknown to you. But if you 

Circumcision and initiation rites 6i 

know these secrets, you ought also to know that they are not 
talked about. If you do not cease plaguing us with your questions, 
we will lay down our loads and leave you». 

Under such circumstances it is not surprising that missionaries 
who have lived in the country for twenty years, are ignorant of 
these matters. As a matter of fact, up to a few years back, 
they were unknown both to missionaries and officials. Of the 
two existing accounts of the third nzatko, besides my own (from 
Kikumbuliu), one is by Mr Hobley (from Kitui), and the other, 
which is not yet published, is by the above-mentioned missionary, 
Pfitzinger (from a district north of Kitui station)^. All the ac- 
counts show great similarity, especially my own and Pfitzinger's, 
which agree in all essentials. Pfitzinger got his information some 
years ago from a converted native. But although the latter had 
become a Christian, he only ventured to make his disclosures 
with great hesitation. My own information I obtained from a 
medicine-man in the district of Kibwezi, with whom I had got on 
intimate terms and who was my most frequent companion during 
a month's time*. 

On the other hand, it is doubtful whether any white man has 
ever been an eye-witness of these ceremonies. While I was still 
staying in the neighbourhood of Kibwezi in 191 1, preparations 
had already been commenced for the »men's circumcision*, but 
I only learnt this fact after I had left the place. It is celebrated 
only every third or fourth year, and not every year, as is the 
case with the other two nzmko festivals. The natives say that 
it is so dangerous and harmful that, if it took place oftener, the 
rains for the year would fail, and a famine would ensue. 

This nzaisko has no more to do with religious practice than 
have the other two. The object is simply and solely that the 
Kamba youth may reach the culmination of the education and 
knowledge that the tribe can bestow on the individual — to make 
him a mundu wa 'gguma 'a man of reputation'. He who has 
gone through these ceremonies is a real man and has a safe claim 
to the mutum^a dignity (see p. 138). As in the case of the second 
nzaiko, the novices are called asi'^gi. 

^ By the courtesy of Mr K. Dundas, Machakos, I was enabled to 

study this manuscript, which had been handed over to the government. 

^ See the account of my travels in Afrikanska strdftSg, p. 195 ff- 

62 Lindblom, The Akamba 

The conductor of the third nzaiko is one of the respected 
elders. He selects a remote spot in the wastes, away from the 
paths and near a river. Here he sends four men who have gone 
through these rites, and they have to build a hut. Round this 
hut they make a cleared space, which is strewn with sand or fine 
earth. The place is consecrated by killing a goat and mixing 
its 7nu\o (the digested contents of one of the stomachs, seep. 103) 
with the sand. Then they go to prepare the mbcedam, which corre- 
sponds to the mbusia of the second 7izaiko. A ktusm tree is 
found ^, and from it are made two pipe-shaped staves, into which 
a thinner stick is inserted. By means of fibres of the mwapa 
tree, which is a 'gondm tree (chap. VI), the staves are bound together 
at an acute angle. Another goat is killed when the staves are 
ready, and they are smeared with its mmo. Then the mbcedani 
is concealed in the river. 

While three of the men are making the mbcedam, the fourth 
remains at the place to see that nobody approaches, who has no 
business there. If anyone does come, he is seized and must pay 
a fine of a bull, the meat of which is eaten by those who take 
part in the festival. An unbidden guest even risks life and limb. 

Now the three men return to the conductor's village, and inform 
him that everything is ready for the novices. In the evening they 
go out into the waste and fetch the mbceGam, which is taken 
to the village. It is carried point foremost, resting upon one 
man's shoulders, two other men carrying the legs of the angle. 
According to my informant, these legs have »a large opening 
behind, which is blown into, and a smaller one in front*. When 
they approach the village, they blow into the pipes, which give 
forth a hollow, drawn-out sound. Anyone who gets in the way 
of the mb(s6am is seized and fined a bull or ten goats. Generally, 
however, the mbce^am is heard far and wide, and outsiders keep 
out of the way. Then the conductor's village is reached, where 
all the men have assembled; the women may not be present, but 
go to sleep in their huts. Deep silence prevails, and even so 
inconsiderable a noise as a cough or a hawk is punished by the 
imposition of a fine of several goats; only the mbcBQam is heard. 
The conductor asks why they have come there, and adds that 

^ Leguminosse sp. which blooms on the naked twig. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 63 

no children are left there. After the singing of some songs, the 
mbcsOam is taken back to its hiding-place, without the asi'ggz having 
seen it. The rnbceOam may be said to correspond to the » bull- 
roarer* of the mysteries of the Australians and other peoples. 

The same night, the asi'ggi are led to the selected place; they 
are clothed, or rather unclothed, in the same way as the novices 
in the above-described nzobko. As in this nzaiko, they have pro- 
tectors, aQimkti, one for every two asi'ggi. These aQwhkii are 
men who have already gone through these rites. They give them 
all sorts of instructions, warn them to do all that is demanded 
of them, and on no account to refuse to do anything, or they 
will pay for it with their lives. 

Besides the a6imhz, there is another category of functionaries, 
the so-called ^g'a/a, younger men, whose duties are to plague the 
asi^gi. l^gala means both 'spark' and 'flea' ; thus they must 
annoy the novices with the same persistence as that shown by 
biting fleas. In social rank they are lower than the aGwiktt. 

On the place where the performance takes place, several fires 
are lighted, one for the asz'ggt, one for the 'ggala, one for 
the aQwikn, and one at which sit the elders, members of the nzama 
(see chap. IX). The divisioninto groups is thus based on ranks, and 
no one may sit by the fire assigned to a group which is higher in 
rank than himself. The elders have good supplies of meat at their 
fire, for the ast'ggt have paid for the privilege of going through 
the ceremony, besides which the men take this opportunity of 
buying a higher rank in the community, and this costs a bull 
or a certain number of goats, which are eaten in common. The 
animals are cut up according to certain principles, since mem- 
bers of the lower ranks may not eat of all parts of an animal. 
This point will be considered in a later chapter dealing with age- 
and rank-classes. None of the meat set apart for consumption on 
this occasion may be taken home to the villages. Only the elders 
may crack the bones to get at the marrow, and all bones are 
collected at their fire. Anyone who breaks this rule is fined se- 
veral goats. 

When the feasting has proceeded for some time, the hour 
arrives for the ast'ggt to begin their proofs. Their eyes are 
bound, and they are led by their protectors to the sandy place, 
where they are ordered to throw themselves prostrate. They now 

64 Lindblom, The Akamba 

begin to sing certain songs, some of which I have recorded, 
but I have not been able to translate them. As they sing, they 
throw up sand with their hands and feet. Soon the hollow, bel- 
lowing sound of the approaching mdceOam is heard. The ast'ggt 
are ordered to lie immovable, and not to look about them ; they 
are also told to shout: ulu, ulu, ulu. Their protectors form a 
ring round them, and throw sand on them with their feet, as though 
to conceal them from the monster. The bringing up of the 
mbcEdam is only intended to instil respect into the novices, and it 
is soon borne away again. 

The asi'ggt are then given a few pieces of meat to eat. If 
any of them crack a bone while eating — and they are closely 
watched — it is looked upon as a grave offence, and the father 
must pay a fine of a goat. Then they are permitted a short 
sleep, and this they enjoy beside the aOztnkiis fire, as a protection 
against the l^gala. 

On the following day come the real tests, some of which 
give the impression of pleasantries. They must, for example, suck 
up sand through a tube, pretending that they are drinking beer. 
Then they pretend to be drunk and create a disturbance and fight 
with sticks. 

The 'ggala make natural noises (break wind), upon which 
the asi'ggi must give vent to long-drawn aah's, an expression of 
reverence and respect which is used by a young person in answer 
to an older man's greeting. Further, the l^gala take a lump of 
anything, often of human excrement, order the must'ggi to open 
his mouth as wide as possible, and push the lump into his throat; 
the lump must be swallowed, however inclined the victimma y 
be to vomit. 

There is much to be said in favour of the supposition that 
this method of procedure is not a fortuitous method of tormenting 
the novices, but that it is connected with a magic rite, as a great 
many facts indicate that human excrement is considered in many 
quarters to possess a magic power. In the myths of the Kwakiutl 
urine is used as a means of making the children grow up quicker, 
and in the Australian initiation riles the youths have to eat the 
excrement of old women ^. 

^ See K, Th. Preuss, Der Ursprung der religion und kunst 
Globus 1904, p. 326. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 65 

These burlesque games, however, are quite insignificant com- 
pared with the actual tests, some of which mean real torture to 
many of the victims. Each one must throw himself headlong on 
the ground, roll in every direction, and then walk with the help 
of his head and legs, without using his hands. If he does not 
walk fast enough, the 'ggala beat him. A pointed peg is driven 
into the ground, and each of the asi^gi must pull it out with 
his teeth. The feat is rendered very difficult by the position 
which the performer must adopt: he must squat (not sit) on 
the ground, and then, without help of his hands, bend his head 
and seize the peg. It often happens that he falls forward in 
doing so, and wounds his mouth on the peg. If he does not 
pull the peg out quickly enough, he is beaten until he does 
accomplish it. Sometimes, however, his protector intervenes and 
pulls the peg out for him. 

Next the ast^gi must run between two lines of the "ggala, 
who are armed with sticks from two to three meters in length, 
with which they beat the runners. It is said that, if a musi'ggi 
is disliked or if he has enemies among the 'ggala, it often happens 
that he is crippled or even beaten to death. 

Following these games come obscenities, which my informant 
described to me with obvious embarassment, repeatedly laying 
stress on the fact that the whole performance was nothing but 
fun {ggui). Each of the asi'ggi must hold up his penis until erection 
ensues. A lump of wood is then bound to the member, and he 
must then march round in this plight, amid the continuous laughter 
of the audience. Next a hollow, some ten centimeters in length, 
is scooped out in the ground and filled with water. This repre- 
sents a vagina, and in it all the asi'ggi must perform the act of 
copulation. When the water is used up, the hollow is filled in. 

These tests are mentioned also by Mr Pfitzinger, who adduces 
other similar ones. For instance, »each one must perform upon 
the other, to demonstrate how he has sexual intercourse with a 
woman ». 

For forty-eight hours they remain in the remote spot engaged 
in such performances, and during the whole time the asiggi get 
nothing to eat beyond a scrap of meat. At the expiration of this 
period, they are led home amid singing. The songs are of an 
indescribably lewd content. When they arrive in the village, 

Arch.Or. Lindblom S 

66 Lindblom, The Akamba 

they are condescendingly greeted by the ^gala with waha, 
kana ka 'Good day, you child' (wakia is a greeting to children 
from their elders the respectful answer is aak). When the asi'ggt 
open their mouths to reply, they get their ears boxed, or else get 
all sorts of things stuffed into their mouths. Or else the 'ggala 
relieve themselves, and when the excrement appears, the asz'ggi 
must again say »aah». A multitude of such » pleasantries » are 
enacted. Among others, every must'ggi is told to call his father 
to him, and he must then place his penis in the latter's ear. Any- 
one who refuses to submit to this is fined a bull. 

That night the asi'ggi may sleep in their homes, and the 
parents must have sexual intercourse. 

On the following morning begin the great dances, which con- 
tinue for five or six days. During the first days, the asi'ggi re- 
main in the plantations, where they live on food which their 
mothers have put in a certain place for them, but without 
saying anything about it to them. The food may not contain any 
salt. They have been provided with long sticks by the aOwikii, 
and with these they beat all the women and others who have not 
undergone the third nsatko, who cross their path. Mr Pfitzinger 
says: »The asingi are not afraid of striking our own boys, messen- 
gers, or herdsmen. Even an askari (soldier) could only save himself 
by threatening to shoot them. Everybody is afraid of the sticks of 
the asingi*. When the women go to the river to fetch water, they 
are fallen upon, their calabashes are smashed, and the girls are 
raped. My informant strongly emphasized that asi'ggi under the 
third nzaiko are not regarded as human beings, but as animals, 
niamu. Without any doubt all these ceremonies and performances 
are intended finally and definitely to raise them from the condition 
of children without tribal rights. In a similar way, the neophytes 
among certain Australian tribes are looked upon as dead. The 
same is the case also in West Africa. 

In reply to my question as to whether they would dare to 
assault a European, they answered that they would probably refrain 
from doing that, but they attack a native of another tribe without 

If a stranger coming along the road is attacked by the asi'ggi 
and kills one of them in self-defence, he cannot be made respon- 
sible for his act. It is as if he had shot a gguli, a baboon, and 

Circumcision and initiation rites 67 

the father of the victim may not even ask who is the perpetrator 
of the deed. Instead, the muOwiku of the murdered man is blamed, 
and then he gets no remuneration for his work. For he is conside- 
red responsible for the mishap, since he has not given his pupil 
sufficiently precise instructions. 

Thus, that the neophytes may with impunity break the rules 
established for the peace and order of the community is typical of 
all initiation rites. I must subscribe to the following remark of van 
Gennep: »Pendant toute la duree du noviciat les liens ordinaires, 
tant economiques que juridiques, sont modifies, parfois meme net- 
tement rompus. Les novices sont hors de la societe, et la societe 
ne peut rien sur eux . , .»^, 

In order to escape being attacked, those who have gone 
through the third nzmko have secret signs by which they can be 
recognised. Probably these signs differ in different districts, but 
for Kikumbuliu I have made a record of the following: 

A figure resembling a trident is drawn in the sand, and the 
attacked are asked what it is. The answer is, mbcsQam. Or they 
take two small twigs, each in the form of a hook; they hang 
one on the other, and hand them to the one that is to be tested. 
If he is initiated, he seizes the lower one which is hanging freely 
and turns it round. If he takes hold of the upper one, he thereby 
shows his ignorance, and receives a beating. Another way is to 
lay a stick over a path: the initiated then move it to such a po- 
sition that it lies along the path. In another district again, the 
stick must be moved so that it points towards the conductor's vil- 
lage. Or finally, a little sand-heap is scraped up, and a stick is 
stuck into its side. The stick must be moved over to the oppo- 
site side. 

After the expiration of a day or two, the adwhkii take home 
their pupils, who have not, in the meantime, been allowed even 
to speak to their mothers or brothers and sisters, but have been 
looked upon as animals. The first day they are home, they do 
not speak to their parents, but sleep for the most part, and their 
mothers bring them food^. Then they wash and put on their 
clothes and ornaments, and a little hair is shaved from their 

^ A. van Gennep, Les rites de passage, p. 161. 
^ Reintegration rites. In the Congo, for instance, the novice is- 
fed like a new-born baby. 

68 Lindblom, The Akamba 

foreheads, mtcen^id ast'^gi 'we have shaved the ast^gi\ they say ^. 
The asj'ggi are now born again (kusiawa) and have again become 
human beings. The sticks which they have carried up till now 
are broken up and burnt by the aGwikit, so that the smaller 
children may not get hold of them. The ceremonies are now at 
an end, and the parents are happy over and proud of their sons, 
who have now advanced to the dignity of real men. Now dances 
(nzuma) are indulged in with zest and abandon. In these dances, 
however, no uninitiated may take part; for a breach of this rule 
the fine is a goat. 

The third nzmko is held in great dread by the uninitiated, 
and the women are heard to express their apprehensions that their 
sons may return from the tests in the wastes as cripples, or even 
that they may be killed there. People from Ulu who come east- 
wards during the nzaiko time, do not dare to remain in the 
vicinity of the place where the ceremonies are being celebrated, 
but prefer to wander forth into the night, braving lions and rhi- 
noceroses. It is undeniable that these customs are a plague for 
a large proportion of the people. 

As has already been indicated, this nzohko does not occur 
at all in Western Ukamba, the real home of the tribe, for which 
reason it is certain that it is not an original custom. Whence 
the people to the east have acquired it, is unknown to me; the 
Akamba themselves do not seem to possess any traditions about 
it. Possibly it is a local extension of the second nzmko. 

4. The occurrence of secret initiation rites and secret 
societies in these parts of East Africa. 

Like all ordinary initiation ceremonies in general, the rites 
of the- three n^aiko are very similar to the rites of initiation into 
secret societies. Examples of such initiations are frequent in 
Africa (The Congo, the Guinea Coast), and are, as regards their 

^ van Gennep says: »on rase la t6te de I'enfant pour indiquer 
qia'il entre dans un autre stade de la vie . . . le traitement qu'on fait 
s.ubir aux cheveux rentre tres souvent dans la classe des rites de pas- 
s^e», loc, cit. p. 239. 

Circumcision and initiation rites 69 

origin, difficult to distinguish from ordinary initiation rites ^. The 
Akamba have no secret societies, and even if those who have 
passed through the third nsatko experience a certain feeling of 
affinity, yet, when the ceremonies are once over, this feeling 
obtains no practical expression — that is to say that, unlike the 
secret societies, it plays no role in their economic and political life. 

If we now pass to the neighbours of the Akamba, I cannot, 
in the literature on the subject, discover any definite indications 
of anything corresponding to the third nza'hko. Accounts dealing 
with the Akikuyu and the Masai contain nothing of that nature. 
Among the Amwimbe of Eastern Kenya, who are kin to the 
Akikuyu, it seems that for some time previous to circumcision^ 
the novices have to undergo a special course of instruction and 
initiation in a special hut in the forest^. As far as concerns the 
Wapokomo, on the , Tana, it is known that among them »exis- 
tieren organisierte geheimbiinde, deren zweck ist, den einzelnen 
zum mann zu machen»^. If we proceed from Ukamba eastwards, 
we find that there exists a type of secret society among the 
Wagiriama*, as also among the Wa-Rabai, both in the hinter- 
land of Mombasa^. We have seen in chap. I that the old trad- 
ing route of the Akamba to the coast passed through these 
tracts, and that there is a considerable Kamba colony near Rabai. 
There is therefore a conceivable possibility that the Eastern 
Akamba have been influenced by their eastern neighbours in the 
matter of their secret initiation rites. At all events, it is scarcely 
probable that they alone practise such rites as those belonging 
to the third nza'hko. I have no knowledge of the state of things 
among the Wataita, south of the Uganda railway. 

On the whole, very little is known of secret initiation rites 

^ See, inter alia, R. H. Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa, p. 
247 ff., and L. Frobenius, Die Masken und Geheimbunde Afrikas, p- 
117, 218. H. Webster's Primitive secret societies, N. York 1908, I 
have not had access to. 

2 Man 1913, p. 137. 

^ S. R. Steinmetz, Rechtsverhaltnisse von eingeborenen Volkern 
in Afrika und Ozeanien, p. 291. 

* Described by Rev. W. E. Taylor in his Vocabulary of the 
Giriama language, a work to which I have not had access. 

^H. B. Johnstone, Notes on the customs of the tribes occu- 
pying Mombasa subdistrict, p. 265. 

7© Lindblom, The Akamba 

and secret societies in East Africa. From this point of view, the 
present chapter — as supplementing Hobley's account ■ — would 
seem to possess considerable interest. 

My account is now concluded, and further comments are 
superfluous. We have been able to show the existence of proced- 
ures which are typical of initiation rites all over the world. We 
have thus been able at least to distinguish : i) a series of rites 
which loosen the ties binding the novice to his former environ- 
ment ; 2) other rites which cause the novice to return — as a new 
man — to his ordinary milieu. 

In conclusion I recall one circumstance which may be worthy 
of mention. Teeth-chipping is practised among the Akamba, but 
I have not been able to discover the least corroboration for Mr 
Hobley's statement that »the teeth are chipped after the first 
nzmko or circumcision, and by the man that operates on that 
occasion* ^. The custom, which otherwise is certainly associated 
in some places with the rites of puberty, has nothing to do with 
it in Ukamba, but is exclusively intended 'to improve the appear- 
ance. It may certainly be considered a tribal mark, but is not 
even obligatory; it is simply a fashion, which however plays a 
great role as a means of making oneself attractive to the opposite 
sex. Hildebrandt is right when he says: »Diese operationen 
geschehen ohne begleitende ceremonien» ^. The operation is not 
performed by any special person, the young men often assist 
each other. Here and there, however, is found someone who is 
specially skilful, and he is naturally relied upon for preference. 
In a chapter further on I will describe and illustrate the proce- 

Since chapter III was written, I have come across a detailed 
account of the initiation rites among a tribe in Eastern Equatorial 
Africa, namely »[Zauberglaube und] Manbarkeistfeste bei den Wa- 
pare, Deutsch-Ostafrika* (nach den aufzeichnungen des Herrn J. 

1 Akamba &c, p. 18. * loc. cit. p. 350. 

circumcision and initiation rites • 71 

Alberti bearbeitet von P. German) in Jahrbuch des stadtischen 
Museums fiir Volkerkunde zu Leipzig, pp. 72 — 88, Leipzig, 191 3. 
The Wapare or Wasu, as they call themselves, inhabit the Pare 
mountain, between Kilimandjaro and the Usambara plateau. I 
visited North Pare in April 191 2. The ceremonies are held in 
the woods about every tenth year, and are divided into two parts. 
They last from 2 to 3 months. Much in the account is remini- 
scent of the initiation rites of the Akamba, for which reason I 

venture to append some citations: » Man hort eines nachts 

im walde ein lautes gebriill. Nur eingeweihte wissen, das der 
alte [the leader of the feast is a respected elder] diese tone auf 
einem riesigen topf hervorbringt (p. 72). Der topf stellt den 
lowen dar, — zur halfte mit wasser gefiillt. — — — Diese 
beiden [an old man and an old woman] machen das »l6wenbrullen», 
indem sie mit holzrohren in die topfe blasen. Ueber sich haben 
sie ein schwarzes tuch gehangt, das auch den topf verhiillt (p. 75). 
Der knabe erhalt als mentor einen erwachsenen, aber ihm nicht 
verwandten mann, der wahrend des ganzen festes ihm als berater 

zur seite steht (p. 73). Die burschen ziehen nackt in trupps 

im land umher In der steppe miissen sie eine bunte, grosse 

eidechsenart fangen. Friichte und pflanzen stehlen die burschen, 
was ihnen niemand verwehren darf. Tags iiber tanzen die burschen 

oder werden von den alten gepeinigt man bindet an den 

penis der burschen eine grosse, schwere bananenbliite, und so 
miissen sie viermal zu den entfernt sitzenden alten laufen, ange- 
treiben durch schlage — — — [The boys must promise not to 

disclose the rites]. die alten zwingen den knaben den 

penis in das loch [made in a calabash] zu stecken und den coitus 
symbolisch auszufiihren» (p. yy). 

The rites have nothing to do with circumcision: »Es ist aber 
das eigentliche pubertatsfest, durch das der knabe als mannbar 
erklart und in stammesgemeinschaft als vollwertigen mann auf- 
genommen wird» (p. 78). We have then social puberty, to speak 
with van Gennep. 

From this detailed description and the above-mentioned indic- 
ations of similar customs among several other tribes, it would • 
seem permissible to draw the conclusion that secret initiation rites 
are generally practised among the Bantu in Eastern Equatorial 
Africa, and that these customs resemble each other somewhat, 
even in details. 

Chapter IV. Marriage. 

I. General Customs. 

It is a mistake to suppose that among primitive peoples women 
are usually given in marriage without any regard being paid to their 
own inclinations. The Kamba women have, on the whole, the 
right of choosing for themselves their companions through life, 
and the majority of marriages are founded on mutual attachment. 
The suitor, therefore, always makes sure of the girl's consent ^ be- 
fore he finally approaches her father. He does not usually go 
himself, but sends his father to negociate the matter, or, if the 
latter is prevented from going, he sends his eldest brother. The 
eldest brother is in many respects a deputy for his father as regards 
his younger brothers and sisters. If a favourable answer is received, 
the first step towards paying for the bride is taken at once — 
kwasm or kupoa mw^tm ('to buy a girl'), as it is called — two 
goats being sent to the prospective father-in-law. They are called 
mbwh sia nbeo {<pea 'to seek'), since through them the suitor 
» seeks » knowledge of whether the girl and her father still hold to 
their word. If the goats are returned, he knows that it is not 
worth while to continue to k%vas\a; but if only the strap with 
which the animals were fastened is sent back, this is a token of 
consent. The despatch of these goats, then, corresponds to the 
proposal among more civilized peoples. 

The night after the goats are received, the girl's father must 
sleep with his wife. The suitor then hastens to send a couple of cala- 
bashes of beer and from 2 to 4 goats {kuOzktla ukz waQiktla mbwi 
'to follow the beer which followed the goats'). On the receipt of 

^ Examples of how the Kamba youth pays court to the lady of his 
choice, that is to say, of the first step on the road to matrimony, have 
been given by the author in a popular work, »Afrikanska str6ftS.g». p. 108. 

Marriage 73 

these, the parents-in-law must again have ritual coition. Then are 
sent a further 5 or 10 goats and a buck (ndce^gd ia kwitea mbui 
nbakamd nbt 'a buck to pour out blood on the ground for the 
goats'). The latter must be slaughtered; if this is not done and 
the buck subsequently dies from natural causes, the father-in-law 
must send these goats back. More beer is now sent {wa upa- 
mbyx nzeeld 'to wash the calabash vessels with'). On this occasion 
the suitor is always eager to send plenty of beer, because his 
father now goes to the prospective father-in-law to arrange about 
the price to be paid for the girl in goats and cattle. Some time 
usually elapses before any agreement is reached, and while the 
negociations are in progress, the beer is drunk. If there is plenty 
of it, the father-in-law's humour is improved, and in consequence 
he becomes easier to deal with, when the suitor's father tries 
to beat down the price. The one praises the girl, the other 
finds her full of faults, and, among other things, calls her, 
perhaps, kceletm ka 'that little girl' ^. Finally they come to an 

The number of goats to be paid depends on the financial 
position of the suitor; on an average 40 to 50 are paid, besides 
cattle, and a rich man may pay lOO or more goats. In compari- 
son with their neighbours, the Kamba women command unusually 
high prices, and it seems that prices were even higher in earlier 
days, when it was possible to steal cattle with impunity from the 
neighbouring tribes. They were also higher before the last great 
famine at the end of the nineties, when the tribe was undoubtedly 
richer than at the present time ^. Among the Akikuyu, for example, 
the usual price is 40 goats and 5 sheep (no cattle). 

Though the number of goats varies, the number of cattle is 
usually constant, viz. 2 cows and 2 bulls (or oxen), one of which 
is later on slaughtered to be eaten. If one of the cows repeat- 
edly gives birth to bull-calves, the father-in-law has the right to 
send it back and demand another; if one of the cows dies, he has 

^ kceletm is the diminutive of mwhtiu; the diminutive is often used 
contemptuously. Cf. my »Notes on the Kamba Language», Uppsala 1917. 

* According to Hofmann, the Akamba living on the coast formerly 
paid from 10 to 16 cows. Hofmann, Geburt &:c., p. 11. With re- 
gard to the price of a bride in general in Africa, see A. H. Post, 
Afrikanische Jurisprudenz. 

74 Lindblom, The Akamba 

also the right to receive another in its place. In Kikumbuliu 
(South-East Ukamba), where cattle are not usually kept on account 
of the tsetse-fly, 60 to 100 goats are paid for a bride. Some of 
the Akamba living there, however, keep cattle in the higher-lying 
tracts, and sometimes pay 2 cows and a number of goats. 

Since money (Indian rupees) is in general use in East Africa, 
the prices of the different animals may be quoted, in order to give 
a better notion of the real value of the price of a bride. On an 
average in Ukamba, a goat or a sheep sells for 5 — 6 rupees; an 
ox or a bull for 20 — 25 rupees; and a cow for 60 rupees or more. 
Very fat animals command higher prices. 

When the suitor may take home his bride depends more upon 
the father-in-law's pleasure than on the time when the purchase 
money is paid. However, the bargain is not concluded until all 
the cattle have been delivered, and the father can, in the mean- 
time, take his daughter back when he likes. The time within 
which the cattle must be delivered depends upon the financial 
position of the suitor and also upon the father-in-law's greater or 
lesser indulgence in the matter of enforcing his claim. A poor 
man often spreads payment over two or three years, and I even 
know a middle-aged man who has not yet finished paying for his 
wife. When demanding the payment of such debts, it is by some 
considered »good form» to talk in metaphors, which the Akamba 
are apt to do on other occasions, too. For example, they rnay 
say: »Bring me the kUm-s) ('the pot splinter'), or 'the eyes of the 
black one' — both expressions referring to the eyes of the cattle, 
pars pro toto. Another expression is: »Those who are tormented 
by the rain». 

It is not enough that a part of the price has been paid for 
a man to be allowed to take his wife home. The members of 
her family, and the mother-in-law especially, must receive consi- 
derable preHminary gifts, which are not included in the actual pur- 
chase price. The latter receives perhaps a goat, bananas, gruel 
(usu), some pieces of meat, &c — in a word, a little of all sorts 
of food, which are brought to her by the suitor's mother and 
other women. This is called kupoka, and if a child happens to be 
born in the village at this time, it is often called nboki. The 
girl's brothers and sisters receive presents, such as beads or wire 
to make ornaments of. Finally, the suitor, muas\a, must work 

Marriage 75 

in his prospective father-in-law's fields, in which work his friends 
help him. On the whole, the opportunity is taken to fleece him 
and get as much out of him as possible. 

If too long a time elapses before the father-in-law delivers up 
the girl, the suitor may lose patience and arrange with some of 
his friends to help him to abduct her. One day when she is work- 
ing in the fields or going to the river to fetch water, she is sur- 
rounded and carried off". Those who come up on hearing her 
-cries, are kept at a distance by the suitor's friends by means 
of long sticks, while others carry her off". Pretended (ceremo- 
nial) abductions, which are customary with the Akikuyu, the 
Akamba's neighbours to the west, are not usual among the 

The abduction described here is quite an exceptional occur- 
rence; which takes place more or less with the woman's con- 
nivance, but it is probably this which has led Krapf and Hilde- 
brandt to assert that the Akamba practise ceremonial bride-steal- 
ing. The latter writes: »In friiheren zeiten war — '- so erzahlt 
man — bei den Wakamba brautraub mit blutigen gefechten ver- 
bunden, gebrauchlich. Ein anklang daran findet sich noch in der 
sitte, das am hochzeitstage ein bruder oder freund des brauti- 
gams die braut, wenn sie sich vom hause entfernt, um wasser 
am fluss zu holen, iiberfallt, ihr gesicht und schultern mit butter 
salbt und dem erwahlten trotz scheinbaren straubens zufuhrt» ^. And 
Krapf says: »The bridegroom must then carry off" the bride by 
force or stratagem » ^. Neither the author nor missionaries living 
in Ukamba know anything of this custom. However, experience 
has shown that it is necessary to be on one's guard not to con- 
fuse the rare cases of real woman-stealing and the symbolic bride- 
stealing originating therefrom with running away with a girF. The 
fundamental reasons for the ceremonies which are like the abduc- 
tion of women, are, for the rest, the natural human feelings, such 
as feminine shyness and timidity, and also grief at leaving the 
paternal home, so that the accounts of ceremonial abduction 

1 Hildebrandt ibid., p. 401. 

* Krapf ibid., p. 354. Cf. also the confused account in Hobley, 
Akamba &c, p. 62. 

' See also Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, p. 223. 

76 Lindblom, The Akamba 

which are found even in modern ethnographical works, must 
be taken with great reserve in most cases ^. 

When a man at last gets permission to take his bride home, 
a certain day is agreed upon. The home-coming always takes 
place in the evening. When everybody is asleep, the girl slips 
out and goes with the man to his village, where the mother-in-law 
smears her neck with fat, as a token of welcome (chap. XII). This 
ceremony is certainly of religious-magic significance, and is intended 
as a protection against the possible dangers which the marriage 
just entered upon may entail ^. No special ceremony takes place, 
nor has the language any special word or expression which could 
correspond to » wedding ». 

During the night the young wife sleeps in the man's bed, 
but they may not have any intercourse. Early next morning, 
while the others are still asleep, .she gets up, sweeps out the hut, 
and makes up the fire for cooking, and then she goes to bed 
again, since she is shy — feels ndom, as it is called, for her 
mother-in-law — and wants to show herself to her as little as possible. 
It would perhaps be too bold to describe this household work of the 
bride as ceremonial, symbolic of her duty. However this may 
be, it is a good expression of the most important work of a wo- 
man (next to child-bearing), namely, to work and keep house for 
her husband ^. 

Later in the day, her friends and playmates among the un- 
married girls come to give her presents (bananas and other foods), 
and they cry because they have lost her from their circle. The 
songs they then sing are called mbapi sta maiw the songs 
of the weeping' (from i\a 'to weep'). She is now of the mar- 
ried, and will never again join in the dancing or other merry ga- 
' mes. In assumed anger they break up the supports of the bridal 
couple's bed, and take the husband's ornaments, which hang 
on the bed; this he has no right to prevent them from doing. At 
the same time they sing in shrill voices their songs of com- 

^ Cf. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, pp. 350, 367; and Starcke, 
Die Primitive Familie, p. 230 ff, 

* Cf. Crawley on »The mutual dangers of contact* in The My- 
stic Rose, p. 325. 

^ On »das Symbol der zuzubereitenden Speisen», see Starcke, pp. 
274, 280. 

Marriage 77 

plaint, which are audible to a great distance. It sometimes hap- 
pens that they return the next day and finish their work of 

The conduct of these girls can hardly be an expression of their 

— or perhaps we may say an expression of the whole of their sex's 

— reluctance to reUnquish one of their members to a man ; nor can 
it be a sort of sympathy (directed against the man) for the friend 
who, from easily understandable psychological reasons, begins her 
new-married life only with a certain shyness and doubt. Analo- 
gous cases from other peoples render it more than probable that 
it is a matter of pure ceremonial custom, in a way intended to 
avert bad luck from the young couple ^. 

The newly married man's liabilities towards the bride's family, 
however, are not yet ended. Even after he has got his wife home, 
he must send more presents to her family. The mother-in-law 
receives a goat »to see the child* {mbm la kwona kana), that is 
to say, in memory of the daughter who has left her home. The 
father-in-law, his other wives, and the girl's brothers and sisters, 
are also remembered with presents. 

The newly married couple usually stay in the husband's mo- 
ther's hut, at any rate until the first child is born, when they move 
out and build their own hut. There are no definite rules on this 
point, but it depends on the man's pleasure when he wishes 
to move. As previously mentioned, the young wife is shy of her 
mother-in-law at first, and some time usually elapses before she 
can, for example, bring herself to eat in her presence. I know 
one case where it took nearly a year for a girl to overcome her 
iidom (see chap. V), to such an extent has the feeling become 
part and parcel of the national consciousness. However, it greatly 
depends upon the individual character. 

As a rule, the girls are married between the ages of 12 and 
18, the men considerably later. It sometimes happens, however, 
that a girl is promised to a certain man when she is quite young. 
Then she becomes so accustomed to look upon him as her pro- 
spective husband that it never occurs to her to raise any objec- 

^ See Crawley, p. 366. 

78 Lindblom, The Akamba 

tions to the match. We have seen that a young man follows his 
own inclinations in the selection of a wife; but since he is depen- 
dent on his father to pay the price, the latter has much to say 
in the matter, and if he does not approve of his son's choice, 
nothing comes of the match. This dependence of the son on the 
father continues in many matters, as long as the latter lives, and 
it is often said that a man's wife is not his but his father's. 
Cases of child-marriage occur, insofar that a rich man often buys 
a wife for his son without consulting him. However, no one can 
be married before he or she has been circumcised. If a man has 
several sons, a younger son must always wait until the eldest has 
a wife, since the father can never be certain that he can afford 
to buy another girl. As soon as all the sons have a wife each, 
a younger one can, however, take a second, even if the elder son 
has not yet done so. 

If anyone has begun to pay for a girl and she should die 
while she is still under her father's roof, the suitor has the right 
to have her sister or to recover his property. If the father-in-law 
is not in a position to pay back what he has received, his near- 
est relations in the clan are bound to help. But if a man has 
taken his wife home, and she then dies, he has no claim to any 
compensation ; nor has he any if she should be barren, a '^gu^guUy 
as it is called in the Kamba language. 

That marriage is founded on mutual liking and that the Kamba 
girl does not submit to her father's will without opposition, is 
proved by many examples. If, for the sake of a large purchase 
price, a father should marry his daughter to a rich old libertine 
who is repulsive to her, he not infrequently runs the risk of losing 
her altogether, since more than one girl in such a position has 
taken her own life, and has been found hanging by a strap round 
her neck to the roof of the hut, or to a tree out in the fields. 
At best, her lover abducts her and conceals her somewhere else, 
until a divorce is arranged. 

2. Special Cases. 

There are, of course, numbers of local variations of or addi- 
tions to the above-described customs associated with matrimony. For- 
merly there seems to have been in force in the region of Mukaa a 

Marriage 79 

custom that, when a woman married, all those with whom she had had 
relations previously should give her husband a goat each. And in 
Kilungu, when a woman became pregnant, a man could give two 
goats as a present. If these were accepted, and the child was a 
girl, she was looked upon as the donor's prospective wife, and he 
took from 2 to 4 more goats and beer to the father; that is to say, 
he began to buy the girl. In the course of time, he paid the 
whole price, and, when the girl had been circumcised and thus 
become entitled to marry, he took her to wife. If, on the other 
hand, the child was a boy, he was looked upon as the man's 
special protege when he grew up. 

When one of twin sisters is married, the other unmarried 
sister is said to accompany her to the man's home and stay there 
some days, to bring luck to the couple. This custom is probably 
founded on the intimate bond which is thought to exist between 
twins, and it is probably of more recent origin, since, as we have 
seen, it was an old custom always to kill one of twins. 

To this account it may only be added that marriage and 
sexual intercourse are, on the whole, strictly exogamous. See 
chap. VII. 

3. Polygamy. 

Every native desires to have many wives, since the number 
of wives he has is to a material degree a criterion of his impor- 
tance and wealth. Then he also gets many children, so that the 
number of those he has authority over is increased, and thereby 
also his importance ^. The fact that, at the beginning of preg- 
nancy, all sexual intercourse between married couples ceases, 
undoubtedly promotes polygamy. 

^ Numerous proofs are found that the natives are inclined to look 
down on us Europeans for our monogamy, and because many of us 
are still unmarried even at an advanced age. Once when 1 was oblig- 
ed to compel some oldish Kamba men to act as bearers for me, they 
expressed their displeasure at being treated so by a young man who 
had not yet been able to afford a wife. Barth tells that the Tuaregs 
in West Sahara had nothing to complain of in him except that he was 
unmarried. H. Barth, Reisen und Entdeckungen in Nord- und Central- 
Afrika, I, p. 489. 

8o Lindblom, The Akamba 

The first wife is always the chief one, and is called hOett 
kincend 'the big wife', or k^ku 'the old one', without necessarily 
being old. The other wives call her mwattvi 'mother'. They also 
have to obey her as children do their mother, and she superin- 
tends their work. The head of the house tells her what he 
wants done, and she then sets the » little » wives to work. The 
latter's respect for her is shown by the fact that they may not call 
her by her name; besides »mother», she is called sio'ggama, »N. 
N's mothers, after her children. The latter are also called by the 
» little* wives by names other than their own. This is a sign of 
ndom (see chap. V). A young wife who has not yet born a 
child may not eat porridge {ggzma) with one of her older fellow- 
wives who has ceased to bear, or she will become barren. 

Relations between the wives are generally good; if they quar- 
rel, the husband may castigate them. Much dissension is preven- 
ted by the superior position of the »big» wife, but especially by 
the fact that it is usual for every woman to have her own hut, 
prepare her own food, have her own cows to milk, and her own 
fields to till. Cases of jealousy do occur, but the »big» wife usu- 
ally likes to see her husband take more wives, because they lighten 
her work. She can, on account of her superior position, leave 
to them all the heavier work, such as hewing wood, carrying wa- 
ter, shutting the cattle-kraals at night, opening them in the mor- 
ning, &c. In this way a division of labour is often effected, so 
that turns are taken at the different sorts of work. If a man has 
only one wife and later, when he is old, buys a young girl, the 
latter usually stays in the elder wife's hut, and is treated as a 
daughter by her, but must do most of the work under her direc- 
tion. The hut-tax introduced by the British Government ^ brought 
about a change in the old custom of giving every wife her own 
hut, since, in order to escape paying the tax, the natives put sev- 
eral women in the same hut. Some years ago, however, the tax 
began to be levied on the number of wives, instead of on the 
number of huts, and there is no longer any reason for the natives 
to reduce the number of their huts. 

Since marriage is chiefly an economic question, it is not to 
be wondered at that, in spite of the prevalence of polygamy, a 

^ Three rupees per hut. 

Marriage 8 1 

large number of Akamba cannot manage to get more than one 
wife. »The poor man is a monogamist all the world over», says 
Weule aptly. The most usual number of wives is one to three, 
and, if statistical investigations were made, the percentage of those 
who had more than three would be found to be very low ^. We 
should find the same state of things among most of the Bantu 
peoples, so that the popular conception of polygamy, that every 
man has a large number of wives, is far from being correct. Na- 
turally, besides the economic question, one important factor is the 
proportion between the different sexes; and therefore, as has often 
been maintained, polygamy can never be the normal form of 
marriage, since it would require twice as many women as men. 
Seeing that warfare among the Akamba has ceased, it is pro- 
bable that the proportion of men will increase, and that there- 
fore monogamy will become more general. I append a list of 26 
families (see p. 87) from Machakos district, but the number is, 
of course, too small for any positive conclusions to be arrived at. 

From economic reasons, some men must remain unmarried 
a long time, and Hofmann says that, in the districts round his 
mission-station, Ikutha, in East Ukamba, alone, he could count up 
quite a respectable number of elderly bachelors ^. However, there 
seem to be none who die as bachelors. As we shall see presently, 
in case of need, a poor man can always get a widow for his wife, 
or he can simply elope with the lady of his choice. Old maids, 
on the other hand, are not met with at all. 

A married woman can quite lawfully have relations with other 
men, her husband often placing her at the disposal of a man of 
the same clan, or of a friend, who comes on a visit and stays 
over night. The language has a special word for this, kudtta. 
The rich Kamba man is proud to be able to entertain a crowd 
of guests in this way, each one having a separate hut at his dis- 
posal. The same custom is found among other East African 
peoples, such as the Masai, where the guest thrusts his spear 
into the ground outside the hut, which, with all its contents, is 

^ Kitilli (Kitui district), the richest man in Ukamba, was a great ex- 
ception with his fifty wives, distributed in many places. Mbota, one of 
the most important personages in the Machakos district, had seventeen 

^ Hofmann, Geburt &c, p. 10. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 6 

82 Lindblom, The Akamba 

then at his disposal ^. Although such relations are considered law- 
ful by the Akamba, the man who indulges in them must be puri- 
fied before he can enter his own hut again. The purifying medium, 
'gondia, consists of certain roots, which are pounded and mixed 
with water. The man takes a little in each hand, and rubs them 
along both sides of his body. He may now enter his hut again. 
This ceremony must also be observed as regards one of his own 
wives, if the man, after coitus with one wife, goes to another who 
has a little baby; otherwise she refuses to receive him, saying: 
»I do not want my child to die». 

A remarkable fact, for which I have not been able to find 
any explanation, is the following: If a man has several wives (A, 
B, and C), and they have sons who are married, every man has 
a right to have sexual intercourse with the wife of the half-brother 
corresponding to him in age; that is to say, A's eldest son can 
sleep with the wife of the eldest son of B or C; A's second son 
with the wife of the second son of B-or C; and so on. A k^- 
mwcemwd, i. e. a man who has no true brothers or sisters, has the 
right to sleep with all his half-brothers' wives — presumably be- 
cause he is, in a way, at the same time his mother's eldest, 
youngest, and middle son. 

4. Divorce. 

Although, on the whole, it may be said that among the 
Akamba a marriage is entered upon for life, yet divorce often 
occurs among them, as is usual among a people at a low stage 
of civilization. The reasons for this are many and various. The 
husband perhaps thinks that his wife is not industrious or is not 
a good cook, or he discovers that she is unfaithful ^. If he can 
prove that his dissatisfaction is justified, he may send her home 
to her father and is entitled to repayment of the purchase money. 
For this purpose he keeps a notched stick {kika k\a kutala mbu% 

^ M. Weiss, Die Volkerstamme im Norden Deutsch-Ost-Afrikas, 
p. 386. As is well known, this custom is found over the whole world; 
cf. E. Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, p. 74. 

^ Unfaithfulness seems, however, very seldom to lead to divorce ; 
see chap. XI. i. 

Marriage 83 

'a stick to count goats with'), or a bundle of pegs, one notch 
or peg for each animal he has paid. He can also change her for 
one of her sisters, an exchange which the father-in-law is very- 
anxious to effect, as then he escapes repaying the price of the 
bride. It is not unusual for a woman to elope with a lover, and 
then if the husband wishes to be divorced from her, it is an es- 
sential condition that he takes her back to her father, if he 
wishes to claim repayment of the purchase money. In the Macha- 
kos district. Western Ukamba, many a married man has been 
put to great trouble to look for his wife in the Kikuyu region in the 
west, whither she has fled. The delicate question in divorce is 
that of the repayment of the purchase price of the bride, and 
everywhere where women are bought, this is a contributory factor to 
rendering marriages less dissoluble. If the husband is willing to 
forego repayment, or if, on the other hand, the father-in-law is 
ready to repay at any moment, there is usually nothing in the way 
of a divorce at any time. Thus, in a way, the wife is as free as 
the husband to dissolve the marriage. 

A wife's unfruitfulness is a ground for divorce among many 
negro tribes; but among the Akamba it does not seem to be a 
sufficient reason for a man to dissolve a marriage, for the difficulty 
is got over by the man's taking another wife. On the other hand, 
a man's impotence is good ground for a divorce, since it is a wo- 
man's pride to have as many children as possible ^. An impotent 
man is called a ndcBwa ('an ox'). It sometimes happens that a 
young man who is suspected of being a nd(zwa, is challenged by 
the unmarried girls to prove the rumour unfounded, or they will 
have nothing to do with him. 

Among all less civilized peoples, I believe, the children are left 
in the charge of the mother after divorce, and this is the case also 
among the Akamba. The father can keep them if he wishes to, but 
then he forfeits the purchase money. This is quite just according to 
the native view, for a man takes a wife chiefly to get children, 
and if he keeps the children when he is divorced, he has got 
value for the purchase money, and has nothing more to expect. 

^ The unfruitfulness of the husband seems often to be good ground 
for divorce among Bantu peoples; cf. e. g. Weule, Wissenschaftl. 
Ergebnisse meiner Ethnograph. Forschungsreise in den Sudosten Deutsch- 
Ost-Afrikas, p. 61, 97, 

84 Lindblom, The Akamba 

From the same point of view, the husband who has paid for his 
wife is the owner of a child which she gets by anyone else. Sir 
Charles Eliot relates that, during the great famine at the end of 
the eighteen-nineties, many Kamba women ran away from their 
homes, and, to obtain food, went and lived with Hindoo workmen 
on the Uganda railway, which was then in course of construction. 
When the famine was over, their husbands came and tried to 
claim the children that their wives had had by the Hindoos. The 
women themselves were a minor consideration. Eliot says aptly: 
»lt is characteristic that the legal owner of a woman is regarded 
as the owner and father of her children, whoever the real proge- 
nitor may be» ^. This conception of the right of ownership in 
children seems to be typical of the Bantu peoples among whom 
paternal right prevails ^. 

5. Widows and the fatherless. 

According to native law, when a man dies, the widow {muka 
wa ndiwa < tia 'to leave over') goes to his eldest brother. The 
latter may, if he likes, make her over to another person, who then 
has to pay the owner for her. If she is old, so that he does not care 
to keep her himself and has no prospect of selling her, he may 
lend her to someone. Thus, in the Machakos region, elderly widows 
are given to men of the Kikuyu tribe, many of whom work 
there for the Akamba. A poor man who cannot afford to buy a 
wife is glad to take over a widow. Children which are the fruit 
of such an alliance, however, belong to the owner of the woman, 
which agrees with what has been mentioned above. If a man 
leaves many widows, it is usual to divide them among his brothers. 
If, again, he has no brothers, the nearest heir has the disposal 
of them. 

Although all the father's wives are regarded by the children 
as their mothers, it is not unusual for a young widow to be 
given to one of the man's sons by an older wife, with which son 

^ C. Eliot, The East Africa Protectorate, p. 125, 
^ Some further examples are given by J. Kohler, Rechte der 
deutschen Schutzgebiete, IV. Das Banturecht in Ostafrika. 

Marriage 85 

she is more of an age. This is, however, conditional upon her 
never having had sexual intercourse with the deceased husband 
(the father). If such is not the case, a man with many wives 
can transfer one of the youngest to his son during his lifetime ^. 

For reasons for the origin of the custom that a brother inherits 
a deceased brother's wife, see »Law of Inheritance » (Chap. XI. 2). 
With her owner's permission, a widow may also return to her fa- 
ther. However, she is only deposited with him, so to say, and 
her owner has no right to demand her purchase money back 
again. If he makes any such claim, the father-in-law says: »My 
daughter is your wife; if you do not wish to keep her in your 
own house, it is your own business*. If, on the other hand, any- 
one else wishes to have her now, he must buy her from the fa- 
ther, who then hands over the purchase money to her husband. 

In the event of a widow not going to her brother-in-law, but 
to a stranger, she must first go through a ritual coitus with another 
elderly man {muiumia), otherwise her prospective husband's earlier 
wives will become barren, or her children will die. The difference 
between this coitus and that which is customary as an ordinary 
purification after a death (Chap. VII. 2) is not clear to me. 

I take the opportunity to point out, in passing, that such ri- 
tual coitus is particularly often practised by the Akamba, in prac- 
tically all conditions of life. It can only be performed by a man 
who has gone through all the phases of a Mukamba's Ufe. He 
must have had at least as many experiences as the woman he is 
about to purify. If, for example, in the case just mentioned, the 
widow has circumcised children, a man who has not yet taken 
his own children to be circumcised cannot perform the ceremony 
with her. 

He who takes over his brother's widow, looks upon her child- 
ren in every way as his own. If they are girls, he receives all the 
purchase money when they are married ^. However, the children 
always call him mwcsndwasa 'uncle'. What is more interesting 
is that, if he himself gets any children by the woman, they also 

^ It is quite usual in polygamous families for a son to inherit one 
of his father's widows, who is not his own mother; cf. Westermarck 
ibid. p. 512. 

- As we shall see in Chap. XI, he cannot, however, to his own 
advantage, dispose of the sons' inheritance from their father. 

86 Lindblom, The Akamba 

say mwcFndwasa, and not nan 'father'. We shall see below (Chap. XI) 
that the property of a dead man who was childless does not 
go to the brother, but to the son the latter may have by the wi- 
dow. Thus it can be said that, in a way, the deceased is looked 
upon as the child's father. The question then is whether the son 
is really looked upon as actually begotten by the dead man — the 
idea does not seem to be altogether unreasonable in the case of 
a people that worships ancestral spirits — or whether the essen- 
tial factor is the right of ownership, which may be supposed to 
continue even after death. The last assumption is supported by, 
and can be considered as an extreme consequence of, the natives' 
conception of the right of ownership in children, which is clearly 
and concisely defined by Eliot in the citation given above ^. 

Thus, even if the boundaries seem vague, there is reason to 
maintain that a form of levirate exists among the Akamba, side 
by side with the custom for the brother to take over a dead man's 
widow on purely practical and economic grounds. We shall revert 
to the point in Chap. XI. 2. 

6. Statistics of Families. 

The table on the opposite page shows a surprising excess of 
boys over girls, but the figures can only be considered as approxi- 
mate, since I do not know the proportion between the sexes of the 
dead children. Hobley gives the following statistics for 38 Kamba 
families^: wives 117, male children born 195, female children born 
197. Here the girls are slightly in excess, a state of things which 
is more appropriate for a polygamous people. According to the 
work of Hobley cited below, however, the number of boys among 
the Bantu-Kavirondo (north and east of Lake Victoria) is in excess, 
or 57)5 % °^ ^^^ total number of children. It would be interest- 
ing to study how polygamy can exist under such conditions. 
As far as the Akamba are concerned, my material is too slight 
to allow of reliable conclusions to be' drawn from it. It must, 
however, be borne in mind that, even if it is the case that 
more boys than girls — or at least an equal number of each — are born. 

^ Cf. Starcke's treatment of the question of levirate in »Die 
Primitive Familie», p. 150 ff. 

^ Hobley, A-Karaba, p. 12. 



Name of Father 

of wives 

ren 1 

of child- 

of child- 
ren dead 



Wa mbua wa ? 





Mbithi wa ? 





Matata wa Kiambi 





Munge wa Kavala 





Bwana wa ? 





Katumo wa Mulomba 





Muniambu wa ? 





Kituku wa Mulomba 





Ngotho wa Nguli 










Mukula wa Kisangi 





Ngao wa Kiambi 





Seke wa Niaa 





Mbonge wa Kithome 





Nthenge wa Nguio 





Musuva wa Munene 





Nsau wa ? 





Kisoi wa Kiene 





Munsu wa ? 





Muniambu wa Wakenia 





Nsau wa Kivati 





Ndambuki wa Mbuo 





Nginia wa Kaliu 





Matuanga wa Nsau 





Kitavi wa Ngavi 





Muli wa Inguli 





Total 26 





^ Of whom one, as I chanced to learn, was barren {'ggu'gguii). It is 
not improbable that several among all the wives are barren, since bar- 
ren women are rather numerous among the Akamba. 

^ Besides one deceased. 

88 Lin db loin, The Akamba 

another factor must, in bygone times, have contributed to levelling 
the numbers of the sexes, namely, the incessant feuds waged both 
with their neighbours and among themselves. One may also venture 
to assume that a greater number of boys than girls die in infancy. 

The number of children that die is striking — according to 
my statistics, more than 25 ^ of the whole number born. As a 
matter of fact, the death-rate among children is always high among 
primitive peoples, and in Ukamba there is rarely a family to be 
met with which has not lost at least one child. Most of them 
die in early infancy, as a result of injudicious treatment and espe 
cially owing to unsuitable feeding. All too early the natives begin 
to stuff the children with the same food as they eat themselves: 
boiled beans, maize, and such things, which for them are alto- 
gether too indigestible. The children also suffer a great deal from 
the cold. These factors are, however, hardly sufficient to account 
for the high death-rate adduced above. The figures are, as a 
matter of fact, misleading, insofar as a large number of these 
children died during the great famine of 1897 — 99. All the fathers 
of families are, it must be mentioned, middle-aged or elderly men ^. 

Finally, I will here again point to the difficulty of collecting 
statistics relating to polygamous families, whether the investigator 
wishes to do it personally or contents himself with accepting the 
statements of the natives. Just as the Akamba consider it is un- 
lucky to count their cattle, so they think that the number of their 
children should never be revealed to other people. If they do tell 
the number of their children, or if the information is obtained from 
other persons, it must always be remembered that a native in 
most cases includes the children of a deceased brother among 
his own, since by native law a deceased man's wife falls to his 
brother, who then looks upon his brother's children in every 
respect as his own. 

^ According to the material collected by Hobley from the nilotic 
»ya-luo» (Kavirondo), on Lake Victoria, 44,5 % died out of 126. C. V. 
Hobley, Anthropological Studies in Kavirondo and Nandi, Journ. An- 
thropol. Inst. 1903, p. 255. 

Chapter V. Relations between persons 
connected by marriage. 

I. The conception of ndoni. 

As soon as a man marries, he assumes a certain position to- 
wards his parents-in-law and the members of their family, and has 
a number of rules of conduct to observe towards them. Since 
there is no corresponding custom with us, and it is difficult for 
that reason to formulate a short definition of it, it is undoubtedly- 
best to retain the native word, ndom, and later to give as com- 
plete an account of its significance as possible. ndom really 
means » shyness, feeling of shame », and is, both in meaning and 
application, identical with what the Zulus and allied tribes call 
hlonipa'^. Besides, as is well known, the phenomenon is not 
unusual within exogamous groups. The person with whom one 
stands in a relation of nboni, is called muponi (pi. apom) ^. Men 
as well as women have their apom, that is, really, persons to- 
wards whom they must appear »shy» — that is to say, they must 
carefully avoid them in every way. To neglect this brings mis- 
fortune, so that we are here in the presence of a sort of taboo. 

The most important ndom-person is the mother-in-law. A 
man and his mother-in-law must not mention each other by name; 
if they meet on a path, the man steps on one side, or even both 
do so. A woman covers her breast when she sees her son-in-law, 
and they avoid looking each other in the face. When visiting 
his father-in-law's village, he may not enter his mother-in-law's 
hut, as long as she is inside it, but must remain outside. He 

^ Cf. D. Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 236. Callaway, The 
Religious System of the Amazulu. 

^ Mupont wakwa or muponwa, 'my ntupont\ 

90 Lindblom, The Akamba 

may talk to her from outside, but often he prefers to have an in- 
termediary, if there is anyone present. If the mother-in-law 
goes out or withdraws to the we (a part partitioned off in the 
back part of the hut), he may go inside the door and sit 
down, but may not go further in. If, on his arrival at his 
father-in-law's village, he sees his mother-in-law outside it, he hides 
himself in the bushes, and if she shows no signs of going away, 
he goes off in another direction, to await a better opportunity. If 
the father-in-law has several wives, all of them and their elder 
daughters are his apom. 

nbom relations naturally begin already when a man begins to 
pay for a girl — thus before she has been taken to his home as his 
wife. One day I heard a youth call one of my servants muponwa 
('my mupom), and I therefore asked the latter if they really 
were apom. »No», was the answer, »but the mother of the girl 
he is buying is called Kavuva, just as myself*. Although the 
man in question was thus speaking to a person who was not 
his prospective mother-in-law, and the latter was not present, he 
could not mention the name they bore in common. It may be 
added that it is principally the first name, that which is given at 
birth, which must not be mentioned — with later ones it is not 
necessary to be so particular. 

Among some peoples this restraint ceases with the birth of the 
first child, but I have not been able to discover that this is the 
case also among the Akamba. On the other hand, the ndom feeling 
between mother-in-law and son-in-law is modified with time, so that 
they can talk and associate with each other more freely. By making 
certain payments to the mother-in-law, as for example a good 
she-goat, the right can be acquired to sit by the fire in her hut, 
when she is away or in the we. If the son-in-law comes on a visit, 
she is ready to withdraw there, so that he can go to the hearth. 
The acquisition of this right is called poa mwaki 'to buy fire'. 
A modification such as this has certainly been brought about for 
the sake of convenience. The distance to the parents-in-law's 
village is often long, and the nights in the highlands of Ukamba 
are often cold; perhaps it rains on the way, &c, and so the visitor 
really needs to sit by the fire to warm himself. 

Here may be cited an event by which the nbom relations 
between a certain mother-in-law and her son-in-law were dissolved. 

Relations between persons connected by marriage 91 

or, as the natives say, » killed » (ua ndom) — as far as I know 
a unique case. 

Kisese, an elderly man living north of Machakos, took part 
in a drinking-bout close to his mother-in-law's village. When 
very drunk and incapable of recognising people, he went to 
her hut in the evening, where he crept into the we and went 
to sleep, not waking until the following morning. The conster- 
nation of the people at this event was indescribable, and even 
Kisese must have felt sheepish at first. Having been a leader 
in the time of the wars, however, he was equal to the occasion. 
He at once sent a messenger home for a fat ox and some goats, 
which he presented to his mother-in-law, saying: »From this time 
forth all ndom is over between us two». If he had been a youth, 
it would probably have cost him dear, but as he was a rich and 
influential man, he got his own way. 

Kisese's action was highly approved of by several younger 
married men, and I have heard them say that when they become atu- 
ni'ia 'elderly men' (Chap. IX. i) they will do likewise. Perhaps they 
will. If the example were widely followed, it would be an interesting 
illustration of how an old custom is violated by chance, and 
how the new one thus introduced gradually gains ground. To 
make this possible, the originators of the new ideas must be in- 
fluential persons; but the matter is undoubtedly facilitated if the 
old custom is irksome and oppressive, or felt to be so at least 
by reasoning individuals. 

For further and more usual methods of » killing* other kinds 
of ndom, see below. 

All the elder sisters of a man's wife are also his apom, as is 
also the case with a woman and her father-in-law and her husband's 
elder brothers. Between a man and his wife's younger sisters 
there is no ndom — they may even lie in his bed, but naturally 
without any intercourse. This difierence is indicated by the lan- 
guage — an elder sister-in-law is called mupom, but a younger 
one mivamoa, mwamu, mwamwd ('my, thy, his younger sister-in- 
law'). A woman calls her elder brother-in-law ukulu or mukud 
waitm 'our old one', also asa 'father' (often with munim 'the 
little', added to distinguish him from the head of the family)^. 

^ ukulu and mukud are no doubt only different formations from 
the root kulu. 

92 Lindblom, The Akamba 

She calls his wife inxa or mwattm 'mother'. A younger brother- 
in-law, though not mupom, she does not readily address by name 
if he is present, but employs some other expression instead. If 
two brothers are married, the elder is mupom to the wife of the 
other. They have their places on opposite sides of the fire-place, 
but the woman likes to take refuge in her bed when her elder brother- 
in-law is there — it often happens that two sons, who are both 
newly married, live together in the mother's hut. 

A kind of ndom exists also between women, namely, between 
a young wife and her mother-in-law, her husband's elder wife, or 
his elder sister. This ndom feeling is, however, not mutual, but 
is only felt by the young wife, and finds expression in a sort of 
exaggerated timidity for the persons mentioned. Undoubtedly this 
is to a large extent due to a purely natural shyness. She dares 
not even eat in their presence. To banish this shyness it is usual 
for the older wives to take a bowl of fat each and smear their 
new » colleague* with it, after which it is considered that the 
timidity will soon vanish. She must not address her husband's 
elder sister by name, but must call her ukulu (cf. above). However, 
of all her apom, a young wife shuns her mother-in-law most, and 
to be able to enjoy more intimate relations with her, she must 
pay some small tribute. As mentioned before, a young couple usually 
live in the husband's mother's hut, until the first child is born. For the 
right of sitting beside her mother-in-law on the hearth, the daughter- 
in-law gives her bananas, &c ; previous to this, they sit on opposite 
sides of the fire-place. The daughter-in-law, however, may not yet go 
into the we; if she wants anything out of it, she must get it with a 
stick or hook. The right to enter the we is obtained by a further 
gift of bananas, in return for which, however, the mother-in-law 
makes her daughter-in-law a small present, such as beads or other 
articles of adornment. Some time usually elapses before this right 
is acquired. I have met women who have been married 2 or 3 
years, but who have never set foot in the mother-in-law's we. In 
such cases, the reason is usually to be sought in the younger 
woman's temperament, for some can only with difficulty overcome 
their ndom feeling, whereas the mother-in-law usually seems to 
have no objection to bringing about freer intercourse, for she can 
then with less difficulty avail herself of her daughter-in-law's ser- 
vices. Parents-in-law are not each other's apom. 

Relations between persons connected by marriage 93 

The man who does not observe his ndoni obUgations, such 
as going to one side when he meets his mupom &c, is looked 
upon as a mu^cendu^ an obstinate and incorrigible fellow, and no 
woman who knows about it will give him her daughter in marriage. 

It is, however, obvious that the nbom relations in regard to 
avoiding one another must often be irksome for the natives, and 
this is probably why they can be done away with in the less im- 
portant degrees, as, for example, between a man and his younger 
brother's wife. This is called ua 'ggeam 'to kill the. mutual 
refusal'^. The woman presents her male mupo?ii with a couple 
of bunches of bananas {ndumba), and receives perhaps a goat in 
return, and then they agree not to avoid each other any more. 
They can now converse freely together and sit beside each other. 
This relaxation, however, is not possible between a mother-in-law 
and her son-in-law, and the case cited above must be looked upon 
as exceptional. 

2. Taboo of Names. 

It has already been indicated that a])om may not mention each 
other's names. A synonymous word is employed instead. From 
an other side, if a mu^oms name is the same as that of some 
object or such like, the object in question must, in conversation, 
be referred to by another name for it. As, for instance, 

for kwko 'to-morrow', is substituted um 'to-morrow' 
» k'hlonzo 'noise' » '^gua^a 

» 'hlondu 'sheep' » 'gondu 'sheep' (same root) 

» n^uki 'bee' » ndo'go'gi 

» nzoka 'snake' » mantu 'ha ndt 'the animal of 

the earth', or MVilu 'lizard' 
» wa mbua 'of rain' » ndupu 

» 'ggomo 'chisel' » ^*^^^^^*(<^<?^^^«' to sharpen'). 

An example may illustrate this name-taboo and the ingenuity 
which is sometimes shown in surmounting the difficulty. In British 
East Africa small change, called mbesa (kisuaheli peso) among the 
Akamba, is provided with a hole in the centre, so that it can 

^ ^geano < leana 'to refuse one another'. 

94 Lindblom, The Akamba 

be threaded on a string. Once when I had bought something 
from a woman, she said: »Give me one ear-ring {i6vuh)», instead 
of, »Give me one ml>esa», because her mupom was called rnbesa. 

If a man is called mwceu 'the white', his muponi cannot, for 
example, say: ^gua m nzaii 'the stuff is white' {nzau is the 
n-form of the root -ceu), but must search for another word, such 
as ndeuOu {<peu6a 'to be clean'). On the other hand, I have 
not found the taboo carried as far as, for example, among the 
Zulus, \vhere it sometimes applies to parts of names, namely their 
emphatic syllables^. 

It must also be due to a sort of ndom that a woman may 
not mention her husband's name, nor a younger wife that of an 
elder one, or even those of the latter's children. The observation 
of these things has, among certain peoples, given rise to a special 
language for women, but in the case of the Akamba, I have only 
found slight traces of this. 

The Kamba wife's method of avoiding mentioning her hus- 
band's name is the same as that used among apom, i. e. she uses 
an expression with a corresponding meaning, often made up by 
herself. For instance: 

for pomd 'plot' she uses i6u6eoni 'place to make a fire on'. 

» mwatm 'beehive' » » mwa^go 'beehive' 

» 'itwiku'^ 'gorge, ravine' » » wmuka 
» mwei 'moon' » » musesia nh 'a person who looks 

at the ground from a protected 


If a woman is questioned about her husband's name, she lets other 
people answer for her, if they are present. 

Even if the word pqmd 'plot' is not a personal name, many 
married women will not utter it, presumably because this place is 
so closely connected with their husbands, who spend a great deal 
of their time there, talking and drinking beer or making weapons 
and tools. Instead of it the wives say muumalqm 'the place on 
which one comes out' or ^6u6eom (cf. above). 

For the method by which the co-wives and apom mention a 

^ Kidd ibid. p. 237. 2 q{ twbka ^to burst'. 

Relatioas between persons connected by marriage 95 

young, newly-married wife and an elderly wife with children see 
also the end of chap. VI. Her husband's younger brothers, on the 
other hand, who are not her a])om, call her by her name. 

To use such periphrastic appellations is called to kwiua. 

The taboo-ing of relations' names is found all over the world. 
Frazer has made a collection of such phenomena^, the reason for 
which he, for his part, assumes to be in all essentials the same as 
that which renders a person unwilUng to mention his own name, 
that is to say, »a superstitious fear of the ill use that might be 
made by his foes, whether human or spiritual* ^. 

From what has already been said, it is almost self-evident 
that apom may not touch each other's personal belongings, such 
as clothes, &c. Nor may they sit on each other's chairs. It 
sometimes happens that, when drunk, a man violates this regu- 
lation in the case of one of his less important opom. Then he 
must pay a number of goats and an ox, which is killed and eaten. 
The ndom is then considered to be at an end between them. 

A certain degree of ndom also exists between cousins of 
opposite sexes, although they are not aponi to each other. They 
may not approach too near to each other or touch each other's 
clothes, &c. However, an interesting exception is the relation 
between a man and the daughters of his mother's brother (mama). 
He can associate with them freely, sit on their chairs, &c. »They 
are just like his own sisters* (Kioko). The cousins may also take 
each other's belongings, and the owner may not object. A man 
may take great liberties with his mother's brother's wife, and it 
it is said he may even flog her without incurring any unpleasant 
consequences. As far as I can discover, however, his privileges 
do not extend to the point that he may treat her as his wife, 
which is the case among the Baronga at Delagoa Bay^. Similar 
curious relations between a sister's son and his mother's brother and 
family are observed among so many Bantu tribes that they may, 
perhaps, be looked upon as survivals from common customs of 

^ The Golden Bough II, p. 318. 
^ Ibid. p. 349. 

•"^ H. A. Junod, Les B-a-Ronga. Etude ethnographique sur les 
indigenes de la Baie de Delagoa. 

96 Lindblom, The Akamba 

ancient times, when matriarchate seems to have been prevalent 
among the Bantu peoples ^ 

Finally it may be mentioned that the word muponwa (my 
mupom) is used as a form of greeting between apom; the an- 
swer is muponwa. 

If we now take a final survey of what has been said about 
the ndoni feeling, we find that it may vary both in quality and 
intensity. Strictly speaking, ndom comprises a number of mutual 
observances between certain individuals of opposite sexes who are 
in some way connected by marriage; the intensity depends upon 
who the individuals are. ndom can be removed, and it is worthy 
of note that a breach of its rules gives rise to its removal. Another 
form of ndom is that which a young wife feels in the presence of 
her mother-in-law and older sisters-in-law; this is not mutual, and 
its intensity depends upon the character and temperament of the 
person in question. 

We now come to the reasons for this custom. For the son- 
in-law's avoidance of his mother-in-law and vice- versa, at least three 
different theories have been put forward (Howitt and, after him, 
Frazer, Lubbock, Tylor). Crawley has shown that these, even if 
probable to a certain degree, hardly give the prime and funda- 
mental reason for this phenomenon. He himself bases it upon 
the relations between men and women, for which he introduces 
the name » sexual taboo », considering the custom in question to, 
be of a religious-magic character, »a horror religiosus, rather than 
a horror naturalis». In woman's general »dangerousness» for man 
we ought, according to him, to find the fundamental factor^. The 
relations between a young wife and her father-in-law will, then, be 
.of the same religious significance. Finally, a fifth theory has been 
advanced by Reinach, who criticises Crawley and earlier investi- 
gators ^. 

None of these theories seems to solve the question satisfactorily, 
and, as regards the Akamba, I must content myself with saying 
that they themselves regard at least some of the ndom restrictions 

^ Cf. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy; and Junod, The Life of 
a South-African Tribe, p. 253. 

^ E. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, p. 391 ff., and (in a concen- 
trated form) K. Th. Preuss, Die geistige Kultur der Naturv6lker, p. 72. 

^ S. Reinach, Le Gendre et la Belle-m^re, p. 649, 

Relations between persons connected by marriage 97 

as intended to put a check on undue sexual intercourse. However, 
this may be a secondary explanation, and hardly explains the 
matter in the cases when it is exclusively a question of women 
avoiding each other. For an explanation of such a case, I have 
searched in vain in the authors mentioned above. 

3. Avoidance between a man and his daughter=in 
law or daughter. 

In this connexion I will also mention the avoidance which 
exists between the father of the family and his daugther-in-law 
or his grown-up daughter. This avoidance is also a kind of nboni 
and seems to be designed to prevent improper relations between 
the persons mentioned, when they are in daily contact with each 
other by living in the same hut. Thus the man avoids associa- 
ting with them unnecessarily, and within the hut he has at the 
hearth his prescribed sittingplace, which is diametrically opposite 
the mentioned women. If possible he even avoids sitting at the 
fire in their presence, but retires into the we. In cold weather 
he then warms himself with an apparatus consisting of embers 
laid on potsherds. He even likes to take his food for himself into 
the we or, in fine weather, out on the plot {])omd). He may not 
approach the sleeping-place of his daughter or daughter-in-law, but 
if he wishes for some objects which is on or under this, some- 
one else must get it. If the father is not in, the women can sit 
where they like. 

The other members of the family also have their fixed places 
at the hearth. The mother sits on the right of her husband, at 
the entrance to the ive and near the pan, which she watches. 
The sons may sit where they like, a grown-up son, however, not 
too near his grown-up sister. Usually he sits at the outside of 
the hearth, nearest to the door, so that he can rush out without 
any hindrance in case any wild beast should try to get into the 
cattle craal. During the times of the attacks of the Masai he 
occupied this place also on account of them. The son may sit 
beside his mother; he may even go into the we to fetch something ^ 

^ A description of the different places for the members of the 
family is given farther on, in connexion with the account of life in the 
hut and the village. 

Arch.Or. Lindblom ' 

98 Lindblom, The Akamba 

If the fathcir of a family should for once in a way go to the 
young people's dancing-place and take place in the dancing, and 
his daughter is present, he pretends not to see her. Under no 
circumstances may he dance with her, which is explained by the 
erotic excitation which is a result of the dance. 

Chapter VI. Terms of relationship/ 

It is now generally recognized that a knowledge of the na- 
tives' method of indicating the conditions of their relationship is 
of great importance for obtaining a clearer conception of their 
social organization. For this reason the author gives here the 
terms of relationship which he came across in his daily inter- 
course with the Akamba. Unfortunately I must content myself 
with noting them; the lack of access to literature prevents a 
closer analysis. It may be mentioned, however, that several of 
these terms occur also in the Kikuyu language (according to 
McGregor's vocabulary). No resemblance to those used by the 
Masai (given by Merker) is to be found. 

Note the many terms with possessive suffixes in the following 
list. They are never used without such a possessive. 

Father: small children say naij;, sometimes tata. The father 
of another child is an 'your father'. 

Elder children and grown-up persons say asa 'my father', ipd 
is the father of another person: *^9 wa kilonzo 'Kilonzos father'. 

Mother: a male calls the mother mwaitui 'our mother' (evi- 
dently a possessive), plur. mwaztiu. A female says ima, na, which 
also means the mother of another person, mivcenm (possessive) 
'Your mother'. Small children sometimes call the mother nana. 
More seldom nmkwd is used for 'mother'. 

(My) brother: mwanaa%a 'the child of my mother'; (my) half- 
brother: imvqnaasa 'the child of my father'; 
the brother of another person: mwqnacBpd 'the child of the 


' Cf. Brutzer, Handbuch der Kamba-sprache, p. 74. 

loo Lindblom, The Akamba 

Sister: mtvifuiaia 'the girl (or daughter) of my mother'. 
Half-sister: mwitui-asa 'the girl of my father". 
The sister of another person: mzvitm(wa)inia 'the girl of the 


My elder brother or sister: tnukuwa "| , , 

-, , only used as possessives 

Your » » » » mukiiu } ,r , , , , , 

,,. , (from the root -ku old). 

His » » » » mukud ) 

The eldest one of the brothers and sisters 'hki^q])i. 

The youngest » » » » » » Uumaita. 

My younger brother or sister : mwinawa \ 

Your » » » » mwinau \ only used as possessives. 

His » » » » mwinad J 

The diminutive forms, kahnawa, kalinan etc., are also used. * 
mwana-mukwo 'child of the mother' (cf. above) is sometimes used 

for brother or sister. 
inwqna wa imvaitw, 'the child of our mother' is also used for 'my 

brother' or 'my sister'. 

Husband: mwimcewa or mutiinfha zuakzva {mutumia 'old man') 
'my husband', mwimcsu 'your husband'. The terms are only used in 
these possessive forms. As a woman is not allowed to pronounce 
the name of her husband she will ofteri, if she has to refer to 
him, call him »the father of So-and-So»: ipd tva muh, 'the father 
of MuH'. 

Wife: mulia {w)qkwa, mukqkwa 'my woman'; kiOcpti kmktva, 
kiwandu^ kuiktva, 'my wife'. 

Grandfather: umq, umaii wqkwa 'my grandfather'; umaiiy 
umad 'your, his grandfather' — possessive forms. 

Grandmother: susu, usii. usiid 'his grandmother'. 

Grandchild: nzukulu\ musukua, musukii, musukud 'my, your, 
his grandchild' — possessives. 

Uncle, paternal: mwcendwasa 'my uncle', mwcendwau 'your 
uncle' (< an 'your father'), pi. amzvcsndzvan. — mzvcendiuipd is the 
uncle of another person ^. 

Uncle, maternal: mama, mwtdau, inaemiii. The maternal uncle 
of another person: znaiimd (cf. im^a 'mother', -um3 'male'). 

^ This word is heard rather seldom and is only used to address 
elder wives. 

^ Is this connected with the verb cemla 'to love^? 

Terms of relationship loi 

Aunt maternal: mzvcendia (> na 'mother'?), pi. mwcsndxa, am-' 
wcBndia; mzv^ndtva-mukwd , mwcendzva-mia (cf. mother) ^. 

Aunt paternal: mwcEndwau? 

Cousin: inwiGawa 'my cousin', pi. ceGqiva. — mnn6au 'your 
cousin' etz. (possessive forms). 

Nephew, niece: vide » cousin ». 

Father-in-law, mother-in-law, elder sister of the wife: inu- 
pom, muponzaa, muponu, mupom 'my, your, his father-in-law' etc. 
The father-in-law of my child: srttawa. sntaii is 'the father- 
in-law of your child' (possessives). 

Younger sister of the wife: mwqmwa, mivamu. mwqmwd 
'my, your, his sister-in-law' (possessives). 

A married woman calls the elder brother of her husband 
ukulu or mukud waUm 'our elder brother' (cf. » elder brother»). 
She also calls him asa or asa niunim 'my little father', in distinc- 
tion from the head of the family. His wife as well as her mother- 
in-law she calls nnvaitm or %nia 'mother'. The elder sister of her 
husband she calls ukulu. 

The prefix ^«-: a young wife who has not yet a child is 
often called after her father 'ga-'ggama 'the child of So-and-So'. 
'ga-kioko 'the child of K.' The prefix which occurs in several 
Bantu dialects^ is no doubt a derivative of some older form of 
the verb sia 'to bear' (cf. the Tete-dialect at the Sambezi River nyd). 

The prefix sio (< sui 'to bear') : a married woman is often 
called after her first child sio-'ggama 'the mother of So-and-So'. 
sw-nmli is 'the mother of Muli'. If the other wives of her hus- 
band may not mention her name they often address her in this way. 

Almost all terms of relationship may be used as greetings: 
viuponzva! Answer: muponzva (my mupom). 

Cousins greet each other with: mzvi6au or tnatvuu or mmwi- 
6azva. Answer: m mama (cf. the maternal uncle). Cousins who 
are children of two sisters say: zva mzvcBnd\a! Answer: zva mzvce- 

^ Is this connected with the verb cenda 'to love'? 

" See v. d. Mohl, Praktische Grammatik der Bantu-sprache von 
Tete, Mitteil. des Seminars fur Afrikan. Sprachen, VII: 3, p. 56, and 
P. G. Adams, Die Sprache der Banoho, ibidem X: 3, p. 39. 

I02 Lindblom, The Akamba 

ndial umaii! — uman! is used as a greeting between grandchildren 
(cf. grandfather). 

Parents-in-law greet each other with: sntqwa — sntawa. 

Chapter VII. Death. 

I. Burial. 

A burial and all the ritual connected with a death can only 
be carried out by old men, atmma, who are quite conversant with 
all the customs of the tribe. When a man lies at the point of 
death, some atumia are summoned to watch the dying man during 
his last hours, and especially to prevent the rats from touching 
him, in the event of his dying during the night. They take up 
their positions, one at his head, one at his feet, and one on each 
side of him. If the rats succeed in getting at him, even in touching 
him but slightly, another death will shortly occur in the village. If 
however, it does happen that the rats gnaw the corpse, a piece 
of mutton is damped with the juice of a certain tree, and laid on 
the place. The old watchers are not particularly awed by the 
vicinity of death; they wile away the time with noisy chatter, 
and help themselves to snuff from the dying man's snuff-box. The 
women, on the other hand, really mourn, and their lamentations 
are audible far and wide. For from two to five days they do no 
work in the fields, and on the day the death takes place they eat 
nothing. It is usually considered unbecoming for a man to show 
his feelings, but even a man may be seen to weep. 

After death has supervened, the old men go to dig the grave, 
which is made in the neighbourhood of the hut. They often 
quarrel over it and try to get out of the work, especially if the 
ground is hard. Nor is the hole dug very deep, they content 
themselves with making it just deep enough to prevent the body 
being scraped up by hyenas. The minimum depth may perhaps 
be set at one meter. They first dig straight down and then out 
at the sides, so that a round hole is made. The corpse is then 
laid on a bier of sticks and carried out by two atufma. One man 
steps down into the hole to receive the body and lay it in the 

I04 Lindblom, The Akamba 

round cavity. Immediately after death, and before the limbs have 
had time to stiffen, they are bent up towards the body, a custom 
which is very prevalent among Bantu peoples, and general among 
more primitive nations^. The dead man is laid upon his right 
side, with his head resting upon his hand, as though he were 
sleeping. A woman is laid in the same manner, but on the left 
side*. The face is turned to the east or th^ west. The body is 
naked, except for a piece of cloth or an old blanket over the head, 
to keep the earth from the face. None of the belongings of the 
deceased are placed in the grave. A low mound is raised over the 
grave. In former times especially, they often put an earthernware vessel 
on the mound, to mark out the place. If the village is afterwards 
removed, there is nothing to prevent the place being cleared for 
tillage, but the mound is not touched, and stones are laid on and 
around it, whereby the site is more distinctly indicated. A grave 
is avoided after dark, for there is said to be a risk of meeting its 

In Ulu it is customary, before the atutma begin to dig, for 
the grandson (son's son) of the deceased, if he has one (however 
young he may be), to turn the first sod with a grave stake. If 
the grandson is only a baby, a little stick is placed in his hand, 
and he scratches up a little earth. This is called Oulultlia. The 

^ Cf. R. An dree, Ethnologische Betrachtungen fiber Hdckerbe- 
stattung, Andree here gives a survey of the spread of this method of 
burial among living as well as prehistoric peoples, and reviews the 
different hypotheses as to the origin of the custom. 

^ This method of burial, with the head on the hand, must be a 
very old custom, if an)' conclusion can be drawn from the language 
and the natives' own statements. For the Akamba assert that it is from 
this method of burial that the local expressions for »on the right hand»: 
kwoko kwa aiirnd = 'the men's hand', »on the left hand» : kwoko kwa aka — 
'the women's hand', are derived. Probably this is a secondary interpretation, 
and the right hand is probably called »the men's hand» on account 
of its superiority over the left. I may mention in this connexion that 
Miss A. Werner, after investigations into 37 Bantu languages, discovered 
that the right hand is often called »the male hand», and sometimes 
»the strong hand», &c. The left is sometimes, though not so often, 
called »the female hand» and also »the inferior hand». See A. Wer- 
ner, Notes on the Terms used for »right hand» and »left hand* in 
the Bantu Languages, p. 112. This paper has been supplemented, as 
far as the Congo languages are concerned, by Stapleton, Journ. Afr. 
Society 1904, p. 431. 

Death 105 

importance of the act is shown by the fact that the person con- 
cerned receives a cow, which is given by the father's (or grand- 
father's) married sister. 

Only the atumia may be present at a burial, and only they 
may touch a dead body. For others it is taboo, and to violate 
this brings on the disease called paOu; but the old men who 
have carried out the burial need not be purified'. They must 
then perform a rituahstic sweeping of the hut where the man 
died, a cleansing process which may not be performed by women. 
In payment for their services they receive a goat, which is killed 
and eaten on the spot. 

The prohibition for persons, who are not entitled to do so, to 
touch a corpse, also extends to parts of the skeleton. Originally 
the prohibition seems only to have applied to deceased members 
of the same clan, but since it was impossible to be certain of this, 
the prohibition has been extended to embrace the whole people. 
A corrcrete example of this dread of touching a corpse is afforded 
by the following incident. During my visit to Ikutha, I had one 
day collected some skulls in a sack, and ordered my servant Kioko, 
a man of about thirty years of age, to carry the sack to the camp. 
He dared not refuse, but immediately afterwards came and asked 
permission to return to his home, about five days' march distant, 
to be purified. And yet he had not come into direct contact with 
a single skull, but had only carried the sack. I could not do 
without him then, but later on, when he had an opportunity of 
undergoing purification, I was obliged to present the necessary goat. 
On the other hand, even a young person may touch a dead per- 
son of another tribe than his, or her, own. Another case which 
was related to me in Machakos is the following. A youth who 
was out hunting shot an arrow, which hit a corpse. For this his 
father was fined five cows, and the boy had to be purified. 

A married woman is buried in the cattle-craal, nza, if the hus- 
band has no other hut but hers. If he has, she is buried in her 
hut. It does not matter if a man dies indoors, but when a woman 
dies in her hut, it is shut up. All serviceable domestic implements 
are first removed, and then the hut is allowed to fall into decay. 
This takes place quickly enough, and in a few years nothing 

' This is contrary to the custom in, for example, Tonga, Portuguese 
East Africa. See H. Junodp. 143. 

io6 Lindblom, The Akamba 

remains but a heap of sticks. Sometimes the hut is burnt, but 
this is not necessary. A hut thus deserted on account of a 
death is called mbea. The reason for this custom is that a 
woman's soul or spirit, km, is thought to return to the scene 
of her activities during life, and therefore there would be no peace 
for the survivors in such a hut. The husband would never be 
able to persuade another woman to move into it. According to 
the natives' own account, the reason why a woman is so attached 
to her hut is that the roofing of the hut is her own work. The 
wife and not the husband is looked upon as the owner of the 
hut. But if a wife has been in due order separated from her hus- 
band, and subsequently dies somewhere else, it is not necessary 
for a hut built by her to be shut up. Her late husband has no 
longer anything to do with her. 

When a married woman dies, her children are given to another 
wife, as well as her calves and goats. A woman is buried naked 
too, but her ornaments are not taken off until she is lying in the 
grave; the other women say that they could not bear to see her 
deprived of these things. 

Little children are not buried by atumm, but by old women. 
When a child dies so young that it has not had the two middle 
front teeth in the lower jaw knocked out, the atutma do it after 
death ^, for it is considered that no one ought to have all his teeth 
left when he dies. When a child dies, its parents must, according 
to general rule, have ritual coition. But if a man has two wives, 
and, for example, one of the » little » wife's children dies, then the 
man may not personally perform the ceremony with her, if the 
»big» wife has not yet lost a child. He must then employ another 
man, or the »big» wife will contract pa6u, a, ceremonial disease 
which I shall describe in another part of this monograph. 

The above remarks apply chiefly to the region of Machakos^ 
Western Ukamba. In the eastern part of the country, the customs 
are somewhat different, the dead are often not buried, but dragged 
out into the bush and left to the hyenas. This applies especi- 
ally to women, younger men, and children. The latter particularly, 
I believe, are after death regarded as impotent for good or ilU 
just as they have been during Hfe, and consequently it is no use 

^ The Akamba sharpen from 2 to 6 teeth in the upper jaw and 
knock out the two middle ones in the lower jaw. 

Death 107 

troubling oneself with them. It seems as though the custom over 
the whole of Ukamba was originally to throw out all except a 
mutumia and his first wife (the »big» wife) ^ This practice was 
also found formerly in the Machakos region, but nowadays even 
little children are buried there. The explanation may perhaps be 
found in the fact that the population is so much denser and vege- 
tation sparser in those tracts, so that there are not such suitable 
thickets to place the dead in as there are further to the east. 
Even around Kitui, practically everybody is buried, even little child- 
ren, while in Ikutha, further to the south, throwing-out is extensi- 
vely practised (Hofmann). According to Sauberlich, economic con- 
siderations also play a role in the method of burial, since some 
people are not in a position to pay the atuima for their work in 
digging the grave. 

Finally, individual differences in funerals, burial, or laying out 
the body, occur all over the country. Thus, if several persons 
die at the same time in a village, the occurrence is readily ascrib- 
ed to the method of burial then in vogue, and a change is made. 
If up to that time the bodies have been buried, they are subsequently 
thrown out, and vice versa. 

According to Hofmann, the mortally sick are sometimes carried 
out into the thicket, where they are left to die. A fire is made, and the 
sick person is placed beside it with some food, and left. This 
practice seems, however, to be only exceptional; I, at least, have 
never heard of it in the region of Machakos, in spite of careful 
enquiry; but it occurs in the Kikuyu country. Another difference 
between the Machakos district and Eastern Ukamba is that, in 
the last-named country, they let the dead have some of their 
possessions with them in the grave ; the man especially his belov- 
ed snuff-box, ha'ogz^ and perhaps also his bow and arrows; the 
woman her grinding stones, the household implements she has 
used most, &c. In a vibea the owner's household chattels are not 
taken, but left as they were when she used them last. Her stool 
stands at the hearth, the pot over its three stones, the grinding 
stones lie in their places, &c. 

I have a note of the following practice from Kikumbuliu, the 

^ The theory that throwing-out was the earliest practice seems to 
be supported by the custom of throwing out a stick, mentioned below. 

io8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

south-eastern part of the country, more exactly the district of 

All married people are buried in the cattle-craals, others are 
thrown out. The dead are laid in their graves on their sleep- 
ing-skins, ndawa (on every bed there are two skins, one for the 
husband, and one for the wife). Ornaments and personal house- 
hold appliances, but not a man's weapons, are thrown away, or 
broken up and laid in the grave. Before this is filled in, the eldest 
son and heir goes to the edge of the grave, and scrapes down a 
little earth with his foot. As a protection against hyenas, large 
pieces of wood are often laid on the grave, and goat-droppings 
{mbtvi) on these ^. 

2. Purification after a death. 

Before the atuima who have had charge of the burial have 
completed their task, and before they go away, they prescribe for 
the inhabitants of the village their rules of conduct; no one may 
have sexual intercourse until the village has been purified. All the 
inhabitants have become unclean on account of the death, and anyone 
who offends against the directions given, contracts paOu, a disease 
which often overtakes just the person who has become ceremo- 
nially unclean. The purification is performed by an old man {mu- 
tinma %va makwd) who is specially versed in such matters, and it may 
not be undertaken by anyone and everyone. As this ceremony of 
purification is one of the most usual of its kind, and is also per- 
formed on other occasions when purification is necessary, we will 
describe it here. It is carried out in the following manner: The 
old man who is performing the rite, slaughters a goat, which is 
consecrated by being given some purifying medium (^ondtu) to 
drink ^. The idea is probably that the animal must be purified be- 
fore it can be used. The contents {nm'ho) of the small stomach, 

^ This agrees substantially with Brutzer's description of the Akamba 
living in Rabai, in the hinterland of Mombasa. E. Brutzer, Der Geis- 
terglaube bei den Kamba, p. 4. 

^ A very common species of Solanum with yellow round fruit, 
found in East Africa, is called 'ggondw, and this is undoubtedly what 
led Hobley to state, incorrectly, that this fruit » plays an important part» 
in purifying medicines. Hobley, A-Kamba, p. 67. 

Death 109 

which is called ktpatm, are taken out and mixed in a calabash 
with 'gondiu, (certain sorts of plants) ^. Those present all sit on 
their hams in a circle, and the old man first sprinkles them with 
the mixture, and then the walls and the bed in the hut where the 
death took place. There is not any fixed day for this purification, 
but people are naturally anxious to get it over as soon as possible. 

An important essential in the process of purification still re- 
mains to be carried out, before life in the village can return to 
normal conditions: the widow must sleep with the dead man's 
brother or successor, as her husband ; or, if he has no brother, 
with a mutumia among the dead man's relations. This is called 
kuseuQ\a ki6(ett 'to purify the wife'. If there are several widows, 
the »big» wife only need undergo this ceremony. When a woman 
dies, the husband must purify himself with one of his other wives; 
and if he has no other wives, he must find another woman whose 
husband has recently died. When a child dies, the parents must 
have coition. 

There is no time specially fixed for the carrying out of these 
purifications. As is evident from what has been said above, they 
cannot be performed if the owner of the village is away. If some 
other member of the family is not present when the death takes place, 
a stick of the length of the dead man is taken and kept in the 
hut where the death took place, until the absent one returns; then 
it is given to him with words something to the following effect: 
»This is N. N., who died while you were away». The stick is 
then carried out of the village and thrown away — in a way a 
second and fictitious burial. Although the new-comer was away 
when the death took place, and the village has been purified since 
then, he is also obliged to undergo the purification, before he can 
enter it 2. 

During the time which elapses between the death and the 
purification, the village is naturally not visited by anyone. Even 
inanimate objects are not taken into it. Formerly, when the natives 

^ Among many other East African peoples (e. g. among the Wa- 
taveta at KiUmandjaro) the contents of the stomach play an important 
part in the rites of purification. The stomach is called kitasra in Ta- 
veta language. 

- Cf. Hobley, Further researches into Kikuyu and Kamba Be- 
liefs and Customs, p. 422. 

iio Lindblom, The Akamba 

went out on a plundering expedition, the stolen cattle were kept 
in another place until the purification had been carried out, and 
even then, for safety's sake, the cattle were often sprinkled with 
^onditi, before they were taken into the village. 

When a man who has a married daughter dies, the son-in-law 
is callad fmvitui 'girl, daughter', for a time, because he has taken 
the daughter of the deceased as his wife. The latter ought not, of 
course, to visit her father's village before the purification has been 
carried out, and she may on no account taste any food there; 
she would then become unclean, and if she returned to her hus- 
band and had intercourse with him, it would be calamitous for 
them. Thus a dead man's village ought not to be visited, and 
to eat there is absolutely forbidden. 

After the rites of purification following on the death of a 
rich man have been performed, it is at times customary to kill 
an ox, the blood of which, together with beer and the vtwho men- 
tioned above, is poured out over the grave. This is an offering 
which is thought to flow down to the dead man, and a prayer to 
the following effect is directed to him: »We give you this, may 
you bring luck to the village and our cattle !» 

A widower may not shave his head till the consequences of 
the death are removed by sprinkling with -^ondm and the subse- 
quent coition ^. In the same way a widow must let her hair grow 
until the brother-in-law has had intercourse with her or with the 
»big» wife, if there are several widows. No outward sign of mourn- 
ing is borne — it may happen that the woman cease their 
work in the fields for a day or two. In olden times in Machakos, 
when the corpses were customarily thrown out, their heads were 
shaved, »so that the hyenas could not so easily drag them away». 
It was not, however, considered quite right to do this, and it was 
not done in the village, but at the place where the corpse was 
left. It ought not to be done before towards sundown. 

^ The Akamba's style of hair-dressing is very varied. Thus many 
go periodically with their heads shaven, and then let the hair grow again. 

p. II 


Chapter VIII. The Clan system and Totemism. 

By the term clan, we here mean a part of a tribe, the mem- 
bers of which are related or in some other way connected by 
means of a common bond. Apart from the belief in common de- 
scent from a real or mythical ancestor, the most common type of 
such a uniting bond is a common totem. As is well known, by 
a totem is meant some animal, or less often some plant or inani- 
mate object, which is thought to stand in a certain relationship to a 
certain group of individuals. As to the relations between the indi- 
viduals and their totem-animal, the following features may be con- 
sidered to be of general occurrence: 

i) The totem applies to a certain group of individuals (a clan), 
between whom marriage is forbidden. 

2) These individuals believe that they are in some way akin 
to the totem, often that they are descended from it. 

3) There exists a mystic bond between the individual and his 
totem-animal. He believes that in the hour of need his totem will 
protect and help him, and he always exhibits a certain reverence 
for it. This reverence is generally so shown that he will not in- 
jure his totem in any way, will not kill it, eat its flesh, and so on. 
We shall find from what follows that the general definition of the 
terms »clan» and » totem » given here is entirely appropriate in 
the case of the Kamba peopled 

^ The strongly totemistic clans that are encountered among the 
Akamba are not a peculiarity of this people. On the contrary, totem- 
ism is met with in its characteristic form in many tribes wherever 
the Bantu peoples are found. For a comparative study of Bantu-totem- 
ism, see van Gennep's excellent bibliography in » Religions, Moeurs 
et Legendes» II, p. 62. Brief information about totemism in German 
East Africa may be found here and there in Zeitschrift f. Rechtswissen- 
schaft. e. g. in vol. XXI, p. 358 (1908), vol. XXIII, p. 209 (1909). 
Arch.Or. Lindblom s 

114 Lindblom, The Akamba 

I. The Kamba clans and their totems. 

In Kikamba the word for clan is fnda>, which is also used for 
» tribe, people, race, family », in extended meaning (see further be- 
low). I have been able to make a list of 25 chief clans, and it 
is not unlikely that there are more. Many of these clans fall into 
sub-clans ^ I append the list of the clans I have found (see p. 
136), most of which seem to be named after the ancestor, his 
origin, or his employment. Thus, for example, the clan viba-apa'gga 
(from mupa^ga 'sand'), the founder of which is said to have been 
a smith and to have collected iron from the sands of the rivers 
{mba is a prefix indicating plurality, collectiveness; inba-cepa'gga 
are 'all the members of the (Spa'gga clan' collectively; anakd 'young 
men', mba-anakd 'all the young men' collectively; atunfka 'elderly 
men', mba-atumia 'all the elderly men', and so on). On the other 
hand, this prefix cannot be used with the name of a tribe; one 
could not employ the combination mba-akaniba, for example. The 
same prefix with a collective force is met with in other Bantu langu- 
ages. To mention a Swedish author in the same field, the mis- 
sionary K. E. Laman records the same prefix with the same sig- 
nification in his Congo grammar: mindele 'white men', mba-mindele 
'the whites, Europeans' ^. To return to the question of the mean- 
ings of clan-names in Kikamba, we have further, for example, the 
clan of atwi 'smiths', the founder of which clan is also said to have 
been a smith. But the members of this clan are not still smiths, 
nor is there any special smith-caste among the Kamba people. An- 
other clan is that of the atrnvtj or amw^x; the founder is said to 
have borne the name of mzvcsi ('moon') because he was born at 
full moon. In one or two cases, I have found clans with two dif- 
ferent names, but the names were synonymous. 

The members of a clan do not live in the same place, but 

The only connected and comparative work on African totemism is, 
however, Ankermann's Verbreitung und Formen des Totemismus in 
Afrika in Zeitschrift f. Ethnologie, 191 5, in which A. has collected 
information from the literature which appeared after Frazer's Totemism 
and Exogamy (19 10) and also offers views on the problem of totem- 
ism in General. 

^ Although the Akamba reckon descent through males, I employ 
the term clan and not gens. 

^ K. E, Laman, Larobok i KongosprSket, p. 36. 

The Clan system and Totemism 115 

are spread over the whole area occupied by the tribe. Thus I 
have met with several thousands of the clan ceombd; but then this 
clan is one of the largest. On the other hand, smaller clans will 
be found limited to a less extended area. Those belonging to the 
kanq clan live in Mumomi, the most northerly part of Ukamba, 
and in the region of Kitui, but when I asked about the clan in 
other parts of the country, they did not even know it by name ; which 
is not surprising, when one considers how a clan is formed. For 
the clan system does not seem to be by any means an antiquated 
institution, but is still vigorous, and new clans often spring up. 
When a man has many descendants, it is very common to employ 
the prefix mba- in speaking of them: inba-mbota 'Mbota's clan'. 
Thus the words mbm and mba are also used in the sense of » fa- 
mily*, and it is often difficult to understand, when a person speaks 
of his mbm^, whether he means clan or large family (»grossfamilie»), 
to which are often reckoned married sons with their wives and 
children, or family in the ordinary sense. Thus a new clan arises 
by degrees — in this case a sub-clan of Mbota's own clan. Quite 
independent clans readily come into existence also. Marriage within 
the same clan is, of course, forbidden, and if a man should take a 
wife from the same clan, they are at once separated from the clan, 
and so they become the founders of a new one. 

Among twenty-five of the chief clans, I have found 19 totems, 
but for several I have not been able to find the totems, though such 
presumably exist. The may, however, also have been forgotten and 
have then disappeared. As is to be expected in the case of a people 
that is practically certain to have originated from a hunting tribe, 
most of the totems of the Akamba originate from the animal king- 
dom. Of these totems there are two each possessed by two clans 
in common: there are two lion clans and two hawk clans. On the 
other hand, there is one clan, the clan andunzu, which has two 
totem-animals, the porcupine and the bat. Generally, however, 
when a clan has two totems, one of them is of lesser importance, 
for which reason it is called the sub-totem. Unfortunately I have 
not been able to make out the connection between the porcupine 
and the bat as totem-animals for the clan andunzu, but it appears 
that the bat is only the totem of certain famihes within the clan. 
From the list on p. 136 it will further be seen that several clans 
contain a number of sub-clans. 

iio Lindblom, The Akamba 

It may be mentioned, in passing, that I was in Ukamba for 
over eight months without finding the least traces of the totem 
system. These matters are so obvious and self-evident for the 
natives themselves that, even when they are talking about the clan 
system in other connections, it never occurs to* them to mention 
the totem system, which is such an interesting field for the investi- 
gator. It was due to quite a chance circumstance that I disco- 
vered it, though I had long been fully convinced of its existence. 
I did not know how to set about making enquiries about it. 
There is no special word in the Kamba language for totem; Ancker- 
man also shows, that such a word has not been found anywhere 
in Africa. The Akamba say niamu 'animal', and when anyone 
wishes to know to which clan another belongs, he says, nyimu laku 
m laii? 'Which is your animal?' or else rnbai laku m mu i' 'Which 
is your clan?' 

Hobley incorrectly renders totem with ktndti hpuku or npuku 
'forbidden thing', more exactly and literally something bad, in- 
jurious'. Without doubt he has been led to this erroneous con- 
clusion by the fact that, when one asks a native why he does 
not eat his totem, the invariable reply is m upuku or m hndu 
kipuku It is injurious', by which he refers to the results of such 
a violation of the totem. 

Clan animals: the lion, the hyena, the bushbuck, the long- 
tailed monkey (Cercopithecus), the baboon, the jackal, the leopard, 
the bat, the crow, the hawk, the vulture, the green parrot, and a 
small black bird with a forked tail, called kmdah ^ Curiously 
enough, neither the elephant, the rhinoceros, the giraffe, nor the 
crocodile, appear as totem-animals. It is not surprising that the 
hippopotamus is not taken as a totem, since it is not found in the 
country at present inhabited by the tribe, viz. Ukamba. Yet it lives 
in the Tana river. 

According to what the natives say, there is on the mountain 
Kivauni, west of Athi, a clan that does not kill a certain sort of 
snake, but I have never come across them. There is only one 
instance of a totem being taken from the vegetable kingdom, and 
that is the wild fig-tree, miimo, the totem of the amiimom clan. 
I have only discovered one totem chosen from inanimate ob- 

^ By the kindness of Prof. E. Lonnberg, I am able to identify 
this bird as probably being the drongo (Dicrurus). 

The Clan system and Totemism 117 

jects, namely kUea sand containing iron', which is the totem of the 
above-mentioned clan cepa'gga, the founder of which was a smith. 

I have no record of any totem for the atmvce'h, but it is clear 
that the moon {mwcsf) stands in some sort of connection with the 
clan (cf. p. 1 24) \ It is very rare to find heavenly bodies as to- 
tems. Frazer cites only two cases of the moon being taken as 
totem, both from India ^. 

Besides its proper name, a clan is as often referred to by the 
name of its totem: the asi are also called inba-muniambu 'the clan 
of the lion'; the awini are called niba-nibiti 'the clan of the hyena', 
and so on. 

What Frazer calls » individual totems » are not found among 
the Akamba, nor totems for the different sexes. 

2. The relations between a person and his totem. 

(The religious side of the totem system.) 

For lack of a better term, I here use (after Frazer and others) 
the expression »the religious side of totemism », though I shall endea- 
vour to show that the totem system of the Akamba can scarcely be 
said to contain any religious elements. The question certainly de- 
pends very much upon how the conception » religion » is defined (for 
it is by no means clear what really belongs to religion), but it would 
seem that in general the religious role of totemism has been greatly 
exaggerated, a circumstance that has, indeed, been pointed out 
by many investigators. Frazer says that the religious side of to- 
temism » consists of the relations of mutual respect and protection 
between a man and his totem». But »mutual respect and protec- 
tion* may also be said to be characteristic of the relations bet- 
ween members of the same clan, though there is no temptation on 
this account to maintain that there is anything rehgious in such 
relations. And, furthermore, the most usual form of worship among 
primitive peoples is the ofifer of sacrifices, but the Akamba never 

^ Hobley (Akamba p. 4) states that their totem is »all dead animals*, 
never heard of this. 

■ Cf. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy. 

ii8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

sacrifice to their totems. Indeed, it has not been possible to prove 
that any Bantu peoples offer sacrifices to their totems ^. 

I shall now proceed to describe more in detail what I have 
ascertained as to the relations between a person and his totem 
among the Akamba. The members of a clan are considered to 
possess the characteristic qualities of the totem animal, and some- 
times also other of its peculiarities. According to the natives' 
account, the lion does not eat livers, but leaves those organs un- 
touched after a kill. Hence those belonging to the lion clan {m6a- 
asi) do not eat livers, and will not even touch them, but use 
sticks to remove them, when animals are slaughtered. Other- 
wise, the result is an affection of the eyes. The prohibition 
against liver goes to such lengths that, for example, if anyone is 
roasting liver during a hunt, and the wind carries the smoke to 
the place vv'here a man of the asi clan is roasting other meat, 
this meat thereby becomes unclean, and he can not eat it. 

The members of the lion clan are as courageous and spirited 
as the lion itself in fight, when an attack is being made. The 
lion is looked upon as a particularly intelligent beast by the Akamba: 
»It is quite like a human being », they say. It is well-disposed 
towards its human kinsmen, and sometimes tries to help them. 
When men of this clan are out hunting and have met with no 
success, but have reconciled themselves to going to rest with empty 
stomachs, it sometimes happens that they hear the subdued roar 
of a lion. He has killed, and now wishes to share the prey with 
his relations. In full conviction of this, the men now proceed in 
the direction from which the roar was heard, and when the lion 
sees them he withdraws, »in order not to scare them*. They 
take as much meat as they require and then go away, after which 
the lion returns to finish his meal. 

The hyena clan {awim) is characterised by perpetual greed. 
If a man belonging to that clan is sitting in a company and hap- 
pens to smell roasting meat, he involuntarily rises and proceeds 
in the direction of the meat. 

Those belonging to the crow clan are very cowardly, and 
are always ready to take to flight, when there is a prospect of a 

^ Cf. E. Reuterskiold, Sakramentala maitider med sRrskild han- 
syn till totemismen, p. 62. 

The Clan system and Totemism 119 

fight, just as a crow sitting in a tree flies away, when he sees a 
hunter approaching with bow and arrows. 

Members of the hawk clan are considered to be particularly- 
thievish, and, just as the hawk hovers in the air on the look-out 
for something that he can swoop down upon — for exemple a piece 
of meat outside a hut — so they sneak about prying after something 
to steal. As has been mentioned, there are two hawk clans. One 
is called tnba-mulela (see list A, 8a), its members are specially 
greedy for meat, and when they discover that meat is to be found 
in their vicinity, they often try to steal it in the night. To this 
end they have recourse to .sorcery, for they can put the inhabitants 
of the village from which they mean to steal into a deep sleep. 
It is .said that they formerly used to eat meat raw. 

Normally a native may not kill his totem animal, nor eat of 
its meat; nay, he may not even touch any part of it (taboo). On 
one occasion I was able to turn this to good account, when I had 
a new »boy» belonging to the bushbuck clan. The lock of one 
of my cases had got broken, and in order to secure its contents 
against any possible pilfering on the part of the youth, I laid a 
piece of bushbuck's skin over the things. Every time he had to 
fetch anything out of the case, he asked me to remove the skin 
first. Similarly, if a man of the lion clan finds a dead lion, he 
cannot take the skin. Exceptions from these general rules are, 
however, to be met with, and there are individuals who kill their 
totem animals without provocation — » respect for the totem lessened 
or lost», as Frazer has it. Thus, one day I met a man of the 
long-tailed mbnkey clan that had made himself a bag from the 
skin of his totem animal. Those who offend in this manner, 
however, are thought to bring misfortune down on themselves: 
they themselves or their cattle fall sick and die, &c. Only in one 
case is it permissible to kill the totem animal, namely when it is 
an animal of prey and attacks a member of the clan, or his cattle. 
There is, therefore, no objection to killing lions and leopards, 
which steal round the villages at night, or long-tailed monkeys 
and baboons, which commit damage in the fields. To the native 
mind, this is exactly on a par with an offence committed by a 
relative or a member of the same clan. 

As an illustration of the close relations between a native and 
his totem-animal, I will cite the following concrete example, which 

I20 Lindblom. The Akamba 

is among my own experiences. It must not be looked upon as 
an example of totemistic sacrifice. 

One evening I had pitched camp on the River Athi. During 
the afternoon, I had shot an antelope, anci my bearers were enga- 
ged in stuffing themselves with great quantities of the meat. Then 
we heard the repeated roars of a lion, a few hundred meters away 
in the bushes. After a while, I saw that one of the bearers rose, took 
a large piece of meat, and walked forth into the darkness. I was surpris- 
ed, and wondered what the fellow was at, for the natives are gene- 
rally afraid of the dark, especially when they know that there is 
a lion in the vicinity. After a few minutes, the man came back, 
and I at once asked him what he had been doing. He answered: 
»You heard the lion roaring? I belong to the lion clan, and 
heard a kinsman calling me. He is certainly hungry, perhaps old 
and feeble, so that he can no longer kill, as of old. Is it, then, 
not my duty to share with him my superfluity, when I sit here 
by the fire in comfort, and have more meat than I can manage 
to eat.f** And so, without fear of the darkness, the fellow had 
wandered in the direction from which the roaring had been heard, 
convinced that his kinsman in the bushes would come and eat the 
piece of meat he had placed out there for him. 

One of the most important obligations which the members of 
the same clan have towards each other is to help each other in 
all straits, and this obligation holds not only between human mem- 
bers of a clan, but between a man and his totem-animal. I will 
cite an example to the point. One afternoon I had started out 
with some Akamba to shoot guinea-fowls, when we suddenly came 
across a long-tailed monkey, which had been caught in a trap. To 
my surprise, one of my companions went and liberated the ani- 
mal, although the natives usually hate these monkeys, on account 
of the damage that they do in their plantations. In reply to my 
question why he had not killed such a mischievous animal, he 
replied: »I belong to the clan of the long-tailed monkey, and it 
was therefore my duty to help her when in distress. If I had 
found her on my fields, I should certainly have killed her, but 
out here in the woods she does no damage, and it is not her 
fault that she got caught in the trap.» 

The natives think that totem-animals help their human kins- 

The Clan system and Totemism I2i 

men on occasion, as is clear from what is related above about 
the lion (p. ii8). 

The dances of the Akamba have no connection with their 
totem-animals. In the descriptions of the initiation ceremonies, we 
have seen that candidates during the ceremonies are looked upon as 
animals — baboons; yet I have not been able to discover that 
this conception has anything to do with totemism. 

In this connection it may be pointed out that the totem sy- 
stem has nothing at all to do with the fact that several clans — 
or individual families within certain clans — do not eat the flesh 
of the bushbuck (ndzaaia), although that animal is not their totem. 
Such a partial prohibition is, for example, laid on the mda-atit'i. 
It is only that they are persuaded that, for some reason or other, 
the meat is injurious. For the same reason, certain families in the 
Machakos district do not eat the flesh of the hartebeeste i^gondi), 
and cannot be persuaded to touch the flesh of this antelope. On 
the other hand, the bushbuck is the totem of the mba-hpumbd. 

3. Relations between persons of the same totem (clan). 

(The social side of the totem system.) 

Although, in the case of men in a primitive state of society, 
it is very difficult to distinguish between religious and social phe- 
nomena, yet such a division has its justification, and it must be 
admitted that in practical life totemism has a much greater social 
than religious importance. In the social sphere, the most impor- 
tant expressions of. totemism are exogamy and the obligation of mu- 
tual help, the most pregnant expression of which is blood-vengeance. 

Marriage between individuals of the same clan is strictly for- 
bidden, even if the parties live in different parts of the country 
and have never heard of each other before ^. If such a forbidden 
union between members of the same clan is entered into, it is a 
very grave crime, and the culprits must submit to a process of 
purification (by means of 'gondm), which is carried out by an old 
man who is specially versed in such matters. This marriage-pro- 

^ According to Hofmann, the Akitutu constitute an exception from 
the general rule, and marry within the same clan. 

122 Lindblom, The Akamba 

hibition is easily understandable, if it is remembered that a clan 
originally springs from one man, and consequently, from the nat- 
ives' point of view, its members are near of kin. It is, however, 
to be observed that the usage is sometimes a little unsettled, and 
it may happen that a man without objection marries a girl of 
his own clan, if she belongs to a distant branch of the clan, with 
which he has nothing in common but the clan-name. In most 
cases, however, such marriages are contracted in ignorance of the 
existing kinship. If one ventured to enunciate a general rule for 
the case when marriage between members of the same clan might 
be considered permissible, it would (according to various statements 
obtained from natives) possibly run as follows: When parts of 
the same clan aro so distantly related that they do not help each 
other in paying fines for manslaughter, marriage may take place 
between individual members^. 

At the dancing festivities celebrated by the young people, a 
young man may not dance with a girl of the same mbai. This 
prohibition seems to be natural enough when it is remembered that 
the dances, which are generally celebrated at night and when the 
moon is full, usually end with sexual practices. Apart from this, 
dancing together often leads to mutual affection and marriage, 
which is out of the question between members of the same clan. 

Exogamy is the negative aspect (the »Thou shalt not») of the so- 
cial side of totemism: we now come to the positive aspect — 
»thou shalt». It is the absolute duty of the members of a clan to help 
each other in in all sorts of distress. Their most important duties 
are to bear their share in the raising of fines for manslaughter, 
and, in case of need, to revenge each other's deaths by blood- 
vengeance (of. Chap. XI). 

^ About the relations between sub-clans and the chief clan, and 
between the sub-clans inter se, Hobley writes as follows (p. 64): »Now 
originally members of these sub-divisions were not allowed to marry, 
but curiously enough they could marry back into the original stock». 
Hobley does not give any explanation of this, and during my investiga- 
tions I have not considered such a case, for which reason I shall not 
venture to offer any opinion. In the case of an insignificant sub-clan 
of iaba-mulata-i6ia, however, I have recorded a statement of a single 
individual that members may take wives from the original stock, which 
seems to support Hobley's assertion. 

The Clan system and Totemism 123 

I will cite an example of this feeling of solidarity, which is 
characteristic, although the cause was somewhat trivial. A man 
came on a visit to a place, where he happened to quarrel with 
another man. Some friends of the latter came up and were about 
to settle accounts with the stranger, but he was undismayed and 
shouted: »Come on then, enemies to ... . — and here he mentioned 
the name of his clan — here you shall see one who is not afraid !» 
There was by chance among his assailants one of the same clan 
as the stranger, and when he heard that they were clan-kinsmen, 
he immediately went over to the stranger's side, and helped him 
against his own friends! 

4. Further peculiarities of particular clans. 

Among other characteristic peculiarities of particular clans, I 
have made a record of the following: 

All the members of the anhu- clan are considered to have 
the misfortune to possess the kxcem, that is to say »the evil eye». 
It is born with them, and they themselves have nothing to do 
with it. Yet it can be employed by an ill-disposed person in ter- 
rible ways. Those who belong to the clan cannot praise anything 
or anybody which they are looking at without its leading to 
misfortune for the person or thing praised. An expression of ad- 
miration of e. g. a herd of cattle is enough to bring sickness or 
death down upon the animals. In order to turn away ill-luck, a 
mivanzm spits when he expresses admiration of anything. Generally 
speaking, spitting has a religious-magical significance among many 
peoples in Africa, even outside the Bantu groups. 

Belief in the »evil eye» is met with, I think, all over the 
world, even among civilised peoples, and seems to be as old as 
humanity itself^. It is necessary, however, to distinguish between 
the intentional and the unintentional evil eye, with the latter of 
which we have to deal in our case here. In their effects both 
are identical. 

^ Cf. R. An dree, Ethnographische Parallelen und Vergleiche, p. 
35. Inter alia. A. says (p. 44): >In Schotland kannte man das bose 
auge als The ill ee (The evil eye); man glaubte, dass es in bestimm- 
ten familien vorkomme und in diesen erblich sei. Der besitzer ver- 
wandte es gegen seine feinde, aber man konnte es auch gegen be- 
zahlung zur rache an dritten personen verwenden». 

124 Lindblom. The Akamba 

One of the largest clans is anzaum, which is specially known 
for its beautiful girls. There is, however, one drawback, and that 
is that a woman of this clan brings ill-luck on the man that 
makes her his wife. According to the natives' own account, it is 
very usual for a man who has taken a wife from this clan to die 
a few months later without any ostensible cause. This might 
lead one to think that these ill-starred girls would find it difficult 
to get married, but this is by no means the case; the temptation 
to marry them is too great, on account of the good looks they 
generally possess. 

Further, we have amwcsi, whose ancestor, as has been men- 
tioned, is said to have been called imvcBi ('moon'). They may not 
sweep out the hut on the last day of the month, insofar as the refuse 
may not be thrown out of the hut on that day, but only swept 
together in a heap. 

Next we come to the niba-kipumbd . Their women may not 
make pottery, a task which otherwise falls to the lot of the women 
among the Akamba. 

It is not seldom found that the peculiarities distinguishing cer- 
tain clans are put to practical use. A task of the sun clan, among 
the Bechuana, is to produce sunshine on dull days. Of especial 
interest are the »intichiuma» ceremonies among the aborigines of 
Australia, by means of which the members of some animal clans 
think that they are able to increase the supplies of the animal 
which is their totem ^. Traces of a similar utilitarian employment 
of a clan's members I have found in two cases among the Akamba. 
The above-mentioned asi, of the lion clan, can heal burns. A 
musi must, with an empty stomach, chew the leaves of Cajanus 
indicus (Kik. 7nusu) and then smear his saliva on the burn. In 
this connection must be mentioned also mba-rnbua (inbua = 'rain'). 
In times of severe drought in Ulu, it was formerly customary to 
sacrifice a child to the spirits (cf. Chap. XII). It is characteristic 
of the members of this clan that they are very fond of bathing, and 
are not afraid of the coldest water. When infants are washed by 
their mothers, they generally make grimaces, but the little ambua 
only laugh, and thoroughly enjoy themselves in the water. 

^ Cf. Spencer and Gill en, The Northern Tribes of Central Au- 
stralia, p, 283 ff. 

The Clan system and Totemism 125 

According to tradition, the oldest clan is mba-knmu or inba- 
aimu {aimii = 'spirits of the forefathers'), who trace their descent 
back to the earliest human beings. According to the myth, Mu- 
lungu, the Supreme Being, who has created all things, cast the 
man and woman from which the clan was descended down from 
heaven. They fell down on Nsaui, a rock south-east of the province 
of Kilungu, and the clan is called inba-mulata-tQia {%Qia 'stone'). An- 
other name is mba-acEi. Even in play, it is forbidden to take up a 
child of this clan in one's arms and swing it, otherwise it will 
immediately rise into the air and disappear. 

In olden times, when a severe drought was experienced in 
East Ukamba, it was usual to sacrifice a child of the clan to the 
spirits of the forefathers ^. 

Apart from the above-mentioned taboo and prohibitions, which 
are binding on the whole clan, there are innumerable other pro- 
hibitions, which affect perhaps only single families. Strictly speak- 
ing, these have nothing to do with the clan system, and are alto- 
gether distinct from the restrictions of totemism, but they deserve 
some mention in connection with a treatment of such phenomena, 
if only to show that, when we meet with such cases, we must 
not be misled into formulating from them general rules for the 
whole clan. I will only cite a single example. As we have seen, 
when a child is born in Ukamba, a great feast is held, an ox is 
killed, and beer-drinking is indulged in. In the Machakos district, 
however, there is a large family of the mba-kipumbd clan which 
does not observe this custom. The reason for this is simply that 
this family once lost three infants one after the other, which disas- 
ter was considered to be due to the observance of the custom, 
for which reason it was changed. As is well known, the native 
can extremely seldom find a natural explanation of the misfortunes 
which afflict him. The case is also of interest as showing how a 
custom can arise; for it is a fact that, in spite of the tenacity with 
which natives cling to tradition, changes are often made when 
circumstances seem to warrant it ^. 

^ Cf. »Religion», Chap. XII, for further particulars. 

- According to my experience customs may be divided into three 
kinds: i. those in force over the whole tribe, 2. those in force among 
single clans (mostly prohibitions), 3. those in force in single families 
(self-imposed prohibitions). 

ia6 Lindblom, The Akamba 

5. The admission of individuals to a clan. 

A stranger can be admitted to a clan. He and the head-man 
of the family to which he wishes to be admitted both strike the 
so-called c\an-ktp!iiu (see Chap. XI: 3), promising to avenge each other's 
deaths and in case of need to pay their shares of the cattle which 
must be delivered by way of fine in the case of manslaughter; in 
one word, to fulfill all the obligations of a member of the clan. 
The new-comer now belongs as completely to the clan as if he 
had been born in it, and consequently he cannot choose his wife 
from among its members. In the most westerly part of Ukamba 
live some Akikuyu; some of them work for wealthy Akamba, 
and some have come there because they thought there were 
too many white settlers in certain parts of the Kikuyu country. 
Most of these strangers have gained admittance to Kamba clans. 

On the other hand, it would seem that an individual cannot 
be expelled from his clan; at least none of those whom I asked 
about the matter knew of any case. They thought that such a 
procedure would bring grave misfortunes down on the clan. 

Sometimes the Akamba are heard to refer to a Kikuyu man as a 
member of such and such a Kamba clan, without his having been 
admitted to it. The reason for this is that some Kikuyu clans 
are said to be identical with others in Ukamba. Annrn is said to 
be the same as anhu, and to possess the same »evil eye». The 
two words are, indeed, identical, but on the other hand, their 
totems are different. According to Hobley, the former clan has 
»the elephant and all birds », the latter a small black bird, 
kmdald. The names of other Kikuyu clans given by Hobley pre- 
sent no resemblance to those of Kamba clans ^. K. Dundas also 
states that »many of the Kikuyu' clans claim descent from cer- 
tain particular tribes, thus . . . the Akkachiko and Achera from 
the Kamba » ^. 

^ C. V. Hobley, Kikuyu medicines, p. 82. 

" K, R. Dundas, Notes on the origin and history of the Kikuyu 
and Dorobo, p. 136. 

The Clan system and Tolemism 127 

6. The taboo=ing and worship of animals of 
non-totemistic origin. 

The confusion of totemism with animal-worship and other similar 
phenomena is often met with in literature dealing with such subjects ^. 
»Le totemisme (sous son aspect religieux) est de la zoolatrie; mais 
toute zoolatrie nest pas du totemisme », says van Gennep aptly. 

As we shall see, animal-worship is not practised directly by 
the Akamba, but only indirectly. In order to avoid misunderstand- 
ing and to emphasize strongly the difference, however, it may be 
mentioned here, while dealing with totem animals, that there are 
a number of animals which, although they are not totems, may 
not be killed or eaten. Such animals may be divided into two groups: 

i) individual animals, which are held to be reincarnations of 
ancestors' spirits; and 

2) whole species, which, for different and often unknown rea- 
sons, have been taboo-ed. 

A python (itq) which comes to a village is not killed, but 
milk is set out for it, since it is considered to bring good luck 
and increase to the cattle; this belief is shared by many Bantu 
tribes. Some Akamba do not seem to know any reason for the 
custom. According to others, again, the atmu, or spirits of de- 
parted kinsmen, sometimes take up their abode in a python or 
green mamba (ndan), and for this reason these snakes are not killed, 
when they are found in the neighbourhood of the villages. If we 
compare the attitude assumed towards pythons by other Bantu 
tribes, everything points to the fact that this is the correct explana- 
nation of the way in which they are treated. In passing, it may 
be pointed out that we have here an example of the fact that the 
origin of a custom may be forgotten, while the custom itself con- 
tinues to exist. On the other hand, a python which is encountered 
in the woods is killed out of hand. All pythons are not inhabited 

1 Soderblom sums up briefly and succinctly the difference 
between totemism and animal- wo rship : »i) As a rule totemism embraces 
a whole species, while animal- wo rship is confined to a single animal. 
2) The totem animal is sacred to its clan, the worshipped animal to 
any number of people. » N. Soderblom, Ofversikt af Ailmanna reli- 
gionshistorien, p. 11. 

128 Lindblom, The Akamba 

by spirits, but only those that, by going into a village, show that 
they indubitably take a special interest in it^ 

Tortoises (jignj) are not eaten, and if a youth, for example, 
should eat one, his fellows sing lampoons about him, calling down 
curses upon him. A man who has eaten a tortoise finds it difficult 
to get a wife, and yet the tortoise does not seem to be regarded 
as an unclean animal. 

What has been said about the tortoise, also applies to the 
porcupine (wie), as regards some people. No doubt, this animal's 
peculiar covering places it in a unique position. 

A general characteristic among Bantu tribes is that they do 
not eat fish; fish are looked upon as being akin to snakes. 

The hammer-bird (Scopus umbretta) is not killed, and the 
natives do not even dare to climb up into the tree in which it 
builds its great nest. To do so would bring on the disease called 
musa/d, a sort of eruption. 

Various other animals are regarded in a similar light. Some 
are bearers of omens and are therefore not killed; chief of these 
is the woodpecker, '^gomakonii^ . 

7. Rudiments of a matriarchal community. 

Among Bantu peoples, even among tribes that reckon relationship 
exclusively through the male, isolated customs are met with, which sug- 
gest the matriarchal system. Probably we are here in the presence of 
survivals from olden times; at least there seem to be no signs of 
a development towards a system of mother-right, while on the 
other hand, there are no objections to looking upon descent through 
the male line as the younger system^. 

^ Cf. further » Religion », Chap. XII: i. 

- Cf. further Chap. XIII: 6, XIV: 3 and G. Lindblom, Ofvertro 
och liknande forestallningar rorande djur bland Ost-Afrikas negrer, speci- 
ellt bland Kamba-stammen. In this paper, a considerable number of 
animals are considered. A considerable, though somewhat unsifted, mass 
of material for comparison is found in J. Weissenborn 's Tierkult in 
Afrika. Although W. takes the term animal-worship in a wide meaning, 
yet he mentions nothing of totemism in Africa. 

^ On mother-right in Africa, see A. H. Post, Afrikanische Juris- 
prudenz, p. 13 ff. 

The Clan system and I'otemism 1 29 

Anioiii^ the Akamba, I ha\ e foiincl the following; features indi- 
cative of matriarchate : 

I. A man's position in respect to his mother's brother is 
peculiar in several respects: 

a. About his relations to his mother's brother's wife and 
daughter see p. 95. 

b. At the division of blood-mone}-, the brother of the 
mother of the victim receives one cow (see Chap. XI: i). 

c. In the festivities which are celebrated in honour of a young 
and brave warrior, after his return from a successful expedition, 
the mother's brother plays an important part (see Chap. XII). 

d. In Kikamba » uncle > (mother's brother) is inavia, which 
word is employed as the reply to a greeting between cousins 
(the children of the mother's brother). 

II. If anyone happens to kill his own child, lie pays damages 
to its mother (see Chap. XI: i). It is unknown to me whether, in 
such a case, the child's uncle (mother's brother) interferes, as 
happens sometimes in other places. 

III. If, as I think ver\- probable, matriarchate has really once 
existed among the Akamba, we might, further, expect to find 
some traces of it in such an ancient and original institution as 
totemism. Indeed, I venture to beliexe that I have found such 
traces, nameh- the following: 

The prohibitions (taboo) which are imposed upon a certain clan, 
also become binding upon the man who takes his wife from that 
clan. Thus, if I marry a woman of mba-asi, I ma\' no longer 
touch liver; if my wife is of the mmucei: clan, I may not clean up 
the hut on the last day of tlie month; and so on. The prohibi 
tions are not, however, binding on the children of the marriage ; 
they belong to the father's clan in everything. For example, a 
woman of niba-asi may not eat liver, nor ma\' her husband, but 
the children may do so. 

8 The Clan Marks. 

Clan marks are used on horned cattle, arrows, and bee-hives. 

a. Clan marks on cattle. Such a mark is called kiQ 
(< oa to mark with the clan mark') and is branded on the ani- 
mal's skin with a glowing iron. Originally these marks were certainK' 

Arch.Or. L indblom 9 


Lindblom. The Akamba 

employed for practical purposes, to indicate ownership and pre- 
vent theft. In the old days, the Akamba were incorrigible cattle 
thieves, and even stole from each other. In more recent times, 

Clan marks for cattle. 




17. (Cpa'gga (i — 2 sides). 18. ak^ptimba (on both sides). 

19. anzaunt^. ao. ambua. 2,1. repa^ga (on both sides). 

22. afaggiva ma mha kateti (on both sides). 

the practice seems to have improved considerably, and the natives 
themselves say that the reason is that times are safer. They no 
longer dare to steal cattle for fear of the P^nglish Government, 

I employ the term »clan mark», although it would perhaps 
be better to say » family mark», since every head-man of a family 
seems to have his special mark. If the natives are asked anything 

* Goats and sheep are said to be marked in the same manner. 
Hobley gives a great many clan mari<s for cattle (Akamba etc. p. 24). 

The Clan system and Totemism 131 

about a certain mark, however, they always reply that it is a km 
for such and such a clan; so that from the mark it is possible 
to see to which clan a family belongs^. Hence the expression 
»clan mark > seems to be fully justified. Yet, great confusion 
prevails concerning the use of these marks, partly because they 
are no longer necessary, and partly for other reasons. For 
instance, if a large number of a man's animals die without any 
discoverable cause, he possibly comes to the conclusion that it is 
his kw that has brought him his bad luck, for which reason he 
chooses another. I have been told that he then often takes that 
of his mother's family. Or he contents himself with simply mak- 
ing an alteration in the old one. The ataf^gwa, in the district of 
Machakos, have two parallel curves on the animal's two sides (see 
fig. 22). As, however, once upon a time many calves belonging to 
one family died, their animals were marked only on one side thereaf- 
ter. In many respects, these marks are becoming decorations pure 
and simple, which appears from the fact that, if a man sees a k%q 
which appeals to him, he just imitates it. This contributes, of 
course, further to increase the confusion. 

Only horned cattle are marked with the kw. It is seldom 
that all the animals are marked, but the proportion marked de- 
pends upon the whim of the owner ^. As a rule, goats and sheep 
are marked (cut) only on the ears, and only exceptionally in the 
same way as the horned cattle. 

The Masai, the Akikuyu, and the Atharaka, the Akamba's 
neighbours, employ similar property-marks^. Probably they were 

^ Hobley says the same, ibid. p. 22. 

^ With regard to this point, Hobley (p. 22) makes a reservation, for 
which I have found no confirmation: »Curiously enough, all the cattle 
are not branded, but usually only those sent away to buy a wife with, 
or those paid as blood-money for a death ». On the other hand, it seems 
to me quite probable that among the marked cattle are aKo those 
used for the purposes mentioned by Hobley. In the event of their 
having to be returned to the owner, the fact that they are marked 
would prevent any confusion arising as to which they were. 

^ Merker, Die Massai (reproduction on plate I, p. 163): »Die 
marken der rinder und esel zeigen an, zu welchem geschlecht bezw. 
untergeschlecht der besitzer geh6rt». Routledge, The Akikuyu, p, 45: 
»Each clan has its own cattle-brand » . A. M. Champion, The Atharaka,. 
p. 88. 


Lindblom. The Akamha 

Clan marks on arrow heads. 










23. <i'omhd uia tnba-mululu. 24. (£0)iib,> inn mba-inai. 25. Another 

subclan of rfoiii/>.>. 26. a/e^/timiba. 27. apnfign. 28. nn'zaitm. 

29. ((taiig-aut. 30. a/ntiitii. 

The Clan system and Totemisni 










31. akltutit (Ikutha). 32. avi-a'ilu (see list B). 33. asi. 34. akitoiuio. 
35. knnij. 36. amtitfii. 37. awtm (East Ukamba). 


Lindblom. The Akaniba 

borrowed b}* the Akamba. Hobley says: »Tliey say that the 
practice of branding their cattle onl\' dates back a generation or 
two, and was copied from the Masai '. I have not found anything 

Clan marks on bee-hives. 









■ >^ 







39. a(t)ta^gwa. 40. anibiia. 41. ansaunt. 42. atmtttda. 

43. aiunkt^i (Kikumbuliii). 44. knnq. 45. an.bjt. 

46. akt/ondo. 47. aktpnmbn. 

to confirm this assertion, but I consider it very probable that the 
Akamba have taken the idea of marking their cattle from the 
Masai. Tradition and other circumstances point to the fact that they 
' Hobley. Akamba, p. 22. 

The Clan system and Totemism 135 

were originally a people of hunters, and further, according to many 
accounts, they got their cattle from the Masai. It is a fact, too, 
that, at least in the Machakos district, their cattle are for the 
greater part descended from cattle stolen from the Masai. 

b. Clan marks on arrow-heads. On arrow-heads (uOa/iu) 
the clan marks are scratched on the iron points themselves, be- 
sides which the small arrow-shafts have a special mark (cf. figs. 
23—38). On the wooden-pointed bird arrows no marks appear. 
Every clan has its special mark, which, however, varies in diffe- 
rent parts of the country. As is the case with other marks, this 
mark serves a practical purpose. Often they do not know each 
other's marks, to avoid possible imitation and consequent quar 
rels as to who has killed an animal. Since the natives are now 
forbidden to hunt the larger animals, they have no longer an}- 
reason for marking their arrows, and especially round the two 
government stations, the practice is rapidly disappearing. The 
same confusion reigns in the matter of arrow-marks as in the mat- 
ter of property-marks on cattle, and here also they are nowadays 
often used purely as decorations. The loose little wooden shaft 
especially is marked largely according to taste. 

c. The clan mark on bee=hives. The oblong wooden cy- 
linders which, with but slight variations in shape, are used as bee- 
hives over the whole of East Africa, are marked at one end with 
the owner's mark. Even within the same clan, each owner has 
his special mark (see figs. 39—51), for which reason these marks 
cannot exactly be called clan marks. These marks are sometimes 
scratched in with a knife and sometimes branded on with a glov\ - 
ing iron. 

Finally, I will add that earthenware vessels are also marked. 
These marks, however, have nothing to do with the property- 
marks; they are a sort of manufacturer's mark, and are put on 
by the women who make the vessels. All Kamba women are not 
experts at pottery- work. 

If we compare the three different sorts of marks — those on 
cattle, those on arrows, and those on bee-hives — we find that 
they do not seem to present any definite likeness to eacii 
other. According to the accounts of some, which I men- 
tion with reserve, cattle and bee-hives originally had the same 


Lindblom, Vhc Akaniba 

9 List of clans and their totems 

A. Machakos 



I. aiieni^, .sj>. uiuneui 

2. an-auni, .sj>. munzauni 

The jackal {nibm'd) 

3. ansiu, s<j[. tiiunziu 

The kmdaii bird (Dicrurus) 

4. aivim 

The hyena {mbiti) 

5. toonib,), .s<4. mxi'iovilh) 

Tlie long-tailed monkey (^gima) 

a) ffomb) ma mba-niai 

b) » » » -niululu 

6. ahpumb.) or aknmi 

The bushbuck (ndwaia) 

^ \ apanga or 

^ ■ i 'fpaMa, sg. mialiaiiga 

Sand containing iron {hied) 

8. ceta'ggzua, sg. mmta^igzva 

The baboon {^guh or */<7^) 

a) ata^gzva ma inba mule/a 

The hawk {nibulusHi) 

eller ;w^« Ug^i'^^g^^^f^ 

b) ata^gzva ma mba kateti 

c) » » ' miijxek.) 

d) » » ^ mnkuda 

9. «J?, SJ>. 7////J/ 

The lion {mmiuimbii) 

10. awm 

» » 

1 1 . ahtutu 

The hawk (^mbulusxa) 

12. <?/7£7, sg. nrntcvi 

13. amivn or annocei 

14. akUondo 

The crow i^gu^gim) 

a) ahtondo ma mba mbuh 

b) » » » ntiimba 

I 5 . amumoni 

The wild fig-tree {nmmo) 

16. ambua, sj^,. niumbiia 

17. akitno 

\ (otvani or 

( (P/ivam, sg. munvani 

} Tlie leopard (g^''^) 

19. amunda, sg. mumunda 

a) mba-mu^ejna 

b) niba-nzalu 

20. amuti 

21. amtitiei 

The secretary bird {ndei) 

22 . «<^i or mba-mulata-i^ha or >«/5rt- 

knmii or mba-anzikwa 

23. antiuntiii 

Porcupine (nl«) and bat {tiCmOu) 

^ atreni is the clan's name = niba-at^ent; mtsaimi or mbn-auzaiini tVc. 

The Clan svsteni and Totemism 137 

collected by the author, 


The founder of the tribe is said to have come from the ste])pe 

in the west {rcnem 'on the steppe). 
Very large clan. 
Large clan; the name from adj. -root -lu (black), in the n-class ntru. 

(Originally from Kilungu. Large clan. 

Founder of the clan called k>fmmb<). 

Founder of the clan was a smith, he got iron from the sands of the 
rivers (magnetite), cf. mupa»ga sand'. 

From le/a 'to hover in the air like a bird in search of pre}''. 

From 7fmku0a nail'. v 

Do not eat liver. 

Nearly related to the above. 

mutun smith'. Founder a smith. 

inwcei 'moon'; name of the founder, who was born at lull moon. 

mbuhy more usually mbia goat'. 

< mnmo wild fig-tree'. Formerly the same family as nr. 6. Foun- 

der born at the foot of such a tree, therefore called inntno. 

< mdua rain'. 
<k>tuo 'shoulder'. 

< mxviiva thorn'. 

Cf. munda 'tilled field'. 

amutce\ from ^>de^ (root -tei). 

Cf. aimu 'forefather's spirits'; t'ka stone'; ]nka 'bury" (from 
kisuaheli .o/k(7:). 

munent 'a member of the clan of nttem\ 

C38 Lindblom, The Akamba 

marks. According; to Merker, the hunting tribe of tvandorobo had 
the same mark on bee-hives and arrows^. 

Have these marks anything to do with the totem, or were 
they really the original totem mark? Only one mark seems to 
speak in favour of this, namely, the lion-paws which the asi^ (lion 
clan) set on their arrow-heads (see fig. 33). A similar case is that 
of the wolf clan among the Delawares, who painted a wolf-paw 
on their huts^. 

B. Kikumbuliu (district of Kibwezi). Of the above-men- 
tioned clans, I have, from this district, noted nos: 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 
10, 13, 14. 16, 19. Additions: ammlu, ^v\i-Qi2ia o{ (vombd {aotnbd), 
which is said to come from Nsaui in Kilungu; akttondo (14) are 
also called mba-'ggu'ggtm (cf. above 8) here. 

Further, anlh, which clan Hobley includes in his list of the 
Mumoni clans. 

C. Ikutha District. Of A I have here found nos: i, 2, 3, 
4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 1 1, 14, 15, 18, 21, 22. The acBi are also called aeim, the 
locative form; anzi (see B) is here called andi_. 

O^ (^ombJ is here found the sub-clan aw?/?/, presumably =amwtlu 
(B). The asi (9) are here also called mba-mule-itema {lea 'refuse', 
and %tema 'liver'). 

D. Kitui District. Here are found, besides many of the 
above-mentioned clans, ttiba-kUitku and the large clan of viba-'ggo. 
kitiiku (quiver decoration of ostrich feathers) is the name of the 
founder of the clan, as is also the case with ^go 'leopard'. This 
clan must not be confused with the crivani (A 1 8), the totem of which 
is the leopard. What the totem of the clan itself is, I do not 

E. Mumoni. In this part of the country, I have found two 
clans which seem to be otherwise unknown: ay^gokt and kana, or 
acei. The latter, however, is found also in the district of Kitui. 
Its totem is a small green parrot {yi^givcBi). The an^i (B, C) are 
here said to be a sub-clan of aimvcs\ (A 13). 

' M. Merker, Die Massai, p. 226. 

- Frazer. Totemism and Exogamy I, p. 30. 

The Clan system and Totemism 139 

10. The origin of the totem system among the Akamba. 

The difficult and much-discussed problem of the origin of the 
totem I will only briefly touch upon, and concerning the Akamba, 
I will in much subscribe to the following expression of opinion by M. 
P:n Nilsson^: »For my part, I am largely inclined to support the old 
view that the totem originated from the names by which the pri- 
mitive tribes used to designate each other. These names were quite 
naturally taken from surrounding natural objects, and especially from 
the animal world, with which savages are so well acquainted. From 
the principle of the magical connexion between a name and its 
bearer — according to the primitive conception, a person not 
only has a name, but he is what he is called — the various phe- 
nomena of totemism can easily be explained, particularly the funda- 
mental idea of mutual connexion between a group of persons 
and the species of animal or the class of objects or the natural 
phenomena which bear the same name». This name-theory, however, 
must not be confused with H. Spencer's rationalistic explanation, 
that totemism is founded upon a mistake: the memory of a fore- 
father, »the wolf», fades in the course of time, so that in the end 
the belief emerges that a wolf really was the founder of the clan. 

At the beginning of the chapter, I mentioned that a clan seems 
to originate from a single man, whose name (sometimes his occu- 
pation) was often afterwards associated with the name of the animal 
or object which is the totem of the clan. Thus the founder of 
the clan of amwcex was called mwc^i ('moon'). The amumom 'those 
at the fig-tree', are said to spring from a certain mnmo (fig-tree), 
and so on. 

The old assumption that the sacredness of the totem animal 
is due to the fact that it is believed to be the habitation of the 
spirits of the forefathers, seems now to have been generally aban- 
doned in science. As far as the Akamba are concerned, I venture 
to think that I have shown with sufficient clearness that no such 
belief exists among them, even if there are circumstances which, 
on a superficial consideration, support the idea. 

1 Primitiv religion, p. 44. 

140 Lindblom, The Akaniba 

II. Fictitious Relationship. 

A. Among the Akamba themselves. Another class of re- 
lationship is that of sworti brotherhood. Just in the same way as 
the bonds of natural relationship are very strong and the feeling 
of affinity within the family (clan) stands out in violent contrast 
to the old hostility and dissension between the different parts 
and districts, so does sworn brotherhood unite men with strong 
bonds. If two men wish to become blood-brothers, the prelimi- 
nary step is the mutual exchange of presents, consisting of beer 
and goats, which latter they kill and consume together. The final and 
conclusive ceremony consists in their meeting in the hut of one 
of them: a calabash of beer is produced, out of which they alter- 
nately take mouthfuls of the liquid, which are then ejected back 
into the vessel. Then each makes a slight incision in the back 
of the right hand, and sucks the blood which wells forth from the 
hand of the partner. The blood brotherhood is now sealed, and 
if either of them afterwards breaks it, he will be overtaken b}- 
misfortunes and certain death. Even if both should tire of the 
friendship, they cannot sever the bond without incurring calamitous 

This relationship seems to be equally binding and to have 
the same consequences as the natural relationship, of which it is 
probably an imitation. The children of the parties look upon 
each other, and are looked upon, as brothers and sisters, and may 
not marry together. Two men united by such a bond are under 
the obligation to render each other mutual help. If one of the 
foster-brothers is a party in a law suit, or if he is charged 
with some crime, the other appears at the trial, even if he has 
important affairs of his own to see to. For example, if the son 
of one of them receives a blow at the dancing place — during 
the dancing, the youths engage in violent rivalry for the favour of 
the girls, and hence blows are often exchanged — the sons of 
the other family come to his assistance. 

B. With individuals of another tribe. The above account 
applies to sworn brotherhood between two Akamba. but if a Kamba 
desires to become a blood-brother with a man of another tribe, 
the following is the method of procedure: 

The Clan system and Toteniism 


A goat is killed and cut into pieces. The two men make a 
little scratch on the inter-clavicular notch and on the chest. The 
blood which issues is caught on pieces of the goat's flesh, and each 
man eats a piece with the other's blood upon it. b^om the goat's skin 
are cut rings, which they place on each others fingers. The cere- 
mony has the same effect as an oath > sworn over a strong k^Jntur , 
and the breaking of such an oath brings with it death (see Chap. XI: 3). 
They are now as brothers born of the same mother, show each other 
the greatest hospitality, and one of them cannot deny the other 
anything , said an old man to the author. Should one of them 
be killed while on a visit to his blood-brother, the latter claims 
the blood-fine from the culprit. 

When the Akamba used to pass to and from the coast for 
trading purposes, the cunning Swahili and Arab traders used to 
profit by this custom, by entering into blood-brotherhood with them, 
and then the Akamba would sell their ivory cheap to their new 
kinsmen. Although they had reached a higher stage of civilisa- 
tion, this was the only way in which the people of the coast could 
cheat the washenzi» (the savages'), for the latter possessed too 
much business capacity. But the otherwise greedy Akamba's con- 
ception of the significance of blood-brotherhood caused them to lose 
sight of their own advantage. 

Another variant of sworn brotherhood, which probably exists 
both between two Akamba and between a Kamba and a man 
of another tribe, is the following: 

A person who is sorely persecuted by an irreconcilable enemy, 
who aims at his life, can not only save his life but even turn his 
foe into a friend, if he can manage to get an opportunity of 
sucking the breast of his wife or daughter, even though the latter 
may be but a child'. The two then become more than friends: 
they regard one another as brothers-. Their children may not 
marry, but on the other hand, they may have sexual intercourse, 

^ Among several peoples women are regarded, in a way, as asy- 
lums, according to E. Westermarck » probably from fear of the magic 
power attributed to their sex». See W:s article Asylum in Encycl. of 
Religion and Ethics. 

- We should rather expect, from this .'jymbolic suckling, that the 
relation would be that of father to son. 

143 Lindblom, The Akamba 

which, of course, is out of the question between real sisters and 
brothers, or between members of the same clan. It seems that no 
other obligations, such as mutual help &c, are imposed on the 

Another method of entering upon a sort of sworn brotherhood 
is mentioned by Hildebrandt, but it has not been met with by the 
present author. It consists in the smashing of a small earthen- 
ware vessel, specially made for the purpose. By the performance 
of a certain ceremony, the bond thus formed can subsequently be 
dissolved by one of the parties, without the knowledge of the 
other ^. 

^ See further Hildebrandt, Ethnographi.sche Notizen, p. 386. 

Chapter IX. Social Organisation. 
I. Age- and Rank^Classes. 

The terms for persons of the opposite sexes, of different ages 
and social grades within the community, are as follows: kana 
'child', kaQ'hsi 'little boy', k'iGm 'boy', kizlcetiu 'little girl', mwttu( 
'girl' (also a young wife who has not yet had a child), imvanak<) 
'young unmarried man, warrior', iidcel<) 'young married man', kiGcstr 
wife with children', mutumm 'elderly man'. This classification 
is, however, very general, and more detailed explanations and 
additions are necessary. 

No special test or ceremony is required for a kiOisi to be- 
come a rnwanakd. The circumcision feasts have nothing to do 
with it. It is his general maturity, or, let us say, the beginning 
of puberty, which decides the question, and when his father thinks 
him old enough and intelligent enough, he gives him the orna- 
ments which are distinctive of a mwanakd, and then he soon 
gains recognition as such. Hence the assumption of the orna- 
ments is not enough in itself, and if a very young boy should 
appear decked out in them, he would not become a mwanak,> 
on that account. 

Even a married man remains a mtvatiakd, as long as he takes- 
part in the dances of his unmarried contemporaries. When he 
grows tired of them, or ceases to take part in them for some 
other reason, he is looked upon as a nbceld. The birth of his 
first child might perhaps be looked upon as a determining factor. 
Mr Hobley says, incorrectly, that »a nthele can only have one 
wife»^. The number of wives plays no part in these distinctions, 
but is purely an economic question. It sometimes happens that 
a well-to-do man buys a wife for his son, while the latter is still 

^ C. V. Mobley, Akamba &c, p. 49. 

144 Lin db loin. The Akamba 

a kiOisz (though he must have been circumcised). For the same 
reason, it is possible for a mwaiiako to have two or more wives, 
although it does not very often happen. A woman does not 
become a kiOcsti immediately on her marriage, but is still called 
vmntui, till her first child is born. 

Age-classes and rank-classes above ndcelo are composed of 
4.iUim\a (sg. mutuvna '). The above classifications can, strictly speak- 
ing, only be considered as classifications of age-classes. Now, we 
meet besides with a social grade, since anyone who wants to be a 
mutuuna must make a payment to those who are already muttitn^a. 
This dignity is usually reached at an age of 40 to 50. There are, 
however, younger atuima, and, on the other hand, there are middle- 
aged men who have not yet made their payments. Out of politeness, 
these are, however, called mtituima in everyday speech, although 
the}- have not yet attained that dignity. The outward sign of a 
mutuvna is the little round stool (rnumhii), which he carries every- 
where with him, usually hanging by a chain over his shoulder. 
When he wants to sit down, he places the stool on the ground. 
Younger men have no right to use such stools". However, all 
atumia are not on the same level. The highest in rank are those 
who administer the government of the country and watch over 
the religion, attimta ma nzama and atmma ma i[>cembo. They 
carry a pronged staff {maka) as a symbol of their dignity. If 
anyone else ventures to carry one, he runs the risk of being 

According to their rank, the atumia consume different parts 
of the animals which are killed at public feasts and on the places 
of sacrifice. The attainment of a higher grade among the atu- 
mia is chiefly a financial question. The lowest grade is easily 
reached by the presentation of a goat to the members of the nzama. 
The person concerned has now the right to eat a goat's head, and 
is called mutumm iva mutzvo (^mutumta of the head'). The next 

^ Among the Akikuyu, the neighbours of the Akamba to tlie west, 
mutuuna curiously enough means »a married woman who has at least 
one circumcised child ». 

- The stools are often prettily wrought; I shall revert to the subject 
more fully in the description of the material culture of the Akamba. 
Hobley has pictures of some fine specimens (p. 34), He does not, 
however, emphasize the fact that they may be used only by afumw. 

Social Organisation 145 

step is to bring a bull, which entitles him to the meat of the 
animal's lower leg. Another bull gives him the right to the upper 
parts of the leg. When he is in a position to present still one 
more, he advances a step further, to the loins and brisket. Some 
time usually elapses before he advances further than this. How- 
ever, a fourth bull entitles him to eat from the hump of cattle 
{k%ad)^ which is considered a great delicacy. A fifth and last 
step now remains: another bull must be paid, before he may eat 
of the tongue and head of cattle. Further he cannot advance, 
for a mutuntia of the fifth grade has gained the right to eat all 
kinds of meat, that is to say there is no one of higher rank than 
his. To pass through the different grades in this manner is called 
kukula, and in East Ukamba kukusa. Of course, everyone cannot 
attain to the highest grade. It is not permissible for anyone to 
touch the meat which falls to the share of those of higher grades, 
even if the latter are not taking part in the feast. Their portion 
is, in that case, put away, and taken to their village by the anakd, 
who, on these occasions, slaughter the animals which are going to 
be eaten, and attend to the preparation of the meat. 

Women and youths also may only eat of certain parts of an 
animal, whether they are at a big public feast or at a purely 
private meal in their own family circles. To the women's lot fall 
one of the legs, the stomach, the meat on the sides of the belly 
and on the ribs {itulo), while the men take the neck, lungs, liver, 
kidneys, and heart. The last-mentioned portion and part of the 
brisket usually go to the anakd. The hams, the back, and the 
meat on the shoulder-blades {mama ia ki^uo, from kifuo 'shoulder') 
fall to the atum'ha. When the animals are slaughtered at home in 
the village, the father of a family eats from the hams, and the 
eldest son from the back. Once the latter becomes mutmma, 
the father may no longer touch the head or the hams, nor may 
he eat with the other atum'ha at public feasts any longer: it seems 
he is considered too old. 

The eating regulations now described must only be taken 
as approximately correct, since I have received very different 
statements from different persons in the course of my enquiries. 
However, that they are considered to be very important questions, 
is shown by the fact that anyone who — without permission — 
eats what does not fall to his share, can be cursed; thus, for 

Arch.Or. Lindblom 10 

146 Lindblom, The Akamba 

example, a youth who presumes to eat the head. Hence this is 
taboo for him. 

To return to a consideration of the mufumia-digmty, we have 
seen that neither age nor the number of wives possessed is de- 
cisive for promotion to a higher rank, but a necessary condition 
is payment, the animals paid being then eaten by those entitled 
to them. Hildebrandt cites something similar from the Wanika, 
on this side of Mombasa, and Schurtz correctly regards this phe- 
nomenon as a step towards the formation of clubs ^. In reality 
clubs do exist among the Akamba, though in a rather undevel- 
oped form. I allude here to what the natives call ^isuka. This 
signifies a gathering of atum^a and nbceld^ who meet together for 
amusement, to eat meat and to drink beer, which is provided partly 
by the entrance payments of new members, and partly by pur- 
chase for the k'hsuka. Those who have not made their payments 
— I to 3 goats and some beer seems to be the minimum — may 
not be present at the meeting. There are also different grades with- 
in the kisuka, which are attained in the same manner, and carry 
the same privileges, as those described above. Hence those who 
have paid only a little may not eat all sorts of meat. Unfortunately, 
I have neglected to gather information as to whether these two 
payments for attaining a higher grade are made independently of 
each other, but I think that the grade which is already attained 
in nzama entitles a man to enter a corresponding grade in k'hsuka, 
without further payment. Most of the members seem to be 
at least »men of the head», that is to say they belong to the 
lowest grade among the atum'ha. In East Ukamba the hsuka 
seems to be exclusively a sort of club, while — as we shall see 
later — in Ulu the members have duties to perform in the 
public service^. Finally I must also mention that I have not 
discovered that the k^suka is in any way of the nature of a 
secret society, either as concerns the outside world or as concerns 
the different grades inter se. Age-classes and secret societies are 

^ J. M. Hildebrandt, Ethnogr. Notizen, p. 400. H. Schurtz, 
Altersklassen und Mannerbunde, p, 133. 

" According to C. Dun das, it is, in the Kitui district, members of the 
fcisuka who carry out the burials. It seems to me that, at any rate in 
the Machakos district, this can be done by any of the older afumiOy 
whether he belongs to the kisuka or not. 

Social Organisation 147 

in no way so closely allied in East Africa as they are in West 
Africa, where the one implies the other ^. That outsiders are not 
admitted to the kisuka is due entirely to the fact that no one 
may take part in the festivities who has not contributed towards 
them. Neither are women admitted, nor may they even prepare 
the meat which is eaten at the meeting. 

There is no special hut (club-house) for these feasts, but they 
are held in different places out in the open air^. Nor is there 
any hut for the unmarried men (»mannerhaus»), though they may 
not, as a rule, sleep in their parents' huts; they must sleep any- 
where where they can find shelter. They often take refuge in 
the provision sheds {^kumbi). Among the Akamba, the nearest 
approach to a public hall is the dancing place (kiOuio), common 
to several villages, where the young people meet for dancing in 
the evenings. On the return home from these dancing meetings, 
free love is usually indulged in. 

Just as different rank-classes are found among the atumm, 
so are found among the married women {tGceti) such as take 
a higher position than the bulk of the women, namely zdcett s%a 
ipcembo or s%a nzama, who have obtained the right, together 
with the atutma, to administer the cult on the places of sacrifice 
consecrated to the spirits of their ancestors. For particulars as 
to the acquisition of this privilege, see Chap. XIII. 

It has already been mentioned in passing that the division 
into age-classes implies differences in dress and personal adornment. 
However, since these differences are of very slight importance or 
interest, they may be passed over here. I shall, instead, deal 
with these matters in the following chapters on the material culture 
of the Kamba people. 

In this chapter it may be appropriate to discuss also the con- 
ception of nka. The word is best rendered by »age-class», since 

^ Cf. Weule, Negerieben in Ost-Afrika, p. 370. 

^ The meeting huts which have begun to spring up during the 
last few years here and there in Ukamba, have come into existence 
entirely on the initiative of the English civil servants for use in legal 
proceedings and other public meetings. They are called mhalasa (from 
Kisuaheli baraza). 

148 Lindblom, The Akamba 

an nka includes approximately all persons of the same age, inde- 
pendent of sex. The word ndukd is used side by side with iika. 
The division has no connection with circumcision, as, for example, 
is the case with the age-classes among the Masai, and seems to 
have no practical significance; at least I have never heard the 
word used except when ages were being compared, when two per- 
sons who were of the same age were said to be of the same itka 
or ndukd. According to a statement which I have not checked, 
it seems, however, that in former times in the war expeditions, 
warriors of an nka formed a separate division, which, when pitching 
camp, had — among other things — its own fire, which is remi- 
niscent of what Merker calls »corporalship» among the Masai ^ The 
nka-d\.v\s\ox\ is to be met with among several tribes in British 
East Africa, as, for example, the Wataveta at Kilimandjaro, where 
the conception of irika is more exactly defined: is founded on 
circumcision, embraces a limited period of fifteen years, and is 
of practical significance". 

^ Merker, Die Massai, p. 49. 

^ Cf. Lindblom, Anteckningar ofver Taveta-folkets etnologi, p. 
160. The Akikuyu have also the word irika, which Routledge in- 
correctly renders by »clan». In the Kikuyu language »clan» is called 
muheriga: Routledge, With a pre-historic people, p. 20. K. R. Dun- 
das (Kikuyu Rika, Man 1908) gives for the Akikuyu of both sexes six 
rika or age-classes. 

Chapter X. Government and Administration. 

From early times, a patriarchal form of government has pre- 
vailed among the Akamba. Every mututma exacts obedience from 
the members of his family, and he has absolute authority over his 
sons, even long after they are grov^-n up and have families of their 
own. Questions which concern several villages or a certain stretch 
of country, that is to say, questions of more general interest, are 
dealt with and decided by a local assembly of elders, called nzama. 
There is no special leader or chairman of this assembly. Some 
descriptions of how the heads of families generally, though unoffi- 
cially, intervene to maintain public discipline, as, for instance, when 
the frenzy of dancing threatens to demoralise the young people, 
are given in my >Afrikanska stroftag» (p. 154 ff.)- There have 
never been any chiefs, although occasionally a rich person with a 
commanding personality has succeeded in attaining to the leader- 
ship within an extensive territory, as did Kivui in Kitui^. Kivui 
lived in the time of Krapf, and was personally known to him. 
He was practically a kind of chief, a position which he had gained 
through his higher intelligence and his great physical strength. 
At the same time he was a great medicine-man, and possibly pro- 
vides an illustration of Frazer's theory that kings and chiefs have 
their origin from medicine-men, whose social influence sometimes 
advances them to the position of chiefs'. He made his people 
victorious against their enemies, and many Akamba are said to 
have paid him taxes, and so even the Masai livmg at Donyo Sabuk. 

In times of war, however, experienced warriors were selected 
as leaders, the so-called asilih and aptam, but their authority was 
only temporary, and in times of peace they occupied no public 
position in the tribe. On account of their great reputation, how- 

^ Krapf, Reisen in Ost-Afrika II, p. 264. 
* Frazer, The Golden Bough I: i, p. 332. 

150 Lindblom, The Akamba 

ever, they often represented it in transactions with the Arabian 
merchants and other trading caravans which came up to Ukamba 
from the coast. They usually decided whether the caravans should 
be allowed to pass unmolested, and the leaders of the caravans 
were anxious to enter into a sworn brotherhood with them, ac- 
cording to the usual Kamba custom, so that they might thereby 
obtain protection for themselves and their property. 

The home government is in the hands of a council of the 
elders, neama, of which only atuntha are members. This corpo- 
ration is of a purely local character, and there is no authority for 
the whole country. The 7f/u^umia-grade does not in itself carry 
with it the right to a seat in the nzama, for which a separate and 
special payment is exacted. The most important function of the 
nzama is to act as a court, in which all cases are tried and decided. 
It also decides on wars of aggression (plundering raids); h'gold, 
lynching, which is practised by the Akamba, may also only be 
ordered by the nzama. Next to its duties as judging authority, 
its most important function, however, is the care and maintenance 
of the religion, the offering of sacrifices, &c. For an account of 
these matters and a description of how the aiimna share this right 
with the old women, see Chap. XIII. 

To the religious duties of the nzama pertains also that of 
carrying out the ceremony of purification, on the advent of all 
public misfortunes, such as the outbreak of epidemics, cattle- 
plagues, &c. 

These old men and women of the nzama and the ^pcembo (place 
of sacrifice) are the custodians of the tribe's traditions, in the manners 
and customs pertaining to which they are well versed. They see that 
they are maintained, and they have, on the other hand, authority to 
prevent the rise of customs which they consider harmful, and can 
even abolish customs which are already in existence. Anyone who 
is in doubt as to how he ought to proceed in a certain case, 
according to the custom of the tribe, goes to a muiumm wa nzama 
for information, for which he pays a small fee, such as a goat, 
or, if he is a rich man, a bull. 

This short description of the system of government, however, 
no longer taUies with the actual facts, since there is no sphere in 
which contact with Europeans so quickly makes itself felt on the 
old order of things as the political. Englishmen certainly follow 

Government and Administration 151 

in their colonies a principle of allowing the old order to remain as 
far as possible, and in consequence, among other things, the nzama 
still remains as the judging authority; but by the side of it, a 
system of chiefs has been established, the country being divided 
up into small districts, each having a »chief» (and under him 
> headmen »), who is responsible for the payment of the hut-tax 
within his district. At first the most influential man in a district 
was appointed chief on principle. However, since the older men 
seemed to have a difficulty in understanding and appreciating the 
reforms for which they are required to work among the people, 
during the last few years intelligent younger men, who showed a 
better understanding of the new order of things, have been appoin- 
ted. A ^government school* has been established in Kitui, and 
to it are sent the sons of these »chiefs», to learn to read and 
write, in order that they may succeed to their fathers' offices. 
Perhaps in time a hereditary chieftainship will be established in 
this way. The institution is still quite new, and most of these 
chiefs find it very difficult to assert their authority over the other 
atumia, who have never been accustomed to acknowledge any other 
authority than the nzama, of which, indeed, they were usually mem- 
bers themselves ^ 

The following little episode may serve as a typical example 
of the feeling of independence among the Akamba: Pfitzinger, 
missionary of the Leipziger Mission, who began to work among 
the Akamba about 20 years ago, at first took it rather amiss that 
the older men addressed him simply by name, without using the 
Suaheli word bwana ('master'), which is, otherwise, the usual word 
of address for Europeans in East Africa. He tried to give the per- 
sons in question a slight hint through his servants, but got the 
reply: » Among the Akamba there is no master !» Nor has the 
language any word for »master». 

^ Hobley does not treat of the system of government in his work, 
but mentions that the Akamba have chiefs, and even hereditary chiefs. 
From his description one inevitably gets the incorrect idea that chief- 
tainship is one of their original institutions, while in reality it is very 
characteristic of the political organisation of the Akamba that they have 
never had chiefs. 

Chapter XL The administration of the law 
and judicial customs ^ 

One of the most strongly predominating features of the negro's 
intellectual endowment seems to be his legal mind. Thus the 
negroes have legal customs and prescriptions connected with the 
administration of the law, which testify to extreme penetration and 
a good power of judgement. The punishments inflicted are often 
surprisingly humane and just. Negro law has, accordingly, attracted 
the attention of investigators, and many of modern Europe's jurists 
have not found it beneath their dignity to spend time in studying 
it; nay, new ideas have even been obtained from this source, which 
it has been possible to incorporate into the law systems of Europe, 
and this is of especial interest for the history and philosophy of 
law. It is scarcely necessary to add that many of the Bantu peoples' 
legal customs are not specially typical for them, but are of a 
general nature. 

To go to law iykwani) is one of the most exquisite enjoyments 
in existence for a Kamba negro, and in what a number of actions 
every old man has been a party! One of the most ingenious 
riddles of the Akamba — in their own opinion — runs thus: 
»Tell me a case which is disagreeable »; answer: »The case of him 
who has vermin in his hair». Such a riddle would, of course, have 
no meaning, unless it was generally considered rather enjoyable 
to take part in a law-suit. More than once during my wanderings, 
I have met an old man whose face was beaming with satisfaction, 
the reason for his good humour being that he was on his way to the 
law-court. For a case which is not decided, they use the expres- 
sion "hkwani yanxwa manzi 'the case drank water'. »To judge » is 

^ For a comparative study of legal customs in Africa, see the account 
— which is purely descriptive, but comprehensive and systematic — 
given by Post in »Afrikanische Jurisprudenz*. 

The administration of the- law and judicial customs 153 

sila or stlzla, but there are, on the other hand, no words for »law», 
» prescription*, &c. 

Since there are no professional lawyers, every man pleading 
his own case, at least every elderly Kamba man is familiar with 
the law and legal customs of his tribe. Although unwritten and 
only carried down by oral tradition and by practical application, 
some of these laws are constant and of general application, so 
that they well deserve to be called laws. A knowledge of them 
is one of the most important items of a negro's education. It can 
thus with good reason be asserted that, relatively speaking, judicial 
education is infinitely wider spread among the negro tribes of 
Africa than among the civilised peoples of Europe. 

The organisation of the judicial system of a people depends 
on a lower stage on its general political and social organisation. 
As has already been mentioned, the most important function of 
the nzama is to form a court which deals with and decides all 
kinds of cases. There is no superior court. The meetings usually 
take place in the open air, and a crowd of interested listeners 
flock to them. The word nzama means 'secret', and has possibly 
come to be used as the name of the court, because, after the disputing 
parties have been heard and the case debated, the oldest and 
most experienced aiufma withdraw to decide on a verdict. Little 
weight seems to be attached to the evidence of witnesses, but the 
verdict is pronounced on the evidence of the disputing parties. 
The latter do not hesitate to make wrong statements, so that it 
is a very difficult and lengthy business for the judges to arrive 
at a decision. 

The executive authority in Ulu is discharged by the k>suka 
(cf. p. 146), who have thus, when necessary, to put into effect the 
decisions arrived at by the nzama. If, for example, the plaintiff 
refuses to be present at the trial, members of the >^w«>^« go and fetch 
him. When anyone persists in disobeying, they {kisuka) may 
be ordered to impound a certain number of his goats, &c. The 
men of kisuka are present when cases are tried, and sit and listen, 
so that they may later on, in their turn, gain admission to the nzama, 
if, for example, one of its members should die. The hsuka is thus a 
preparatory institution for entry to the nzama. I have already shown 
that, in East Ukamba, the hsuka have no such official position, as in 
Ulu. However, a similar executive body is also found in the east, 

154 Lindblom, The Akamba 

though under another name, viz. nibalasa. But the foreign ring of 
the word is suspicious; probably we here have an instance of the 
attempts of the EngUsh to re-organise the native law. 

On the whole, the judicial and political life of the Akamba 
very much resembles that of their neighbours and kinsmen, the 
Akikuyu. Thus nzama corresponds very closely to kmnia (from 
the same root) among the latter. On the other hand, the Akikuyu 
seem to have, instead of hsuka, an institution called niama, »a 
practical executive police», according to Routledge^. Among the 
Wataweta also, the oldest men constitute an assembly called niama, 
which is headed, however, by the chiefs^. 

I. Criminal law. 

Blood-money and blood=vengeance. The blood-money exacted 
for a man's life in Ulu is ii cows and i bull, which latter goes 
to the nzama\ in the east it is 13 cows and i bull. In Ulu, 10 
of the cows comprise the fine for taking life and are paid to the 
man's relatives, and the eleventh cow is especially allotted to the 
widow as a sort of compensation. It is called 'gombd ya ndulota, 
'the cow of the broken bow', since it is given to the widow as 
compensation for her man's bow, which will never again, in its 
owner's hand, go out on plundering expeditions and bring home 
wealth to the village. »This cow is now your husband», the old 
people say to her, meaning that the animal will contribute towards 
her subsistence. She sells the milk, and so, if she wishes to, she 
can employ a Kikuyu man to work in the fields for her. If a man 
leaves several widows, however, only the »big» wife receives a 
'goinbd m ndulota. Of the blood-money proper — the 10 cows — 
one goes to each of the following: the murdered man's father, 
father's brother, and mother's brother. Other relations receive, 
perhaps, one between them, while the remainder go to the widow 
in trust for the children. If there are several wives, they divide 
the animals. They may not sell them, so that, when the sons 
are grown up, those may not make trouble and say that their 

^ Routledge, The Akikuyu, p. 198. 

^ Cf. C. Ho His, History and customs of the people of Taveta, in 
Journal of the African Society 1901. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 155 

property has been dissipated. They are very particular in the 
matter of cattle paid as blood-money. But if a young man who 
has as yet no children should receive part of the fine, he may with 
impunity sell the cow which may have fallen to his lot, for in 
this case there are no children to make trouble afterwards. 

It is very seldom that a murderer is in a position to pay 10 
cows himself. In by far the majority of cases he is helped by his 
relations; sometimes he only contributes a single cow himself^. 
If he is very poor and has a daughter, he can, as a last resource, 
sell his daughter to someone as a wife, and in that manner obtain 
the wherewithal to pay his fine. The first cow paid as blood- 
money must be paid by the murderer himself. Until he has done 
this, his relations will do nothing, since the payment of this animal 
shows the murderer's honest intention of settling the matter. The 
cow is called 'gombd xa wumo (< uima 'to take out, to pay down'). 
When the cow has been handed over, the widow sleeps with a 

About half as much is paid for a woman's life as for a man's 
— in Ulu 4 to 5 cows + one bull to the atMma\ in the east, 7 
cows + I bull. For children the same is paid as for adults of 
the same sex. 

The man who is unfortunate enough to kill his own child, pays 
fines to the mother and his nearest relations, since through his 
act he is considered to have injured the whole family. If a man 
kills his wife, he pays blood-money to her father, who then repays 
the bride price. The relationship between the parlies is then dis- 
solved. This, however, seems to depend upon circumstances, 
and chiefly upon whether the wife has borne her husband children 
or not. In the latter case she has not, according to the opinion 
of many, fulfilled her chief duty as wife; her father has been 
paid for her once, and has no further claim. 

It occasionally happens that a man refuses to pay blood- 
money, and it then becomes the duty of the murdered man's re- 
lations (or clan) to demand blood-vengeance on the murderer and 
his family. There is no obligation to take blood-money, and it 
seems to be rather usual for the dead man's relatives to refuse the 
fine, and to prefer to follow the principle of »a life for a life». 

^ Cf. Post, Afrikanische Jurisprudenz I, p. 71. 

156 Lindblom, The Akamba 

The younger men especially are glad to follow the old rule, while 
the older and more discreet and prudent atutrna of both parties 
try to arrange an amicable settlement. They are by no means 
always successful in this, and a state of actual war arises between 
the two families. They always go about armed, try to attack and 
burn each other's villages, &c. The prevailing insecurity, however, 
is felt by both parties, and the »war» is usually neither lengthy 
nor bloody; the battles are fought at a respectful distance, so that 
the loss of life shall not be too great. As soon as the party 
aggrieved has succeeded in killing the murderer or one of his 
relatives — blood-vengeance is only exacted from men — all excuse 
for fighting is removed, theoretically at any rate. But if they have 
killed two men, they have committed an offence, which must, in 
its turn, be avenged by the relatives of the killed men. Thus blood- 
feuds have quite a different character from other feuds. It might 
perhaps be thought that the combatants ought to be able to cry 
quits, when one man has fallen on each side, but such is not the 
case — full blood-money must be paid for both those who have 
been killed. It must be admitted, on closer consideration, that 
this is quite just. The largest share of the blood-money goes 
to the murdered man's family, who ought in all fairness to have 
some compensation for the loss they have sustained ^. 

Blood-vengeance is only exacted for crimes which result in 
death. The fines given in the following list are considered normal 
as compensation for bodily injuries caused by assault or other 
means. No amounts are absolutely fixed, but the defendant's 
economic position is taken into account; if he is a man in a good 
position, the fine is likely to be increased: 

loss of one finger i goat to i bull 

> » two fingers i bull 

» » one eye i bull + i goat 

» » one arm i cow + i bull 

» » one leg 5 cows 

» » both leijs about 8 cows. 

^ Bruize r gives a description of a family feud among the Akamba 
in Rabai, in his »Begegnungen mil Akamba» (p. 3). Since the Akamba have 
passed completely under British control, there are no longer any family 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 157 

Anyone who is slightly injured, but recovers without suffering 
any subsequent ill-effects, receives no compensation. A somewhat 
remarkable method of procedure, which is sometimes practised to 
prove a right to blood-money, is the following: 

Suppose that a person has been badly maltreated by another, 
but has recovered, without suffering any lasting ill-effects. When 
he dies, perhaps many years later, it is possible that the relations 
open the body to see whether the injury the dead man once 
suffered has possibly caused his death. If they really can prove 
that this is the case, they can claim full blood-money. The heir 
makes the first incision with his knife, at the post-mortem exa- 
mination; this possibly makes the action legal. 

Anyone sending a person on an errand or other commission 
is responsible for any accident he may suffer in the execution 
of it. A case which came within my personal experience is 
the following: An old man sent a neighbour's son home to the 
village with an axe. The boy tripped and cut his foot. They 
went to law over the matter, and the father of the boy claimed 
compensation, saying: »I did not tell my son to take your axe. 
If you had not sent him, he would not have injured himself*. 
The other man had to pay a goat. 

For rape the fine is a goat. If the woman dies as a result, 
or becomes pregnant and dies in child-birth, the full blood-money 
must be paid as for manslaughter. 

If .an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, and her lover 
cannot or will not marry her, he pays a goat. The matter is 
usually settled privately, and is not dragged before the nzavia. If 
the culprit is a youth, the girl's guardian sends another mututma 
to his father to demand a goat. The youth is asked whether the 
child is his, he does not readily acknowledge the paternity, only 
recommending that the goat be paid. The mother keeps the child. 
The reason for the smallness of the fine is that the child is 4ooked 
upon as considerable compensation. But if the woman dies while 
she is still pregnant, the lover must — at any rate in Ulu — 
pay 4 cows and i bull to her father; that is to say full blood- 

158 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Adultery. The lover usually gets off with the payment of a 
goat, even if the woman gets a child. This belongs to her hus- 
band (cf. p. 84), who soon comes to look upon it as his own. 
If the lover continues his guilty relations with the woman, he is 
said to »show contempt for» her husband, and then open hosti- 
lities are liable to break out between the relations of the two men. 
In the Kitui district, the lover has to pay a bull, not because the 
value of cattle is less there, but because the older people wish to 
prevent such irregularities. The unfaithful wife receives no punish- 
ment, except such as her husband himself thinks fit to administer 
to her. 

Illicit relations between a young man and an old woman who 
is past child bearing, are thought to result in the youth's becoming 
impotent, probably from the belief generally prevalent among pri- 
mitive peoples that »like begets like». Therefore both of them 
must undergo the u.sual ceremonial purification (with 'gondm). The 
two goats which are required for it are paid by the lover. As 
far as I know, such alliances are only exceptional and mostly take 
place by mistake. For at night a youth often steals to his lady love's 
hut and to her bed, without making a sound, so as not to wake 
the other inmates of the hut. It seems really to have happened 
that a man out for that purpose has come upon an older woman, 
who was by chance spending the night in the girl's bed. 

The fine for indulging in coition from behind is one goat; 
the parties concerned must be purified, or they will become sterile. 

Sodomy seems to be unknown among the Akamba, but occurs 
among the Masai, where, according to my Kamba informants, 
small boys use sheep for the purpose. 

Theft. Even a cursory glance at what has been written about 
the judicial system of the Bantu peoples, is sufficient to show 
that well-nigh everywhere the punishment for theft is surprisingly 
severe. It is not unusual for a thief to be condemned to death, 
though he usually gets off with the payment of heavy fines, often 
— and especially on a repetition of the offence — of many time 
the value of the stolen goods ^. We shall find similar principles 
among the Akamba. The reason for this can hardly be an appre- 

1 Cf. Post, Afrik. Jurispr. II, p. 85 ff. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 159 

ciation of the fact that it is wrong to steal, but rather a strong 
feeling of the sacredness of the property of the individual or 

The nzama can — or, strictly speaking, could, because nowadays 
it is forbidden by the government — condemn a thief to death, but 
it is most usual for him to be condemned to pay for the damage 
(usually double the value), and also to give the judges one goat 
or more, some beer, &c, in payment of costs (depending on the 
magnitude of the theft). Anyone who is not in a position to pay the 
fines, must here also have recourse to all sorts of expedients; he is 
often obliged to sell his daughter or sister cheaply, in this way to get 
together the necessary sum. Formerly capital punishment seems 
to have been inflicted more than at the present time, when it is 
scarcely ever resorted to, except in the case of an incorrigible thief. 
The thief was shot with poisoned arrows, or hung up in a tree, 
where he was allowed to remain »as a punishment and a warning 
to others». Parents used to take their children to the place and 
show them the end of a criminal, as a warning example to them. 

To a certain extent, it may be said that the Akamba difter- 
entiate between theft and petty larceny in deciding on punish- 
ments. The punishment just mentioned is only inflicted when the 
theft is of such articles as are required for everyday use, and which 
are the result of work and industry: cattle, the products of the 
field and foods prepared from them, honey, &c. Less severe is 
the punishment inflicted for the theft of such articles as are only 
used occasionally, and thus are not essential for the maintenance 
of life, and which would in any case have ceased to be in a few 
days. In these are included beer and meat, for the Akamba live 
principally on vegetables. Although they are very fond of meat 
and have large herds, they can very seldom, except on festal occa- 
sions, bring themselves to kill one of their beloved oxen, and still 
less a cow. On the other hand, a goat or a sheep is slaughtered 
now and then. Anyone stealing, for example, some pieces of meat, 
is readily forgiven, in supposing that he had such a great longing 
for meat that he could not restrain himself (something which every 
Kamba man can sympathise with). Even if the thief is discovered, 
the owner will probably not insist on proceedings being taken, but 
will often rest content with recovering the stolen goods, when a 
slaughter takes place in the village where the thief lives; and the 

i6o Lindblom, The Akamba 

incident is closed. If the case should be taken before the nzama 
by someone else, the owner would very likely simply declare that 
the matter was already settled. 

The theft of honey from the bee-hives is considered a very 
serious offence, and is very severely punished. I have recorded 
a case where a man was finefi i bull and 5 goats for it. For a 
second offence the fine is doubled, for a third trebled, and so on. 
The reason why the fines are so high would seem to be that the 
bee-hives are usually hung out in the wilds at a long distance 
from the owner's village, so that it is impossible to watch them. 
Hence very heavy fines have been fixed to protect them. A honey 
thief is an extraordinarily despicable person, and this has pene- 
trated so deeply into the national consciousness that, even if a man 
is nearly dying of starvation, he can only in extreme cases 
bring himself to take honey from the bee-hives w^ithout permis- 
sion. Honey-stealing is punished very severely also among other 
East African tribes. Thus, I was told in Taveta, near Kiliman- 
djaro, that it was formerly the custom there for the number of cells 
in the stolen honey to be counted, if it could be found, and the 
owner was entitled to demand a goat for each cell. And of the 
Akikuyu, Routledge says that » theft of honey is a recognised 
offence of a serious character* ^. 

Other punishments. The African system of punishments 
seems to be based, on the whole, on the principle of compensation, 
and the accounts given above show that most crimes can, and 
usually are, made good by fines among the Akamba also. Capital 
punishment is only inflicted on persons who are dangerous to 
public safety and hence to the whole community, such as sorcer- 
ers and incorrigible thieves. Since the establishment of the 
English rule, however, the native court cannot condemn to death. 
Imprisonment is unknown among the Akamba, but the n^ama 
used occasionally to banish people for sorcery and theft. Slavery 
has never been a native institution, and hence is not resorted to 
as a method of punishment. According to Krapf, there were many 
slaves in his time, but some were prisoners of war, and some 
were brought down from the coast. Most crimes are committed 

^ Ibid. p. 58. Among the Kimbunda in Central Africa, honey- 
stealing is considered to be one of the four worst kinds of theft. Cf. 
Post II, pp. 92, 188. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs i6i 

under the influence of drink; when sober, the Akamba have that 
respect for the law and the constitution which may be said to be 
general among the Bantu tribes. 

Torture to extort confession is only resorted to in private 
within the family circle, as for example when a husband suspects 
his wife of unfaithfulness. He makes a loop in his bow-string 
and puts one of her fingers into it — a very usual method of extor- 
ting confession in many places in Africa. Or he may hang 
her up to the roof of the hut by a tendon tied round one of her 
little fingers. 

mukod is the name given to a person who, without commit- 
ting any actual crime, for some reason or other makes himself so 
despised and hated by everybody that nobody will have anything 
to do with him. As the name implies, he is compared with saliva, 
spit {makoa), and is considered equally worthless. And still more, 
just as it would never occur to anyone to take up the saliva he 
had once spat out, so there could never be any question of allow- 
ing that man to regain the place he has lost in the community. 
Even if he should arrange a beer-drinking bout, something much 
appreciated by the older men, he could not expect to have a 
single guest. Completely isolated and boycotted, he usually can- 
not endure it very long, but moves to some distant locality, where 
he is unknown. 

The fines are the same, even if a crime is committed by a 
madman, by a drunken man, or by accident. But accidental man- 
slaughter does not give rise to a blood-feud. To kill anyone acci- 
dentally is called apa mundu na mba'gga. It appears that among 
the Akamba extenuating circumstances can hardly be said to exist, 
at least where human life is concerned. This seems to be true of 
African law in general. No consideration is paid to the motive 
for a crime or to the way in which it was committed, but only 
to the result. The damage is just the same if a person has, for 
instance, been killed accidentally or murdered. 

A man is responsible for the acts of his wife and children, 
and consequently he has to pay their fines, when they commit any 
offence. This is easily understood, since a woman has nothing to 
pay with; »her only possessions are her clothes and ornaments, 
her grave-stake and bast sacks », as a native aptly said to me. 
Although I have no records on the point, it is probable from 

ArchOr. Lindblom 11 

i62 Lindblom, The Akamba 

what has already been written, that the head of the family is also 
liable for any debts contracted by any member of it. 

2. Civil cases. 

One of the commonest sources of dispute among cattle-raising 
tribes is the cattle, and innumerable law suits occur in connec-- 
tion with them. If a man buys an animal and it dies without any 
ostensible cause, and therefore probably of a complaint it had 
before it was bought, he has the right to demand another of the 
seller. The animals skin must, however, be sent back, as well 
as something else as compensation for the meat. If the purchaser 
refuses to agree to this, the buyer proves his right by swearing on 
kipttiu (see below). In the same way, anyone who has had a cow for 
many years, can demand another in her place, if she only gives 
birth to bull-calves. The owner then says that he has »not yet 
begun to taste the milk» of the cow in question. It is not unusual 
to see the skull of a cow or a bull placed in a tree in a Kamba 
village. It is then almost certain that it is from an animal which 
is the object of a law suit still in progress. 

I once attended a law suit over cattle near Machakos, and 
the cause is so illustrative that I cannot refrain from mentioning it. 
The plaintiff had exchanged a cow, which he believed to be sterile, 
for some goats; but with her new owner the cow soon proved 
herself extremely fruitful, so that the original owner repented the 
exchange and wanted it cancelled! 

Law of inheritance. As regards the law of inheritance, 
nothing is found among the Akamba that is not also found among 
many other Bantu tribes. When a man feels that his end is near, 
he puts his house in order, tells his dependants what outstanding 
claims he has, his debts, &c. The eldest son of the »big» wife 
is heir to the cattle and other property. If she has no son of 
the »big» wife, the eldest son of the second wife takes the lion's 
share of the inheritance. If the children are under age, the father's 
brother becomes the head of the family for the time being, and, 
as such, he is the guardian of it and its property. Therefore he 
takes charge of the children and their inheritance, which he ma- 
nages; but he must hand it over to them as soon as they are 
grown up, although the brother's widow falls to him by law. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 163 

Even if the deceased was childless, the brother still does not get 
the inheritance, but only has to manage it in trust for any children 
which he may get by the widow. But if she should die childless, 
then the inheritance is his. However, if he has any brothers, part 
of it. goes to them. 

The inheriting of a dead man's wife has already been men- 
tioned (p. 84 fif.). Seen from a judicial-economic point of view, it is 
hardly surprising that, among a people that buy their wives, the 
widow should go to a deceased man's brother. She cannot simply 
return to her parents, since they have been paid for her, but she 
belongs in a way to her husband's family and family group, just 
as does a piece of property. Especially when her son (if she has 
one) is under age, she is in need of protection and support, and 
the nearest relative to aftbrd these is her husband's brother, and 
marriage is the form under which this protection is given. The 
matter does not, however, seem so self-evident when the widow 
has a grown-up son who could take care of her. It would then 
seem more suitable for the son to look after his mother. But it 
is the woman's first duty to bear as many children as possible to the 
family to which she now belongs, and therefore it seems to the prac- 
tical negro to be nonsensical that a woman, who is perhaps still in 
her prime, should cease to perform this duty, just because she hap- 
pens to have become a widow. Her son, otherwise the heir to the 
father's property, must be excluded from consideration in this 
connection, and so she falls to the nearest prominent member of 
the family — that is to say her deceased husband's brother. This 
is only a conclusion founded on general Kamba conceptions, but 
I believe that a more thorough investigation on the spot would 
make it clear why this custom prevails among the Akamba. Un- 
fortunately the question is but one of the many which present 
themselves only when one is at one's desk at home, working up 
the material collected^. My presumption that a man's inheritance 
of his brother's widow is founded, in the first place, on the con- 
ception that a woman is property — for which the family has 
made a large outlay and from which it wishes to derive as 
much benefit as possible — seems to be supported by the fact that 

^ Cf. Starcke's investigation about »The brother's inheritance* in Die 
primitive Familie, p. 164 ff. 

164 Lindblom, The Akamba 

a son can inherit one of his father's younger wives (p. 84). We 
have also seen that a father can present one of his younger wives 
to his son, during his own lifetime. In both cases a fresh outlay 
for the purchase of a wife is saved. 

Weapons, especially the chief weapons — the bow and arrows — 
are important legacies, which a dying man usually presents person- 
ally to his son. When he hands them over, he spits on them, 
which act will bring good luck to the weapons. If the father 
cannot do this before he dies, the son ought not to use them 
before the atuima — probably to avert the consequences of the 
death — have purified them with 'gondui. 

A woman only inherits her mother's ornaments and house- 
hold articles, but not real property, such as cattle and fields, since 
she herself is nothing more than »property». In reality, if she 
were able to inherit anything, it would go to a strange family on 
her marriage. 

The extensive authority which the head of a family has 
over it descends, when he dies, to his eldest son, if he is grown 
up. He then occupies the position of a father towards his brothers 
and sisters, and has control of the property belonging to the fa- 
mily, especially, of course, of the cattle. Even when they have 
been divided among the sons, they are still looked upon, in a way, 
as family property, in the disposal of which the brothers are 
dependent upon one another. Even if they are all married, have 
built their own huts, and provide for themselves, the consent of 
the others must be obtained before one of them can dispose of 
a piece of the herd he has inherited, or even kill it for his own use. 

3. Land tenure. 

On uncultivated and uncleared land between the villages 
everyone has the right of building huts and cultivating. In the 
Machakos district it was formerly the custom for those who wished 
to settle down in the neighbourhood of a village, to buy permis- 
sion to do this by presenting the elders of the villages with a 
goat, called mbui ui mapanh 'the goat of the fence'. By means 
of this he acquired the right to put up mapanh, i. e. the thcyny 
branches which form the cattle kraal, or, in other words, to build 
a village for himself. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 165 

Each man owns the land he and his family cultivate. Those 
who have more fields then he thinks necessary at the moment 
usually hand over those that are superfluous temporarily to a 
friend or neighbour. On removing from the place one of the 
family is left behind to look after the fields, or they are left in 
the care of some relative or neighbour. Or else they are sold 
for one or two goats or two to six rupees each, according to their 
size. A serviceable hut is sold for two to five rupees, according 
to its age. 

The boundaries between fields, which belong to different ow- 
ners consist of a kind of ditch, a shallow trough-like excavation 
which usually comes to be used as a path. Sometimes there is 
no sign of a boundary at all, sometimes again the fields arc separa- 
ted by uncultivated ground {iihli, pi. mandili). 

The same owner rarely has his acres together, but the are 
scattered, one part up on the slopes of the hills, others, again, 
down on the level ground, if possible on damp ground. This 
splitting-up is usually intentional. By it they hope, if there is a bad 
crop ^jn one place, to get a better one in another where the na- 
ture of the ground is different. 

Wells and waterplaces seems to be common property. There 
are, howewer, private wells. Thus, for instance, I saw in East 
Ukainba how during the dry season holes were dug in the dry 
bed ■ of the R. Tiva for the cattle, and then fenced in so that 
other people's cattle should not come there. 

This is all I know about the ownership of land. Other de- 
tails are given by Hobley (Akamba, p. 82). 

4. Kipitiu and the taking; of oaths over it. 

The most interesting point in the legal life of the Akamba, 
and the most important for the natives themselves, is undoubtedly 
the use of k^pitiu, or as it is called in East Ukamba, munta '. In 
trials, the judges, when they cannot come to a decision in any other 
way, resort to kipttui as a last resource, and let both parties swear 
that they are right. The breaking of an oath sworn over k-hpitiu 
is considered to be followed by death, and the consequence is that 

^ Probably from ptta 'to bind fast', 'strangle', and uma 'to bite, 
to curse'. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

■5 - 


The administration of the law and judicial customs 167 

the guilty party either confesses or refuses to swear, in which case 
he is at once adjudged guilty. In this way Tctpzim is used espec- 
ially to discover thieves. At the end of a trial, both parties 
often swear that they will perform exactly what has been imposed 
upon them. They also used to swear to their honest intention, 
in the case of internal feuds, to keep to any agreement entered into. 
An oath over hpitui can even be sworn apart from a law suit or 
trial, i. e. in order to avoid one. With this object, on the return 
from a plundering expedition and before the distribution of the 
booty, an oath was always taken that every man should be content 
with his share and not make trouble afterwards. 

What, then, is the appearance of this object, for which the 
native has more respect than for anything else in the world? 
The hpitui appears in many forms. A very usual form is the tusk 
o( a warthog {"^ge) or an antelope horn, filled with all sorts of 
things, more often field-products and food prepared from them, a 
little earth collected before the first rain of the year {kimeu), &c. 
The kipitm (fig. 52) that I had the good fortune to secure near Ikutha 
(East Ukamba) was about 2 decimeters long, and consisted of a 
dark, earthy mass, bound round with osiers^. According to all 
accounts, it had been bought from the Atharaka, the small tribe up 
on the Tana, which is considered very skilled in black magic. 
In Ulu, the ki^pitia are often obtained from the medicine-men 
in Kikuyu. The price of a hpttui is rather high, and con- 
sists of one or more oxen, or something of equal value. There 
are also old k'hpitm, which have descended from one generation 
to another. 

Of the ingredients used in the construction of a hpitm occur, 
besides foodstuffs such as beans and maize, Ricinus seed (rnbaxki), 
rust, slag and similar refuse from the smiths' workshops — called 
by the way »the irons's excrement» {nia% ma ked) — also fat from 
dead people. 

Besides these real hpiiiu, which are possessed by private indi- 
viduals, who procured them at great cost, there are others of less 
potency, which almost anyone can construct for himself. They 
are principally used for protection against theft, placed, for in- 

^ Now in the collections of the Ethnological department of the 
Swedish State Museum (Riksmuseum). 

i68 Lindblom, The Akamba 

stance, in the fields, thus a kind of amulet. We shall return to 
similar types in the chapter on magic. 

The technical name for swearing over kipitm is kuna k^pitm 
('to strike kipitm'), or still more generally kuia hpttm ('to eat 
kipitui')^. The ceremony is as follows: The hpittu is laid on three 
small stones. It is important that it should not touch the ground, 
probably so that the ground may not be injured by the destructive 
magical power which dwells in the hpttiu. Round it are laid some 
twigs of miva., a sort of acacia. Some stones are laid by the 
side, on which the person who is about to swear, stands while he 
takes the oath. These stones are indubitably used for the same 
reason as the three mentioned above, and perhaps also to give 
greater strength to the oath^. The number of stones seems to 
vary. On the only occasion I was present at the taking of an 
oath, seven were used; this number is also given in my notes,' 
which are based on oral descriptions. C. Dundas mentions seven 
to eleven in Kitui, and Hobley only two. When two parties are 
going to take the oath, as at the conclusion of peace, they stand 
on opposite sides of the hpttui, each on seven stones. Immediately 
beside them sit the atuntta ma nzama, to see that everything is done 
as it should be. The one that is going to take the oath, takes 
a twig and places himself on the stones, when the judges ask ; 
•»nutonia ktim hpttmr Are you in a position to eat hpztiur'\ 
We will presume that he answers in the affirmative, and further 
(to take a definite case) that it is the case mentioned above, of which 
I was an eye-witness. It was about cattle; the plaintiff was 
awarded one cow and was made to swear afterwards that he would 

^ »To eat», in this sense, is also used by the Nilotic Nandi, 
in the highlands northeast of Lake Victoria. Hollis says: »The form of 
oath which is binding on all Nandi men is to strike a spear with a 
club and say: 'May the blade eat me!'» Hollis, The Nandi, p. 85. 
Among the Wasuaheli »to swear» is knla amini (i. e. 'to eat the oath'). 
This expression probably comes from some sort of eating by which, 
formerly, a man proved his innocence. Thus klpttm was originally 
simply an ordeal. Oaths and ordeals seem often to have been identical 
in primitive practice. Other examples of »to eat» in this sense are 
given by Crawley in The Mystic Rose, p. 123. 

- Frazer says: »The common custom of swearing upon a stone 
may be based partly on a belief that the strength and stability of the 
stones lend confirmation to the oath*. The Golden Bough I, p. 160. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 169 

not begin another suit to get more. He then took this oath : 
mukance^ga, 'gombd irnvB. mkis^oka kwcenda lugi itma, 'ggaiwa ni 
ktiul 'You shall give me a cow. If I come again and demand 
another afterwards, may I be eaten by this!' At the same time 
he struck the hpztiu with the twig he held in his hand. This was 
repeated twice more in practically the same words. The twig must 
be from the mukulwa bush, otherwise the oath will be of no force. 
In a case of theft, the suspected person who wishes to prove his 
innocence says that, if he lies, he may be eaten b\' the kipiini. 
After that no further action can be taken against him. 

Finally, a common example of swearing over kipttiu to prevent 
further strife is the following: When blood-mone\- has been paid 
for manslaughter, and the matter has been arranged, the relations 
of the deceased man swear that they intend to let the affair be 
forgotten, in something like the following words: mundu wakwa 
uttpala 6tu, ^gaiwa m km, tnswka umzvitia kindu k%'^^gi ttma, 
^gaiwa m km! If my man is not quite finished with, may I be 
eaten by this! (the k^pitiii is then struck with the twig). If I come 
back later and demand anything else from you, may I be eaten 
by this!' (the kipitiu is then struck again with the twig.) The 
party who are paying also promise that they will not take the 
matter up again »when they have drunk beer». This is because 
experience has shown that, at drinking bouts, when the parties 
have become intoxicated, they are very disposed to take up old 
quarrels and law suits which have lain rankling in their minds; 
innumerable fights and deaths have come about in this wa}'. 

When the hpitui has been struck, a case is fini.shed and the 
nzama disperses. The judges receive from the contending parties a 
goat or an ox, which is killed and eaten. As has been mentioned, 
anyone refusing to swear is adjudged guilty. It is believed that 
if he perjures himself he will shortly die. If he does not die 
within a month or so, he is held to be innocent, even if the evid- 
ence against him was very strong. The culprit must then be 
sought elsewhere. 

On account of the destructive power which is supposed to 
dwell in the kipttui, it is never kept in a village or near to culti- 
vated land, but out in the wilds, where it is thought that no man 
can stumble on it. It is usually laid in a ii^u^ga, a hole or 
depression under some large stones. Anyone requiring a k>pitui 

170 Lindblom, The Akamba 

applies to the owner of one, from whom he can borrow it for some 
remuneration — as a rule, one goat. Different ktpttm have vary- 
ingly great reputations for power and efficacy, and a man may 
go several days* march, as from Machakos to Kitui, to obtain a 
famous one. Some are said to be so powerful that the grass on 
the place where they are kept withers and never grows again. 
Again, rats and snakes that have got into the holes where hpitm 
are kept, die because of its proximity. The owner, always an 
old mutm'ha^ loans out his khpttiu with extremely minute instruc- 
tions as to how it is to be treated, especially while being taken 
to and from the place where it is to be used. For this the fol- 
lowing may be said to apply generally: 

On no account may it be touched with the naked hands. 
The bearer smears his hands with mutton fat as a protective 
medium; then he binds the kipitm with bast from the muscsnzeh 
tree, and carries it by the bast. He may not change hands; if 
he has, for example, begun to carry it in his right hand, he must 
continue to do so the whole way. If he gets tired, he may put 
it down on the ground^, while he rests, but he must put it down 
on the same side of himself as he has carried it — in this case 
on the right. Anyone approaching is shouted to from a distance 
that woi (sorcery) is on the road, and then the new-comer turns 
off on the other side of the track, no matter how difficult it may 
be to get along. If he neglects this precautionary measure and 
then has coition with a woman, he will infallibly die. The bearer 
of a kipztm must also abstain from sexual intercourse during the 
journey. On the return journey, the same rules are observed as 
have just been described. In addition, every ktpitui has its own 
special rules which must be observed. With one the bearer may 
not take snuff or eat with the hand which he uses to carry the 
k'hpttm^ with another he may not take snuff at all; with a third 
he must, on crossing the first river on the way, sprinkle it with a 
little water, and at the second river, with a little sand, and so on*. 

During my visit to the district of Ikutha, I managed to 
bribe a broken-down old individual (the one mentioned in the in- 

1 That is to say, as long as he is in the wilds. Near villages 
and fields it is not readily put down without special precautionary 
measures being taken. 

- Cf. Hobley, Akamba &c, p. 169. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 171 

troduction) to show me where a ktpttm (the one just described) 
was kept. It lay in a crevice under a rock. The man laid goat's 
hair over it before he poked it out, and afterwards rubbed his 
hands with the milky juice of the ■hlu'ggii plant. Even my servant, 
who had not touched the thing at all, purified his hands in the 
same way. The old man was very anxious for me to handle the 
k'hpitvi according to his instructions, and was very alarmed when 
I took it up without further ado: he expressed the opinion that I 
should die at the end of a month. 

When the hpttm has been struck, the litigating parties may not 
perform coition until the action has definitely* been brought to 
an end, the outward sign of which is that the judges consume 
the ox which they have received. Before this, sexual intercourse 
is believed to be followed by death. 

A woman may not own or carry a ktpitui\ neither may she 
take an oath over one; that is to say she may not have anything 
to do with one. As has been mentioned above, a man is re- 
sponsible for the acts of his wife and daughters, and there- 
fore, when necessary, he takes the oath over a Hpttia on their be- 
half. If he refuses, the woman is naturally held to be guilty of 
what she is charged with. 

As a result of the power which dwells in a k^ptim, it can be 
used for magic purposes. Thus a man can strike a kipttiii when 
he is alone, and at the same time curse an enemy. A person 
in Kitui was robbed of a cow, and so he struck a hpttm, saying: 
»Thief, when you drink of the milk of that cow, may you be 
eaten by this hpztm!» No secret is made of it when a kipttia is 
used in this way, and so the news of it soon reaches the thief, 
who. in most cases, is so terrified that he returns the stolen pro- 
perty. The man who has struck the k'hpttM may not have sexual 
intercourse until he knows that the other man has. 

A hpitiu may not be struck during the rains, while the crops 
are still growing in the fields. If an action is already proceeding, 
it is suspended until the next dry season. This seems to be due 
largely to the action of the women, who say that otherwise the 
rains will not come, and in addition grasshoppers and other plag- 
ues will descend upon the fields, and destroy the crops. In 
most cases the importunities of the women prevail. There are, 
however, those who are very loath to break off an action; but 


17a Lindblom, The Akamba 

then all the women go to such a man in a body and categori- 
cally command him to interrupt it. They generally get their own 
way, for when they combine together and are roused, the women 
are seldom opposed. Only in urgent cases is the hpitia struck, 
before the harvest is gathered in, and then it is done at a respectful 
distance from the fields. These and the hpttm are then sprinkled 
with a purifying medium, '^ondw, for which purpose a sheep or 
goat is killed. The meat of the animal is eaten by the aturma. 

The use of kiplttu in actions between persons who are 
related to each other. It has already been said that perjury 
over a hpttm. is believed to be followed by death. It must, however, 
be noted that this consequence is not confined to the person who 
commits the perjury, but may also — and this renders the kipttni so 
much the more terrible — fall on other, perfectly innocent, mem- 
bers of his family or clan. Therefore a real k'hpttm is not used in 
actions between persons who are related to each other. They 
either rely on each other's word or have recourse to the existing 
ordeals, which are only intended to discover the culprit, but have 
otherwise no consequences which are disastrous for him or his 
relatives (for ordeals, see p. 173). However, in such cases, 
an oath is sometimes taken over an object called ndundu, which 
is very like a k^pttui, though it has not quite the same dangerous 
properties, since only the guilty person loses his life, if he has 
perjured him.self; but no evil befalls his relatives. This ndundu 
is made fresh every time it is to be used, and in the follow- 
ing way: 

A bull is killed, and a small piece of practically every part 
of the carcase is cut off. The points of the heart and tongue 
and the neck-bone, "ggata, are specially important ingredients of 
ndundu. Everything is gathered together, mixed with blood in a 
calabash, and packed into the gall-bladder; the ndundu is now ready. 
Branches of about one meter in length are then cut from the long- 
thorned species of acacia called mwea or mwq, and these bran- 
ches are then stuck into the earth, and the ndundu placed upon 
them. The branches correspond to the stones upon which the 
kipttni is placed, and, like the latter, the ndundu ought not to 
touch the earth, or it loses in strength. The man who is to 
swear takes a long acacia thorn and, according to the usual form- 
ula, says that, if he did so and so, he may be eaten by the ndundu. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 173 

At the same time he pierces the bladder with the thorn and licks 
its point. This act is probably symbolic — in the event of his 
perjuring himself he will burst like the bladder ^ 

Just as we interpret the stones as a symbol of stability, giving 
enduring force to the oath, so can the use of the acacia be consi- 
dered in the same way. Certain kinds of acacia are extremely 
hardy, almost the only tree which thrives in desert-like districts 
poor in water. Also because of the fact that the acacias, con- 
trary to many other trees, do not lose their leaves even during 
the worst droughts, the native easily come to look upon them as 
something especially permanent and vigorous; as little likely is a 
stone or an acacia to perish entirely, as for the power of the oath 
to be annihilated. 

The use of the k^pitia has been adopted by the English civil 
servants on the Government stations at Kitui and Machakos, in 
cases which are brought before them, and which they cannot clear 
up by hearing witnesses or in any other way. During my visit 
to Kitui at the end of 191 1, all the suspected persons in such a 
case readily struck the kipttui, although the Commissioner, Mr Scole- 
tield, said that he was convinced that one of them was guilty. 
There is therefore some doubt whether, in spite of their obvious 
terror of the hptttu, the natives do not sometimes perjure them- 
selves over it. However, it is not impossible that Mr Scolefield's 
native assistants had, perhaps intentionally, made some mistake, 
so that the influence of the hjntiu was nullified. 

4. Ordeals. 

Even the use of hftitui may, in a way, be looked upon as a 
sort of ordeal. But an essential difference is that perjury over the 
kt'pttm entails immediate death, while the ordeal is only intended 
to disclose the culprit, the puni^ment being afterwards decided 
upon by the court. Another difference is that the medicine-man, 
mundu mud, generally conducts the ordeal ; members of the mama 
are certainly present, but only in the capacity of controllers. The 

^ Brutzer describes something of the same sort in Der Geister- 
glaube bei den Kamba, p. 14. 

174 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Akamba themselves do not distinguish materially between their 
various methods of discovering a criminal, and the ordeals described 
below are often heard spoken of as kifntm (for example the first 
is called hjntui kta kiOtu 'the kipitia of the knife')- Otherwise 
they are called after the objects with which they are chiefly carried 
out; no general expression for the idea »ordeal» is to be founds 
As has already been pointed out in passing, a primitive stage in 
a people scarcely differentiates between oaths and ordeals. 

Among the Akamba, I have found the following five ordeals 
in use. The first of them at least is sometimes used by both 
parties, that is to say the complainant must also submit to the test. 

A. kipitm k\a k^6m (the 'kipitm of the knife'), an ordeal widely 
spread in Africa, in which the suspected person has to touch a 
red-hot iron. Among the Akamba it is carried out in the follow- 
ing way: Suppose that a person has been robbed of a goat. A 
knife, which he or the medicine-man has treated with magic me- 
dicine, mupcsa, is put in the fire. When it is red-hot, it is taken 
out, and the suspected persons have in turn to touch the iron 
with their tongues, saying: cepwa ninoseto mbm ui 'ggama, h6iu 
mhOie ('If I have taken N. N's goat, may the knife burn me!'). 
The natives believe that only the guilty one is burnt. The 
fact of the matter probably is that the guilty man betrays him- 
self by obvious signs of fear, or prefers to confess at once, when 
he sees that he cannot escape; while the innocent, believing 
implicitly that they cannot be hurt, go forward calmly to lick the 
knife. It is thus that the medicine-man, in most cases a fairly 
good psychologist, soon sees clearly who is guilty. 

B. Another ordeal which is also used very much in the 
dark continent, and which may be looked upon as a variant of 
the preceding one, is to make a needle red-hot and stick it through 
the under lip of the suspected person, near the corner of the 
mouth. »If he is innocent, he feels nothing, and the wound does 
not bleed; if he is guilty, the -needle does not get far in before 
he confesses ». 

C. k\uma (the bead) is an ordeal which is said to originate 
from the Kikuyu district. The suspected persons sit in a circle. 

In the Kikuyu language, the word for ordeal is muma, that is 
to say the same word as is used in East Ukamba for kipttui. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 175 

The officiating functionary, the plaintiff or the medicine-man, rubs 
his hands with magic medicine {mupcsa) and white earth {ea), and 
smears some under the eyes of the suspects. Then he takes two 
china beads, of the kind which are ordinarily used in the manu- 
facture of ornaments, and goes from one to the other, saying: 
kmrna, andu a ondd, umbonyd niundu wi na mbux takwa (bead, 
show me who has stolen my goat among all those who are here') 
— the words are taken from a special case, when a goat had 
been stolen. When he has said this, he blows on the beads. In 
front of an innocent person, the beads lie still in his out-stretched 
hand; but in front of the culprit, they are said to fly violently 
towards his eyes, where they stick, and can only be removed by 
the medicine-man. The principle for discovering the guilty man 
is, of course, the same in this case as in the previous one : the 
medicine-man knows pretty well, or soon discovers, who is guilty. 
Besides, the result of this test naturally depends chiefly upon his 
good pleasure. 

D. ^gumko is used specially for discovering thieves. The 
word signifies 'plug, lid'. A small calabash, about the size of a 
snuffbox, is filled with water, in which the medicine-man has mixed 
» medicine », after which the opening is smeared over with bees' 
wax. A narrow tube or a hollow straw is passed through it. 
The medicine-man goes from one to another of the suspects, and 
when he comes to the thief, the water spurts forcibly out over 
him through the tube. Brutzer also describes this ordeal from what 
was told him by another missionary, but in this case the calabash 
was fitted with a stopper without a tube, and there was a hole 
in the bottom, over which the medicine-man put his finger^. 
When he comes to the guilty person, the stopper is forced out, 
and the water flies over him. In this case also, the medicine-man 
has no doubt discovered in some way or other which the guilty 
man is, and then lets the water spurt out over him. 

E. The poison test is very widely employed in Africa. 
We will merely recall the generally prevalent w««z^z-drinking in 
Central Africa. The Akamba use the bark of a tree, mbcggolo, 
which is pulverised and mixed with water; the suspect must drink 
the mixture. The drink has a strongly intoxicating effect, but I 

* E. Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube bei den Kamba, p. 14. 

176 Lindblom, The Akamba 

do not believe that it is fatal. If there are several suspects, they 
must all drink and then sit down and wait for the poison to take 
effect. The one who is the first to be affected is thereby proved 
guilty of the crime in question. He sometimes behaves just like 
one possessed, imagines that someone wants to murder him, calls 
out »Let me go!> and so on. 

F. Finally, according to Brutzer, ordeal by fire is employed 
also among the Akamba^. The suspect has to run through a fire. 
I have not met with this ordeal, but it is mentioned in an animal 
fable of which I have made a record: a hyena and a hare are 
suspected of having stolen a ram, and must prove their innocence 
by jumping over a big basket which is on fire. From this story 
we may be entitled to draw the conclusion that the fire-test was 
employed among the Akamba formerly at least. 

Hildebrandt cites some ordeals, which he asserts originate in 
Ukamba. They come, however, from the people on the coast, as 
is indicated by their Suaheli names 2. 

5. The administration of justice by lynch-law (h^oh). 

Among the Akamba, there exists a custom which unconsciously 
reminds one of the so-called lynch-law in the United States of 
North America, although, as we shall see, the comparison is not 
exact in several particulars. Persons who are suspected of causing 
the death of other people by means of zvot (that is, witchcraft) 
and are thus dangerous to the public safety, can be killed with 
impunity by the united intervention of all the adult male inhabitants 
of the district. The same is also true of incorrigible thieves. Yet, 
action is not taken simply on the accusation of a single individual. 
They go to work quite soberly and, according to the native con- 
ception, quite legally, since the n~ama must first give its consent 
to the execution. To ascertain whether the person suspected is 
really guilty, members of the ktsuka are sent to several medicine- 
men in different districts, who, with the help of their divination 
apparatus, discover who the guilty person is, and tell the several mes- 
sengers. When they get back, they must go singly, without holding 

^ Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube, p. 14. 

* J. M. Hildebrandt, Die Wakamba, p. 388. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 177 

any communication with one another, to report before the nzama, 
and to swear over kiiptttu that they have truthfully reported the 
words of the witch doctor. If all the medicine-men have indicated 
the same person as guilty of the many deaths which have occurred 
in the district lately, then all is clear, and the ehiers consent to his 
death ^ Without these, the h'gold — so the lynching mass is called — 
can do nothing. Under the leadership of a mutufma of the nzama, the 
kisuka and the young men betake themselves to a remote spot 
in the wilds. None of them may stay at home, all must take 
part. They tell the women and children that they are going on 
a warlike expedition, for example to steal cattle from the Masai; 
they take weapons and provisions with them. S"metimes, in order 
that their departure may be the more secret, they seize the op- 
portunity while the women are away working in the fields. When 
the latter return, they find that their husbands and sons dave 
disappeared, and with them all the food that was ready prepared. 
The atutma, with the exception of the leader of the kt'gold mentioned 
above, remain at home. They constitute the judicial authority, 
while the young men constitute the executive authority. 

The young men are now all gathered in the wilds. They 
still do not all know who the guilty man is, till the leading elder 
says to one of his near relations: »Give us an arrow out of your qui- 
ver*. No more is neces>»ary for all to understand. The handing over 
of the arrow is an acknowledgement of the lawfulness of the deed 
on the part of the family of the doomed man, and strictly speaking 
the man may not be put to death until the arrow has been de- 
livered. This arrow must be one of the first to pierce him. They 
stay from four to five days in this remote spot, an ox which 
has been brought with them is eaten, and each man binds himself 
by oath over kipitiu to obey the leader implicitly. 

They then go to kill the victim in his village, in the fields, 
or wherever he may be. With wild cries of »*/*«, mg.'» the 
throng rush forward, and arrows are let fly at the unhappy man. 
When he sinks to the ground dying, large branches of trees and 
stones, if such are handy, are thrown at him. Afterwards, as if 
pursued by furies, all rush back to their hiding-place, sprinkling 
their heads with ashes on the way. The use of ashes in puri- 
fying rites is known in many different quarters. 

^ The same procedure is described from Loango. Post II, p. 153. 
ArchOr. Lindblom 12 

178 Lindblom, The Akamba 

In civilised countries, at military executions, it is the custom 
for some of the rifles to be loaded with blank cartridge, and the 
marksmen themselves do not know who fired the fatal shot, so 
that none may have pangs of conscience. Something similar 
happens sometimes when the k^^old is carried out, especially if they 
can approach close to the doomed man unobserved. No one 
may then shoot first, but on a given signal — for example the 
holding up of the leader's staff — a shower of arrows is let fly. 

But we return to the h^old, which has gone back to its hidden 
refuge. All the members of it are now » unclean », as is indicated 
by the ashes, and they cannot return home until they have been 
sprinkled with 'gondm, that is to say, undergone a purifying pro- 
cess. As has already been mentioned in another connection, such 
a process is always carried out by a mutum^a specially versed in 
such things. A deputation consisting of members of the hsuka 
is sent to the elders to ask for 'gondui. When they get near to 
the village, they call loudly to the elders, say that they have 
completed their work, and now wish to be purified, so that they 
can return to their homes. They must sit at a long distance from 
the elders, and if there is a river or stream in the neighbour- 
hood, they place themselves on the opposite side of it. The 
nearest relatives of the executed man have to provide the goat 
or the goats necessary for the purification. No lamenting may be 
indulged in; if the victim's women-folk cry, the family must pay 
another goat. An old man versed in matters connected with 'gondm 
takes the goat to the ki'gold hiding-place, and purifies the members 
They may now return home, though not all at once. In separate 
groups of two or three, they go towards the village by different 
tracks. The act is over, unclean blood has been let out of the 
body of the community. 

No blood-money is paid to the relatives of a person killed 
by h'gold. It is usually old women who are the victims, less often 
old men; we are thus in the presence of veritable witch-processes. 
Young people are not usually considered to be versed in the 
black art. It is certain that many innocent old people have met 
with a tragic fate at the hands of a hgold, but many poisoners 
have also met with well-deserved punishment. Occasionally the 
doomed man gets wind of his danger in time, and saves himself 
hy flight; but it has also happened that a member of the h'gold has 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 179 

been disagreeably surprised to find himself the one pointed out 
by the medicine-men. It has also happened that a reckless dare- 
devil has fortified his village, provided himself with food and 
water, and simply threatened to shoot down anyone who dared 
to approach. To endanger their lives unnecessarily in open battle 
is foreign to the nature of the Akamba, and fire is absolutely 
powerless against the green thorn hedge round the village. So 
the ki'gold perhaps thinks it as well to give way, and to pardon 
the person concerned, on a promise of amendment, especially if 
he offers to pay fines. 

This is, in the main, the course of the method of punishment 
which may be called » African lynching*. If one is critical, the 
expression is faulty. When we talk about lynching, we usually 
mean the proceedings of an incensed crowd, generally a mob, 
who, in unbridled fury and generally with great cruelty, administer 
justice on their own account. As we have seen, this is not at 
all the case with the ki'gold, which, on the contrary, acts by order 
of the leading men of the community, the elders, and can thus 
be looked upon as the reaction of the protective instinct of the 
community against a threatening danger. 

As is well-known, witchcraft is considered a particularly grave 
offence in Africa. That so many innocent persons fall victims is 
another matter, and may be traced to the superstition of the people. 
Other motives, such as jealousy and a desire for vengeance, often 
have something to do with it. The reason why the k'h'gold is, in most 
cases, only resorted to in self-defence is that it cannot kill a single 
victim, but waits until there are two or more suspects. If there is only 
one, he is either driven from the place or must promise improve- 
ment. Thus it has happened in a place where the ki^old was or- 
dered out, that the condemned man has saved himself by flight, 
but after a time, when the storm has blown over, has returned 
home, since a ki'goL) could not be sent out against him alone. 

Immediately outside Machakos lives an old female » medicine- 
man » called ka6n6a, with whom I am acquainted personally. 
Several years ago, she was accused of having killed two of her 
neighbours by witchcraft, and was condemned to death by 
ktioold. She got wind of it in time, and fled with her husband 
to the fort, where she lived some years, until the affair was for- 
gotten. About twenty years ago, a woman was killed who was 

i8o Lindblom, The Akamba 

said to have taken the life of her brother-in-law. She was in an 
advanced stage of pregnancy, and when she fell to the ground 
pierced with arrows, she gave birth to a child, which, however, 
did not survive. Mr Kanig, of the Leipziger Mission, mentions a 
case at Ikutha in 1900 when an old woman was killed^. 

Mr Sauberlich told the author of a man who for some reason 
was condemned to death, but got to know of this in good time, and 
instead of flying resolutely supplied himself with food, water and 
arrows for a good time and strenjjthened the hedge round his hut. 
A large number of men came to seize him, but stopped at a re- 
spectful distance when he threatened to shoot the first who app- 
roached. No one would risk his skin, and after reflecting for a 
time they thought it best to leave him in peace, especially as he 
made overtures and offered to pay heavy fines. 

Nowadays, when the whole of Ukamba is under British 
rule, k'b'gold is forbidden. However, some of the officials think 
that it is still practised in the more remote places. 

6. The intervention of the women in the administration 

of justice. 

On the whole, the Kamba woman goes through life calmly 
and quietly, doing her duty and suitably subservient to her hus- 
band. Her most important work is looking after the fields, for 
the weal or woe of the people depends principally on the result 
of the harvest. Therefore, when something happens which, seen 
from the women's superstitious point of view, threatens the grow- 
ing crops or the village itself, -they may be worked up, jnto a 
fury, and if they consider that the men take the matter too calmly, 
they conspire together to enforce their views by their own efforts 
=— and they generally succeed. As an illustration ot this, I 
•will cite a particular case. 

As often happens, a man had lent a field, which he did not 
at the time need himself, to another man. When he wanted it 
back later, the wife of the other man refused to agree to his 

^ G. Kanig, Dornige Pfade eines jungen Missionars in Ukamba, 
p. 20. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 1 8 i 

having it. In the meantime, however, the owner sent his wife 
to set the field in order, but the other woman went there also. 
In vain she was exhorted to give in. According to the women's 
ideas, the controversy would bring bad luck to the crops on 
all the neighbouring fields, since it might cause the rains to 
fail. Therefore they decided to take the matter into their own 
hands, so as to get it settled as soon as possible. They urged 
the husband of the obstinate woman to present a goat, so that 
the fields might be sprinkled with 'gondm, but he refused. Then 
the women beat their big drums {kipcsmbd) and met in council. 
A deputation of two old women was sent to the refractory man 
to demand the immediate presentation of a goat. He still refused, 
and the women became furious, and went in a body to let him 
hear — in none too mild language — their opinion of his be- 
haviour. He did not dare to refuse any longer; and indeed it 
is seldom that a man dares to oppose the women when they 
come in that way. The goat they demanded was delivered and 
carried off in triumph, to be slaughtered on the field in dispute. 

If anyone persists in his defiance, the women strew leaves 
in front of the entrance to his hut, and then the owner cannot 
enter until he has submitted. 

When the women come thus in a body, beating their drums 
and carrying boughs in their hands, the men try to keep out 
of the way as much as possible. Anyone coming across their 
path is showered with derisive and insulting epithets; and in 
the district of Kitui it is even said to have happened that the 
men have been assaulted and maltreated. Only the oldest atumm 
escape unmolested, but even they hide their faces in their blankets 
while the crowd of women is passing. 

It may be maintained that, by such behaviour, the women 
interfere in a way in the administration of justice, desiring to get 
a dispute which is injurious to the community settled more quickly 
than it would be if the law took its normal course. Seen from another 
point of view, their conduct bears a religious stamp, since the 
spirits (aimu) are thought to be incensed at such disputes. After 
the contents of the goat's stomach have been used for the pre- 
paration of 'gondm, therefore, the rest of the animal is offered 
up in the usual way on the place of sacrifice {ipigmbo) to con- 
ciliate the spirits (see Chap. XIII). 

1 8.2 Lindbloni, The Akamba 

It is interesting to observe the submissive attitude of the 
men, when such proceedings take place. The reason is perhaps 
a tacit recognition of the justice of the women's demands. The 
women are more conservative and superstitious than the men, and 
in many things have their own rules to observe, which are re- 
spected by the men, even though they often do not attach much 
mportance to them. 

7. Curses. 

As far as I know, the use of curses is really confined to the 
family circle, within which they are used by a father or mother 
against a refractory son. Though my observations on family life 
are to be included in a subsequent chapter, I have, however, 
found it suitable to append here some remarks on the use of 
curses {kmmo) to the section on criminal jurisdiction proper. 

The head of a family in Ukamba has patriarchal authority 
over his children. For example, he has control over his son's 
earnings. It is not unusual, nevertheless, for some to be dis- 
obedient, and when the parents can in no other way — either b)- 
gentle means or chastisement — master an insubordinate son, they 
fall back on the last and most terrible resource — a curse. 

A. A father's curse. An occasional reason for cursing is 
that, without his father's consent, a, young man begins to drink 
beer {uki), and continues to do so, in spite of the express pro- 
hibition of his father. For, according to an old custom, youths 
{anakd) may not drink beer before they have purchased their 
father's permission, by making him certain presents. It also hap- 
pens that, in order to take away from his son all desire for un- 
lawful beer-drinking, a father utters a curse in advance, which is 
to come into operation if the son ignores the prohibition. A 
common way of cursing is the following : 

The father takes the iron {kio) with which the cattle are 
branded, and places it in the fire. When it is hot, he takes it 
out, and, holding it over a calabash, he urinates '^ on it, saying: 
»I who have begot you do not wish you to drink beer, since you 
have not yet begun to pay me. May you be destroyed thus» 

'^ As is well known, the human excrements play an important 
part in the superstition and magic of all peoples. For a closer study, 
see J. G. Bourke, Scatalogic rites of all nations. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 183 

(as the iron hisses from contact with the fluid) ^. Then he takes 
the calabash and flings the urine from it to the west (» towards 
the setting sun»), uttering another curse: »I have begotten you 
with this my kea (penis), may you go down like this sun!»' 
Anyone who does not improve, or who is not released from this 
curse, is said not to live long — at the most a few months^. 

B. A mother's curse. A mother can also curse her son, 
if he takes no notice of her directions or does not perform the 
tasks she sets him, but instead blindly devotes himself to the 
favourite amusements of the young men, lounging about and danc- 
ing. She cannot, however, curse in the same way as the father, 
but proceeds as follows : 

She takes a small quantity of different sorts of vegetable foods, 
some grains of maize, a little millet, Eleusine seeds &c, puts them 
in a calabash vessel, and sets this in the fire. When the vessel 
crackles and is consumed, she says: »I, N.N, gave birth to you; 
I have suckled you and washed you and carried you and removed 
your motions, when you were a child. But now, when you have eaten 
and grown strong, it is I who curse you: may you be destroyed 
thus (like the food in the fire), you and your children !»^ 

In my collection of Kamba folk-lore, there is a tale of two 
brothers, the sun and the moon, the latter being originally the chief, 
because he was the elder. He misbehaved himself, however, and 
drew down on himself his mother's curse. She laid it on him in 
the manner just described. 

For a more serious transgression on the son's part • — such 

^ The words are taken from a special case in the neighbourhood 
of Machakos; they run thus: cBpwa nimd nukustana, na ndtkwcetida uki- 
mwa ukt, na ndunamba undam woktam(ajou. 

- Kikamba: cepwa ninp nuustand na kea ki h\akwa wopoa na swa nu. 

^ Among the Wadjagga, curses by members of the family and 
relations are considered specially dangerous, those of the father and 
mother always entailing death. B. Gutmann, Fluchen und Segnen im 
Munde der Wadschagga p. 302. A. E. Crawley shows (article on Curs- 
ing and Blessing in Encycl. of ReUgion and Ethics) by examples from 
different times and peoples how generally the curse of the parents, 
especially of the father, is particularly strong. 

^ Kikamba : nints, 'ggania, nakustaip na ggikwo^ga na '^giupambui 
na 'ggltua, ^gukiioetd na ^gitua inbtaiaa^ mai maku, wb kana, na yen, 
ivam Omta ninid uknuma, watoleka^gon na smna siakti! 

184 Lindblom, The Akamba 

as, for example, stealing his mother's milk or one of her cows 
— the mother can lay a more serious curse on him. She 
washes her ndamt (the small rectangular loin-cloth worn by the 
Kamba women) and throwing out the water violently, so that 
it splashes in all directions, she says: »May you splash thus, as I 
have given you birth with this my kinoh (the name of the female 

The missionary Kanig tells of a mother who, in anger at her 
daughters disobedience, took a brand from the fire and stuck it in 
a \essel of water, so that the hissing wood was extinguished. At 
the same time she ejaculated this curse: »May your life be ex- 
tinguished like this wood!»^ 

C. How a father revokes his curse on his son. The youth 
who has been cursed by his father, seldom dares to continue in his 
refractoriness, but tries to get the curse removed as soon as pos- 
sible, and endeavours to obtain his father's ble.ssing {kiapimo) 
instead. His method of procedure is as follows: 

He buys beer and takes it to his father as a present, asking 
for his blessing. If necessary he repeats this, until the old man 
is propitiated and yields. Then the father mixes milk and Eleusine 
seed together in a calabash bowl — without these accessories the 
blessing is ineffective — and orders his son to stretch out his 
hands. Taking a sip of the milk, he spirts his son's hands and 
chest with it, saying (the words were addressed to a son who was 
cursed for drinking beer without permission): >I give thee my 
blessing! Drink beer, but not too much; do not pick quarrels 
with people either, when you have drunk beer!» The son rubs his 
hands dry on his face, and the father spits a blessing into the 
calabash. The curse is now removed, and the young man has 
gained the right to drink beer. 

D. Curses used by young people. The youths and young 
girls among themselves can also employ a sort of curse, which 
they lay on an unpopular person. If a girl gives evidence of 
'ggulu 'self-wiir — for example if she refuses to take part in the 
dancing of the young people or the excesses connected with it — 
the young men assemble and strike their hpttiu, consisting of a 

^ Kikamba: womtnzukou, cepwa ntnp nausmn9 na ktno ki kiakwa. 
^ G. Kanig, Kambakinder, p. 6. 

The administration of the law and judicial customs 185 

red china bead (kito). They all strike once with a stone, saying : 
»N. N's girl gives evidence of '^gulu. If, after this, I dance with 
her, accompany her on the track, or even speak to her, may I 
be eaten by this k^pitm!* The girls treat their comrade in the 
same way, and then the poor thing is absolutely isolated from 
the other young people. She cannot go to other people of the 
same age elsewhere, for as soon as they hear what has happened 
to her, they also shun her. Her position soon becomes unbearable 
— her parents also suffer — and sooner or later she gives way. 
Then her father goes to their dancing-place (kttutd), and arranges 
a day with the young men for his daughter to be allowed to come 
and be received into the young people's circle again. 

On the appointed day, the girl goes to the dancing-place, 
taking with her two bunches of bananas {ndumba) and two large 
calabashes full of porridge, mixed with a lot of fat. The former 
are presents to the men, the latter to the girls. She stands apart 
from the others, and a youth asks her if she is willing to abandon 
her defiant attitude. The answer is in the affirmative, and she 
may now choose out four youths and four girls, who bless her by 
spitting on her. The curse is thereby removed. 

What makes this curse so dreadful is the belief that a woman 
who is under such a curse, can never, even if she manages to get 
a husband, be certain of being able to have children. And this 
implies something infinitely terrible to every Kamba girl. 

Chapter XII. Warfare and customs connected 

with it . 

In the greatest part of Africa the continual feuds and plund" 
ering expeditions between the tribes belong already to the past. 
It is now too late almost everywhere to carry out any practical 
studies of the natives' methods of war, and concerning these 
things ethnology has, for the most part, to rely on the statements 
of older people. In the abundant ethnographical African literature 
one finds, as a rule, this side of the native life treated in a sur- 
prisingly cursory manner, except in the case of tribes with real 
military talent, such as the Zulus in South- and the Masai in East- 
Africa, among whom there exists a real military organization, 
capable of attracting interest. One is therefore compelled to make 
use of the only way left out of the difficulty, namely to collect 
accurate information from older men who have themselves at one 
time taken part as warriors in the feuds of their tribe. But these 
sources should be used as soon as possible, as when the old men 
of the present generation have died it will be too late, the younger 
men having already grown up under the new conditions. 

In Ukamba a >pax brittannica» has already prevailed undis- 
turbed for a decade. My description is, on account of this, ex- 
clusively based on oral information from former leaders of the 
Akamba's predatory expeditions against their neighbours, the 
Kikuyu and the Masai tribes. Careful comparison and veri- 
fication of the different statements made should give the descrip- 
tion a certain correctness. The Kamba negroes have certainly 
never been a warring people of note, but yet we shall find that 
they were not quite strangers to the idea of tactics. We shall 

' The chapter is translated, with alteration and additions, from 
Ymer 19 14. 

Warfare 187 

see that for attacks a force was divided into several parts, each 
with its definite task, that the various divisions were arranged 
according to certain principles, that there existed a rudimentary 
form of searching and guarding, etc. Although the description is 
that of a period that is past, we may be allowed in our account 
to use the present tense. 

I. Preparations for an expedition. 

Most of the native campaigns are from our point of view 
pure plundering expeditions, as they are undertaken almost ex- 
clusively to steal cattle. They serve partly to satisfy the desire 
for meat, partly to increase the herds. Another important reason 
for them is that many are too poor to buy wives for themselves and 
so they wish by means of a campaign to procure in a rapid and 
congenial way the cattle necessary for this purpose. As is to be 
expected from the character of these expeditions, no formal declara- 
tion of war is made, the successful issue of the enterprise depend- 
ing to a great extent on its being a surprise. For an offensive war 
is needed the consent of the assembly of the elders, the nzama\ 
the leaders are some old and experienced warriors, called asihli. 
As soon as the nza?na have given their assent to a campaign, 
the asilili get an almost dictatorial power, while in peace time 
they do not exercise any special function in the community. They 
are, however, prominent members of the rtzama ^ Liability to 
serve as soldiers falls first on the unmarried men {anakS), then 
also on the younger married men (iiticeld). In a manner it may be 
considered that universal compulsory service prevails, inasmuch 
as no one can refuse to accompany the army, as soon as the 
asilih have obtained the nzamds assent to the war. Those who 
for some reason are away from their village, are informed and 
have to come home as soon as possible. If anyone stays at home 
without a good excuse (sickness, etc.), he is at best insulted and 
may not come out with the other people to meet the returning 
conquerors, but must hide in his hut. It has even happened that 
such a man has been killed. Usually, however, it was the younger 
element who were eager to be ofT plundering and stormed the 

^ Cf. Chap. X, p. 149. 

i88 Lindblom, The Akamba 

members of the nzama with requests to go. The latter then in- 
quire of the astlih about the prospects of success for the sug- 
gested enterprise, and if they consider the occasion unsuitable, 

usually nothing is done. 

Once the decision for a campaign has really been made, the 
asihli go to the medicine man {mundu mud) to ascertain if it is 
undertaken under favourable auspices. If this is not the case, it 
may happen that the carrying out of the plan is put off. For 
our description here, however, we shall assume that the answer 
is favourable. Then they get protective war medicine from the 
medicine man, and other » medicine* to rub on the cattle they 
hope to steal, so that it will follow them »like dogs». If they 
are pursued and have to run, the cattle do the same; in a word, 
they will have no trouble at all in driving them away. On the 
instruction of the medicine man the asihh then offer sacrifices to 
the spirits of their dead forefathers, especially to the eminent 
warriors of former times, at the sacrificial places that are dedi- 
cated to them. 

2. Armament and equipment. 

Before going further a few words on the warriors' armament 
and other outfit may be given here. The Akamba's arms are 
the bow and arrow and the sword; they do not use spears, clubs 
and shields, which are the principal weapons of their neighbours 
in the west and south-west, the Akikuyu and Masai ^. On their 
heads they wear a kind of cap made of skin or imported blue 
calico, mbcekd {kafiiki in the Suaheli language), which is obtained 
by Arabian or Suaheli traders from the coast, and in earlier times, 
when cattle were plentiful, was paid for by a goat for a little piece. 
Round the brow there was also a strap, and to this were fastened 
pieces of leather, from which some long white ostrich feathers proudly 
streamed^. Resting on one shoulder and running diagonally over 
the chest was worn a kind of oval frame {wed), made out of the 

^ For more about the weapons see the chapter » Weapons ». 

- On the other hand they do not, as Hildebrandt states, use the 
frame for the face with short black or white ostrich feathers which is 
well-known among the Masai. J. M. Hildebrandt, Ethnographische 
Noiizen iiber Wakamba und ihre Nachbarn p. 358. 

Warfare 189 

mane of the giraffe or zebra. Round the waist they liked to fix 
a bit of red cloth (mukumbd), reminiscent of the belts worn by the 
native military police {askari) in the service of the government. 
Their insteps were adorned with the strips of the colobus monkey's 
black and white skin, so well-known in many East African tribes. 
Probably we have in this a borrowing from the Masai's war 
costume. A difference lies in the fact that the latter wear the 
points turned backwards, but the Akamba have them pointing 
forward. They also used to fix bells on their knees, to increase 
the noise as they rushed forward to attack ^. On longer cam- 
paigns the warriors did not wear their ornaments on the march, 
but kept them in a bag of leather {gguso) which was carried in 
a strap over the shoulder. Only when they came into the proxi- 
mity of the enemy did they take them out. Their usual every- 
day ornaments, armlets of metal, etc. they prefer to leave at 
home, as they lessen their activity, make it more difficult to run, 
etc. Provisions, such as batatas (sweet potatoes), flour and gruel 
{usii), are taken with them on the road. When the warriors' food 
is got ready at home in the village, on no conditions are unmarried 
girls allowed to take part in the preparation. This would cause 
injury to the warriors, a belief which must doubtlessly be considered 
as a kind of sexual taboo, as the girls would certainly have inter- 
< with the youths at home, and then the food prepared 
by them would »get into the legs» of the warriors and make 
them heavy. 

3. The attack. 

Let us accompany a pillaging expedition against the Masai 
kraals, which were formerly situated on the steppe south-west of 
Machakos. My iniformants are chiefly two old men in the Ma- 
chakos district, who in the days of their strength had been cap- 
able asiltli. As objects are seen a long way round on the steppe, 
a halt is made at a long distance from the kraal which is to be 

^ I do not know if these bells were worn on any definite prin- 
ciple. Among the Masai those who took part in the fights wore large 
bells on their legs, so tliat the sound might help to call the troop together. 
Merker, Die Masai, p. 87. 

190 Lindblom, The Akamba 

attacked, e. g. 5 — 8 kilometres, according to the nature of the 
ground. Protected by the darkness of the night spies are sent 
out (apzam), preferably older warriors, often some of the asihli 
themselves, as they do not believe that the young warriors are 
capable of displaying the necessary calm and caution. The most 
important task of the spies is to find out the place of the war- 
riors' kraal, the situation of the other kraals and how the cattle 
is kept^. 

On their return the spies do not inform the warriors of the 
result of their search, as if they did it might easily happen that the 
younger and more eager men would, if the prospects for the attack 
were very good, immediately rush forth and so perhaps spoil 
everything. Among the » medicine* that the asihh have ob- 
tained before they set out there is usually a magic soporific, which 
causes the enemy to fall into a deep sleep, if it is placed in his 
fire. The medicine is fixed to a long stick, and, on the night 
when the attack is to take place, a musthh steals forward to the 
warriors' kraal, breaks through the wall or door of a hut and 
with the help of the stick lays the medicine in the fire. 

Before the attack every man has to take an oath on the 
kirpitiu that he will not fly, but will obey the leaders' orders 
(»If I fly, may I be eaten by this hpttiu!»). Then they vie with 
each other in making bold promises: »If I do not kill a Masai to- 
day, may this kipitrn eat me» {ggahiva m hpttm hu), says one. 
Another makes the bold promise to force his way into a hut and 
compel a Masai woman to give him milk, etc. The doubtful 
and faint-hearted ones are encouraged by the asihh, who hold 
out prospects of a rich booty: »Are you afraid.? Be men! We 
can't get cattle for nothing. If you only go forward bravely and 
obey our commands, each one of you will bring home fine, fat 
oxen and pregnant cows, which your mothers and wives will milk 
in the cattle kraals. But if you are cowards, so that we must 
turn back again with our errand unaccomplished, the women will 
laugh at you, when you come back again to the village.* The 
asilili do not take part in the actual fighting, but when every- 

' We must remember that among the Masai there are special 
kraals for the married people and others for the warriors. The cattle 
are kept at night in an enclosure, situated in the middle of the closed 
circle which is formed by the huts. 

Warfare 191 

thing is arranged and the advance begins they remain behind. 
Their work is to make plans and to organise, they are usually 
too old and heavy to fight. The command is taken over instead 
by some younger experienced and capable warriors, who will some- 
time succeed the asilih in their office. 

The attack itself is usually started at daybreak, as soon as 
it is sufficiently light to seize the cattle. The hostile force is 
now divided into different parts, each with its name and special 
task. If we suppose that the objective of the attack consists of 
a kraal for the married and at some distance off another for the 
warriors, the Akamba's grouping will be as follows: 

The point of greatest danger is of course the warriors' kraaL 
and so they direct against it a section called niuena^ consisting 
of picked warriors, the best shots, half of them young men, anakd, 
half younger married men, ntf(zh. The reason for this intermix- 
ture is that the young men, left to themselves, are altogether too 
impetuous and thoughtless. For the task of this group is not to 
engage in hand-to-hand fighting, but, on the contrary, to try to 
keep the Masai warriors at a distance with their arrows and in 
this way prevent them from coming to the help of the others. 

Against the other kraal is sent a section called ^gila. Its 
task is to seize the cattle and bring them to a third section, ttUy 
which is waiting behind and takes no part in the fighting. It will 
then take the booty away in safety. The grouping has been carried 
out and the advance begins. To give the signal for this it is 
said that light-signals were sometimes used, i. e. the reflection of 
sunlight by means of mirrors. It is clear that the people of East 
Africa have used mirrors for a very long time; these were for- 
merly obtained from the Arab and Suaheli traders, and still earl- 
ier they bought them themselves in Mombasa. Absolute silence 
is enjoined; it is important to get as far forward as possible un- 
perceived. But as soon as they are discovered, a mighty shout 
is raised and they let the piercing notes of the war-flute {gguli) 
ring out-. The war-flutes are carried by a number of men in each 

1 Similar principles are followed by the Masai. Cf. M. Merker, 
Die Masai, 2 aufl. p. 87. 

- The ^guh consists of a decimetre long piece of horn of a smaller 
antelope species. It is blown at the wider end. while the thumb is 
held against the turned-down mouthpiece. I have got the same in- 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

section; the Akamba do not like to fight without this music, it 
has an inciting effect on their senses. The flutes have been 

smeared with medicine by the 
medicine man before the depart- 
ure from home. A number of 
signals, such as »Haltl» are blown 
with them. There are attempts 
at the construction of a code of 
signals, as a number of old men 
can with the l^guh reproduce cer- 
tain words and expressions, which 
are understood by others. When 
a Masai troop approached the 
villages, they blew, for instance, 
aka-6t, aka-6t, mce-kuka, mce-kuka, 
'The Masai, the Masai, are com- 
ing!' The flute is also blown 
in case of an attack by enemies 
so as to call the men to arms, 
as well as at the ceremonial entry 
of a hunting-party into the villages 
on their return from a successful 
elephant hunt. 

The battle-flute is blown at 
the wider end (b, see fig.), and at the 
same time a finger is allowed to 
oscillate against the end that is 
like a mouthpiece (a). It is car- 
ried by means of a strap fixed 
Fig. 53. Warflute i^^gidi) made of round the waist or to the quiver, 
the horn of the Thomson gazelle As has been stated, the war- 

Nat, size. riors' kraals (Kikamba mbilj) are 

Riksmus. Ethnogr. Coll. Inv. 12. 7. 106. Surrounded by a section, the mu- 

ena Without bows and arrows 
the elmoran are, in spite of their formidable spears, pretty harm- 
less, if they can only be kep at a distance. The boldest of them 

strument from the Waduruma, a sub-tribe of the Wanyika, in the 
coast-land within Mombasa. 

Warfare 193 

try, with shields in front of them, to break out, and if the 
watching Akamba are not powerful men with good bows, they 
succeed in their purpose, and after that it is very difficult for 
the attackers to get clear. They are thus quite aware of the 
danger and in front of the warriors' kraal are placed the best 
shooters, who are able to pierce the shields with their arrows. 
As soon as any of el-moran try to break out, they get an arrow 
through the body. It is, of course, still more favourable for the 
agressors if the attack can be effected so completely that the 
Masai have no time to come out of their huts, which is the case 
if the Akamba succeed in getting into the warriors' kraal unper- 
ceived and dividing themselves before the entrances to the huts. 
During this time the second section, the 'ggila, is busy 
driving the cattle away. Everyone tries to mark as many animals 
as possible by giving them a slight sword-cut in a certain place 
or by hanging their leather bags {ggusu) round the animal's neck, 
etc. By this means they consider that they obtain a right to 
the animal at the coming distribution of the spoil. Sometimes it 
falls to the one who first strikes it with his bow. Men and married 
women, especially pregnant women, are killed without mercy, »so that 
they may not be able to give birth to more enemies ■>. The girls 
who Uve in the kraals of el-moran as their paramours are also 
killed, if an opportunity offers itself. The men's ornaments are 
taken home as trophies. On the other hand a woman's orna- 
ments are never taken; they bring no honour: >It is like taking 
things from a corpse, for women cannot fight», said an old war- 
rior to me. For the same reason women are not shot, but their 
heads are crushed with a sword or the first suitable weapon, such 
as their own axes, a bit of wood or a stone. To waste an arrow 
on a woman is almost equivalent to throwing it away; arrows are 
needed for more important work. Quite young girls and children 
are collected together and driven away by the third section, the 
Ua, at the same time as the cattle. The muena and %gila have 
to stay behind and keep the enemy in check, if the latter is 
strong enough to pursue, until the 'ita have had time to get a good 
bit of the way home with their plunder^. There is also another 
reason for not making the force which has to watch the cattle 

^ tta also means 'expedition, plundering expedition'. 
Arch.Or. L indblom 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

Fig- 54. Warrior's breast ornament {ivea) made from the mane of a zebra. Riksmus. 
Ethnogr. collect. Inv. 12. 7. 109. ','3 nat. size. 

Warfare I95 

too strong, namely the wish to avoid disputes as to the distrib- 
ution of the booty. Such disputes have occasionally led to a 
battle between the conquerors themselves. Even the admirably 
discipHned Masai often find it difficult to abstain from them. 

When the ita with the cattle and prisoners have got an adequate 
start, the other sections also retire. If the Masai are numerous and 
pursue, the attacking party run an obvious risk of being outflanked 
by them, the ita being caught up and the cattle being recaptured. 
During the retreat they usually have, on this accouijt, a rough 
form of escort which is arranged in this way: on both sides of 
the line of retreat patrols are sent out on a rather broad front; 
they warn the others if the enemy attempts a flanking movement. 

If the attack is unsuccessful they do not wait for the enemy, 
but try as quickly as possible to get back. On such occasions 
their tactics are to spread like chaff before the wind and after- 
wards perhaps to collect again at some definite place, often chosen 
beforehand. By means of this the pursuit is obviously made more 
difficult. A certain signal on the war-flute can make the fugitives 
stop. During the flight fine and self-sacrificing features may be 
observed, based on the strong feeling of interdependence and of 
the duty of helping their kinsfolk, which is so characteristic of 
the Akamba. Thus, for instance, a man runs to his brother-in- 
law, who is wounded and quite exhausted and can only with 
difficulty drag himself forward. Although the former is in good 
condition, he stops all the same, takes his relative's quiver as well 
as his own and tries to keep back the pursuers, thereby perhaps 
saving the other man's life at the cost of his own. 

Even if there is an opportunity, the Akamba do not bury 
those who have fallen in battle, not even those who come back 
wounded to the village and die there. For they believe that for 
each fallen man that is buried another warrior must die. 

Dead enemies are not mutilated, at the most an arm may be 
chopped off in a hurry, when there is no other way of taking its 
ornaments off. Of the following statement of Hildebrandt, I have 
been unable to find any confirmation at all, as far as the Akamba 
are concerned: »Als siegestrophae emasculieren die Gala und 
mehrere Somalistamme die erschlagenen feinde. Dieses thun auch 
die Wakamba und Wanika, schneiden auch andere gliedmassen, 
hande und fiisse, ab, die sie, siegreich nach hause zuriickgekehrt, 

196 Lindblom, The Akamba 

in die dorfbaume hangen»^. The customs in this case could not 
have altered since H:s time, as his statement is disputed by many 
old men, who remembered very well Bwana Ndege (Kisuaheli 
'Mr. Bird'), as H. was called by the natives, the chief object of 
his journey being to collect birds. 

But to return to our raiding expedition. When the Akamba 
have arrived so far on the way home that the danger of pursuit 
is no longer present, a halt is usually made and the booty divided. 
In the Machakos district this was done by some men out of each 
tika or age class being appointed to divide up the cattle, while 
the great mass waited at some distance. Before the distribution 
was carried out, an oath w^as taken on the kipttm to the effect 
that no one would begin to quarrel afterwards. The asibli ob- 
tained more than the others, as the result of the enterprise had 
been due to a great extent to their plans for it. Among the 
i common men» those who had specially distinguished themselves 
obtain more than the others. If, for instance, the booty is so 
small that there is only one animal between five warriors, two 
asihh get one between them, etc. Thus the asihh, despite their 
important position, have no further great advantages over the rest, 
a manifestation of the feeling of equality which characterizes the 
whole of the Akamba's social life. Little attention is paid during 
the division to the above described method of denoting posses- 
sion that is employed during the attack itself. Only leaders 
and spies might, if they urged their claim vigorously, be allowed 
as a result of their merits to keep the animals they had succeeded 
in marking. A distribution of booty rarely passed off to the 
satisfaction of all, and in spite of the oath on the ki^itm num- 
erous actions were brought about cattle that had been marked by 
one person and afterwards fell to another. As late as 191 1 dur- 
ing my stay in the Machakos district I heard of an action by 
which an old bull was given back to a man who several years 
ago during a raiding expedition had struck it with his bow but 
who had afterwards lost it at the division of the spoil. 

Prisoners are treated well on the whole. The girls become 
the conquerors' wives, the captured children are soon looked upon 

^ J. M. Hildebrandt, Ethnographische Notizen fiber Wakamba 
and ihre Nachbarn, p. 386. 

Warfare 197 

as their own, » These are my children, which I produced with 
my bow», they used to say jokingly. Often, however, the prisoners 
were sold as slaves to the trade caravans from the coast. 

4. The homecoming of the warriors after a successful 
plundering expedition. 

We have seen that the warriors who most distinguish them- 
selves get a somewhat greater portion of the booty than the others. 
The man who brings home as a sign of victory a Masai spear, 
i. . e. who has killed a Masai warrior, is esteemed above all others. 
He is then called mutz(Btumo, an title of honour which is used 
instead of his ordinary name for the rest of his life. A man who 
has taken a sword, an ol-moranis leather dress, etc. also gets a 
title of honour for these tings; his reputation is, however, not so 
great as the muti^tumo's ^. 

As trophies from a successful expedition the warriors bring 
back weapons and clothes from the enemies they have killed. 
These things, now called matuso, may not be immediately taken 
into the villages, but must first be treated in the following way: 

Weapons and other captured objects are hidden in the wildness, 
and an expert old man is sought out to tula mba'gga 'break the 
peril', as it is called. He gets beer as a gift and gives the 
warriors instructions to build an enclosure at a certain place and 
there take all the plunder. The old man takes his place there, 
and each of the warriors who has taken a Masai spear bends the 
point of one of his arrows and then shots a wooden arrow, an 
imitation, constructed for the occasion, of the real arrows, against 
it or the spears he has brought back, saying: »These spears be- 
long to X's son» (mentioning his fathers' name). The old man 
who has conducted the ceremony must afterwards have connec- 

^ The etymology of this word is uncertain. It is clear that it is 
a contraction of mutta (= ?) + iiumo (= spear). The missionary E. Brutzer, 
Handbuch der Kamba-Sprache, arbitrarily translates the word with »speer- 
trager». Speaking of a warrior coming home with a trophy they used 
for instance to say: ■»'^gama ntitwtd {'^ nutustd) uta 'X. has taken pos- 
session of (?) a bow' (< kutwa 'tear off ?). Of other appellations of the 
same kind I have found mutiota {uta 'bow'), muttoOm (uv6iu 'sword'), 
tnuha'ggua (^gua 'dress'), muttaptaka (ptaka 'quiver'), tnuttando (ndq 

198 Lindblom, The Akamba 

tion with a woman and finally obtains a big, pregnant cow and 
an ox for his trouble. As far as the warriors themselves are con- 
cerned, I have not obtained any information to the effect that 
they undergo any special purification ceremony, which otherwise 
is often the case among African tribes ^ (cf. however just below). 

After this treatment of the booty comes the principal feature 
in the festivities which follow every sucessful campaign. The 
warriors go in a procession with their trophies round the villages to 
be admired and to receive presents from their relations and friends. 
This custom is called to kwa'gga ^. In this triumphal procession 
a mutKBtumo takes the place of honour. Let us follow one of 
these after his arrival home to see the reception he meets with. 

The homecomer is smeared with fat by his mother. This is 
certainly considered to purify him after contact with inimical, and 
therefore injurious, persons and weapons. The father slaughters an 
ox in honour of his son. From the skin of the animal he cuts a 
long strip, in one end of which a hole is made, while the rest is 
split into several flaps. A strip of this sort, which is called 
ukualo (pi. '^gwald), is placed on one of the mnttcPtumo's index 
fingers, another on the shaft of the spear. After getting this out- 
ward token of his dignity he is ready to begin to kwa'gga, followed by 
his friends and comrades. Amongst those who are visited his 
maternal uncle, tnaumd, seems to be the most important. He 
gives him a bull and places a leather thong on another of his 
fingers. A man who has captured more than one spear seems to 
have been allowed to hand one over to his maternal uncle. From 
his paternal uncle, mwcsndwh^d, he gets a bull in the same way. 
It has happened that when one of these near relations has had 
no cattle, he has given his daughter in marriage to one of his 
friends and as an advance of the price of the bride has demanded 
a bull to present to the muti(§tumo. From other relations he gets 
some goats, from one two, from another four, all according to the 
resources of the giver. Some give nothing at all. His father also 
gives him goats, if he has no horned cattle, perhaps about ten. 
In this way the muticBtumo can get together a whole little flock, 
a part of which he slaughters for a feast to his friends. 

^ Cf. Frazer, The Golden Bough 2, p. 172 ff, 

^ Presumably the same word as kwagga 'stroll around'. 

Warfare 199 

When the mutKgtumo and his band, going round kwa'^ga-xwg, 
approach a village, they strike up songs of victory, which extol 
the exploits that have been achieved. A song of this sort, 
which has probably been in more general use, runs as follows 
when translated literally: »You wonder: he who sings the song 
of victory, who is he? He is mutKBtumo X. (here follows his real 
name), who has fought with the men of cattle, but if we had not 
helped each other, he should not have come out of it success- 
fully, aaaaahb^ ^ The women of the village greet those who are 
coming with shrill cries: ///z, /z7/, lili, lilH, the women's usual way 
of expressing their joy and delight about something 2. 

The other conquerors, the mutiota and the rest, march round 
in about the same way but with more modest forms. 

Each successful raiding expedition is followed by intense feasting, 
for which a part of the captured cattle is slaughtered. The older 
men are assembled for great drinking-bouts, and when the beer 
begins to go to their heads, they outbid each other in boasting 
about their sons' exploits. It was hard then for a man without sons, 
who perhaps did not even have any relatives at all to show 
off, to sit silent listening to the bragging of the other old men. 
Many a time, said one of my informants, such a man killed a 
young mutKBtumo by magic, merely to escape hearing the others' 

By showing courage and recklessness in battle a disreputable 
man may win back his good name and reputation. Ngila, an old man 
near Machakos, is said to have been in his young days such an 
incorrigible thief, that it was decided to put him to death as an 
individual who was a peril to the community, but he saved him- 
self by paying heavy fines. During an expedition against the 

^ By »the cattlemen* are meant the Masai, who are nomads and 
live principally by their flocks, while the Akamba, on the other hand, 
practise agriculture. The song is as follows in Kikamba: mutkuha: 
usu wma 'ggakqh n'u? kot(E muttcBtumo ^gania waukittd na mundu wa 
'gombd, na kceka kutmptwa, ndadtta, eaaaah! 

* The same thing is true about the Djagga women in Kilmandjaro: 
» — — — jubelruf der weiber [at a successful birth], den sie auch 
sonst bei anderen freudigen ereignissen ausstossen: bei rtickkehr der 
manner aus dem kriege, bei erlegung eines wilden tieres u. s. w. Es 
ist ein helles jubilieren and trillern auf dem vokale i = lilililili». B. 
Gutmann, Dichten und Denken der Dschagga-Neger, p. 83. 

200 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Masai which was carried out shortly afterwards he was so reckless 
that he came back with two spears. From that moment his fame 
in the district was great and is so to this day. On the other hand, 
a man who is cowardly in battle, has for a long time to put up 
with many an insulting epithet. He also finds it difficult to get a 
wife, for few girls will bear to hear such things about their future 

Finally one more detail: a young man who has fought his 
first battle may not have coitus on his arrival home before his 
parents have had it. If he does so the cattle he has brought 
home die, or he is unsuccessful next time: mtusgu6)d uta wa mwana, 
»we shall purify our son's bow», says the father. 

5. Defensive fighting. 

According to the accounts of older travellers the Akamba for- 
merly guarded their boundaries against their old enemies, the 
Masai and the Akikuyu; this was done by means of look-out 
sentries. Whether these sentries were permanent and relieved 
according to certain principles, the accounts do not show, but 
according to M. Schoeller, who saw such sentries on the boundary 
of the Kikuyu country, the were »hoch organisiert» ^. S. came 
across similar sentries among the Wasotik, up towards Lake 
Victoria and south of the Uganda railway, and Dr. G. Kolb 
saw at the south boundary of »the Kitu country*, on the southern 
slope of Kenia, permanent frontier guards in clothes made of grass, 
with shield, spear, bow and arrow ^. Now the tribes mentioned 
are more or less hillfolk, and Schoelkr assumes that their custom 
of having frontier guards is due to the fact that people in a 
mountainous country have greater difficulty in observing the ap- 
proach of an enemy than in open ground. One might equally well 
think that the people who observe such precautions feel inferior 
to their neighbours; besides, the mountain heights with their good 
views invite such arrangements. The Akikuyu, who might also 
be correctly called a hilltribe, seem, however, not to have used 
frontier sentries. 

^ M. Schoeller, Mitteilungen uber meine Reise nach Equatorial- 
Afrika und Uganda 1896 — 7, U, p. 181. 

^ Petermann's Mitteilungen 1896, p. 227. 

Warfare 201 

In spite of this vigilance it often happened, of course, that 
the Kamba villages were surprised at night time by the enemy or 
that pastured flocks were taken away. The hedges of thorn and 
the barricades which surround the villages and which we shall 
describe in detail later on, did not always form an effective pro- 
tection. The agile Masai made their way over these, among other 
ways by spreading skins over the thorns. As the huts are kept 
closed during the night, the Masai used sometimes, when they 
were not discovered, to wait silently till the inhabitants woke up, 
and when they, suspecting nothing, emerged, they were struck 
down with the long spears. 

But even in broad daylight the Masai attacked succesfully in 
open combat. They crept forward to the barricades, protected 
by their shields, which they pushed in front of them and which 
the Akamba's arrows could not as a rule penetrate. 

When the Masai troops were reported to be in the neighbour- 
hood, the alarm was sounded on the big drums and the women 
set up cries. The cattle were driven near the villages so that in 
case of need they could be taken within the barricades. From the 
hills they carefully watched the enemy's movements, and the 
younger men went to meet him, while the attitma, who were 
no longer capable of fighting, stayed at home in the village to 
defend it. 

6. Civil feuds. 

When it was a question of an attack or defence against other 
tribes, the Akamba were always united. But when no external 
danger threatened or prospects of booty did not bring about a 
union, perpetual internal quarrels and feuds prevailed. One little 
kiOalo or district was in more or less open feud with the other, 
and there was usually a certain risk attached to going beyond the 
brook or hollow which divided two adjacent districts. When cattle 
were put out to grass, the risk was run of having them carried off 
by their own countrymen. The young men of a district risked 
being attacked, if they went to other dancing places and danced 
with the girls there. Only the women could go unhindered wher- 
ever they liked. Finally, as we already know, the different fam- 
ilies and clans, although their members are spread in different 

202 Lindblom, The Akamba 

quarters, composed, and still compose, independent groups, within 
which blood-vengeance prevails. An offence against one member 
is an offence against the whole family. 

The civil fights were concluded with real treaties. The 
leading men from both sides then often met at the boundary 
between the inimical territories, a stream or the like, unarmed, 
yet rather afraid of each other. Peace was sworn on the ktpttui. 
The negotiators from the one side then accompanied the opposite 
party's representatives home and a feast was partaken of. For 
the killed the full mulct for manslaughter was levied on both 
sides, prisoners were liberated on the payment of the same blood- 
money as for those killed, which in Ukamba is eleven cows and 
a bull. These fights became in reality, perhaps chiefly on account 
of the mulct for manslaughter, pretty harmless, and were fought 
out preferably with arrows at a respectful distance. After a fight 
with other tribes no blood-money was paid nor was peace confirmed 
by any definitive act. 

A peculiar position is taken in these internal combats by 
the Kilun'gu district in the south-eastern part of the country ^. The 
dwellers there were of old known for their wildness and rapacity 
and continually had feuds with the rests of the tribe. They are 
considered almost as strangers, inasmuch as no compensation for 
men killed in battle was considered necessary. With regard to their 
speech as well and partly in their manners and customs the people 
in Kilun'gu are somewhat separate from the other Akamba. The 
characteristic of the Kilun'gu men's warfare is the extraordinary 
cruelty with which they behave. The prisoners, for whom they 
can hope for no ransom, are tortured by them in a way that calls 
to mind Indian torture. Of this I have been informed as follows: 

The victim is laid on his back on the ground with arms and 
legs stretched out. Through his hands are struck pointed wedges; 
his feet are fastened firm by piles driven in. Over the head of 
the unfortunate man was fastened a branch so that he could not 
raise it. He was then left to his fate. 

Another popular method was to cut the prisoner's noses off 
or to skin them. This was done by taking off small strips of 
skin from the forehead right down to the feet of the poor wretches. 

1 On the special position of Kilun'gu see p. i6. 

Warfare 203 

who were then driven out into the desert with scornful ejaculations : 
»Go back home and tell your people that here in Kilun'gu all is 
well. Here there is no one ill or weak». Most of those tortured 
in this way died on the road. 

Sometimes, it is said, they used to tell a prisoner to imitate 
the bellowing of cattle. If he did this, his life was spared for a 
ransom. To extort this more quickly they had finally, among 
other customs, that of fastening the prisoners close to a fire. 

This description is now almost ended. I shall only add an 
attempt at a brief analysis of the Akamba's skill in war, compared 
with their neighbours, the Masai. The latter have in East Africa 
played the same military role as the Zulus in South Africa and 
have been at all times a scourge to the resident negro tribes. It 
is consequently very interesting to observe how the Akamba seem 
to have been able to keep them pretty well within bounds. And 
they did not always content themselves with a succesful defensive 
in their own land, from the heights of which they had certain hopes 
of defending themselves with their arrows from the Masai armed 
with spears. We have just seen how they ventured — a thing 
that probably no other tribe would have dared — to go out on 
the steppes and attack the Masai kraals, often with great success. 
The names muticstmno, muttqta are not infrequent, and many a stolen 
Masai woman lives as a wife in the Akamba's huts. In the Ma- 
chakos district there are various half-blood Masai, the product of 
such marriages. On the plain just west of the present govern- 
ment station of Machakos there were formerly some Masai kraals, 
but the Akamba were troublesome and the Masai had to move 
farther out. Presumably, however, these Masai were numerically 

I have had the opportunity of discussing this subject with a 
man who already in the beginning of the nineties lived among the 
Akamba and who has witnessed many of their expeditions, namely 
Sauberlich, the missionary in Ikutha. He confirms what I have just 
said about the Akamba's ability to defend themselves against the 
Masai, but declared that this was only the case with the peoples 
in West Ukamba. He remembers vividly how one day about 20 

204 Lin d bio m, The Akamba 

years ago the Masai, while the Kamba warriors were away in 
another direction, hurried and took their cattle. But the Akamba 
came back, caught the plunderers up, took their animals back 
and killed a great number of the Masai. At that time, however, 
the Masai's might was already greatly broken by severe plagues 
among the cattle. 

In East Ukamba, on the other hand, the ravages of the Masaf 
had more results. The population here showed the usual terror 
of them and fled merely at the rumour of their approach. At the 
last Masai attack in the district of Ikutha mission station they all 
fled to a steep clifl", where they used to take refuge in such cases,, 
and Herr Sauberlich relates how one man was so afraid that he 
could not walk, and so his wife had to carry him away on her 
back. I think that the cause of the Machakos people's brave con- 
duct was their proximity to their hereditary enemy. In numerous 
fights they had learnt that the latter was not invincible, whereas 
those who lived farther east, where the Masai did not come so 
often, did not even dare to make an attempt to test the worth of 
the halo which shone round their name. 

In hand-to-hand fighting with the Masai, according to Herr 
Sauberlich' s statement, two Akamba usually tried to attack one 
Masai. One, with sword in hand, engaged in a feigned skirmish 
with the Masai and tried to capture his attention, while the other 
waited for the occasion when the warrior, who was protected by 
his big bufialo-hide shield, should expose himself, when he im- 
mediately placed a poisoned arrow in his body. 

East Ukamba is separated from the Tana river by a terri- 
tory, 1 60 kilometres broad, uninhabited and poorly watered. The 
Akamba went over this very often to the glen of the Tana tO' 
plunder the Galla and Wapokomo, two tribes rich in cattle, the 
latter a small peaceable Bantu tribe ^. They were a terror to- 
these people and extended their incursions very far. In Mkunumbi,. 
a little port north of the mouth of the Tana and just west of the 
town of Lamu, some Galla told me how plundering bands of the 
Akamba had found their way even as far as there. Yet it is 
nearly 150 kilometres as the crow flies from there to the Akamba's 
eastern boundary. 

1 Cf. above p. 19, 

Warfare 205 

The Kamba warriors never employ in battle artificial means 
to raise their courage and desire for battle, as was the custom, 
on the other hand, among many of the Masai. The latter drank a 
decoction of the leaves of the ol umigumi (Pappea capensis?) and by 
means of this were able to get into a veritable Berserker rage. The 
Akamba told me how solitary Masai warriors were seized by such lust 
for battle that they sprang madly from their section and rushed 
on beforehand so as to get to blows as quickly as possible, upon 
which they were shot down by the Akamba. Although the latter 
know of the ol umigumi tree — it is called mu6a in the Kamba 
language — they do not use it, however, in the same way as 
the Masai warriors. On the steppes west of Machakos there are 
some of these trees, whose bark is here and there cut away on 
the stem, which the Masai are said to have done when they went 
forth to fight against the Akamba. 

Now the grass grows on the Akamba war-paths, the battle- 
cry is no longer sounded from savage throats and the swords have 
almost in the real meaning of the word been transformed to 
plougshares; for they are often used for clearing work in the fields. 
The native pastures his humped cattle in safety at the foot of the 
hillocks of his homeland. Do not think, however, that they fully 
realise the value of the new order of things; many heartily wish 
the white men to leave the country so that the old plundering 
life may begin again. The young men listen with longing looks 
to their fathers' tales of ancient plundering expeditions. My own 
cook and retainer, the most inteUigent and the finest native I 
know, who has for several years been an askari (soldier) in the 
government service and in many things showed an astonishingly 
intelligent apprehension, often used all the same to lament the 
fact that he was nearly thirty years old and had not yet killed 
a Masai. He almost despised himself. 

p. Ill 

Chapter XIII. Religion. 

In the foregoing chapters we have seen that religion and mor- 
als are intimately connected with individual and social life; now 
we come to the religious conceptions of the Akamba, in the strict 
sense of the expression. These tally on the whole with those found 
among most of the Bantu peoples in the east and south. Thus 
they consist of: 

1. a developed worship of the spirits of their ancestors (^/w/^); 

2. a vague belief in a Higher Being {muhi'ggu, 'gga)). 

I. Spirit=worship. 

Spirit-worship is based on the conception of the continued 
life of the soul after death. The word for »soul» is km, which 
is often used in the sense of »spirit», that is to say the soul of a 
departed ancestor (cf. aimu below); pam only means »life» in a 
purely physical sense, synonymous with iudcsOa 'breath', paiu has 
been adopted by the missionaires, who, in translations of the Prayer 
Book, render » eternal life» by paiu utakapcela (lit. 'the life that 
will never end'), km also means »shadow», and in reality there- is 
a certain connection between a man's soul and his shadow ^. After 
death the body is buried or thrown out, and is then torn to pieces 
by the hyenas' (»everyone can convince himself of this with his 
own eyes»), but the soul immediately goes down to the nether 
regions, where most of the departed spirits (which are called aimu 
in their new state) live after death. Their existence there is an im- 
mediate continuation of what they experienced during life. He who 

^ This is one of the reasons for the well-known dread of the 
natives for being photographed. They believe that they then lose their 
shadows, and anyone doing so must die. No other superstitious con- 
ceptions seem to be connected with the shadow by the Akamba; it is 
not, for example, considered dangerous to tread on it. 

ArchOr. Lindblom U 

2IO Lindblom, The Akamba 

was rich in this life continues to be so in the spirit world; he who 
died unmarried gets married there; the women perform their usual 
tasks, &c. For amusement they dance the special dance of the 
spirits, hlumj. There is no separation of the bad from the good. 
The female atmu are not inferior to the male. Animals are also 
considered to possess souls, which is quite natural if we take into 
consideration how near to themselves the natives consider animals 
to be. However, their souls are thought to die with them, and 
are thus quite different from the souls of human beings. 

The conceptions just described are general throughout the 
whole of Ukamba, though in the southern and eastern districts 
(Kikumbuliu and the southern parts of the Kitui district) the 
spirit-world is not located under the earth, but on the unpeopled 
mountain Kyumbe, situated in a north-easterly direction from Kili- 
mandjaro, between that mountain and the Uganda railway. Kyumbe 
is thought to be a meeting-place for all spirits from many parts 
of the country. The mountain is shunned, and no one will go 
there without good cause, because the aimu do not like to be 
disturbed by human beings^. 

Anyone passing the mountain must on no account speak 
of it as Kyumbe; if they must mention it, it must be by the 
name of mulwggu or '^ga^, the name of the Supreme Being, of 
whom more below. The bold man who dares to approach the 
home of the spirits is often stopped by voices, which ask: » Whi- 
ther goest thou? What brings thee here?» &c. This conception 
of Kyumbe as the favourite mountain of the spirits seems to be 
Unknown in Ulu. 

Many tales about the mountain are current among the in- 
habitants of East Ukamba. To illustrate the conception, a note 
that I have made may be inserted here: 

A man was once going there from the Kibwezi district to 
look for wild honey. Then he heard a voice: »Who goes there ?» 
He stated his errand, and the voice told him to go to such and 

^ The word aimu is found in many East African dialects (muzimu, 
mulimu, «&:c). atmti in Kikamba, sg. ntnti (which is, however, not so 
often used) is possibly derived from tma 'to dig'; the corresponding 
expression in Kisuaheli is msimu, cf. kuzima 'to extinguish, to put 
out'. A. Le Roy derives all these from the root -ima 'etre droit, 6tre 
vivant'. Cf. Le Roy, La Religion des primitifs, p. 138. 

Religion 211 

such a place and cut into a ceitain tree, where he would find 
much honey. On the following day he was to go home without 
turning round to look behind him. He was also to tell the people 
that it was the mountain of the spirits, and that they did not wish 
to be visited. Concerning Kyumbe and aimu, a foimer missionary 
in Ukamba says: »Dort leben sie. Dort sieht man von feme wohl 
audi ihie feuer und hort ihre unterhaltung. Von da werfen sie 
nach dem voriibergehenden mit steinen. Geht man aber na- 
her, so verschwindet der spuk, und man sieht weder kohle noch 
asche. Von diesem hiigel aus ziehen die geister im ganzen lande 
umher, um krankheit und seuche zu bringen» ^. 

Apart from Kyumbe, there are found all over Ukamba soli- 
tary places, especially mountains, which are believed to be the 
abodes of the azmu. Such are Kivauni, immediately to the west of 
the river Athi; and Muutha, on the eastern border of the settled 
country^. At the foot of the mountains and on the slopes are 
villages, but the heights are inhabited by ainiu, and people are 
very loath to ascend them. They believe that they often see the 
lights of fires on the top of Kivauni. 

The aimu always show a great interest in the living race, and 
are thought to keep themselves informed of everything that hap- 
pens among them. The native feels a close bond between him- 
self and his dead, and the latter often come at night to visit 
their old village. They can be talked with, though they are not 
usually visible. The strongest proof of such an intimate bond 
is the belief that the ai7nu decide as to the reproduction of the 
race, since they form the foetus in the woman. There are many 
barren women among the natives, and, as has been seen, sexual 
connection between a man and a woman is not always enough 
to produce children^. However, every birth does not seem to 
be regarded as a re-incarnation, as is the case, for example, 
among the Central Australian natives, among whom the theory of 
birth is simply the theory of the re-incarnation of an ancestral 

^ G. Kanig, Domige Pfade eines jungen Missionars in Ukamba, p. 17. 
^ Hobley, Akamba p. 86, mentions several. 
^ Cf. Hobley, Akamba p. 20, about spiritual husbands. 
* Spencer and Gillen, The native tribes of Central Australia. 
Spencer and Gillen, The Northern tribes of Central Australia, p. 174. 

212 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Occasionally a spirit appears to a barren woman, and announ- 
ces to her that .she is going to give birth to a child, and some 
time afterwards she actually does give birth to one. A barren wife 
in the Machakos district one night heard a voice which said to 
her: »Thou shalt give birth to a child 1». She got up to see what 
it was, but saw no one. When she had lain down again, she 
again heard the voice, and once more got up, but to no purpose. 
The next morning she told her husband, but he said: »Nonsensel 
Dreams have no meaning* {ndoto ni sm mand). However, a year 
later the woman gave birth to a child. It has already been men- 
tioned that, before it has received a name, a baby is called kntnu. 

A word may be inserted here about the natives' conception 
of dreams. The appearance of ^2;«« just described, of course takes 
place in dreams, which are considered actual events. It is also 
thought that dreams come from the spirits. On waking up, any- 
one who has had a bad dream takes a firebrand, puts it out, and 
throws it away, saying: »May my bad dream go out like this 
fire-brand !». 

Among the Bantu peoples is found an undeveloped belief in 
the transmigration of souls, and this is also the case among the 
Akamba. In the chapter » Child-birth » (p. 30) it has already been said 
that the aimu readily allow themselves to be born again in a child, 
and here we have the common notion that ancestors are re-incarnated 
in children. Sometimes this is apparent at once from a birth- 
mark or someting else that was characteristic of the deceased. 
However, a spirit which will allow itself to be born again, usually 
appears to a pregnant woman in the family circle, and tells her 
who it is and that it intends to take up its abode in the child 
to which she shall give birth, and that therefore the child shall 
receive the name of the spirit. Further, the aimu very often take up 
a temporary abode in human beings, especially women, who then 
become liable to hysterical attacks, and do not regain their peace 
of mind again until the spirit has been driven out. We shall 
revert to this point later. 

The worship of animals. It also happens that aiinu take 
up their abode in animals, frequently in snakes, such as pythons 
(see p. 127). It does not seem that the natives think the spir- 
its dwell permanently in these animals; they only occasionally 
avail themselves of this method of visiting their living relatives. 

Religion 213 

A wild cat sometimes used to come in the evenings to a village 
near the mission station of Mulango, and a little food used to be 
thrown to it. The people said that it was a deceased relation 
and even mentioned the name. Many similar cases could be cited. 
The explanation is the same as in the case of the pythons: 
when a wild animal so far departs from its usual habits that it 
approaches human beings fearlessly, it is thought that a special 
reason must exist. It cannot be an ordinary animal. These ani- 
mals must not be confused with the totem animals; very few of 
them are among the totem animals (neither the python nor the 
wild cat are), which, moreover, are not considered to be re-incar- 
nated atmu. Totemism and animal worship are two different ideas. 

Thus we come to the important conclusion that among the 
Akamba there exists a belief in the transmigration of souls side 
by side with totemism, and independent of it. Frazer cites some- 
thing similar from the Bahima, east of Uganda, and with reason 
indicates that the conception is strong evidence against the theor- 
ies that would trace the totemism of the Bantu peoples to the 
belief that the souls of the dead take up their abode in animals. 

With the conception of ai7nu is also combined that of various 
animals who are looked upon as the domestic animals of the 
spirits or even as their household property. Thus the elephant is 
sometimes called the »spirits' cattle», and the medicine man, as 
he more than any other is in communication with the spirit world 
and is the connecting link between it and mankind, may not kill an 
elephant. The common little land tortoise is said to be used by 
the spirits' wives as a grindstone when they grind their seed into 
flour. It is beheved that this, like the elephant, cannot die a 
natural death. The praying grasshopper (Mantis religiosa) is u.sed 
by the male spirits as a snuff-box (!) and a smaller species by 
their women ^. This is thus called in East Ukamba simply mwa'ggt 
wa aimu 'the spirit's snuftbox', to which the etymology of mu^- 
gaimu, the term in use in the west (Machakos), may also be re- 
ferred. That in this word as well we are dealing with atmu, the 
spirits, is obvious at once. Further, the spider's net is called the 

^ I remember in passing that Mantis plays a certain part in the 

religions conceptions of the Bushmen and also of the South African Bantu 

peoples. See, for instance, Junod, The Life of a South African Tribe II, 
p. 312- 

214 Lindblom, The Akamba 

sack {kiondo) of the woman spirits. These small insects are not 
killed without reason. A good many of the conceptions asso- 
ciated with them seem nowadays to be partly regarded as jokes. 
They also seem to be dying out and are probably relics of older 
superstition, now almost forgotten. 

From what has been said, it is seen that the aimu can show 
a certain friendly interest in their descendants. For instance, they 
sometimes give information, through a medium, of an impending 
attack by the Masai, and in the next chapter we shall read how 
they play an important part in the Akamba's treatment of the 
sick, as all knowledge about healing plants is thought to come 
from them and to be communicated by them to certain persons. 

The most characteristic feature of the conception of atmu is, 
however, that they are considered to expect constant attention 
from their living relations, in the form of sacrifices. The sacrifice 
is a gift which the atnm need; by it also the connection with 
them is maintained and strengthened. The least inattention in 
this respect is avenged by the sending of all sorts of misfortunes 
down upon the negligent one," such as diseases of both men and 
domestic animals, and even death. Therefore, when an accident 
happens, it is feared that it is caused by the atmu. A case that 
came under my own notice may be cited. Once, on paying a 
visit to a hut, I found that a little child that had been running 
about and playing, had chanced to fall into the fire. The child's 
father then went to the medicine-man to find out whether, for 
some reason or other, the spirits were angry. 

The result of these beliefs is that the natives never know whether 
they have sacrificed enough, and so they live in a constant state 
of anxiety lest they shall incur the displeasure of the jealous 
and capricious spirits. Judging from this fear and from experience 
of many primitive peoples in other parts of the world, one might 
be led to suppose that the Akamba avoid naming deceased per- 
sons, so that their attention may not be unnecessarily attrac'^ed. 
I haye not, however, found anything to support such a supposition ^. 

^ According to Frazer, The Golden Bough II, p. 353, J. M. 
Hildebrandt points out a similar fear among the Akamba of mention- 
ing the dead by name. On the page quoted (Ethnogr, Notizen &c, p. 
405), however, Hildebrandt speaks of the Masai, not of the Akamba. 

Religion 215 

In spite of the native's respect for the aitnu and their power to 
do practically anything, he also believes that he can deceive them 
when necessary, and often by very simple means. This is undoubt- 
edly on account of the everyday human traits ascribed to the 
spirits. To quote an example, I once asked a woman why she 
called her little boy mbitt 'hyena', for hyenas are loathed above 
all other animals by most African peoples, since they eat corpses. 
She then said that she had already had three children who had 
died in infancy. In her opinion — and every other native would 
reason in the same way — so many deaths could not be natural 
occurrences, and for some reason or other the aimti must grudge 
her her happiness. So when her fourth child was born, she called 
it » hyena », in order to give the spirits the idea that she cared 
no more about the child than about a hyena. The idea was that 
the atmu would, as a consequence, not consider it worth while 
to take that child from her also. 

It may be indicated as still another feature of the concep- 
tion of aimu that they are considered to be subject to the laws 
of mortality. Those who have existed for a time are believed 
to disappear and to be replaced by new ones, which vanish 
in their turn. The reason is probably that when one generation 
of natives has died out, the spirits that they believed in and fear- 
ed are soon forgotten, since the succeeding generation have others^. 

Hobley says that the aimu » never are seen in human form». 
However, one very often meets with natives who assert that 
they have met spirits at night-time. They most often appear in 
human shape, and the forms in which they like best to present 
themselves are those of unusually tall, one-legged beings. On the 
mountain Kaani, on the road to Kitui, it is said that two one- 
legged spirits often appear, one a youth and the other a girl. 

^ » Their life after death is vaguely dependent on the memory of 
the living. When people forget an ancestor, he practically ceases to 
exist». Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. 88. The Wadjagga in Kili- 
mandjaro even designate the spirits of the present and past times with 
different names. »Das sind die jfingeren vorfahren, zu welcher die 
kenntnis der Jebenden noch hinabreicht. Man nennt noch ihre namen 
Oder wenigstens ihre wurden. Altere geschlechter der toten, die dem 
gedachtnis der lebenden entschwunden sind . . . zeigen sich auch den 
menschen nicht mehr»: Gutmann, Dichten und denken der Dschagga- 
neger, pp. 144, 145. 

21 6 Lindblom; The Akamba 

They stop travellers and ask them where they are going. Many 
places, especially of course the places of sacrifice, the special 
haunts of spirits, they dare not pass at night; though the Akamba 
themselves say that the spirits do not appear nearly so often since 
the arrival of Europeans in the country. The American mission 
station at Machakos is built on an old place of sacrifice, and the 
atmu are said to have been specially troublesome just there be- 
fore the arrival of the missionaries, while they have now com- 
pletely vanished. The popular conception of ^zw« much resembles 
that of our ghosts, and like the latter, the aimu preferably appear 
before midnight. The information that is to be obtained on these 
matters from other sources .supports the assertion that the idea 
that the dead occasionally reappear is generally spread among the 
Bantu peoples^. 

2. The cult of sacrifice. 

What has just been written with regard to the fear of the atmu 
and the necessity of constantly propitiating them, is an essen- 
tial point in the manism of the Akamba, and one upon which 
their cult of sacrifice is founded. The sacrifices consist entirely 
of food, and stress must be laid on the fact that the spirits are 
thought really to need material nourishment. They feel hunger, 
thirst and cold, just as human beings do. Further, to show what 
a general human conception the Akamba associate with aunu, the 
following interesting account may be quoted from Brutzer. A 
medicine-man is giving instructions to the atunfha: »Geht auf den 
opferplatz des N. N., baut die hiitte des N. N., welche einge- 
fallen ist. Er schlaft draussen, und weil er draussen schlafen 
muss, wird kein regen fallen, damit er nicht votn regen beregnet 
werde. Bringt ihm auch speise, er hat grossen hunger. Bringt 
ihm auch samen zum saen»^. The signification of part of the 
above is explained by the account given below. 

In addition to these sacrifices, made with the more general 
purpose of keeping the spirits good-tempered — if the expression 
may be used — sacrifices are also made with a definite pur- 

^ Cf. Gutmann ibid. p. 144. A. Werner, British Central Africa, 
p. 66. H, H. Johnston, British Central Africa, p. 449. 

^ E. Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube bei den Kamba, p. 7, 



pose, in difficulty or distress, or when something particular is 
desired, which can be obtained with the help o^ atmu. In a poorly 
watered country, such as Ukamba, with its oft-recurring droughts, 
which, as we have seen, bring famine to thousands and thousands- 
of people, they have, unfortunately, all too often great reason for 
offering sacrifices for rain, of which more later on. On the whole, 
the Akamba are diligent in offering sacrifices, and it would be- 


1 r'J>- 






Fig. 55. Sacrificial hut, situated in a grove. It contains a sacrifice im 

the form of corn and at the entrance is placed some sugarcane. 

(The white object is the author's hat.) 

difticult to give an exhaustive account of all the occasions on which 
sacrifices ought to be made. We content ourselves with appen- 
ding a summary of the most important and typical cases. For 
the sake of surveyability and clearness, we divide the sacrifices 
into such as are offered by private individuals or families, and 
such as are offered by all the inhabitants within a certain radius. 
This principle of division cannot always be said to apply, and 
sometimes it is difticult to differentiate. 

A. Sacrifices by individuals. Among the Bantu peoples 
in general, the cult is intimately bound up with family life, andi 

2i8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

is exercised by the fathers. In every Kamba family offerings 
are made regularly at every meal. They consist of a little food 
and drink placed on the floor of the hut. This is done by the 
father; a son cannot offer sacrifices as long as his father lives, nor 
■can a woman, except in special cases, and then only when the 
medicine-man so directs. When meat is eaten, fourteen small 
pieces are offered; if a male relative is there on a visit, he offers 
seven pieces and the host seven. At drinking-bouts, beer-brewing, 
snuff-making, &c., a little is also offered. The beer that is offered 
is called k'h^a'^^gona kyx uki. The medicine-man in particular, when 
he is drinking beer, always pours out a little as a gift to the atmu. 
We have already seen that family sacrifices are made on other 
occasions — births, deaths, &c. 

When passing a place of sacrifice they usually throw a little 
food there, such as a pinch of tobacco or some other trifle, espe- 
cially if they are out for some real purpose, such as seeing to 
their beehives out in the desert. It is also very usual for them 
to throw a stone there, a custom that is, of course, known among 
various races. To this ritual use of stones we shall return at the 
■end of the next chapter. 

Anyone undertaking a long journey offers several sacrifices 
on the way. He offers the first at home in the village, and the 
next at t^e exit to the village, just as he is leaving it. When 
crossing the first river he comes to, he offers a little of the food 
he has with him for the journey on both banks. The quantity of 
the offering is always insignificant: a few grains of maize, a pinch 
of flour, a few drops of gruel from the travelling calabash, etc. 
This is not, as Hobley suggests \ an act of worship of the spirits 
of the river; as far as I can discover, the Akamba have no con- 
ception of such spirits, nor indeed of nature spirits in general. 
Instead the sacrifice is, as is usually the case, offered to the aimu 
•or "ggax, which here means some well-known deceased caravan- 
leader, to obtain protection during the journey. In olden times 
especially, when they used to take ivory and cattle down to the 
coast, often in large caravans, they used to offer sacrifices at many 
places on the way. The great caravan-route to Mombasa led (in 
East Ukamba) over the mountain Mwathe, south-east of Ikutha, 

^ Hobley, Akamba, p. 57. 

Religion 2 1 9 

and there travellers used to smear a rock with fat, as an offering 
to the departed caravan-leaders who in old times successfully led 
their following to the journey's end, in spite of lurking Galla and 
Masai. The old highway fell into disuse when the Uganda rail- 
way was built, but the cave on Mwathe is still smeared with fat 
by those who journey by. 

B. Public sacrifices. In addition to the private cult of sacrifice 
practised within the family circle, is found another, more public, cult, 
which is con;imon to all the inhabitants within a certain area. Prominent 
among these sacrifices are such as are occasioned by special con- 
ditions, such as a threatened epidemic, a delay in the rains, &c. 
Offerings are then made to a deceased medicine-man or some 
other prominent person, who, during his life-time, played a part 
outside his immediate family circle. To these atmu, sacrifices are 
offered at certain places of sacrifice, called i^cembo (< ^cemba 'to 
sacrifice'). Sometimes these places are situated on or beside the 
grave of the person in question, sometimes on some other spot 
which is supposed to be a haunt of aimu, and which is usually 
a thick copse with one or more large trees, preferably wild fig- 
trees (inumbo or mumo, different species) 1. In East Ukamba, 
where these trees are not so common, sacrifices are offered among 
the rocks, or at the foot of baobab trees, where the dead are 
often laid. The places of sacrifice have names. Thus one at 
Machakos is called simply mumbom, at the fig-tree' ; another 
is called kasumbani, 'by the little hut' (diminutive of nvumba 
'hut'), in reference to the little hut which is often built over 
graves. There are an abundance of tpcembo, and near Machakos 
there are several with only a few minutes' walk between them. 
Families living close together (those who have a common open 
place or pomd) not infrequently use one and the same place of 

Even cellars seem to be used as places of sacrifice. As least 
the author knows one near Ngelani, north of Machakos, va which 
they were said to place offerings. 

One searches through the whole Bantu world in vain to find 
any fixed or periodically recurring religious festivals that are 

^ The fig-tree is sacred in many parts of Africa, and also beyond 
the bounds of this continent. Cf. A. Werner, The natives of British 
Central Africa; and Frazer, The Golden Bough I: 2 (see Index). 

220 Lindblom, The Akamba 

celebrated by the whole tribe. The Kamba medicine-man usually 
decides when it is time to offer sacrifices within a certain district. 
He may not, however, officiate at the sacrifice himself; this is man- 
aged by certain old men and old women called atutma ma 
ipcBinbo and tQcBtt s\a ^pcembo, or t6{sti*sxa nzama^. Only older men 
and women can attain to this dignity. Besides, the leading men in 
the nzama ought also to be the most prominent at the ipismbo, so that 

fig. 56. Place of sacrifice at the foot of a figtree. 
Note a skull and bones of sacrificed animals. 

the atumia of the nzama and the atuima of the vpcembo can hardly 
be looked upon as two separate groups. On the contrary, I have 
shown in Chap. X that the management and exercise of religion 
are among the duties of the nzama. Consequently those who, by 
paying large fees, have become prominent in the nzama, also play 
a role at the places of sacrifice. The fees paid fall partly to the 
tpcBmbo and its members; if the animals are not all sacrificed at 

^ The expression iQcett sm nsama is somewhat misleading, and 
must not be taken to mean that these women are attached to the courts 
which is not at all the case. 

Religion 221 

once, they are kept till another time. A father and son cannot 
belong to the tfeembo at the same time; the son can only become 
a member when the father has retired on account of natural infirmities. 

If a woman wishes to be k'hQceti kia nzama, her husband must 
present the male members of the ipcejnbo with goats and beer, and 
the female members with bananas, beans, and other field products. 
When the new member of the tizama goes to the ipcembo for the 
first time, her husband gives her a goat to take with her. The 
people then see her new dignity and say: »Look! N. N's mother 
has become k^GcEti kha nzavia^->. An old woman described to me 
the occasion when her mother and the women of the same genera- 
tion obtained entrance to the nzama. A festival called mboka was 
celebrated. The woman procured beforehand a great number of 
bananas, »to the value of from three to four goats», which were 
put into calabashes and, in the usual way, put down into the 
earth to ripen. On the day appointed, the old women who al- 
ready belonged to the »?ia»m, came to the village, danced kUtam, and 
slept there overnight. The next day the atumta of the nzama came 
to drink beer, large quantities of which had been brewed, and 
the youths and girls also gathered in the village for dancing. 
The owner of the village slaughtered an ox, of which the men 
ate one side and the women the other, sitting by their respective 
fires. The members of the nzama slept in the village. The next 
morning the young people returned to the village to dance, and 
then the bananas, mboka (i. e. vegetables), from which the festival 
with its accompanying dances has got its name, were eaten. Now- 
adays bananas are not so extensively used as formerly, because, 
it is said, they are too expensive, nor are they so plentiful as 
they were^. 

A sort of novice grade for atum%a of the ^pcsmbo is anakd of 
the tpcBjnbo, also called atmma amm 'the little atumia'. Their func- 
tion is to help the older ones. They buy up beer on their ac- 
count and take it to the place of sacrifice. There they flay the 
sacrificial animal, roast the meat, and wait on the atmma while 
they are eating. It costs only one goat to obtain this dignity. 

^ As a memory of this custom the word mboka is still used by 
the older women with the signification of dancing in general (instead 
of the otherwise usual wapt), an expression which one cannot under- 
stand unless one knows of the old custom just described. 

222 Lindblom, The Akamba 

What is the method of procedure, then, wheri offering at 
the }pcembo} The sacrificial animal, whether goat^, bull-calf, or ox 
(they grudge killing a cow-calf even for the spirits, cows being 
their most precious possession, which they can give up only in 
case of absolute need) is killed by a mutmma in the usual way, 
by suffocating it, after which it is flayed and cut up. The skin is 
given to a member of high standing, but he often has to pay a 
goat for it. The meat may only be cut by a mutufma. Part of 
it is laid at the foot of the tree as the sacrifice, and blood and 
beer are poured on the trunk. The greater part and, as I think 
I have shown, the best pieces, are eaten by those present, for a 
sacrificial meal is part of all primitive sacrifices. For the persons 
offering sacrifices to appropriate the best pieces themselves is 
nothing new; on the other hand, religious historians do not agree 
as to the reason for this, and I do not venture to put forward 
any hypothesis in the case of the Akamba^. After the atmma 
have sacrificed, the old women offer various products of their 
work, in the field (maize, sorghum, beans, flour, &c), after which 
they march in procession round the tree. Not infrequently a little 
hut, about a meter in height, is built on or near the grave to 
which the sacrifice is being made, and then the offering is laid 
there. Such huts are simplified models of the ordinary dwelling 
huts, but they are quite bare. 

During the sacrificial meal which now follows, the members 
of the nzama sit nearest the tree, men and women separate. A little 
further away sit the other married persons, and finally, behind 
them, the young people. Those who do not belong to the 'kpcsmbo 
may not approach the tree, even if they are atumta. The viola- 
tion of this rule is punished by a fine, usually a goat. 

The medicine-man occupies a unique position at sacrificial 
feasts. As has already been mentioned, he decides when they 
shall take place, since the spirits speak through him, but other- 
wise he plays an unimportant part in them; and even if he is an 
old tnututma of high standing, he may not present the sacrifice 
or cut the meat. In many ways he is in the position of a minor; 
»he is like a child » {ni ta kana), as the natives say. 

^ As is well known the goat especially is in Africa used to a 
great extent as a sacrificial animal. 

^ Cf. P:n Nilsson, Primitiv religion, p. 124. 

Religion 223 

On the whole, all sacrificial ceremonies are carried out in the 
same way, but no fixed rites or formulas exist. 

The Akamba are diligent sacrificers, and round the ipcembo there 
lie many skulls and bones of sacrificed animals, and the ground is 
covered with a thick layer of mouldered grain &c, especially at 
an ancient place of sacrifice that has been used for generations. 
However, the sacrifices are not excessively costly; from ten to 
twelve atwma, perhaps, have a share in the sacrificial animal, and 
besides that, most of them take part in the meal. Formerly the 
herds seem to have been bigger and then it was not unusual for 
one man alone to offer a goat, which does not happen so often 
nowadays at the public sacrifices. Sometimes animals other than 
goats and cattle are sacrificed, such as sheep and fowls; though 
in such cases it is always the medicine-man that gives express 
instructions to this effect. Milk is offered on behalf of the cattle, 
so that they may not be mauled by wild animals. 

An ipismbo may be moved from one place to another, which 
is done by the atuima who officiate at it. At Machakos, where 
the African Inland Mission Station is built on a place of sacrifice,, 
the latter was moved, so that they might be less disturbed. At 
many tpcsmbo's, a clay vessel is found buried in the ground, containing 
a goat that had been buried alive in it, or killed by suffocation. 
This vessel is moved when the place of sacrifice is changed. 

Brutzer describes how a private place .of sacrifice, built by a 
man in memory of his dead wife, was moved from the mission 
station of Jimba, situated at the coastland within Mombasa^. The 
man had moved and now wanted to transfer the sacrificial place, 
which was situated under a shady tree, to his new dwelling-place. 
He made his appearance, accompanied by his three wives, began 
to dig the ground up and after some searching found the objects 
he wished to take with him, which turned out to be three small 
stones and three sticks. »The stones were pieces of the three big 
stones on which the deceased had prepared food. These are the 
essential things. They are a symbol to show that the woman is 
still present at the place. The three sticks either belonged to her 
hut or were the remains of the little place of sacrifice that the 
survivors had erected over the three small stones and in which 

^ Brutzer, Begegnungen mit Akamba, p. 16. 

224 Lindblom, The Akamba 

they have been accustomed to place sacrifices to the spirit. » The 
women took possession of the relics, and then the four went ofif 
to build up the sacrificial place again in the neighbourhood of 
their new village. 

The sacrifice of children was formerly practised in times of 
severe visitations, when it was necessary to propitiate the spirits 
in an exceptional manner, especially in cases of continued drought. 
The child required for the purpose was kidnapped, often from the 
Kikuyu country. Round Machakos, a child was taken from the 
rain clan {mba-tnbua), and the mother received goats in compensa- 
tion for her loss. The child was smeared with fat and buried 
alive with the goat, also alive, at the t^cetnbo^. In East Ukamba a 
child seems always to have been taken from the ae\-c\z.w, also called 
mulata tGta (see p. 125), which has on this account been given a 
third name, mba-nzikiva {<])ika 'to bury')^. 

It is' an acknowledged fact that everything new and strange 
inspires fear in primitive peoples. At the sight of or on meeting 
anything new and unusual, the Akamba generally offer sacrifices, 
so that the new thing' may not excite the wrath of the spirits. 
Such an event was the building of the Uganda railway, since it 
was thought that »that rope of iron» laid across the country 
would prevent the rain from coming. Sauberlich, the missionary 
in Mulango, told me that some years ago a lame native with an 
unusually small, dwarfed foot passed through the country. He 
was stopped and not allowed to proceed until he had paid a 
goat as an offering to the aimu. And when the flag-staff at the 
•Government station at Kitui was raised, sacrifices were diligently 
offered in the whole country round' about. This long thing that 
pointed straight up into the air would certainly keep the rains 
away, it was believed. Krapf tells how the Akamba said that, 

^ Rubbing with fat, which, as we have already seen, is practised 
on many occasions by the Akamba, is also found in other places, and 
has undoubtedly a magic-religious significance. Cf. Me in h of, Afri- 
kanische Religionen, p. 32. 

^ I have not heard the word used in Ulu, but both J. Hofmann 
and S. Watt include it in their vocabularies (W6rterbuch der Kamba- 
sprache, 1901 — in M. S. — and Vocabulary of the Kikamba lan- 
guage). Loan word from Kisuaheli? 

Religion 225 

on account of his arrival, the rains would not come, for which 
reason they killed a sheep and sprinkled the path with its blood. 

For the sake of clearness, I will make an addition to 
the above description of aiinu. In the Akamba's rich treas- 
ury of folk-lore there is a characteristic type of story, in 
which the leading role is played by a monster called nmu, who 
usually appears in human or some similar form. This monster 
also appears in other East African peoples' folk-lore; in spite 
of the similarity of name, it seems to have nothing to do with 
amtu, spirits. This is confirmed by the Kikuyu language, in which 
the word for spirit is 'ggoma, while the fabulous figure is called 
ilimu^. The Akamba's fables about nmu seem most nearly to 
resemble our own about giants and ogres. The heroes in the 
former are usually of supernatural strength, but at the same time 
stupid, just like the giants in our fairy tales. They are also often 
man-eaters. JTuman beings get into diff"iculties through them, but 
nearly always extricate themselves by their ready wit. 

3. Tales about flfw«-spirits. 

In order to illustrate further the conception of amiu, I may be 
allowed to insert some tales about spirits, which are considered by 
the natives to be really true and not legendary. These tales may 
lack scientific value and tend to give the treatise the character of 
a mere assemblage of material, but since no one seems to have 
discovered them before me, their insertion here may be to some 
extent justified. 

I. Near the railway station of Kibwezi there is a rubber 
plantation belonging to a German company. Some time ago the 
manager decided to enlarge the area planted with rubber trees, and 
therefore began to clear a piece of forest. One day when the 
work was in full swing, the native workmen heard a voice, and 

^ Cf. Routledge ibid. p. 315 ff., which contains a couple of 
tales about ilimu. For iritnti among the Wadjagga, cf. Gutman, 
Dichten und Denken der Dschagga-Neger, p. 59. 

Arch.Or. Lindblom 15 

326 Lindblom, The Akamba 

saw a little man sitting in a tree (a rather usual form of appari- 
tion for the atmu in these tales). He asked why they were 
clearing the ground, and sternly forbade them to touch certain 
trees, among them the one in which he was sitting. They reported 
the matter to their master, but he gave them strict orders to 
proceed, and they dared not refuse to do so. The result was 
that all the workmen died at their work, and the remains of their 
bones lie there to this day. Some time afterwards, the European 
fell ill — the climate in Kibwezi is very unhealthy — went to 
Mombasa to be nursed, but died there. 

2. One evening a woman in the neighbourhood of Machakos 
heard the dull sound of the women's spirit-drums, and decided 
to proceed to the village from which the sound seemed to come. 
When she arrived there, everything was quiet and still, but she 
clearly heard the drums a little further away. She continued to 
follow them, but the same thing happened again, and then she 
realised that it was the spirits. 

3. One evening a youth was sitting alone at home in his 
hut. Then someone outside called him by name, and said: »Let 
us go to N. N's village, where the others have gone!» Believing 
it to be one of his friends, he went out to see, but no one was 

4. Mbota, an old man of repute in the neighbourhood of Ma- 
chakos, and one of the Government »headmen», woke one night 
and saw a form sitting by the nearly extinct fire with its back to him. 
Thinking it was his wife sitting up late and working at plaiting a bast 
sack, he took his bow and struck her. When the supposed wife 
turned round, he saw a wonderful creature, half human, half 
animal. »Why do you strike me?^> it asked. Mbota asked 
pardon for his mistake, and the spirit disappeared. The next day 
Mbota slaughtered a bull and began a feast of atonement, which 
lasted several days; but before the end of the year one of his 
sons died. 

5. The following is a story that shows how the spirits can 
sometimes help their relations who are still living: 

Quite near the mission station of Mulango at Kitui there is 
the little hill Nengia, surrounded by cultivated fields. From olden 
times the hill has been a place of sacrifice and aimu are believed 
to haunt it in great numbers. One evening shrill cries of help 

Religion 227 

were heard to come from there, and when people rushed there, 
they saw that the ripe crop in the field at the foot of the hill 
was in flames. There were, however, a whole lot of people al- 
ready there trying to put out the fire, which had started because 
the proprietress of the field had lit a heap of dry leaves and 
other rubbish. Of the people who were putting it out a number 
were recognised as recently deceased relations, all the rest were 
unknown. But it was understood that they were spirits who had 
gathered togheter to stop the destruction that threatened their 
dwelling-place. The unknown people were thus spirits of earlier 
generations, persons who had died so long before that no one 
then living remembered them. The woman who had caused the 
fire was sentenced by the elders to pay a goat, which, to propi- 
tiate the spirits, was killed on the hill, and this was sprinkled with 

The following stories are more avowed fables. 

6. Into the River Tiva, a little north of Ikutha, falls the 
stream Witu. The word is the collective form of the word (ztui 
'girls', a name which the stream, previously nameless, is said to 
have received from the following circumstance: A number of girls 
were once working in the adjoining fields, when they were sur- 
prised by a violent thunderstorm, from which they sought shelter 
in a cave by the stream. Then an ant-lion {kakwoOwggii^) came 
creeping towards the entrance, but was driven back by some of the 
girls. The animal again tried to enter, but was again driven out. 
When this was repeated, someone said: »0h, this is the owner 
of the cave. Let us go away, it must be a spirit*. In spite of 
the bad weather, several of the girls went out again, but those 
who had driven out the ant-lion did not trouble to move. The 
girls had scarcely got out, before the walls of the cave collap- 
sed, so that of the entrance only a narrow crack remained. The 
other girls ran home at once and related what had happened. 
The atuni'ia at once set out for the place, but nothing could be done. 
For a time the imprisoned girls were kept alive by having food 
passed to them with long spoons, but at last they all died. Thus 
was their unkindness punished by the ant-lion. 

^ < kukwa 'to die' and ttOu^gu 'lie'. So called because it pre- 
ends to be dead when one touches it. 

228 Lindblom, The Akamba 

7. A couple of hours' journey east of Kitui lies a solitary 
high and steep rock, Nsambani ('among the males'). It is 
i>hunned by the Akamba, because it is considered to be a haunt 
of aimu. Anyone offering sacrifices to them and then walking 
round the rock changes sex; thus a man becomes a woman and 
vice versa. 

8. In the neighbourhood of the above-mentioned rubber 
plantation at Kibwezi there is a round pond, which is regarded 
with superstitious fear, and considered to be the haunt of de- 
parted spirits. The legend of this pond is as follows: In by-gond 
limes a village stood here, whereas now there is only a muddy 
sheet of water, at times disturbed by a crocodile or two that 
3urk in the depths. One dark and rainy evening, a frog came 
hopping into one of the huts. Among the Akamba this is an 
evil omen, and the frog was driven out by the children ; it came 
back and was again driven out. It tried another hut, but with the 
same result. In a third it was driven out once, but when it came 
again, the mother told her children to leave it in peace and let 
it warm itself quietly by the fire. The frog warmed itself by 
the fire and then began to talk to the woman: »Take as many of 
your household goods as you can carry, and leave this place with 
your children without delay, I shall destroy the others for their 
unkindness; I am a spirit». The woman obeyed, and when they 
reached the pomd (the open place outside the village where the men 
usually sit), they heard a rush as of an enormous volume of 
water. They saw the village sink into the depths and all the 
inhabitants drowned. However, they still live down there, for in 
the morning is often heard the crowing of the cock or the bleating 
of the goats, and in the evenings the light of the fire on the pomd 
sometimes shines up. The owner is called Kilui, and the place 
Kilui's pond. It is shunned, and no one will clear a field at its 
edge, although water is so scarce in these parts. In times of 
severe drought, the elders take a goat to the spot and bury it 
alive there, as a sacrifice to the spirits. 

Hobley has recorded several »legends connected with azmu 
beliefs »^ 

^ Hobley, Akamba p. 86 ff 

Religion 229 

4. Spirits other than aitnu. 

A sharp distinction should be made between aimu, the spirits 
of ancestors, and mbcedo, though many Akamba do not trouble to 
make any distinction in everyday speech. The latter are spirits 
from the neighbouring tribes, Akikuyu, Masai, Galla, Wanjika, 
&c^. Spirits of Europeans are even met with. The Akamba do 
not worship any of these spirits, but the latter often plague their 
women, and must then be driven off with great trouble. To these 
foreign spirits belong the aimu ma kUt'ggo, which were specially 
troublesome some years ago, and caught people during the kies7i 
dance, of which more below. These spirits came to the country 
with the Europeans, and it is not known where they have their 

Hobley tells of anotfier sort of spirit: »It appears that, quite 

apart from the ordinary aimu there is another class of 

spirits called aimu ya kitombo they are evil spirits, and 

are supposed to be the disembodied relics of people who have 
killed their neighbours by the help of black magic»^. In spite of 
assiduous search, I have not found a native or a missionary who 
knew anything about this sort of spirit. The only result of my 
inquiries was the information that kitombo is a sort of dance, which 
went out of fashion about 1908^. Since, however, spirits of differ- 
ent kinds make their appearance every now and again in Ukamba, 
as, for example, the aimu ma k'hti'ggo just mentioned, and their 
presence is expressed in dances, it is not unlikely that we are 
here in the presence of such a temporary plague of spirits, which, 
in all its varying forms, one may very well look upon as a sort 
of psychical disturbance. In any case, the sort of spirits mention- 
ed by Hobley is not generally typical of the Akamba's belief 
in aimu. 

In Kikumbuliu they also knew of another kind of possession, 
called kisulia, which was also caused by foreign spirits, though I 

^ Spirits from the last two tribes only seem to appear in the most 
easterly part of the country. The Akamba in Ulu live too far away 
to be able to have any communication with them. 

- Hobley, Akamba p. 85. 

3 According to Hofmann's dictionary, tomba means 'to bow'. 

230 Lindblom, The Akamba 

could never find out which. This annoyance was particularly 
feared, as it was considered that the woman possessed could be 
made barren. The spirit was exorcised in the usual manner by 
drumming, and in addition a goat was killed, with the blood of 
which the possessed person was smeared. When she fell on the 
ground with convulsive spasms, she was given some light blows 
with a stick that had been rubbed with maGuo, a kind of 'gondm, 
prepared from several different plants and specially potent in its 
effect. Only a few get to know its ingredients and the method 
of preparing it, so that it commands a comparatively high price 
(about 5 rupees). According to another description in a certain 
case the inaGuo was placed in a vessel of water, a hen was killed, 
and its blood, together, with three small feathers from the bird's 
belly, was added to the ^ondia. The vessel was raised three times 
to the mouth of the sick person, but she ^was allowed to drink only 
at the fourth time. During three days they then danced to the 
accompaniment of the spirit drum, and on the fourth the patient 
was washed with ma()uo over the whole body. As a protection 
against a renewal of the attack she got three small amulet bags 
(i}i6t^gi'u), filled with ma6uo. 

Finally, for the sake of completeness, it should be pointed 
out in this connection that, irrespective of manism and the belief 
in ynbceGo, the Akamba do not seem to believe in other sorts 
of spirits. Conceptions of demons and nature spirits, spirits in forests 
and water-courses, among rocks and on mountains, &c, seem to 
be unknown, unless one reckons the fabulous figure iimu dealt 
with above. 

5. Exorcism of spirits and religious dances. 

A. Exorcism of attntl. In the Akamba's worship of spirits, danc- 
ing is an important feature, whether it is a question of healing a person 
possessed — that is to say, of driving away a troublesome spirit — or, 
on the other hand, of getting into communication with the spit it-world 
voluntarily, to question the spirits about something one wants to 
know. This is done mostly by medicine-men. Thus in dancing 
one gets into that ecstatic condition in which one comes into 
communication with the spirits more easily. The ecstacy is cer- 
tainly brought about principally by the music which accompanies 



the dancing — the dull, monotonous sound of the great spirit- 
drum, kipcsmbd. The use of the drum at spirit seances is, as is 
well known, widely spread, and reaches its climax in the shaman- 
ism of Northern Asia^. 

The dance connected with the worship of the atmu is called 
kilumi, and we have already seen that they believe that the 
spirits themselves enjoy passing their time in dancing it. In con- 

Fig. 57. Women assisting an exorcism of spirits. 


sequence people often dance without any special object, just to 
please the spirits, wherefore ktlumt should be considered a part 
of the cult, especially as it is customarily danced when the sacri- 
fice is produced on the place of sacrifice, k'hhimt is danced by 
the medicine-men and the older women, and a few atumta 
usually take part also. But if a young girl is seen dancing kilumt 
by day, she is certainly possessed of an atmu. This is shown by 
hysterical epileptic fits of very varying degrees of intensity. The 

^ Cf., for example, J. Stadling, Shamanismen i Norra Asien, p. 68 ff. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

most usual symptoms are spasmodic twitchings of the body and 
the uttering of shrill cries of »iii, iii!». The spirit does not settle 
in any particular part of the body, but the head is considered to 
be attacked most, » since the possessed person behaves like one 

I will now describe a couple of cases: 

On July 5, 191 1, a great kilumi was held near Machakos. 

Fig. 58. Women dancing the Mumi. 

A very old woman had become possessed by airnu, who, using 
her as a medium, conveyed to the people the intelligence that 
they should stay at home for the next ten evenings and nights, 
if they did not wish to risk meeting spirits in the tracks. The 
medium was so feeble that she could not take part in the dancing, 
in which the person possessed is usually the central figure, but 
she was placed apart, surrounded by a few women, who carefully 
listened to her disconnected talk — that is to say, what the spirits 
were supposed to speak through her. In the kilmm, which was 
held near the village of the person possessed, only a small 

Religion 233; 

number of women took part, though a large crowd stood and 
looked on, or sat on the ground occupied with their handi- 
work (sack plaiiing), or looking after their babies. A little way 
off sat the members of the nzama, drinking beer, while at another 
place the young people were engaged in dancing. The whole 
thing gave the impression of a sort of popular festival, and was 
only intended to please the spirits, and not to gain anything in 
particular from them. 

Machakos, August, 191 1. A woman became possessed of 
aimu, and word was at once sent to the atuima of the nzama, who 
arranged a ktlumi and dancing for the young people. Dancing 
went on for five days, the women even dancing ktlumi at night. 
On the fifth day, when the spirit was considered to be driven 
out, the women put Eleusine seed and millet flour in their cala- 
bashes as an offering to the azmu. The person possessed then 
went in a circle round the whole assembly, accompanied by two 
atuima^ who poured beer on the ground, and two old women of 
the i])cembo^ who sprinkled flour. Thus a protecting line was drawn 
round the crowd, and the spirit was called upon to go elsewhere. 
It did not matter whether it went to trouble others! The attnina 
killed a bull, and the meat was divided among the members of the 
nzaina who where present. The hide was cut into strips, which were 
given to their wives to make into carrying straps &c, while the 
contents of the stomach were offered to the aimu. 

At another exorcism of spirits, of which I was a witness, 
vondui (the usual ceremonial purifying medium) was put on all the 
paths that led to the village to which the spirit had come, in- 
order to prevent its returning there. 

It also happens that, to be still more certain that the spirit 
shall not return, the medicine-man sends it into an animal, such 
as a goat or a sheep. One of the animal's ears is cut off and 
hung round the neck of the person possessed, food is offered in 
the hut, and then the medicine-man says words to the following 
effect: »This goat is yours. Stop troubling N. N. further, and 
go into the goatl» This method of procedure is said to have 
a speedy result; whether the medicine-man uses any incantation, 
I do not know. The animal is then killed and the meat offered 
as a sacrifice. Before the spirit is driven away a sacrifice is also 

234 Lindblom, The Akamba 

made. It consists of food and blood of the goat mixed together 
in a gourd and then poured out on the ground. 

B. Exorcism of spirits of the mbceOo-type. A few of the 
essential differences between atmu and mbcsOo in the beliefs of the 
Akamba are as follows: The latter only plague women, while men, 
even if less frequently, can also have aumi. Further, the mbceGo- 
spirit usually expresses, through the woman possessed, its desire for 
a certain object, while atmu more seldom make such demands. It 
is also characteristic of women who are possessed of mOcgGo that, 
when they come into an ecstacy, they » speak with tongues ». Usually 
only inarticulate sounds are uttered, but sometimes the medium is 
said to utter sentences in the language of the people to which the 
spirit is thought to belong. In the Kibwezi district I really did 
hear Kisuaheli spoken by a woman who was said to have a Sua- 
heli spirit in her body, and who could not speak Suaheli in a 
normal state, though she had of course often heard it spoken. 
Pfitzinger, the missionary of the Leipzig Mission, said that he once 
saw a woman that was said to be possessed of an Avah-mbisGo. 
Certainly she did not utter any real words, but only sounds; yet 
among them was also r, which is not found in the Kamba language, 
and which it is almost impossible for a Mukamba to pronounce. 
I have not met with this myself, but many natives have told me 
exactly the same thing. 

We have just said that women possessed of a mbceOo have 
strange desires. Thus, in Kikumbuliu I saw a woman who bore 
on her person objects from the Wasuaheli, Galla, and Masai, 
which objects had all been demanded by different spirits. A Sua- 
heli spirit had demanded an embroidered cap of the kind usually 
worn by Wasuaheli and Arabs; the woman wore it on her head. 
The Masai spirits, often wish for a piece of red cloth or a knife. 
Sometimes they ask for the most ridiculous things, such as a 
European shoe or knife. One day a native came running breath- 
less to Sauberlich, the missionary in Mulango: his wife was pos- 
sessed and must have a European plate! Sometimes a spirit will 
be satisfied if the woman can only see a certain object. In one 
case of which I was a witness, a Masai spear was demanded. 
Since the woman's hysterical fits do not cease until the object 
demanded is procured, and it is believed that she would other- 
"vvise die, her husband does everything in his power to fulfill the 

Religion 235 

spirit's desire. This is often a costly matter, and down in Kikum- 
buliu, the district in Ulu which seems to be most afflicted with 
these spiritual disturbances, I know some who have paid from 
twenty-five to thirty rupees to satisfy the spirit's caprices — rather 
a large sum for the majority of the natives. 

Although the women are more superstitious than the men, it 
does happen that an intelligent and artful woman may make use 
of the spirits to get her own desires satisfied. For instance, she 
may for a long time have longed for a piece of many- coloured 
cloth, but her lord and master has not been pleased to grant her 
desire. She pretends to be possessed, makes a terrible noise, and 
says that the spirit can only be appeased with a piece of cloth. 
To recover his lost domestic peace the otherwise dignified Kamba 
husband gives himself no rest till he has found the desired object, 
then the spirit disappears. Thus it may justly be said that, even 
in East Africa, woman's artfulness is more than a match for man's 

I will quote an example of such deceitful feminine tactics 
from my stay in the district of Kibwezi. 

A married woman developed a great desire to eat meat — 
they live principally on a vegetarian diet — and therefore asked 
her husband to kill a fat buck, for which she had a special fancy. 
The husband refused, saying that he had destined that particular 
animal as an offering to the arniu, the next time that one was needed. 
Persuasion was of no avail, but the woman did not abandon her 
plans. Some days later she was attacked by epileptic twitchings 
and uttered shrill cries of »iii», the usual symptoms shown by one 
possessed. The husband asked what was the matter. »It is a spirit», 
said the woman. — »Do you know what he vvants?» — : »Yes, he 
w^ants that buck we were talking about*. — »So be it then! Now 
that the owner has appeared, I can no longer refuse ». Then he 
slaughtered the buck. When this was done, he went to a neigh- 
bouring village on some errand. As soon as he had gone, the 
woman ceased pretending to be possessed. Beside herself with 
joy at the success of her cunning, however, she could not keep 
silent, but while she hushed her child, she sang a lullaby about 
how easily she could deceive her husband and how she had only 
pretented to be possessed. As ill-luck would have it, her husband 
had forgotten an axe which he ought to have taken with him, 

236 Lindblom, The Akamba 

and came back to fetch it. The wife did not notice him, and he 
heard her song. Enraged at her deceit, he at once sent her back 
to her father. 

Exorcism of the mbcBdo is usually carried out in the following 
manner: The person possessed sits on the ground with her head 
wrapped in a dark cloth (at least such a cloth was used at all 
the many ceremonies that I saw, but I have unfortunately neg- 
lected to find out why). Those present beat their drums and 
sing. The songs seem to have very little meaning, and often 
consist of only a few words, which are repeated again and again. 
At the exorcism of a Suaheli spirit near Kibwezi, the following 
was sung: »Suaheli, you are rich, you are Kamba's brother. Give 
me bracelets! » Under the influence of the songs and the sound 
of the drums, life gradually returns to the woman; she tries to 
get up, but is often so weak that she cannot stand. When it is 
considered that the drums have been beaten sufficiently, the spirit 
is questioned as to who it is and what it wants. 

The methods of exorcism naturally vary in details. One man 
who had gone to the medicine-man to get help for his wife, who 
was possessed, was told to lay three glowing coals in a little 
water, and at the same time to say to the spirit: »Go away now 
and cease to torment my wife. I will give you what you want 
as soon as I can afford to procure it». 

I will conclude by describing the exorcism of a Masai-spirit 
at Machakos, in May 191 1, at the house of the medicine-woman 
Kavuva. The proceedings were typical. 

One evening I proceeded to Kavuva's hut, as several hours' 
intense beating on the spirit-drums had indicated that something 
was afoot. On my arrival I found the hut full of people of both 
sexes, though principally old women, those of the tJ)(Bmbo. A young 
woman — Kavuva's daughter-in-law — had become possessed by a 
spirit. She sits dumb and motionless in the middle of the floor, 
with her head wrapped in a dark cloth. Some men are beating 
with all their might on the drums and singing a song, and all 
those present join in the chorus. The noise has an intoxicating 
effect on the company; wildly and more wildly are the drums 
beaten, and louder and louder rise the songs. The one possessed, 
who up till now has sat absolutely motionless, now begins to move. 
She tries to get up, staggers, and nearly falls; but she receives 

Religion 237 

■support till she can stand. Her eyes are shut, her face absohitely 
•expressionless; she resembles one intoxicated. They bind iron 
bells {kmmbd) round her arms and legs, and she begins the 
usual dance by moving her body in time with the music, slowly 
at first, and then more and more spasmodically. Several times 
she almost falls again. This continues for a time, and when the 
drummers, exhausted, cease drumming for a few seconds, she 
utters weird inarticulate sounds. Now^ she kneels and dances on 
the ground on her knees. She says that the spirit desires red-hot 
coals (jnaka), and therefore some are taken from the hearth and 
thrown in front of her. She dances on them and takes them in 
her hands, without seeming to feel any pain. They tell me that 
she is not injured by them; and that she does not seem to be 
affected by them in the least is explained by her exalted condi- 
tion; besides, the skin on the soles of the feet and the insides of 
the hands is thickened by work. 

Hysterical and other abnormal mental states easily work on 
others. This seems to be the case especially with women. Sud- 
denly another woman, a young girl, springs to her feet with pierc- 
ing shrieks and begins to dance wildly; she snatches up a knife 
and swings it about during the dance. She also has her eyes 
shut, and moves hither and thither like a sleep-walker, swinging 
her knife, which several times comes dangerously near my face. 
At last both dancers sink exhausted to the ground, and water is 
poured on their heads, to bring them back to consciousness. 

When the one possessed has recovered a little, the question- 
ing begins. She is asked what spirit she has in her body and 
what it desires. To compel the possessing spirit to tell its name 
is always the first condition for success in driving it away. The 
questions have to be repeated many times before she answers. 
At last she says it is a Masai spirit, who desires a piece of black 
cloth and a club. And, although she is quite exhausted, she says 
that the spirit wants more dancing, which seems to surprise 

Now Kavuva, the medicine- woman, gets up. Neither she nor 
any of the other old women have taken part in the dancing up 
till now. She throws a little maize and some beans on the ground 
as an offering to the spirits, and smears the throats and necks of 

238 Lindblom, The Akamba 

those present with fat^. Then the dancing re-commences, wildly 
as before. The old women have bound cow- and zebra-tails round 
their wrists (fig. 58). These are nearly always used in such dances 
by the old women, and are undoubtedly of magic-religious signi- 
ficance. Tails are also used by most medicine-men as plugs for 
their divinatory calabashes. 

The drums are beaten furiously, and the violent movements 
of the arms cause the bells to rattle with a hissing sound. The 
dance goes on again until the afflicted person again sinks to the 
ground. The spirit is now driven out, and the patient is smeared 
with fat and kiutii, a sort of woodflour taken from the hole of a 
certain sort of woodpecker {^goinakoim), the smell of which is 
considered refreshing. Then the woman goes away to sleep, and 
the next day she works in the fields as usual, as though nothing 
had happened. 

H. Junod in his excellent and exceptionally complete mono- 
graph on the Batonga describes a kind of possession that shows 
essentially the same symptoms and is treated in the same way as 
the psychical phenomenon we come across among the Akamba ^. The 
possessing spirits in this case are, however, less often ancestral, 
but are usually those of the Zulu and Ba-Ndjao tribes. With 
song, music and noise they try to make the spirit reveal his 
name, »after which it will be duly overcome*. — »The patient was 
covered with a large piece of calico during the drum performances* 
(p. 443). — »In the crisis of madness the patient sometimes throws 
himself into the fire and feels no hurt.» — »The spirit will claim 
some satisfaction: a piece of calico of such and such a colour. » 
Finally the possessed one sings »generally in Zulu, and it is asserted 
that, even if the patient does not know this language, he will 
be able to use it in his conversation, by a kind of miracle of 
tongues I » (p. 445). 

C. KlBSU. Time after time remarkable psychical disturbanc- 
es of a religious character pass like epidemics over the Kamba 
country, only to disappear as suddenly as they came. Such a dis- 
turbance was the k%esu, which raged some years ago — according to 

^ The religious significance of smearing with fat has already been 

^ The life of a South African tribe, vol. 11, p. 435 ff., and 
Bulletin de la Soci6t6 Neuchateloise de Geographic X, p. 388. 

Religion 239 

Hobley in 1906^. It is said to have originated in Mukaa (UIu)^ 
where a medicine-man said that he had been commanded by the 
spirits to teach the people a new (reUgious) dance. It spread from 
there like wild-fire over the whole of Ulu, and even east of the river 
Athi. The symptoms consisted in going into convulsions at the sight 
of a European or even a pith helmet or a red fez, such as is 
usually worn by the native Mohammedan. The afflicted one fell 
to the ground, writhing as if suffering from violent cramp, moan- 
ing and groaning. The natives in the neighbourhood of Machakos 
tried to avoid the attacks — when they saw a European in the 
distance — by wrapping their blankets over their faces till he had 
gone by. The person attacked was also said to have an irresistible 
desire to shake hands with anyone he met, a form of greeting 
not natural to the Akamba. Many natives assert that greeting by 
shaking hands, which is now fairly general, originated to a large 
extent from this period, although the example of Europeans 
has of course helped a great deal. These were the most striking 
features of kiesu, which word, however, really means a dance. The 
dancers carried knives in their hands, and when the fits came 
upon them, they cut themselves with the knives, »without bleed- 
ing*. Similarly they are said to have carried firebrands in their 
hands without being injured. 

C. W. Neligan describes a case of what he calls >^kijesu cere- 
mony*, which he witnessed in East Ukamba in 1908^. The person 
in question was a woman, and the fit, which lasted from three 
to five hours, was caused by the sight of his pith helmet. The 
following day the woman had entirely recovered and took no- 
notice at all of the helmet. 

The meaning of the word kusu is not quite clear. Saubcr- 
lich 3 connects it with kisu 'knife' (Kisuaheli), and the dancers 
certainly do carry knives. Others think it is derived from the 
word »Jesus», a theory which I find rather probable. I have been 
able to write down a record of part of a song which is sung 
during these dances, and in it they mention vzvana jesu ('The 
Lord Jesus') and also "^gai ('God') »who comes to earth to purify 
mankind ». It seems very possible to me, therefore, that the kustc 

^ Hobley, Akamba p. lo. 

^ Man 1911 (with three photographs). 

3 Mentioned to the author orally. 

•z^o Lindblom, The Akamba 

arose in connection with the teaching of the missionaries. The 
Akamba themselves say that the spirits which, according to them, 
gave rise to ktesu, came from Ulaya (Europe). It seems that only 
those who believe in them are attacked. The missionaries say that 
the natives who attended services at the missionary station escaped. 
At the end of 191 1, a certain mental unrest arose in Kilungu 
(the district south of Machakos), and the Commissioner in Machakos, 
who believed that the movement was directed against the Govern- 
ment, had the leaders — some medicine-men and older women 
— arrested and taken to the Government station. I have for- 
gotten what the affair was all about, but it is certain that it was 
only a case of one of these periodical psychical anomalies. How- 
ever, the over-excited minds soon calmed down in prison, and 
when the leaders were removed, the whole thing died away. 

Madmen (cf. next chap.). In all times and among all races, mental 
maladies, even epileptic and convulsive attacks, have been ascribed 
to spirits or demons, who have entered into the person affected^ . 
Mental disease, madness, is called ndoka, and is considered to be 
caused by spirits, so that, on the whole, madmen are treated in the 
same way as those temporarily possessed. A young man called Kitalu, 
at Machakos, who was at times deranged, was said to have his 
uncle's spirit in his body. Once when I saw him in a fit, the 
upper part of his body twitched spasmodically, and he wanted 
to start up incessantly. His speech was very confused. One day 
he paid a visit to the mission station, where he had previously 
worked in the garden, and said he was the owner of the whole 
property. I have seen several mad people in Ukamba; some have 
been so violent at times that they have had to be tied down. No 
form of worship of mad persons exists. 

Prayers and sacrifices to trees. It is not unusual for pray- 
ers and sacrifices to be offered to a tree, but it always seems 
to be done at the command of a medicine-man, and according to 
his directions. Before we consider the significance of these pro- 
ceedings, I will first give the material collected. 

^ Cf. R. Andrea, Ethnographische Parallelen und Vergleiche, Neue 
Polge, p. I ff. 

Religion 241 

Some one goes, for instance, to the medicine-man, to ask for 
advice about a disease. He is directed to dig up some sort of 
roots with certain ceremonial observances. A man in the neigh- 
bourhood of Kibwezi, who w'anted a cure for his sick son, was 
told to draw four lines on the ground with his fingers, in front of 
the tree indicated, and then to say: »Tree! I have a sick person 
at home, mundu mud (the medicine-man) has told me to come to 
you to get medicine. I pray you for hpa'ggona^^ ^ . After that 
he was to dig up the roots and boil them in the gruel {tisii) the 
invalid was to drink. Another person had to smear ashes with 
three fingers on the trunk of a tree, that was pointed out to 
him. Another rather usual method is, before digging, to throw 
wiw^j-seed (Eleusine) against the tree, three times from one side 
and four times from the other. Once I had the opportunity of 
observing a man who, standing with his back to the indicated 
tree, drove an awl into its trunk, at the same time directing his 
prayer to the tree ". He then goes home, to return next morning, 
when he smears the trunk with fat. Then he digs up the roots. 
In this case they are only used as a sort of amulet, pieces of 
them being bound to the sufferer's arms and legs; thus their use 
is purely magical. 

We have already seen how, during the great n.'^a'hko, prayers 
are directed to a wild fig-tree (p. 56). 

Brutzer cites some very similar examples of sacrifices and 
prayers being offered to trees. Since his work is rather difficult 
of access and no one else seems to have made any observations 
as to these remarkable and interesting customs, I take the liberty 
of quoting him, thus assembling all the material in one place: 
»Den mundu niuzve [= mud] fragt man um rat, und dieser giebt 
das betrefifende heilkraftige oder schiitzende kraut oder baum an. 

^ kipa'ggona means sometimes » sacrifice*, sometimes » magic 
medicine ». 

"•^ What the object of driving in the awl is, I do not know, but 
it seems to me that here we have a certain resemblance to the West 
African negro who knocks a nail into his fetish. I will therefore, for 
the present, suggest the following explanation : the supplicant attracts 
the attention of the tree (the spirit of the tree) by driving in the nail. 
That the tree may not, however, be angry at the pain he causes it, 
he stands with his back to it, to give it the idea that he has nothing 
to do with the proceeding. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 16 

242 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Man begiebt sich zu demselben mit getreidekornern [cf. above 
Eleusine]. Sechsmal hintereinander bewirft man den baum mit 
einzelnen kornern. Beim siebenten mal wirft man den ganzen 
vorrat auf den baum, grabt dann die pflanze aus und bereitet das 
pulver. Also ein opfer an den baum. — Oder man begiebt sich 
zum baum mit einem feuerbrand und wasser. Dass wasser stellt 
man zu boden. Geht sechsmal mit geschlossenen augen um den 
baum. Beim siebenten mal stellt man sich unter den baum, schaut 
nach osten und spricht mit geschlossenen augen: Baum, ich 
komme, dich um eine gnade zu bitten. Ich habe einen kran- 
ken und weiss nicht, was ihn krank gemacht hat. Er hat mit 
keinem menschen etwas vorgehabt. Ich komme, dich um eine 
gabe zu bitten. Ich komme hierher zu dir, baum, dass ich ihn 
damit behandle, auf dass er genese» ^. 

Thus we find that sacrifices and prayers may be offered to 
trees just as to individual beings. I have not, however, managed to 
obtain any clear explanation of the circumstance. The natives 
only emphatically deny that the tree is thought to be inhabited 
by the spirits of the departed. It is very possible that here we 
have a manifestation of animism to deal with — an instance of 
the worship of trees resembling that which Krapf has already ob- 
served among the neighbours of the Akamba in the south-east, 
the Wanyika, who, according to him, believe that every tree has 
its »spirit>, and in particular offer sacrifices to the cocoa-nut tree^. 
The question then arises whether the tree is thought of as the 
body of the tree-spirit, or rather, as its dwelling, a thing about 
which the native himself perhaps has no clear ideas ^. My pre- 
vious assertion that the Akamba do not believe in nature-spirits 
of any kind, hardly conflicts with this conception, since it does 
not seem to be a question of such spirits here, but rather of the 
vegetative vitality of the tree — it is tempting to say its »soul», 
in accordance with primitive animism, but I avoid this word, since 
the natives with whom I discussed the point, denied that plants 
have souls. 

On the other hand, what is evident from the above quotation 
is that there is a strong magical feature in this worship of trees, 

^ Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube, p. 12. 

^ Krapf, Travels, Researches, p. 198. 

^ Cf. Frazer, The Golden Bough i: 2, p. 44 ff. 

Religion 243 

which is not surpribing, since religion and magic go hand in hand 
during the early stages, and no sharp boundary line can be drawn 
between them. We find thus that the roots are not curative in 
themselves, but only become so when the tree is treated in ihe 
method prescribed by the medicine-man^. 

6. The conception of Mulungu (Ngai). 

The most puzzling question that the study of the religion of 
the Bantu presents, is whether they have any belief in a Sup- 
reme God. 

The expression mulwggu appears in forms which do not vary 
very much {inuu^qu, muru^gu, &c), more especially in the eastern 
Bantu dialects. According to Le Roy, the name is to be found 
in at least some 40 dialects, and this figure is certainly a mini- 
mum. From the most northerly Bantu peoples, such as the Akamba, 
it is met with in most places down as far as the tracts south of 
Mozambique, and further in the southerly parts of the west coast. 
Even in the heart of the continent it is found, as for example 
among the Warundi, north of Tanganyika. I am uncertain as to 
the meaning of the word. Le Roy, without producing proofs for 
his assertion, translates it as, »Celui d'en haut, Celui du ciel»- 
(cf. below p. 246). 

Among the Akamba, Mulungu is a conception which, both 
as regards meaning and name, corresponds to what is known 
from so many other Bantu peoples, viz. a divinity that seems 
almost impersonal, since there are no conceptions — or very 
vague ones — • of its being and characteristics^. In spite of this. 

^ It would perhaps have been more suitable to include the whole 
of this description in the following chapter on the rpagic of the Akamba, 

- Le Roy, La Religion des primitifs, p. 176 ff. 

^ The lack of concreteness in the Akamba's conception of tmdwggu 
as a person, appears also from the fact that, in certain contexts, the 
word appears in the plural, but then it is formed according to the 
second class of substantives (prefix im-), which embraces objects 
without independent individual life, such as trees and parts of the 
body. Then it generally means 'luck, good fortune, chance' : tuuhi'ggtt 
musceo 'good luck', m. mupttku 'bad luck'. There is, besides, another 
word miiluggii in Kikamba, which means 'pipe, tube', thus primarily 

244 Lindblom, The Akamba 

it cannot be maintained that the Akamba, any more than any 
other Bantu peoples, conceive Mulungu as a sort of impersonal 
power; that would be to ascribe to them too great a power of 
abstract conception. They look upon him as the creator of all 
things, and therefore call him also inumbi 'the one who fashions, 
the creator' (from tiviba 'to fashion', most usually employed in the 
meaning of »to fashion earthenware vessels»)^ More seldom is 
found mwatwa'^agi^ 'the cleaver' (from atwa'gga ^to cleave into 
pieces'), since he originally formed all living beings, »as one hews 
out a stool or some other object with an axe». He is above 
both ainm and all the powers of nature. 

Mulungu is not worshipped at all (or at least extremely 
seldom) by offering of sacrifices, nor in any other way. He 
dwells in the skies at an indefinite distance, is held to be well- 
disposed towards human beings, but beyond that has nothing to 
do with them. » Mulungu does us no evil; so wherefore should 
we sacrifice to him?» say the Akamba characteristically. This 
motive for not worshipping is found among many of the Bantu 
peoples, who, from the religious point of view, are undeniably 
somewhat cold and practical ^. 

At most it is only occasionally, and then on some .special 
occasion, that they pray to Mulungu. Thus at the birth of a child. 
I once heard the following prayer: ^->mwnbi, thou who hast created 

a piece of bamboo or some other hollow stalk. It is not, however, 
altogether impossible that originally,- in » Primitive Bantu », the two 
words denoted the same idea. For in the Zulu stories we are told 
that Umkulunkulu, whom we probably have to conceive as identical 
with multi'ggu, came out of tithlanga, which seems sometimes to mean 
^origin, primitive race', sometimes, which is interesting to us in this 
connection, 'reed'. The word is thought to have meant originally a stem 
with numerous shoots. See further Kidd, The Essential Kafir, p. loo and 
W. Schneider, Die Religion der Afrikanischen Naturvdlker, p. 64. 

1 Le Roy p. 174 cites identical examples from elsewhere. 

2 Cf. Gutmann, Die Gottesidee der Wadschagga am Kilimandjaro, 
p. 128: »Trotz aller ihren ausserungen fiber Gott ist es aber nun 
tatsache, dass die verehrung Gottes nur eine geringe oder gar keine 
roUe spielt. Nicht nur well er trotz aller einzelzuge ihnen ein fremdes 
femes wesen bleibt, wahrend die ahnen ihnen vertraut und nahe sind, 
sondern auch weil fur gewShnhch von Gott ihnen keinerlei not und 
trubsal droht». 

Religion 245 

all human beings, thou hast conferred a great benefit on us by 
bringing us this child 1»^ 

This prayer is remarkable, inasmuch as it is not a request, 
but a thanksgiving, something which hardly occurs among prayers 
to the spirits. Above all, when the life-giving rains do not come, 
prayers are offered up all over the world, especially in Africa. 
It is obvious that it is upon the rains that the welfare of the 
agricultural negroes entirely depends. Yet these prayers are really 
addressed to the aimu, even though they sometimes seem to be 
addressed to the Mulungu-Ngai. They are generally offered by the old 
men and women when sacrifices are made at the ipcBmbo, the places 
where offerings are made to the aimu. Such a prayer for rain, which 
I heard, was offered to Ngai ^. In our description of the second 
nzatko, we saw that the leader of the ceremonies poured out a 
little oil as an offering to Mulungu, at the same time sending up 
prayers that the novices might turn out well. For the rest, no 
prayers are offered unless there is a special reason. »One does 
not pray 7nana^ (i. e. for nothing, without reason), said an old man to 
the author^. 

A very interesting question, but one which it is scarcely pos- 
sible to answer, is that concerned with the origin of the con- 
ception ofa God among the Akamba. The view has often 
been advanced that the conception of Mulungu, among the Bantu 
peoples in general, has developed from the worship of ancestral 
spirits, the original ancestor of a whole people having been finally 
exalted to a divinity. All the champions of this idea employ the 
same method of proof; one may be cited here: 

»Dass nun diese gottesidee der Bantu,, die jetzt allerdings be- 
ziehungslos neben dem seelenkult steht, dies einst nicht tat, son- 
dern dass sie aus demselben entsprungen ist und also aus ihm zu 
erklaren sein wird, lasst sich zur hochsten wahrscheinlichkeit er- 
heben. Es sprechen dafiir zunachst sprachliche momente. Die 
genuine bezeichnung gottes im Bantu scheint in dem kafferischen 

^ Kikamba : mumbi, tila wiimbaa andti ondd, nutiviktd ncesa atue- 
ted kana. 

" US^h '^^^ %etad mbua ncekaete andu, nno toka kuvova mbua: »Ngai, 
thou who . . ? . . the rain and bringest it to men, we have come to 
thee to pray for rain». 

^ For examples of Banlu prayers, see Le Roy p. 297 ff. 

346 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Unkulunkulu erhalten zu sein. Es ist dies wort das mit dem 
prafix un- versehene und dadurch substantivierte adjektiv kulti, 
'gross, alt'. Die verdoppelung ist steigerung des begrififs. Unkul- 
unkulu ist also wohl soviel wie der 'uralte', der 'urahn'. Dies 
adjektiv hat sich nebst dem dazu gehorigen verbum in fast 
alien Bantuidiomen erhalten. Dasselbe wort Unkulunkulu ist in 
•der gottesbezeichnung z. b. der Suahili, Wakamba und Wapokomo 
erhalten: Muungu, Mulungu und Muungo. Demnach wird es nicht 
2U kiihn sein, den gott der Bantu als den geist des urahnen zu 
bezeichnen, so zwar dass der zusammenhang desselben mit den von 
ihm abstammenden anderen geistern dem bewusstsein verloren 
gegangen ist, und er dadurch eine singulare stellung erlangt hat. 
So erklart sich auch der durchaus schattenhafte charakler des 
Bantugottesgedankens. Das ist die gottesidee der Bantu. Eine 
veranlassung, ihn durch opfer zu verehren, besteht fur den ein- 
zelnen nicht, er steht zu fern, um ihm schaden zu woUen; er denkt 
sich ihn als gut»^. 

The same idea is championed by Keane, who relies on such 
authorities as Bleek, Duff MacDonald, and Bentley-. 

I will not, from my own experience, give any expression of 
opinion as to the correctness of this idea, as far as the Bantu 
Iribes in general are concerned. Several circumstances, however, 
seem to indicate the incorrectness of tracing the mulungu concep- 
tion back to the spirit cult: 

I. Generally, though not always, a sharp distinction is drawn 
between mulwggu and aiinii. »Wenn die geister so gut waren wie 
Mulungu, dann stande es gut mit uns», said one man to a mis- 

II. According to tradition, mulwggu created the first men, 
thus also the original ancestor, for which reason, as we have seen, 
he can be given such a powerful »nomen agens» as » Creator ». 

^ Raum, ijber angebliche Gotzen am Kilimandjaro, Globus 1904, 
p. 102. 

* Keane, Ancestor worship, in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 
vol. I, p. 194. 

^ Kanig, Dornige Pfade eiaes jungen Missionars in Ukamba, p. 
17. — It is hardly likely that the assertions of missionaries and Moham- 
medan natives could have given rise to this distinction. At most, con- 
tact with them may have helped, in individual cases, to render more 
distinct and personified the conception of mulungu. 

Religion 247 

III. Mulungu, »The Maker*, existed before death came into 
the world (cf. below, myth II, p. 253). 

IV. Mulungu is thought lo dwell in the sky » among the 
clouds* {maitim), while the atmu dwell in the earth or upon it. 

This difference between Mulungu and the spirits, which I have 
here tried to indicate, is also made — and on similar grounds — 
by B. Gutmann in the case of the Wadjagga, a people much 
resembling the Akamba in many respects^. Gutmann suggests that, 
at least to some degree, the Wadjagga have taken their conception 
of God fiom the Masai, although they have not adopted the Masai 
name for God, 'ggai, or as Hollis writes, Eng-di. On the contrary, 
the Akamba have done this in some parts, chiefly in the west, 
that is to say just in the parts bordering on the Masai steppes. 
It seems to me, therefore, that here they make a sharper distinction 
between mubi'^gii'ggai ^"^ aimu than in East Ukamba. Since, 
however, in spite of Merker's assertion, the Ngai of the Masai 
(see also below) seems to be almost as indefinite a divinity as 
the Mulungu of the Bantu peoples, the loan cannot in any apprec- 
iable degree have affected the Akamba's old conception of Mu- 
lungu. Even the Akikuyu, who have in many respects been con- 
siderably more influenced by the Masai than have the Akamba, 
have adopted the word '^gai. I scarcely think that they make 
any general use of the word Mulungu^. 

In spite of the fact, then, that (as I think I have shown) there 
really exists a difference between mulwggu and a?mu, the expres- 
sions are very often used indiscriminately: inulu^gu-'gga% is used 
in the same sense as aimu, and the locative form tnulwggum in 
the sense of »of the spirit-world, among the spirits*^. The Aki- 
kuyu say makax (the collective form of ^gax), which must be un- 

^ Gutmann, Die Gottesidee der Wadschagga, p. 131. 

» Dichten und Denken der Dschagga-neger, p. 183, 

- Routledge has only Ngai. Cayzac, La religion des Kikuyu, p. 31 1, 
writes as a heading: »Dieu (Ngai et Molungu, indistinctemenl)», but in 
his presentation employs only »dieu». It is to be observed that Rout- 
ledge and Cayzac both say that the Akikuyu usually offer sacrifices 
(and pray) to God. 

^ It is probably this that has misled S. Watt, in his vocabulary, 
into translating muluggu by » spirit of evil». On the whole, Watt's 
work betrays a certain ignorance of Kikamba. 

248 Lindblom, The Akamba 

derstood as synonymous with 'ggoma, their usual word for the spirits ^ 
The same indifference with regard to the differentiation of ideas 
is met with among other Bantu peoples^. It would seem, however, 
that the native is conscious that he has committed a lapsus. Many 
a time I have heard them speak of muluugu, meaning aiinu\ but 
when they have seen my astonishment, they have corrected them- 
selves and employed the latter expression. 

A connection in which, in West Ukamba, Ngai (not Mulungu) 
seems exclusively to be used, is in speaking of rain, which is 
said to be sent by Ngai (but also by mumbi 'the creator'). And 
when, sometimes, for certain reasons the rain may not be men- 
tioned by its ordinary name, mbua^ they call it Ngai, if they have 
to speak of it (cf Chap. XIV. 5). In this case it is clear that the 
Akamba's Ngai is very closely connected with the Ngai of the 
Masai, as this divinity is conceived by most investigators (who 
do not adopt Merker's well-known theory), namely as a vague 
sky-god or as heaven itself 

It is true that in this study we have nothing to do directly 
with the Masai's Ngai, but since the word at least, and with it 
also part of its signification, has been borrowed by the Akamba, 
I will recall the fact that some investigators have compared Ngai 
with the Melanesians' niana, the Dacotah Indians' wakan, &c, and 
with conceptions of »power» and »the powers» in nature^. This 
comparison of "ggai with mana seems to be traceable to the oft-cited 
assertion made by J. Thompson: »Their conception of the Deity 
seems marvellously vague. I was Ngai. My lamp was Ngai»*. 
In a word, everything new and inexplicable to the Masai, was 
^gai. It is more than probable that Thompson misunderstood 
them^. The present author has not been sufficiently in con- 

^ McGregor, English-Kikuyu Vocabulary. 

^ »The word mulungu is also used to denote the spirit world in 
general, or more properly speaking, the aggregate of the spirits of all 
the dead»: Hetherwick, Some animistic beliefs among the Yaos ot 
Brit. Centr. Africa, p. 94. 

'^ See, for example, Crawley, The tree of life, pp. 51, 234. 

^ Thompson, Through Masailand, p. 44.5. 

^ This is the opinion of Mr HoUis, the well-known expert on the 
Masai language and on the Masai living on English territory, whom I 
met in Nairobi in 1910. See also Marret, The Threshold of Religion, 
p. XVIII. 

Religion 249- 

tact with the Masai, nor has he a sufficient acquaintance with 
their language, to be able to form a reliable appreciation of the 
conception of Ngai; but as far as the Akamba's ^gal is concerned, 
I have never heard the word used with a similar meaning, expres- 
sing a property, either alone or preceded by a particle. My ob- 
servations lead me to the conclusion that, in spite of all its unclear- 
ness, Mulungu-Xgai is at most »a relatively Supreme Being », to 
use Andrew Lang's expression. How, further, the natives repre- 
sent this Being to their own minds is another question, which it 
would certainly be difficult to answer. To analyse the idea philo- 
sophically and make distinctions is beyond their capacity. At most, 
a few realise that Mulungu is the Absolute (as we use the word), 
who is superior to all natural and supernatural powers. What we 
must remember is only that we must not base a comparison 
between their idea of a God and our ow n on our own conceptions. 

We now come to those who entertain great doubts about the 
Bantu peoples' belief in a Supreme Being, and instead attach to 
Mulungu and similar conceptions the idea of a nature-religion, ani- 
mism, and so forth. For a refutation of these ideas I refer the reader 
to the above-mentioned work of Le Roy, whose general presen- 
tation in the main tallies with my own observations within my 
limited sphere of investigation. The facts set forth by this author, 
of which the most important are statements of natives belonging 
to different tribes, seem to afford clear proof of the natives' belief 
in a personal God ^. 

And yet Le Roy seems to have taken rather a one-sided 
view of his task and to have attached most importance to the 
material which supported his theory. But just as we can bring 
together sufficient facts to afford a conception of a personal being 
— as he has done — so can we assemble other facts which sug- 
gest a vague and somewhat impersonal Mulungu. His significance 
varies even within the same tribe"-. This contradiction, which is 

1 Le Roy ibid. p. 170 ff. 

' The Jao of Brit. Central Africa seem to provide a strikingly 
good example of this: »The untaught Jao refuses to assign to the word 
Mulungu any idea of being or personality. It is to him more a quality 
or faculty of the human nature, whose signification he has extended so- 
as to include the whole spirit world. Yet the Jao approaches closely 
to the idea of personality and a personal being when he speaks of 

^5© Lindblom, The Akamba 

so inexplicable for us, assuredly does not exist for the negro ; 
he does not make the same distinction as we do between the 
personal and the impersonal. The investigator who has best 
understood the inner essence of the Mulungu-type and paid due 
attention to all the variations and changes in the conception, is 
without doubt N. Soderblom. After having passed under consider- 
ation original monotheism, the nature-hypothesis, and the ancestor- 
hypothesis, he sets up his own theory of »the producer* (Swed. 

»The connection between the power-matter and the creator lies 
in the fact that, in both cases, a cause is sought for what other- 
wise cannot be explained. For us the distinction is as clear as 
possible between a sort of impersonal power, material, electricity, 
and a personal fashioner, producer, a supernatural creator or father. 
Mulungu, wakanda, manitu, orenda, is now a mysterious some- 
thing in beings and things, now certain objects, now spirits, 
now a creative being. If the primitive conception vacillates be- 
tween conceptions that (for us but not for them) appear as 
mutually excluding alternatives, and if that which is common to 
and constant in the expressions employed, is that these expres- 
sions designate the cause of that which is to be explained — then 
no very intimate contact with Christianity or Islam is necessary 
for the »power» to become a personal creator*^. 

»The more I have occupied myself with these beings belonging 
to primitive faith that resemble animals or men, the stronger 
has my conviction become that these beings which formerly, and 
even to-day, are advanced as a proof of an original monotheisin, 
and which have later been arrayed among nature-gods or ances- 
tors, could not be squeezed into any of our existing categories. 
They form a category by themselves. Their peculiarity must be 
respected — to keep them distinct from other conceptions the are 
<:oncerned with and at the same time to express their essence, 
I would suggest the name »producers» (urheber)»". 

The natives' dim conception of Mulungu and Ngai is appar- 

what Mulungu is doing and has done. It is M. who made the world 
and man and animals ». See further S Hartland's article » Bantu* in 
Encycl. of Religion and Ethics. 

^ N. Soderblom, Gudstrons uppkomst, p. 89. 

- Soderblom loc. cit. p. 175. 

Religion 25 1 

€ntly insufficient to enable them to form any idea of the appear- 
ance of this being. This may be the reason why no representa- 
tion of Mulungu has, as far as I know, ever been found. On the 
whole, ornaments or sculptures in human shape, such as, for in- 
stance, the West African fetish images, are, as a matter of fact, 
very rare among East African tribes. I found, however, in Ukamba 
a figure that a medicine man had cut out on his calabash and 
which he claimed to represent Ngai. He would not give up his 
calabash, so I had to be satisfied with drawing the figure. In 
fig. 59 a is Ngai's eye, b is his penis, »the source of all life*, c is 
his three legs. Around the neck of the calabash another figure 
was cut out, a circle with strokes on the inside. It represented 

Fig. 59. A medicine man's representation of Ngai and Mulungu. 

Mulungu, >who lives in the sea». The man thus seemed to con- 
ceive Ngai and Mulungu as two different persons. My attempt 
to get a clear idea of his conception was, however, in vain. 

I communicate this with the utmost reservation. I look upon 
the case as an isolated incident, a manifestation of a productive 
brain. I also learned that the man had lived for a time at the 
coast, where he had occasion to come into contact with different 
races and tribes. 


Finally, a considerable number of customs connected with 
religion have been described in different places in the chapters of 
this work, but I have not considered it expedient to take them 
out of their natural contexts. The influence of religious conceptions 
upon social life in all its spheres is, of course, very strong among 
all peoples living in a state of nature. 

Lindblom, The Akamba 

7. Myths as to the origin of the world. 

If one passes in review the numerous collections of folklore 
of the different Bantu peoples, one cannot but be astonished 
at their great lack of any feeling that causes and motives must 
be found, at their great lack of any feeling that the origin of the 
most important phenomena of existence needs explanation. Thus 
the Akamba and many other tribes are without any myths about 
the origin of Heaven and earth. Only about the creation of men 
and about death have they any original myths. The cause of this 
must be ascribed to the overwhelming predominance of manism 
in the religious sphere. 

I here append, in all briefness, the two existing myths as tO' 
the origin of things. 

I. The Creation. Of the first men, one pair, a man and 
his wife, came out of a termite hole {mujmmhini). Another pair, 
likewise a man and his wife (the ancestors of mba-atmii), were 
thrown down by Mulungu from the clouds {matum), bringing with 
them a cow, a goat, and a sheep. They fell down on the rock 
Nsaue, south-east of Kilungu, and there built a village. Both 
pairs had children, who married among themselves and formed 
new families. From some of their descendants came the Kamba 
clans; others gave origin to the Masai, the Akikuyu, &c. 

On Nsaue are seen some marks in the rock, which are said 
to be the foot-prints of the first men and their cattle; there are 
also the marks of the stool of the head of the family. 

The assumption that there were originally two pairs has prob- 
ably arisen from the institution of exogamy. 

The Jao tribe round Nyassa has a similar origin-myth: »Man- 
kind is said to have originated at Kapirimtiya, a hill or, as some 
say, an island in a lake, far to the west of Nyassa. Here it is 
believed that there is a rock covered with marks like the foot- 
prints of men and animals, and that, when men were first created, 
the island was a piece of soft mud, and Mulungu sent them 
across it, so as to leave their footmarks there, before they were 
dispersed over the world. One native account says that 'they 
came from Heaven and fell down upon the earth': another that 
they came out of a hole in the rock, which was afterwards closed 

Religion 253 

l)y the people of Mulungu', and is now in a desert place towards 
the north »^ 

II. The coming of death to mankind. Death as something 
inexplicable is by different peoples attributed to the Creator. 

When Mulungu created man, he resolved to endow him with 
immortality. The chameleon was known to him as a certainly 
slow but very reliable being, for which reason he chose him to 
convey the important message to the- children of men. The 
chameleon set off, took the matter lightly, and stopped now and 
then to catch flies. At length, however, he came to the human 
beings, and began: »I have been commissioned to, I have been 
commissioned to . . .». He could get no further. For some reason or 
other, Mulungu however had changed his mind and decided that man 
should die, »like the roots of the aloe». The swift-flying weaver bird 
was sent out with the new message, and he arrived just as the 
chameleon stood stammering. The bird conveyed his message 
quickly and concisely, and since that day mankind has been 

This myth is wide-spread in Africa, even outside the Bantu 
group. Generally the chameleon is the messenger, as in the above 
myth, while the second messenger is not always the same; some- 
times it is the lizard, sometimes the goat, and so on. There are, 
furthermore, a great number of variations of the myth; even in 
the same place the tale is told differently by different narrators^. 

Fresh and smooth wounds are treated by pressing the edges 
of the wounds against each other and then on both sides narrow 
acacia thorns are stuck through the edges. The thorns are placed 
in pairs, crossing each other. Then the whole thing is fastened 
Avith cords. This method of procedure, which, as a matter of fact, 
has, of course, a resemblance to the newest methods of the modern 
treatment of wounds, is probably the same as is practised by the 
Akamba's neighboors, the Masai ^. 

' Werner, The Natives of British Central Africa, p. 70. 
^ Cf. B. Struck, Das Chamaleon in der afrikanischen Mythologie, 
174, and T. v. Held, Marchen und Sagen der Afrikanischen Neger. 
3 Given in detail by M. Merker, Die Masai, p. 190. 

Chapter XIV. Medicine men and magicians. 

I. General characteristics of the medicine man. 

The medicine man is called mundu niuo (plu. and), which 
means »wise man», if mud is identical with the root -m 'wise, 
shrewd' {:Ugi in the Kikuyu language), from which we have the 
noun wux 'shrewdness'. We must not confuse mundu mud with 
mundu mwoi 'bewitcher, dealer in black magic' {woi 'witchcraft')^ 
which is discussed below. 

It is not everyone that can be a medicine man, as a rule 
only those who have shown themselves predestined to this posi- 
tion from birth are eligible. The proof of this is that the child 
should be born with what one might call appendages, which consti- 
tute an indication from the ancestral spirits that he is to be a medi- 
cine man. Thus some have been born with a little peg in their hands 
and in the case of another new-born child there were found in the 
afterbirth five small stones, such as the medicine man uses in his 
calabashes for divination. These objects are taken care of by the 
child's mother, who buries them or carefully hides them in some 
other way till her son is grown up, when they are handed over 
to him. 

Even while he is growing up the boy begins to appear 
different from other children. He gets on well by himself and 
very soon has dreams and revelations, by means of which he gets 
into communication with the supernatural world. Thus, to a great 
extent, his development is the well-known one that is general for 
the shaman in different parts of the world. It may also happen, 
however, that a child who is born without any remarkable con- 
comitants begins later on to develop visions and a desire for soli- 
tude, and in this way gradually to show tendencies to develop 
into a medicine man. As far as one can see, the development 
seems to take place without any guidance from older medicine 

Medicine men and magicians 255 

men, not infrequently concealed from outsiders, simply and solely 
by communication with the mmii. It is chiefly from them that all 
knowledge comes. In dreams they give the would-be-shaman, as- 
well as the finished medicine man, instructions about healing herbs 
and other objects which he needs for his work. In the middle 
of the night he feels compelled to get up from his bed and, like 
a sleepwalker, neither fearing nor thinking of the wild animals, to 
rush out into the woods to look for a certain plant, about which 
he has received instructions in his dream. One evening the author 
came across a case of this kind, an elderly man, who came run- 
ning along and whom it was impossible to persuade to stop. He 
had just recevied instructions from the spirits about a certain 
object — I could never get to know what — and he had to 
fetch it at once. 

Brutzer describes the development of the medicine man in a 
similar way. According to him the young adept is consecrated 
for his work by his father with a special ceremony. As his paper 
is rather difficult to get at, I quote from him. 

»Solche personlichkeiten sind von geburt an zu diesem amt 
gekennzeichnet. Sie sagen: wer mit roten beeren^ mbuu genannt, 
in der hand geboren wird, ist zum mundu muwe bestimmt. Auf 
das geschlecht kommt es nicht an. Die mutter nimmt die beeren 
und hebt sie in einer langlichen kiirbisflasche auf. Das kind wachst 
heran. Vom 14. jahr an^ findet das kind beim erwachen in den 
geschlossenen handen wiederum die mbubeeren. Die mutter be- 
wahrt die beeren in jener kiirbisflasche auf. Diese hat ihren platz 
in einem bastkorb. Ist der sohn etwa 20 jahre alt, so erscheint 
ihm im traume ein mensch, der ihm eine pflanze in die hand 
giebt, indem er sagt: 'Nimm, das ist eine pflanze, menschen zu 
heilen. Diese pflanze heilt diese krankheit, jene andere heilt eine 
solche krankheit'. Er hort die worte, fasst die pflanze fest, und 
beim erwachen findet er sie in seinen handen. Er giebt sie der 
mutter, und diese tut sie in den bastsack. So geht es einige zeit 
weiter. Darauf wird ihm von den aimu ein eregnis, das eintrefien 
soil, mitgeteilt. Am morgen sagt er es den leuten, die dann 
durch das eintrefifen das vorhergesagten darauf aufmerksam werden,. 

^ Probably the red seeds of Aberis precatorius (Kik. ki6uti). 
^ It is certain that the time cannot be determined so exactly. 

:256 Lindblom, The Akamba 

dass dieser mensch etwas besonderes sein muss. Sie fragen den 
vater, ob sein sohn etwa ein niundii muwe ware. Der vater be- 
statigt es und sagt, er wolle den sohn nun in sein amt einfiihren, 
indem er den geist anbetet. Nun wird met gebraut. Man tut 
Loofafrucht in^das gebraute, um den met berauschend zu machen^ 
Man schlachtet eine ziege* die gross und fett ist. Blut und met 
Averden zu boden gegossen zur verehrung des Ngai. Darauf berei- 
tet man viel speise. Die leute des geschlechtes versammeln sich 
zum mahl. Man isst und ist frohlicli. Der vater betet zum Ngai 
und segnet die medizinen und sagt zum sohn: 'Jetzt ist es genug. 
Heile und wahrsage'. Damit iibergiebt er dem sohn die kiirbis- 
flasche mit den roten mbubeeren, aus denen wahrsagend er den 
leuten rat erteilt, und den basti<orb mit den medikamenten.» . . . 

From this alone we see that the two most important func- 
tions of the nnindti mud are to cure illnesses and to tell fortunes. 
When he has acquired a knowledge of these things, he is ready 
to appear in public. Sometimes, however, the new medicine man 
seems to have difficulty in obtaining recognition. He is received 
Avith suspicion, sometimes with scorn, and is declared by many to 
be an impostor pure and simple. It is related of more than one 
eminent old mundu mud that in the beginning of his career he 
had to overcome difficulties such as these. 

The position of a medicine man is not generally hereditary, 
but it appears to be easy for several members of the same family 
to become medicine men. Thus I know of several cases in which 
a son succeeded his father in this office, if we can call it so when 
these people are not really officials and have no official position. 
In Kikumbuliu I met a mundu mud whose deceased father had 
been a famous medicine man; his brother, also deceased, had 
held the same position, and his son, quite a young boy, had been 
born with a peg in his hand (cf. above) and had already begun 
to have visions. 

The hereditary character of the position of medicine man, 
instances of which are found among many tribes (among others 
the Shamans of the tribes in Siberia) may to some extent be due to 
the fact that the stimulation of the nervous system, to which a 

^ This fruit (of the Kigelia africana) is always used by the Akamba 
for fermenting beer. See Beermaking. ' 

Medicine men and magicians 357 

medicine man is continually exposed, is inherited by one of his 
children and so makes him disposed to the profession ^ 

There are also female medicine »men», but they are more 
rare. Near Muutha in the most easterly part of Ukamba I be- 
came acquainted with one of these, Lunda by name, a stalwart 
person, with a greater reputation than most of the men in the district. 

Externally the Akamba medicine men have no special mark 
of identification, and so it is impossible without some trouble to 
see if one is dealing with one of them. In everday life as well as 
on special occasions they occupy, however, in many respects a 
special position, and I collect here some cases to illustrate this 
which have come within my own experience: 

i) If one is in the company of a mundu mud, it is considered 
disrespectful to go in front of him on a path. 

2) When the medicine man wants to build a hut for himself, 
everyone in the district helps him. Before the work is started, 
the kilumi is danced by the female members of the nzama, and 
the young people perform their dances, though, on the other 
hand, dancing does not take place at the building of an ordinary 
hut. Further details will be given in connection with the descrip- 
tion of » Housebuilding*. 

3) When a mundu mud is buried, the old men dance (at least 
in Eastern Ukamba) alone at the place, the only occasion, as far 
as I know, on which they dance by themselves and in corpore. 
They then hold a carousal. As is the custom at the death of 
important people, a big goat and some food is sacrificed at the 
grave, and in a prayer to Mulungu (the aimu) they wish the de- 
ceased happiness in the place »whither he has gone». 

4) The position of the medicine man in relation to the 
ancestral cult is of special interest. As is evident from the 
preceding chapter, he is, together with the old men and the old 
women, the guardian of this cult, and he tells the atumta when it 
is time to sacrifice to the spirits and gives directions for the carry- 
ing out of the rites. Curiously enough, he may not take any 
active part himself in the sacrifice, but has, with regard to it, the 
same subordinate position as the younger people and children (cf 
pp. 220, 222). This fact, of which I can give no satisfactory ex- 

1 Cf. further M. Barth, Die Medizin der Naturvolker, p. 59. 

ArchOr. Lindblom 17 

258 Lindblom, The Akamba 

planation, is contrary to his great prestige in other things. As an 

illustration of this I quote a statement of an old man, with whom 

I was arguing about the chiefs of the Djagga tribe. He said: 

»We Akamba have no chiefs and are not used to them. But if 

any of us may be compared with them, it would be the mundu mud.^-> 

5) Finally a medicine man may not touch a corpse. In this 

respect as well he is placed on the same footing as women and 


* * 

The medicine man is consulted on all the more or less per- 
plexing occasions of life. Here we shall describe the different 
important branches of his activity. The two most important of 
these, divination and the curing of illnesses, have already been 
referred to in the account of his development. 

2. Divination. 

The main part of each medicine man's practice consists of 
kuausia-'\ng, i. e., with the help of the aimu to predict things, to 
state also whether a project will succeed ot not, find out the 
cause of a thing, etc. ^ He gives, for instance, a remedy for un- 
requited love, and is consulted in love-affairs especially, for illness 
or death among men and cattle, before entering upon a long 
journey; pregnant women wish to know if the foetus is getting 
on well, whether it is a boy or a girl; he gives remedies for 
sterility. To put it briefly he is consulted on all life's perplexing 
circumstances and all its questions. 

Kuausia-mg usually proceeds in the following way. The 
medicine man spreads a leopard- or a goatskin on the ground. 
He then takes the musical instrument, by means of which he 
gets into communication with the spirits. It consists of an or- 
dinary bow which has, however, a string of wire. Between this 
and the bow there is placed a sounding-board consisting of a 
calabash-shell with its outside edge against the string. The in- 
strument may be said to be regulated, inasmuch as a notch on 

1 The verb kuausia is also used about a person who consults a 
medicine man and then it signifies » cause to predict, tell fortunes*. The 
form (ending in -ia) is clearly a causative. 

Medicine men and magicians 259 

the calabash shows the point against which the string must be 
placed so as to give the desired note, when it is struck with a 
Uttle peg. The medicine man then strikes alternately on the two 
parts of the string with the stick. This is always made out of 
the wood of the little bush called mulmla-mbia (Malvaceae, cf p. 
52). The instrument (fig. 61), which gives a not unpleasant sound,, 
is used exclusively by the medicine men. 

After the medicine man has played in this way for a little 
while, he takes the divinatory calabash {ktMi), containing seeds, 
small stones and other odd things {mbii). After shaking the cala- 
bash he pours out a part of its contents on this skin, saying 
something like: »Calabash, tell me carefully ». From the number 
of the objects which have fallen out he draws his conclusions, at 
the same time questioning the applicant for help. Unfortunately I 
could never understand his method, but as a rule an even number 
is a good omen, an odd one bad. At least one individual gathered 
tlie objects into small heaps, five in each, and then drew his con- 
clusions. According to Brutzer the mundu mud among the Akamba 
in the hinterland of Mombasa collects the mbu into heaps of three 
and five and gives his opinion from what are over^. It is prob- 
able that at least a portion of the mbu have a certain signi- 
ficance, just as, for instance, certain divinatory bones among the 
Akikuyu and the Batonga, of which H. Junod has succeeded in 
obtaining an admirably accurate interpretation^. A statement of 
Hobley (Akamba, p. 99) points to this. The music and the shak- 
ing of the calabash go on until certainty is arrived at. As a 
conclusion the medicine man likes to spit on his calabash, so as 
to give support and success to his statements. When handing 
over medicine to a patient he also usually spits, so as to give 
greater power to the medicine. A certain mundu mud spat three 
times in his calabash, explaining to me that by that means he 
»could see things more clearly*^. Another man, before he 

^ Brutzer, Begegnungen mil Akamba, p. 10. 

2 Routledge p. 268 ; Junod II, p. 495 ff. 

^ Circumcision shows an additional example — which, by an over- 
sight, has not been given in its proper place in Chap. Ill — of the 
beneficial effect that is ascribed to spitting. When the circumcision is 
accomplished and the children are about to return again to their homes, 
the circumcisor (mwaikt) spits over the crowd as a blessing so that 
the pain of the wound shall be less severe. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

began to kuausxa^ poured out a little beer on the four corners of 
the skin as an offering to the aimu. 

The method of kuausia-'va^ here described is the most usual, 
but the details vary, so that it is safe to say that each medicine 
man has his own particular method. 

A divinatory calabash of this kind must never be entirely 
emptied, or it will have an evil influence on its owner's powers 
of divination. The seeds that are usually found in the cala- 
bashes, are the big black ones of the wild banana and the beauti- 


(I i 







Fig. 60. 

Kuausia-ing. The medicineman is pouring out his 
pebbles on a piece of leopard skin. 

ful red ones (with a black spot) of the hOuti tree (Aberis preca- 
torius), and others^. In the case of a man near Machakos I also 
saw some pieces of glass and porcelain. All these objects are 
collected by their owner according to the instructions of the 
spirits; but in each calabash there are some mdu of special pot- 
ency which the spirits themselves have brought to the medicine 
man during the night while he is asleep. 

1 The Aberis seeds are not infrequently used in African magic. In 
South Africa they are well known as » lucky beans ». Junod says that 
they are very much used in Thonga magic. Junod, The Life of a 
South African Tribe II, p. 292. 

Medicine men and magicians 261 

The fact that a leopard skin is used to pour these mbu on is 
explained by the impression of strength which the leopard gives. 
Claws and also whiskers of leopards are generally used in the 
practice of magic. When buying leopard skins from natives I 
often found those parts of the skins removed. Sometimes they 
are made into powder and eaten in order to transfer something 
of the courage and strength of the leopard to the eating person 
(sympathetic magic). The use of the goatskin can scarcely be 
explained in the same way, but we know that the goat is closely 
connected with the spirits. It is the most usual sacrifice to them. 

The remuneration for a consultation is usually only 4 pesa 
(6 cents), formerly two arrows, or it was given in natura. But 
then comes the fee for »the medicine* which the mundu ntu3 pre- 
scribes and as a rule makes and sells himself. This may cost a 
goat or even more, and it is by means of this that the medicine 
man makes his living. 

It sometimes happens that the client does not tell the medicine 
man what he wants to know, but thinks that it is the duty of 
the latter, and a proof of his competency, to say himself what the visit 
is about. The doctor then soon gets his bearings by a few questions, 
which are usually reasonably simple, but at the same time can give 
a proof of a skill in cross-examination of which an astute judge 
need not be ashamed. If he is wide of the mark, he is scarcely 
disconcerted, nor does it seem to shake the client's faith in his skill. 

The Akamba state that the power of the mundu mud to 
predict future events has more than once protected them from 
surprise attacks of the Masai. As we shall see from what follows 
he also uses this power of his to take measures against impending 
outbreaks of infectious diseases. Knowledge of this sort he seems 
to gain, however, less by the use of his divinatory calabash than 
by intercourse with the spirits in his sleep (in dreams). 

Of the origin of the practice of kuausya-xn^ the Akamba tell 
a story, rather an unimportant one, but possibly with some details 
of interest: 

»A man who had gone out into the desert to hunt heard a 
sound: kasa, kasa (an onomatopoetic reproduction of the rattling 
of a divinatory calabash). He went to look what it was and no- 
ticed a little man (in the stories the spirits appear as very small 
people), shaking out small stones and seeds from a calabash on 

a6a Lindblom, The Akamba 

a leopard skin. He asked him: 'What are you doing?' The little 
man answered: 'I am just kuausia-mg . — 'What is that?' — 'Well, 
I am able to say fine words to you as to how you can become 
rich.' — 'Then I should like to kuausha.' — 'Then give me two arrows' 
(the fee). He gave him two arrows. And the little man shook his 
stones out and said: 'You will be rich from hunting'. And he 
hunted, killed elephants, and sold the tusks for many cattle. When 
he came home he was asked what had happened, and he told 
them. 'Let us go and kuausyx , said the others. And they went, 
found the little man, and said to him: 'We want to kuausid . — 
'Give me two arrows!' They did so. He said: 'You shall become rich 
by walking'. And when they went to hunt they found dead elephants. » 

The first man had such a good proof of the little man's 
power that others became eager to seek him out. It is exactly 
the same, of course, in real life. The medicine man whose 
divination appears to come true gets a big practice. 

To inana, i. e. without any reason to touch a medicine man's 
divinatory apparatus or the other objects which are connected 
with his magic power, is dangerous, naturally because of the great 
powers that are supposed to dwell in the objects. One may be- 
come ill or die altogether. I remember a young man who happened 
to touch a medicine man's medicine bag. When, in the evening 
of the same day, he went to a dance, none of the girls danced 
with him. The cause of this misfortune was, as he immediately 
realised, that he had touched the medicine bag. 

A medicine man will never sell his apparatus or dispose of 
it in any other way. I have tried in vain to procure a medicine 
bag with its accessories, the owner usually states as a reason 
for his refusal that he himself or his family would incur some 
misfortune if he gave it up. 

When a mundu mud dies, the medicine bag and similar ar- 
ticles are left undisturbed till the next new moon; then they are 
taken out and each object smeared with cow-fat, after which they 
are again put in their places. They remain there until the de- 
ceased reveals himself to someone in a dream and makes known 
his wishes as to what they shall do with these, the most 
important of his effects. He often .gives directions for a certain 
person to take charge of his apparatus. 

Medicine men and magicians 263 

As an appendix to illustrate and complete this sketch of the 
medicine man among the Akamba I will describe certain medicine 
men, partly those with whom I myself have come into contact, 
partly others, whom the natives have told me about. 

I. To the author's camp at Machakos there came a mundu 
mud from the Kitui district, who was just on a tour through Ulu. 
His method of kuaus\a-\x\^ was very simple, inasmuch as he only 
asked questions and did not use the usual divinatory calabash. 
When I wondered what was the cause of this, he answered that 
that method was »bad» for him and that his »Ngai» (i. e. a spirit) 
had taught him another. I let him tell my fortune and his sta- 
tements included, among other things: »You own two villages at 
home in Ulaya}. You have a wife there, she is well and you 
will soon get letters with good news. In your body there dwells 
the spirit of a deceased relation*. In the man's medicine bag, 
made of the skin of the hunting leopard, there were only six to 
eight small medicine calabashes, i — 1.5 dm. long. The small 
quantity which one of these can hold is, however, sufficient for a 
great number of patients, when one considers that each one gets 
only quite a small pinch. In the bag there was, among other things: 

a) a calabash containing nzceOu, a kind of black powder re- 
sembling soot, very commonly used and prepared from certain 
plants. Protects against lions amongst other things. In case of need 
a pinch is taken in the hand and blown out in the direction of 
the beast, who then goes off. 

b) a calabash with powder resembling pepper. A pinch of this, 
laid on the tongue, protects one against infidelity on the part of 
one's wife or wives. 

c) a calabash with powder from the roots of the mwa'h-tvee. 
The forehead, cheeks and chin are rubbed with this powder, which 
procures friendship among men and favour among women. 

d) a calabash with white powder, which gives great fertility 
to women. 

As is obvious, only magic remedies. On the other hand, there- 
was nothing against real illnesses. With a good knowledge of 
human nature the medicine man takes care, in the first place, to 
be provided with remedies that are thought capable of procuring 
what is most desirable in the life of the native. It is thus with 

' The Suaheli name for Europe. 

264 Lindblom, The Akamba 

these things that he earns most. The man in question, for instance, 
gained in one week six goats and twelve rupees in ready money, 
an income which was not considered specially big of its kind, 
though representing several months of work for a native labourer. 
And yet most medicine men seem not to be particularly wealthy ^. 
2. When I was once stopping at a village a few hours north 
of Kibwezi, I was just in time to see a medicine man working. 
A woman in the district had for a long time been ill, and as 
she did not get better her husband brought her to this mundu 
mud. After a brief examination he explained that the woman was 
possessed by a spirit and undertook to try to expel it, of course 
for a reasonable fee. He told her to lie down on the ground, covered 
her with bags of bast, and ordered her to sleep. After having 
struck on his musical bow by way of introduction and so got into 
communication with the aimu^ he blew hard into her ears, armpits 
and back part of the knee-joints^. He also placed a row of the 
prickly branches of an acacia on the sacks which covered her body, 
and round this some of the spherical yellow fruit of the Solanum 
(fig. 61). He then took a stick with a long lash — the Akamba do not 
use whips {munadti), except as toys for children — and ran several 
times round the village cracking the whip the whole time'. The 
spectators seemed to consider this specially remarkable. When he 
came back he trod all the Solanum fruits to pieces, one after the 
other. He then took the whip again and went several times round 
the woman cracking it, then changed it for the musical bow and, 

1 Among the Zulus clever medicine men, often real phycisians, 
are in the habit of travelling through the country from place to place, 
often staying away from home for months. As rich people, owners 
to large herds of cattle, they then return to their villages. M. Barth, 
Die Medizin der NaturvSlker, p. 59. 

^ I cannot remember anything which supports the view that the 
Akamba regard the breath as possessing magic power, but this method 
of procedure makes one think of a statement of K. Th. Preuss, who 
speaks of »die direkte abwehr von krankheit und tod durch den leben 
gebenden, gewissermassen desinfizierenden hauch». Der Ursprung der 
Religion und Kunst, Globus 86, p. 375. 

^ Hobley, however, describes an old elephant-hunter named Sulu 
— I know the man — who had a sort of whip. » Before going hunt- 
ing it is customary to crack the whip seven times, and it is believed 
to bring good luck. » Hobley, Kamba protective magic, Man 19 12, 
p. 4. Cf. also below p. 274. 

Medicine men and magicians 


striking on this, continued his circular motion. He now placed at 
the woman's head a clay pitcher turned upside down and, laying 
a rope around her, fastened it to the pitcher (to isolate her from 
all evil influences?). Sitting on the pitcher he again struck on his- 
bow for a little while. He then brought a little calabash with 
magic powder {mupcza), which he laid in small heaps on the pat- 
ient's body and immediately afterwards blew away, one heap after 
the other, which happened in such a way that he kept running 


■^^^ft^T^ *■ 

iMr^ *'-^l/ -^*^ 


nt^ u ji^l^l 



A . ^r^ 


Fig. 61. Medicine man curing a possessed women 
(mentioned p, 264). 

and began alternately at the woman's head and feet. He now sat 
once more on the pitcher, struck a few blows on his bow, and 
then bent down and sucked on the patient's forehead (pretending 
to suck something out?). Another careful sucking took place 
at the little toes of the sick woman. 

The treatment described above lasted for quite a long time, 
but the patient kept perfectly still the whole time. Her husband 
seemed to think, however, that it was lasting rather long, for 
he came up to me and asked in a whisper my opinion of the 
effectiveness of the medicine man's method. As I was in a hurry 

366 Lindblom, The Akamba 

I asked the latter, who was working very hard, if it would soon 
be finished. But he explained that it was a specially difiicult 
case and that there was still a great deal to do, and so I went off. 

3. During my stay near Kibwezi I had as an inseparable com- 
panion a young mundu mud named Mbindya. He was an intelli- 
gent and sympathetic man, but in the beginning our mutual acquain- 
tance was due to sheer calculation. Mbindya was my neighbour 
and I gladly took the opportunity of observing a medicine man at 
all times of the day for a long period, so as to see to what 
extent his work could be put down to conscious deception. On 
his side he regarded my company as propitious, as at our first 
meeting he had happened to find a rare plant {muQia wandiY, 
which he had wanted for a long time but had sought for in vain. 
Besides, the fact that he was intimate with a white man helped to 
increase his reputation. Their position as medicine men and their 
power to control secret powers were characteristics of Mbindya's 
family, and he himself had developed into a medicine man in 
the way which is described in the beginning of this chapter. 

During the time we were together I studied my friend care- 
fully, and was present when people came to ask him for advice, 
etc. As far as he is concerned, I must answer the question as 
to whether medicine men themselves believe in their vocation and 
their power by saying that he gave one the impression of being 
firmly convinced on these points. But he was, of course, still 
young, 30 at the most. The only deceptions that he was consci- 
ously guilty of, were such small conjuring tricks as are instanced 
below, and these he frankly confessed to me to be of this charac- 
ter, adding that they were performed only to strengthen the 
people's faith in his power. Besides, prophecies sometimes, of 
course, come true, and also a sick person often recovers after 
being treated according to a more or less magical prescription, 
and such things help to strengthen the faith both of the medicine 
man himself and of others. On the other hand, there are always 
single individuals who certainly look with scepticism on the medicine 
man's operations — there have of course been doubters at all 
times and among all people — but in most cases these people 

^ A short red plant without leaves, with a long tap-root. It gives 
one the impression of a round mass like a mushroom. 

Medicine men and magicians 267 

are anxious to keep their opinions to themselves, for it might be 
unpleasant to incur a medicine man's odium. Hildebrandt tells 
of a »chief» Milu in Kitui, who said to H. that »er hielte nichts 
von ihren hokuspokus, konne aber nicht offen gegen sie auf- 

As evidence of how easily the natives believe in their me- 
dicine men's statements and find vahd explanations when they do 
not come true, the following incident may be inserted. In January 
191 2, when Mr. A. Champion, A. D. C. of Kitui, and myself 
were on an expedition to investigate the course of the River 
Nthua on behalf of the government, and were about to leave the 
eastern frontier of Ukamba at Muutha and proceed farther east- 
ward out into the desert, we had a visit from the above-mentioned 
medicine-woman Lunda. She asked to kuaus%a for us and our 
journey, and stated that the day after we found » remains of ani- 
mals » we should kill » something big>>. Lunda's prophecy was 
hailed with joy by our people and had at least the useful effect 
of making them enter on the march out into the unknown with 
glad confidence. All » remains of animals» which we passed du- 
ring the next few days, they looked upon as those to which Lunda 
had referred. Thus some hours after we left Muutha our native 
hunters found a heap of excrement with a long intestinal worm 
in it. They immediately thought that this had to do with the 
prophecy, and the two hunters each eat half the worm and offered 
a little snuff beneath the tree, where they found it. The fact that 
we shot nothing on the following day could not disturb their con- 
fidence; the medicine man had only meant something else. They 
argued in the same way about another object which we came 
across. The fact that we Europeans joked a little about this 
had no effect. And when we found the thigh-bone of a giraffe 
and the same evening shot one, the hunters were immediately 
sure that it was this to which Lunda referred to from the first. 
It is not difficult to be a prophet when one is supported by such 

Many medicine men are accustomed to perform many small 
tricks, pure conjuring tricks, which — as the above-mentioned 
Mbindya explicitly declared — are designed to awe their clients 

1 Hildebrand, Die Wakamba, p. 388. 

268 Lindblom, The Akamba 

as evidence of their power and thus to satisfy the demand of the 
populace for »signs and wonders*. Thus I saw M. practise, among 
other tricks, the following: Appearing naked, he placed a little bean 
on his head and stuck others behind his ears and in the corners 
of his mouth, his armpits and the angles of his elbows. He then 
shook himself so that all the beans fell to the ground, counted 
them and showed that the number was the same as before. Then, 
in addition, he took a bean from each eye. 

Another innocent trick consisted in M. taking a peg, laying 
it with one end on a level with the top of his little finger and 
the other end reaching to the forearm, where a mark was made. 
He then took the peg away, waved it in the air for the sake of 
appearance, and put it back again in the same place, when it was 
found to be a little shorter than the measured length. This was 
repeated and the pin appeared to be still shorter. The secret con- 
sists in a power to contract and expand the hand. 

Some examples to illustrate the Akamba's idea of the power 
of their medicine men to perform wonderful things are given here: 

Old Ngunu near Machakos — a man of great reputation, who 
was consulted by people from a long distance from the Kitui 
district — was especially noted for his love-powders, by means of 
which he was said to be able even to allure wild birds to him- 
self and to make them perch on his knee when he sat outside 
his hut. 

Nthengc (the buck), a medicine man at Kibwezi who died 
before my time, is said to have been able to »stretch his blanket 
out in the air and then sit on it, floating in the air>. He is also 
said to have roasted meat by hanging a crock with meat in it 
on the ceiling of his hut. He then put » medicine » in the fire 
on the hearth, after which the flames, without injuring the walls, 
climbed up them and enveloped the jar till the meat was roasted. 

Another person near Kibwezi whom I came across was said 
to be able to transform a stick into a snake, and yet another 
asserted that he could cut a goat's head off" and make it come to 
life again. When I promised them a high reward for a proof of 
their powers, they could only produce foolish evasions. 

Tricks as the above-mentioned are called in Kikamba khama, 
which is best translated as » miracles » performed by magic means. 

Medicine men and magicians 269 

3. The medicine man as a healer (of illnesses). 

Illnesses are sent by the spirits, when they for any reason 
are angry with the Uving, or they are caused by black magic on 
they part of some evil-disposed person, or finally they may be real 
illnesses, contracted in a natural way. This last cause, however, 
seems to be regarded as the least usual. To get to know which 
of these three is the cause of the illness one goes to the medicine 
man, who ascertains the cause by divination. If the illness has 
been sent by the spirits because they are displeased with their 
surviving relations and consider themselves neglected by them, 
the medicine man often prescribes no other remedy except ordering 
that an ofifering should be brought and hlumt, the spirit-dance, 
should be danced. 

To cure an illness is called kwota in Kikamba. It does not, 
by any means, form part of every medicine man's practice. Just 
as there are some medicine men who are exclusively occupied with 
kuaus%a-\v\^, so there are others who do nothing but cure illnesses. 
A mundu mud who gives himself exclusively to this and does not 
use divinatory calabashes is called an 'htinta. The individual me- 
dicine man does not seem to be able to treat many different kinds 
of illness; he appears rather to be what one might call a special- 
ist. This may perhaps explain the great number of medicine men. 
For different illnesses one must consult different people. It is 
said that the mundu mu9 cannot cure his own children nor can 
a man skilled in 'gondm do this. 

The well-known method of a medicine man pretending to 
take from a patient's body the objects which have caused the 
illness, I have never seen practised, in Ukamba (cf. however the 
sucking of the sick woman's forehead and toes described above). 
Yet it seems to be practised, according to the statement of the 
missionary Sauberlich, who informed me that, among other cases, 
he once saw a mundu mud take out a tooth, after which the patient 
immediately declared that he was better 1. 

Madness in discussed on p. 240. I wish to add here that a 

^ The Kikuyu medicine man sucks different objects out of the 
sick person's stomach, e. g. glass beads, grass, leaves and other rub- 
bish, put there by some enemy. J. Cayzac, Witchcraft in Kikuyu, 
Man 1912, p. 127. 

270 Lindblom, The Akamba 

medicine man declared that he could cure madness in this way: 
He dug a hole in the ground, in which the aftlicted person was 
placed, and then covered the hole up and lit a fire above it. The 
next morning the patient would be well. The author saw a man 
treated in this manner and he seemed normal after the treatment. 
To cure madness the medicine men also use a decoction of the 
leaves of the creeper vtuGolo (Sapindaceae), which is given to the 
sick person to drink and with which he is washed. 

Quite a usual way to cure an illness is for the sick person 
to sit on the ground and the mundu mud then sticks pegs in the 
ground all round him and fastens them with a cord. In this way 
all evil influences are shut out. 

The terms muh and muf>cea. We have already often 
mentioned »medicine», and it is necessary to explain a little 
more clearly what the natives mean by this. In Kikamba there are 
two expressions for it, mutt and fnupcea, which seem to imply 
a real distinction. The first expression is more our sense of the 
word 'medicine, physic', and is certainly identical with muth 'tree, 
bush, herb'. Most of the native remedies are, of course, prepared 
from vegetable substances. These remedies, real or imaginary, will 
be discussed separately later on, as they are not known merely 
to the medicine men, nor are they — at least to any extent — used 
in magic. They may thus be used by anyone. The mu^eea, on the 
other hand, is a medicine of a more or less magic character. Now 
there are certainly a great many laymen who know that a certain 
plant may be used as inupcsa for a certain purpose, and one is 
therefore tempted to ask why they go to the medicine man, when 
they themselves possess this knowledge. It is true that they know 
for what purpose a certain mu^cea is used, but they do not know 
how to use it. The result is that only those wo know >the key», 
so to speak, to a mu])cBa, its k^]^iao, as the Akamba call it^, can 
use it. An instance may be given to illustrate this. The mu6%a wa 
ndi, a plant of somewhat rare occurence in the Kibwezi district, is 
mupcea for sterility in women. The patient is washed for some 
days with a decoction of this, which is also rubbed on her head. 
When next she menstruates, she has coitus with her husband and 
can then have children. This medicine, however, has no certain 

^ < pzaa 'perform the rites which give power to a mupcea'. ; 

Medicine men and magicians a^i 

effect before its hpiao is used, and this is only known to the 
medicine man. It consists of the latter placing a portion of food 
round the plant as a sacrifice to the atmu, and at the same time 
expressing a wish that the medicine should have the desired 
effect. On p. 241 we have described the process of digging roots 
for medicine and this is just a case of a hpiao. The roots alone 
have not sufficient efficacy. 

4. The medicine man as a practiser of public magic (for 
the good of the whole community). 

The removing of epidemics. When severe epidemics attack 
people or cattle (e. g. rinderpest) the Akamba go to the mundu mud- 
with their difficulty. In Machakos it has been the practice on such 
occasions for the medicine men to order the atuvfha to pretend to 
drive the young people out to the steppe, where they then per- 
formed dances (their usual ones, but in this case with a religious- 
magic purpose). Towards the evening a goat was taken there and 
killed, and the young people were smeared with 'gondia, in the usual 
manner. Then they have to run home to the villages, thus re- 
turning in the same way as they came out. The idea is that the 
illness has been driven out from them and left behind on the 
steppe. The goat has possibly been regarded as a sort of scape- 
goat, for if it were only to be used in and for the preparation of 
'gondm, it would have been more convenient to kill it at home. 
There are several examples of the goat being used as a scape- 
goat among the Bantu tribes, e. g. in South Africa (according to 
D. Kidd) and in Uganda^ 

It often happens that the medicine man can prevent infectious^ 
epidemic diseases, as in his dreams he gets information from the 
aimu that such diseases are coming, diseases such as ntwimu 
(rinderpest, or, when it affects human beings, a tumour-like dis- 
ease) or k%apz. I was told of a medicine man in Machakos, called 
Mbiti, who dreamed that he saw a crowd of people coming car- 
rying sacks of bast, filled with the blood of cattle infected with 
kiapi^ a sign that this disease was approaching. The dream came 
from the atmu, who at the same time gave the man instructions 
as to how the disease might be prevented, and because of this 

1 Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda, p. 320. 

a?* Lindblom, The Akamba 

they proceeded to act in the following way, when he had informed 
the elders of the danger which threatened: 

In the evening the members of the nzama gathered together 
at the medicine man's hut, and the young people came and danced 
there. In a crock a 'gondia was mixed, consisting of water, sugar- 
cane, flour from the Penicillaria (mwcs) as well as mu>o, the con- 
tents of the stomach, from a goat and also » plants, brought from 
the wilderness*. The mixture was distributed by an old man and 
woman and given to those present to drink. Next morning came 
the others, who did not belong to the nzama, and the children. 
They were made to drink of a similar mixture, but with other 
ingredients. The former ot these two drinks was considered the 
more potent, as the atuima possess greater magic power than ordi- 
nary people. Besides, the medicine man is in closer relation to 
the old people, with whom he often co-operates, and who give 
him assistance on several occasions, such as the building of his 
hut. On the other hand it is remarkable that the youths and 
girls on this occasion, as well as in the foregoing purification 
ceremony, are almost placed on a level with the oldest and most 
experienced people in the community. This may depend on a 
kind of influence of opposites: just because the young do not 
possess any magic power, it is sometimes convenient to put them 
on a level with those who possess this power in the highest 

The actual distribution af the 'gondut beverage proceeds as 
follows. The pitcher is placed right in front of two adjacent ba- 
nana trees which are connected by a garland fastened round them 
at about a man's height. This garland, which is made of the 
plant musoka (Ipomoea), is also bound round the neck of the pit- 
cher. Those who are present are made to take their places one 
by one between the two trees, turn towards the pitcher, and, after 
drinking, they have to move off" to the right, between the pitcher 
and the banana tree on the right. Sometimes three banana plants 
are used, in which case those who are to drink stand between two 
and turn their back to the third. 

Next day, the third, a goat of the colour that the azmu has indi- 
cated is brought to an out-of-the-way place, as out on the steppe, 
where all the people have assembled and where the young people 
perform dances. Some 'gondm, in which mutq — one of the most 

Medicine men and magicians 273 

frequently used ^ondm plants — is the chief ingredient, is prepared 
from the goat, and the assembled people are sprinkled with it. 
The flesh of the animal is eaten as at an ordinary sacrificial meal. 
A part of it is probably also sacrificed to the spirits. Then they 
all return home running. The disease — or in this case the danger 
of the epidemic falling upon them — has been left behind on the 

The above-described method of driving away an epidemic 
{kwindukm uwau) is called unika^^ a. word which is certainly 
derived from the same root as isiuko 'ford over a stream'-. 
The banana plants fastened together form quite obviously 
a passage, a door, thus giving us a new example of the well- 
known conception of the entrance or the door as a boundary 
between the outer world with its many dangers and a region free 
from these dangers, and then as a means of changing from 
one condition to another. In the special case we have described 
the people were both purified with ^ondiu and then went through 
the door, leaving all the evil influence behind them. This should 
of itself be sufficiently effective, and the third day's procedure is 
probably an addition from an originally independent purification 
ceremony. Its resemblance to the above-described method is 
in favour of this. In 191 1 near Engelani (Ngilani), north of Ma- 
chakos, I saw a door of this sort consisting of two banana trees. 
About a dozen people, I was told, had been suddenly attacked 
by mwimu (a tumour-like disease), and the population of the 
district were in great distress. Then one evening a man met an 
one-legged spirit on a path, who said to him: »Go to Mbiti (the 
medicine man) and tell him to take muw from a black goat and 
purify the people ». 

I have noted from East Ukamba two purification ceremonies 
of this type, one of which is in the main identical with the forego- 
ing. The door is composed in this case of two trees or posts 
driven into the ground, between which the plant musoka (Ipomoea) 
is fastened. A goat is killed and 'gondm prepared from it. Each 

^ The word is translated by Hofman (Worterbuch) as «der bogen 
durch den der mtindu mua die leute schlupfen lasst, wenn er sic gegen 
krankheiten feit». 

^ The only verb sntka that I know means 'to waken from an ap- 
parently dead condition, waken from death'. Cf. also swka 'to return'. 

Arch.Or. Lindblom 18 

274 Littdblom, The Akamba 

person drinks and then goes through the door and then, by means 
of branches of mutq, is sprinkled with ^ondui on the forehead, 
breast and back. The medicine man then cracks with a whip, 
(munaOu), upon which all present, without looking back, have to 
run a good part of the way from the villages. On their return 
they get a little bit of the skin of the dead goat, which 
they fasten round the right instep with fibres of kxo^gwa (Sanse- 
viera sp.)- The seventh day afterwards they go away from the villages 
and throw the piece of skin away, saying: »Possessor of mwimu, 
take it (the disease), here it is» {mzucBnd mwimu, osa nusu). The 
procedure is called mwitano < kwitana 'to cure each other'. 

In Kitui I heard an account of another kind of mwitano that 
was in vogue there. The medicine man ordered everyone of both 
sexes and all ages to deposit on a path some red glass beads 
{siuma ndund) and a little red earth {mbu) as an offering to Mwi- 
tualali, an one-legged spirit who dwells on the mountain ot Mutitu, 
about 30 kilometres north-east of the Kitui government station. This 
spirit, say the Akamba, was an old man, who lived very long ago. 
On the mountain there is to be found a pond in which he lives, 
but which I could not find when I climbed up there. In the pond 
there is also said to be a gigantic serpent, which sometimes sets 
the water in motion and rises up in it. I could never find out 
what was the relation of the spirit and the serpent to each other. 
As far as the latter is concerned, however, it is of the type that 
is called inukwgga-inbua, one of the monsters of the popular imagi- 
nation, a serpent of supernatural proportions, which devours hu- 
man beings and cattle. It is said to appear in the Tana River, 
the lakes Naiwasha and Nakuru and some other places. Some 
years ago an Englishman is said to have seriously sought for this 
mysterious serpent, which is said to be so long that it » stretches 
over mountains and valleys*. I immediately suspected that this 
was a case of some old conception of the rainbow, and this is 
suggested by the word inbua 'rain'. The Akamba, however, call 
the rainbow utqpt. My surmise was confirmed when later on, 
during my study of the Tharaka language, I learnt that the rain- 
bow there is called just mukwgga-mbura. The Akikuyu call it by 
the same name and also believe that it is a big serpent, a con- 
ception which, in addition, is met with among different peoples 
here and there in the world. Another kind of gigantic serpent. 

Medicine men and magicians 275 

which in the same way devours people, is said to dwell in a big 
grass basket in a hole on the bottom of the little river Manza just west 
of Machakos. The natives tell of a Suaheli who passed by there at 
nighttime and was drawn down into the depths, but succeeded in 
escaping with the loss of his tongue and an eye. 

5. The connection of the medicine man with agriculture. 


The principal industry of the Akamba is agriculture, and the 
women, who have the management of this as their lot, like to 
consult the mundu mud concerning the time for sowing, reaping, 
etc. Sowing depends of course on the arrival of the rainy season, 
and as the rain is often late and sometimes fails entirely to ar- 
rive, the women are naturally very anxious to get to know through 
the medicine man when the fertilizing rain may be expected and 
how they must act so as not to hinder or retard its arrival. His 
instructions with regard to this have to be carefully followed, a 
breach of them might cause the complete non-appearance of the 
rain. Sometimes, on his own initiative, he interferes in the 
women's cultivation of the fields. Thus, during my stay in Ma- 
chakos, a mundu mud forbade the women to drive the birds away 
from the fields, saying that he would do it himself by a special 
means. The medicine man appears also, with regard to agri- 
culture, as a practiser of public magic for the benefit of the whole 
community, just as we have seen him doing the same thing, when 
it was a question of preventing impending epidemics. 

At the occurence of a drought which threatens the harvest 
the women gather together, as we have already seen in chap. XI. 6, 
when they thought the crop in danger. Beating their drums 
{kip^mbd) they march from village to village, and each woman, 
who has land, must join them. No one dares to stay away, and 
those who do not come out quickly enough are loaded with in- 
sulting epithets. ^6(Bt^ sn na ^golano, 'the wives have a meeting', 
the Akamba say^. When the band has grown to an imposing 
number, they direct their course to the medicine man to hear his 
opinion about the drought. All the young people and also the 

^ ^golano: cf. kolania 'to heap up, assemble'. 

276 Lindblom, The Akamba 

atutnia prefer to keep away when the women come forward. In 
191 1 I chanced to meet a band of women who were on their way 
in this fashion to the above mentioned Ngunu. They were uttering 
shrill cries (?z, >2, ut, ui) and singing songs the subject matter of 
which was sexual. A part of these which I succeeded afterwards in 
taking down, is as follows: 

ea, e! ea, eeh! 

tauma kwasa we come from afar 

kumandea kino munxo to find salt for the ktno'^, 

kana ha kmk>a. penis erigetur. 

u, u uh, uhl 

The meaning of this is: we come to get rain, so that we can 
get food for our husbands, who cannot accomplish their sexual 
duties, if they are weak from hunger. 

Having arrived at Ngunu's village the women danced the 
hlumt and spent the night there. No sexual intercom se with the 
medicine man, however, enters into the programme; on the con- 
trary, it is clearly considered injurious to the purpose in view, for 
it is said that on a previous occasion of the same kind Ngunu 
could not master his passions and that this is the reason why 
•only two out of about 20 children that he had are still living. 
During the night the medicine man placed himself in communica- 
tion with the spirits and received instructions from them as to 
what should be done against the drought. 

The dances were continued the next day, and then they 
young people as well collected at Ngunu's village and performed 
their dances. 

As a matter of fact the role of the medicine man as a rain- 
maker is in no way prominent among the Akamba, and one can 
scarcely say he exists in comparison, for instance, with the rain- 
makers in South Africa. The author has neither seen or heard 
any mention of a medicine man using sympathetic magic to pro- 
duce rain. His task in this case seems principally to be that of 
finding a way to propitiate the spirits, as it is they who, from 
malevolence or dissatisfaction with those who have survived them, 
prevent the rain from coming. 

A certain amount of rain magic of a more private kind is, 

^ The female pudenda. 

Medicine men and magicians 277 

however, carried on. Some at least of the inverted jars, which 
are seen here and there in the fields, are thus meant to cause 
rain, while on the other hand others are merely to frighten the 
porcupines, which are to be reckoned among the most dangerous 
enemies of the crops. Otherwise rain magic, both general and 
private, is of a purely negative character and consists in the 
avoidance of certain acts during the time of rain or when the 
rain is expected. It is thus forbidden of old to boil in a crock 
in the fields, and the boys who protect the ripening crop from 
birds and other parasites bake their sweet potatoes, or whatever 
they have with them for food, in moulds of clay or other similar 
things. If anyone offends against this injunction and it comes to 
the atunfhds knowledge, 'gondm is prepared and the field sprinkled 
with it. Its owner has to supply the goat necessary for the puri- 
fication. This old custom is still observed in Ulu, but has fallen into 
disuse in East Ukamba, at least in the Ikutha district, where the very 
frequent droughts were explained to me as being a punishment from 
Mulungu (viz. the aztnti), because the fathers of the Akamba living 
there had neglected the old precepts. This is an attempt to ex- 
plain the difference between the more abundant irrigation and 
the more even rainfall of the western tract of land and East 
Ukamba's paucity of running water and its more fitfully occurring 
rainy seasons. 

In Kikumbuliu during the rainy season they do not boil salt- 
petre, from which salt is prepared and which is used in the manu- 
facture of snuff. We have seen in Chap. XI that an oath with kipitu 
may not be taken during this season. A further somewhat curious 
observation is that, because of the rain, a man may never beat his 
wife in the fields, when they are sown. Finally on p. 223 examples 
have been given to show how the natives consider that all un- 
usual events have an injurious influence on the rain. Thus the 
great famine of 1898 — 99 was generally considered by the natives 
of East Africa to be due to the building of the Uganda railway, 
and, when the work on the railway approached Kisumu on Lake 
Victoria and the rain happened not to come even there, they 
were still further strengthened in their belief. This idea, however, 
was perhaps due less to the unusual incident per se than to the 
rails, the »rope of iron» laid over the land. As Hildebrandt has 

378 Lindblom, The Akamba 

already pointed out\ no instruments of iron have, from olden 
times, been used in the cultivation of the earth, and although al- 
ready by his time a few iron picks had come into use, even to- 
day one can see Kamba women, even in the villages just outside 
the two government stations, using the primitive stake for digg- 
ing. When, some years ago, in Kitui, a supply of iron picks 
were ordered so that they might be given out gratis among the 
natives, they remained for the most part it the station. The na- 
tive would not accept them. That in many cases iron is surroun- 
ded by a taboo is a fact that has been known for a long time 
and is wide-spread and presumably due to the fact that the 
metal in question is considered as an object that has a special 
power, which may have a strong, and often fatal, influence on 
the things or persons that come into contact with it. For talis- 
mans to produce or prevent rain see p. 288. 

6. Magicians. 

It is clearly unnecessary to recall the vital role which magic 
plays in the life of primitive people. That this is the case also 
among the Akamba may be concluded already from what has 
preceded. It has been shown how, even in the simplest accident 
which may happen to him the native may suspect the influence 
the an enemy or a rival, trying to injure him by means of woi. 
The word may be conveniently rendered by » witchcraft, magic », 
this conception being then taken in both good and bad, protective 
and injurious senses (white and black magic). The concrete means 
is also called woi. When young persons suddenly die, this is 
usually ascribed to the woi of some enemy. In such an unimportant 
case as that of the goats going astray and running ofl" when they 
are grazing, one may go to the medicine man to kuausxa, to find 
out if it was an accident or brought about by some enemy; and 
if, for instance, some one happens to fall from the tree and hurt 
himself when occupied in hanging up beehives, it is certainly due 
to wox. We can easily understand that this is thought to be the 
case when something more unusual happens. It is thus considered 
very suspicious and due to woi on the part of some enemy, if one 

^ Die Wakamba, p. 372. 

Medicine men and magicians 279 

happens to be hit by excrement from a flying hawk or crow. 
The author heard of a person to whom an accident of this kind 
happened and who at once destroyed everything he was wearing 
at the time and was also purified with 'gondm. How afraid the}' 
are of coming upon U'Oi everywhere is shown, among other things, 
by the fact that when guests are entertained, the host first tastes 
what is ofiered so as to show' that it does not contain poison or 
any magic power. This is the case especially with beer. 

Destructive woi, black magic, is punished with death — we 
have often seen it done by lynching, k>'gold — if it is dangerous 
to the community. The mundu mud never meddles with this, he is 
'Only a » white » magician; those who practise it are called mwoi 
(the same root as in wo'h)'^. We have seen that, in general, one 
can only become a medicine man by being born with a dispo- 
sition towards it, while it is enough to be apprenticed to a 
imvoi to become one oneself-. 

The Akamba in Ulu look upon the people in the Kitui district 
as more povv'erful in magic than themselves, and those in Kitui 
who want to become really proficient in black magic go up to the 
Athaka (Atharaka) and the Ambele (Ambere) in the north. It was 
my intention to visit the former people, but my carriers refused 
to accompany me. »We are not afraid of the Athakas' spear and 
sword», they said, »but they will destroy us with their magic». 
It is recognized as a characteristic feature of primitive people to 
mistrust strangers and to ascribe magic power to them. The 

1 Research into the literature would certainly enable us to dis- 
cover this word with the same meaning in a great number of Bantu 
dialects, at least among the East and South dialects. I have noted ntrogi 
in the Kikuyu language and in Kisukuma (south of Lake Victoria), 
molot among the Bechuana and Bavenda, mwabi in Kimatumbi (Kilwa 
district, German East Africa), nyawi in Kimakonde (Lindi distr., G. E. A.) 
and noyi (pi. baloyi) among the Batonga in Portuguese East Africa. 
The verb loga in Kisuaheli and other dialects means 'to bewitch'. 
Meinhof, Grundriss einer Lautlehre der Bantusprachen, p. 173, gives 
a similar verbal root for sPrimitive Bantu». 

^ Hobley expresses the difference between a mundu mud and a 
mundu mwoi in a somewhat obscure way (Akamba p. 53): »A medicine 
man is called Muoiin [in Kikamba no word ends in a consonant] or 
Muoii . . . The Muoiin is a person who deals in black art . . . A mundu 
tntie is a more harmless person, he deals in what we may call white 
magic ...» > ." 

28o Lindblom, The Akamba 

Akamba also go westwards, to the Akikuyu, and when formerly 
the trade caravans came to Mombasa, they took the opportunity 
of consulting the magicians at the coast. All this is done, how- 
ever, chiefly to obtain protection and advantages for themselves J 
those who wish to practise black magic themselves are in the 

We shall now give some examples of how this black magic is 

A thief can obtain from a mwoh a magic substance which 
will make the dwellers in the village, in which he intends to steal 
at night, sleep so deeply that they do not waken after he has 
stretched out his magic kipttm towards the village. This method 
has also been employed by the Akamba in nocturnal plundering 
expeditions against the Masai and Akikuyu, and thus as a general 
magic recognized and practised by the community. Further Krapf 
relates how the Akamba with whom in 1849 he journeyed up 
from the coast put ntupcea in the camp-fires to make themselves 
invisible to their enemies. And a young man who visits his 
sweetheart at night-time in her mother's hut, before he dares to 
steal in, usually also produces deep sleep among those inside by 
means of magic medicine. This is done by opening the door a 
little and pushing the medicine into the fire with a long stick. 

Those whose cattle are sick and who wish to damage their 
enemies' flocks take the blood of a diseased animal and with it 
smear the entrance to the others' cattle-kraals or pour the blood 
on the path leading to them. This method may be called a kind 
of contagious magic, though the effect, if there is any, is very 
likely due to pure infection. 

To get rid of a real or supposed enemy, when one visits a 
beer party in his company- at some other person's hut, it is ne- 
cessary, when a suitable occasion presents itself, to put the magic 
medicine rapidly into his beer and stir it once, uttering silent curses. 
A thing that I have not myself heard of, but which Hoffman^ 
relates, is that one can injure a person by undertaking some mani- 
pulations with his footsteps, which is, as is known, a widespread 
belief, not only among so-called primitive peoples. They smear a 
thorn with woi and put it in the man's tracks. 

1 J. Hoffmann, Geburt, Heirat and Tod, p. 20. 

Medicine men and magicians 281 

It has been mentioned that the word kipa^gona means, first 
'sacrifice' (see p. 218) secondly 'magic medicine'^ (seep. 241). ku6- 
andea mundu hpaggona, Ht. 'to plant k^paggona for someone', is 
the standing phrase for the prevalent method of depositing magic 
medicine for an enemy, for instance on the path to his hut or at 
its entrance. When he treads on the » medicine*, he will soon die 
or at least become ill. 

A kipa^gqna must be used exactly as the medicine man or 
magician prescibes. A depature from these instructions, even if 
involuntary, makes the hpa^gona ineffectual, it is then »broken», 
as it is said (kutula kipaggona < kutula 'to break'). I remember 
a case when two persons were ordered by a medicine man to 
proceed in a certain way. While they were doing their best to 
carry out his instructions^ a third person came to the place, and 
so the k'hpaggqna »was broken*. It is obvious that, under such 
circumstances, the witch doctor can easily find an excuse if his 
instructions do not bring about any result. His client could not 
have followed them sufficiently carefully. 

But kipwggona is not always assigned to » black magic ». 
kuGandea mwitm hpaggona, for instance, means to make use 
of love medicine for a girl, for whom a man has an unrequited 
affection, so as to arouse her love in return but not to injure her. 

There are people who, merely by stretching out their index 
finger towards an objectionable person, can cause his death. This 
power may even be possessed involuntarily (from birth .?) by people 
who never use black magic; and to avoid mishaps, they keep their 
hands closed, when they want to point something out {kwolotd), 
and point with the knuckle of the index finger. 

In former times, it is said, there were men skilled in ivoi, 
who could kill an enemy merely by a look. A simple means of 
causing an injury, which can be used by anyone, is to place magic 
medicine in the open hand and blow it in the direction of an 
enemy, who is injured by it, even if he is a long distance away. 

Some persons skilled in black magic have also the power of 
transforming themselves into wild animals — an idea that we 

^ These two different meanings of kipa'ggona are really not so 
unlike each other. A closer study of the sacrifice shows us numerous 
cases of a magical character and that, on the other hand, magic rites 
may pass over into sacrificial actions. 

a82 Lindblom, The Akamba 

find among many African peoples — and in this form are able 
to carry out their ghastly intentions with impunity. In Kikumbuliu 
I heard of a man who was dragged away from his village during 
the night by a lion, which was nothing but one of his enemies. 
The expert in magic turns himself into a lion by daubing his face 
■with a certain kind of mupcea and by eating a small portion of the 
powdered skin and claws of a lion. The people in Kikumbuliu 
seem to occupy themselves a good deal with black magic, a part 
of which is said to come from the Giriama tribe. It is said, for 
instance, that an expert in 100% can take the life of an enemy he 
fears by giving certain instructions to one of his cocks. The cock 
flies to the hut of the man indicated, perches on the roof and 
crows. When the man comes out to see what is the matter, the 
cock moves, by means of the W(?^-power of his master, into his 
body (1). The man dies, unless they can discover what is the 
matter with him. 

In Kikumbuliu I was also told of a little mystic figure like a 
man which »the whites make out of clay». By means of ze/<7* this 
can be set in motion and sent into the body of an enemy's wife 
when she is pregnant, thus causing a miscarriage. The thing is 
called kmniwa (i. e. miscarriage). It is possible that this idea 
originates from natives who have seen European children playing 
with dolls. 

The well-known belief that hair and nails are an essential 
part of a human being and therefore can be used in black magic 
is also found among the Akamba. They are consequently very 
careful not to leave hair or nails that have been cut lying about 
but bury them or hide them in some other way. And even if the 
hair is not picked up by a human being directly, it may be taken 
by a bird, and then one dofes not know where it will finish up. 
Swallows especially and the little red-hooded bird called mbihmbth 
are said to look for human hair etc to help build their nests with. 
This is probably why the swallow and her nest are sometimes 
used in black magic. For a similar reason practisers of this magic 
make use of the hyena's excrement, which may contain something 
that proceeds from a human being, because the hyena » devours 
everything that comes in his way». 

One seldom or never sees human excrement in Ukamba, at 
least in the neighbourhood of the villages. It was only afterwards 

Medicine men and magicians a83 

that I remembered this, and so I must content myself with throwing 
out a suggestion that such cleanHness, which is also found among 
a great number of other primitive peoples, has the same basis 
as the careful removal of hair and pieces of nails, namely the fear 
of black magic. 

We have now given an idea, though a slight one, of the 
number and nature of all the dangers which are threatened by 
the practiser of black magic. To protect himself the native must, 
on the other hand, use other magic. Thus one can get from the 
mundu mud, and even from a mwoi, a kind of universal remedy, 
a powder which protects one against almost all kinds of evdls, 
against the designs of enemies, against wild animals during jour- 
neys, etc. Small cuts are made in the patient's skin and the 
powder is inserted in these. The author happened to see a mwo\ 
treat a person in the following way: he made a cut at the ends 
of his nails (the outermost parts of the body) and then a scratch 
along his arms, over the shoulders, and up to the forehead, 
sprinkling mu^csa in the cuts. Now and then one sees a man 
with a cut in his forehead, treated with mu^csa. They generally 
inspire respect, and people will not willingly fall out with one who 
is protected in this way. This instilled magic power does not 
only passively protect its owner, but the protection may extend 
■even as far as to injure a person who wishes to injure him. 
Another and more usual active effect of such medicine is for it 
to obtain favour with women. 

At Nzaui in the Kiiungu district there was (in 191 1) a man 
called Mutune wa Taula, who was, at least in Ulu, widely known 
for his makw, a drink which protected the person who drank it 
against the magic described above under the name of pointing 
out {kwolotd) and kuQanda k'h^a'ggona. But, on the other hand, the 
person who has drunk makw may not, without danger to himself, 
use these two kinds of woi against others. People of all ages and 
of both sexes came to Mutune to buy vtakio, and for a rupee they 
got a little to drink. M. is said to have learnt this art from a 
Mukamba from Kilimandjaro. 

When the mundu mud is treating a person upon whom a 
spell has been cast by means of woi he keeps his arms folded 

284 Lindblom, The Akamba 

during the process; this is called kuOelania moko in the professional 

Those who go to law to get an action decided are anxious 
to try to further their cause by means of magic. I remember an 
old man who, on such an occasion, had medicine beneath his 
nails and stuffed into the ends of his forked staffs. In addition, 
when he thought he was unobserved, he blew mupcea in the di- 
rection of his adversary. 

Just as thieves facilitate their work by means of magic, so 
magic is used as a protection against robbery. Over the door of 
the hut is »planted» a kipa^gona, which has the effect of preven- 
ting the thief from finding the way out again or, if he escapes 
successfully, of making his fingers stick fast, as it were, to the 
stolen object, and so he is easily detected. This k^Jia'ogona con- 
sists usually of a horn filled with mup<sa and is thus of the type 
of ki^itm. One often sees in addition protective objects of all kinds 
above the door of a hut. A goat-bell, which I once saw, was 
said to protect the people of the house from dying of illness. I 
have repeatedly seen eggshells, fixed on a peg, stuck in above 
the door. They are the shells after newly-hatched chickens. The 
poultry has its sleeping-place within the huts. If these pegs were 
thrown away, the chickens might die. The mental process of the 
native here is unknown to me, but he might possibly reason as 
follows; The egg has hitherto been a safe dwelling-place for the 
chicken. Now when he leaves it this security may be retained 
by putting the remains of the old dwelling-place above the en- 
trance to the new one. 

Cattle, the Akamba's most precious possession, are of course 
also protected in various way by magic means, and, as one would 
expect, this is applied by preference to the entrance of the cattle 
kraals. Beasts of prey, lions and leopards, are specially feared. 
The protection against these often consists of an inverted jar con- 
taining mupcea. 

I saw a ntundu mud make the following arrangement to keep 
out disease from a cattle kraal. On each side of the entrance he 

^ The Masai put magic medicine beneath the nail of the index 
finger and point to an enemy, muttering curses. Merker, Die Masai 
(ed. 1904), p. 152. 

Medicine men and magicians 285 

fixed a pole down and into holes in the poles he stuffed medicine. 
In the ground between the poles were buried certain roots. 

We can also easily understand that they try to protect the 
crops in the field by means of magic. In a jar w^hich stood in 
a field I found the following objects: the horn of an antelope, 
filled with pieces of wood and soot; another horn, containing bits 
of an old bast sack (klondo)\ the bone of a bird, presumably a 
hen's; seeds of mwcB (Penicillaria spicata); a sea-shell and two 
small bamboo tubes. 

As a protection against stealing on a field of sugar-cane, its 
proprietor takes seven spikes of a porcupine {mti'ggu, pi. mni'ggu) 
and bores a hole in the trunk of a sugar-cane with each of them, 
saying something like: »May he who eats this have his teeth 
destroyed!* Then each spike is thrown in the direction of the 
place where the sun sets (no doubt a symbolic action)^. It is 
said that if a person eats sugar-cane from a field protected in this 
way his teeth soon fall out. One might call this contagious magic 
of the second degree. For the Akamba, like the Akikuyu", be- 
lieve that it is dangerous to pick the teeth or touch them in any 
other way with the spikes of the porcupine. 

On journeys, especially when formerly the trade caravans 
went down to they coast, they obtained protection against the attacks 
of lurking Masai and Galla by blowing magic powder {nzcEdu) in 
the direction of the enemy's country and by placing the powder 
in the camp-fires so as to make them invisible. In the same way 
there was a remedy to protect oneself against rain during the 

7. Amulets {ki^itui, mbi^gu). 

We have already touched upon purely personal protective 
and lucky objects, real amulets, but we shall now examine this 
group a little more closely. They are called hpitu or tnh'ggti^, 
and the difference between these two varieties seems to be very 
vague. One might possibly say that a ki^itm has a greater magic 

^ Cf. a mother's curse upon her son, p. 183. 

^ Rout ledge, The Akikuyu, p. 33. 

^ Probablj'^ derived from 6'h'gga 'to shut, shut out', here with the 
meaning of shutting out evil influences. Mpingti is also the name for 
amulet among the Wapare at Kilimandjaro. 

286 Lindblom, The Akamba 

power and might be called a talisman, while a mh^gu acts rather 
more passively ^ This hpztm, the purely individual means of 
protection, which is not dangerous to others, must on no account 
be confused with the formidable hpttm used at trials, peace 
ceremonies, etc. (p. 165 fif.)- The amulets are made and sold 
by the medicine man^. 

These amulets differ very much in appearance. Many of them, 
however, like the hpttiu with which an oath is taken, consist of 
a little horn (of the Thomson gazelle, the dwarf antelope or other 
smaller species of antelope). The shape of the horn in also imi- 
tated in wood, mostly ebony. Another type is made out of small 
square pads of imported cotton cloth, containing powder, and 
these seem to be always called mbfggu. 

I might mention the following amulets from my ethnographi- 
cal collection from the Kamba tribe, now in the ethnographical 
department of the Swedish State Museum: 

i) Three mb'h'ggu fastened with an iron chain. The little 
bamboo tube contains a powder which arouses love in women. 
The top of a horn bound with copper wire contains medicine for 
protection against enemies and wild animals during journeys. Kitui 
(Swed. State Museum, Ethnogr. coll. inventary 12. 7. 289). 

2) h^ztm, bound with copper wire and adorned with chains 
at the top. It is filled with love medicine and has been worn by 
a young man at a dance. It is at the same time an ornament. 
Machakos (Inv. 12. 7. 290). 

3) kipztiu, bound with iron wire. A protection against illness. 
Is, like the foregoing, also an ornament. Kitui (Inv. 12. 7. 291). 

4) mb^'ggu, made out of the tusk of a wild boar. The valley 
of the Nthua river (Inv. 72. 7. 292). 

5) mbi'ggu of ebony, carved in the form of the top of a horn. 
Makes the owner rich in cattle. The Nthua valley (Inv. 12. 7. 294). 

6) nib'h'ggu of wood, carved in the form of the top of a horn. 
Kitui (Inv. 12. 7. 295). 

^ It is customary to make a distinction between talismans worn 
for good luck, and amulets which are preventive. The difference is, 
however, often hard to maintain. See A. G. Had don. Magic and 
Fetichism, p. 29. 

^ Some prices are given by Hobley, Kamba Protective Magic, 
Man 19 1 2, p. 5. 

Medicine men and magicians 2877 

7) mbi^gu. »The medicine » is simply tightly wound round andi 
fastened with twine made of bast. Ikutha (Inv. 12. 7. 296). 

8) nih^gu. A cloven tooth (crocodile?) in which the medicine 
is stuffed. Kitui (Inv. 12. 7. 297). 

9) Two amulets, a large kipiim of antelope horn and a 
nih'^gu, which also consists of the top of a horn. The latter 
protects against poisoning. Kitui (Inv. 12. 7. 306). 

The fangs of the lion and leopard are also found as amulets,, 
a usage which is well-known in many African tribes. 

An amulet is often quite a decorative article, wound roundt 
with its metal wire and adorned with china beads or red Aberis- 
seeds, which, in the case of a horn, are fixed in the dark; 
sticky mass (beeswax, gum, etc), with which the horns are filled.. 
In this way the amulet serves at the same time as an object of 
adornment. It is usually worn hanging round the neck or is^ 
fixed on the upper arm or round the wrist. 

Amulets can be obtained for every possible object, for in- 
stance for success in love and hunting, for protection against ma- 
gic {ivo'h) and illness, against enemies and wild animals, etc. Am 
old man who is wooing a young girl, who he suspects does not 
want to have anything to do with him, tries to improve his posi- 
tion by means of an amulet. A man who has a bad arm fastens. 
a mh^gu around it, so that it shall be better again more quickly. 
Several different qualities are often united in one and the same 
amulet. The chiefs and headmen appointed by the government 
frequently incur the ill-will of the other natives, especially if they 
are zealous in their work, and so they use amulets as a protection 
against poisoning, and against the placing of kipa^gona in their 
way, etc. 

A k'ipttu for protection against lions consists not infrequently- 
of a round stone; the reason for this is unknown to me. It is^ 
stretched out towards an approaching lion and one says: »Ga 
your way!» These methods of protection against lions are con- 
sidered to be specially effective, which is not surprising, as it: 
it very seldom happens that a lion attacks human beings without 
first being attacked by them. As has been already indicated,, 
those who travel through the desert also take with them amulets, 
as a protection against enemies, especially against the roving pluwi- 
dering Masai. So the traveller stretches out his kipztiu »in the- 

-a88 Lindblom, The Akamba 

-direction of the country of the Masai». There are also k^pttui to 
point with against a threatening rain cloud, so that one should not 
get wetthrough on the journey and conversely to produce rain 
{kulat%a mbud). Stretching out a hpttu in this way in a certain 
direction for a certain purpose is called kuGuta na ktpitm. 

Amulets are sometimes even placed on cattle as a protection 
against wild animals. I have on a few occasions seen these, in 
the form of a horn or a medicine bag, hanging round the neck 
of cattle. 

One can rarely see in Ukamba proper on one and the same 
individual as many amulets as there are on a Kamba from Yimba within 
Mombasa, described by Brutzer who adds that the Akamba are 
accustomed to hang a great number of amulets on themselves^: 
»My informant, who certainly belonged to those who were enlight- 
ened, wore on the brass spiral round his neck a talisman wound 
round with metal wire. This was to protect him against sorcery 
in general. Round his wrist there was a bracelet in which simi- 
larly a talisman was wrapped. This allowed him to see if there 
happened to be any poison in the beer which was offered to him. 
If the hand trembles while raising the cup to the mouth, it is 
a sign that there is poison in it. On the bracelet also hung 
two small pieces of wood on a short cord. These were to protect 
himself against snakebites. Beneath the cloth round his loins hung 
a talisman wrapped in pieces of cloth and tightly fastened with 
string. This was to bring its wearer riches». 

Amulets and other objects with magic power are not inherited, 
but, on the death of their owner, go out of use, as no one else 
can really understand their use. Sometimes they are allowed to 
accompany the dead man to the grave, sometimes they are left 
behind in his hut or are thrown right away. 

8. Conceptions about the magic power in names. 

A trait common to all primitive people seems to be an un- 
willingness to give their names to strangers, because they are 
afraid of sorcery. To them a name is an essential part of the 
one who bears it or even quite identical with him, and if an ill- 

^ Brutzer, Die Geisterglaube, p. ii, 

Medicine men and magicians 289 

disposed person knows my name and mentions it he can get 
power over me and so injure me, by black magic among other 
ways. Among the Akamba a non-magic motive is also present. 
For it is — or at least it was in earlier times, when the blood- 
feud was stringently carried out — often a very wise precaution 
not to mention one's name, in this case the family name, i. e. the 
father's name, and still less the clan name, when one was staying 
in a strange place. 

An enemy who is to be attacked should not be mentioned 
by his tribal name when one comes in proximity to him, no 
doubt to avoid the risk of arousing his attention. On such occa- 
sions the Masai are called alaki 'those who look for wild honey' 
(from the verb kula\ia 'to look for wild honey'). A non-magic 
motive for avoiding the mention of enemies by their names seems, 
however, to be present here as well, for the spies, when they come 
in with an account of the enemy, refer to them by some peri- 
phrasis, lest the young and inexperienced warriors should, in their 
desire for battle, commit some rash acts, which they might possibly 
do, if they got to know of the proximity of the enemy. 

The influence which, according to the opinion of primitive 
people, can be gained over the bearer of a name by uttering 
that name, is also effective not only in the case of people, but 
with animals too, nay, even for non-personal things (according to 
primitive ideas animals are often persons), objects of practically all 
kinds. We may be allowed to quote an illustrative example from 
the Gajos in Sumatra described by K. Th. Freuss: »So diirfen 
die blattern in der wohnung des daran erkrankten bei den Gajo 
nicht mit namen genannt und keine worter gebraucht werden, die 
hasslich, faulend, stinkend bedeuten, augenscheinlich in dem sinne 
unseres ebenfalls hier als beispiel anzuziehenden sprichwortes: 
Wenn man vom wolf spricht, ist er da»^ 

To return to the Akamba, I have come across the following 
illustrations of their fear of uttering on certain occasions the name 
of an animal or an inanimate object. 

The most profitable game is the elephant, and so hunters 
are, quite naturally, very • much afraid of disturbing this animal 

^ K. Th. Preuss, Der Unsprung der Religion und Kunst. Globus 
1905, p. 395- 

ArchOr. Lindblom 19 

290 Lindblom, The Akamba 

needlessly and are on their guard, especially as the elephant is 
considered to be an extraordinarily wise creature. When they 
catch sight of the great pachydermata, they thus mention them 
in many different ways: nde ^£U 'old poles' (referring to the tusks); 
or, as I heard in Kikumbuliu, inbonda malia or wata — the meaning 
of both these expressions is unknown to me. They are also fond 
of calling them stones {fua6ia), so that for instance the one of 
the hunting party who first catches sight of an elephant, says: 
» Yonder is a stone ». This is to be interpreted as magic based 
on likeness: a stone does not move from its place and the native 
wishes that the elephant, like a stone, would remain motionless 
in his place, so that he might have on opportunity to shoot him. 

Of the same reason the hippopotamus (ggii) is by hunters 
called 'ggwculd. 

If it begins to rain when they are out on a martial expe- 
dition or hunting, they avoid speaking of rain, saying for in- 
stance, instead of »it rains »: »Ngai has come* (cf. p. 248). Other- 
wise the cessation of the rain would be postponed. The natives 
are very sensitive to rain and, in addition, a lengthy downpour is 
deleterious to the bowstrings. 

Those who go to look for honey in the desert or to cut the 
honeycombs from the beehives hanging there do not mention 
the word uht (honey), but call their honey jar {hpcsmbd), for in- 
stance, kmapi to get more honey. 

And an additional example. The incessant circling of a vul- 
ture in the air is a pretty sure sign of the proximity of some 
carcass or dying animal. The native hunters, on catching sight of 
the bird, are inspired with sure hopes of an easily-caught prey, 
at best an elephant or at least a welcome addition to their food 
supplies (the Akamba do not mind eating animals that have died 
from natural causes, if this has only recently happened). For this 
reason they must not say that » there is meat somewhere in the 
neighbourhood* or anything like that, but they use some peri- 
phrasis instead, such as mafta'ggo 'dry leaves', here probably in 
the sense of » rubbish », something worthless. In this one might 
see a kind of effect of contrast : by giving a trivial name to an ob- 
ject which has not been seen, one tries to raise the value of the object. 

The method depicted here of giving a person or thing another 
name is called kwtiea in Kikamba. 

Medicine men and magicians 291 

9. Omens. 

Primitive people readily find a special import in practically 
every accidental circumstance which occurs, and at the same time 
they have a mass of omens of constant and universally recognized 
signification. An omen, presage is called in the Kamba language 
jfiupanUy with the addition musc^o, if it is considered good, and 
mujiuku^ if it is bad. The Akamba get their most important 
omens from the animal world. 

a. Omens taken from bodily action. 

By kiow they seem to mean (nervous) twitchings of the joints 
in different parts of the body^. If one feels an itching in the 
lower eyelid {kiow km m(Bpo), it means that one is going to 
»cry or see blood». This may just as well be a good omen, 
meaning that one is going to get good booty during an approach- 
ing hunt or that one is to be invited to eat meat at a friend's. 
kww k\a moko, twitching in both arms, means that one shall get 
a present. Twitching in the left arm {kiow km kzvqko kzva aka 
in the women's arm', i. e. the left) means that one is going to be 
compelled to give something away. A similar sensation in the 
head, k\o\o km ukunwa (lit. 'to be beaten') signifies that one is to 
be beaten or to be tired out by carrying a heavy burden. 

To sneeze {kwaptmwa^) is also considered as an omen, although 
usually of slight import. When a sick person sneezes repeatedly 
it is a sign that he will soon be well. To many medicine men 
a boy's sneezing early in the morning is a good omen, meaning 
that he will have many consultations that day. To another me- 
dicine man, on the other hand, this may be a bad augury, while 
a girls sneezing is, on the contrary, a welcome sign to him. 

My additional information about their ideas concerning sneez- 
ing may conveniently be mentioned here. A person who sneezes 


^ According to K. Th. Preuss ethnological literature contains, or 
at least contained before 1909, only the very scantiest material 
about this kind of presage. Because of this P. requests investigators 
who are going out to pay attention to this lacuna. The data he found 
himself are collected in his article »Die Vorbedeutung des Zuckens der 
Gliedmassen in der V6lkerkunde», Globus 1909, p. 245. 

- = to be blessed? (cf, kwaptma 'to bless'). 

292 Lindblotn, The Akamba 

says kulat often with the addition : kula mwana iva 'gganxa — 
»kula, son of so-and so», mentioning his father's name. I do not 
know what kula really means, but the expression is said to indic- 
ate happiness or well-being. Presumably it has a meaning similar 
to our »Prosit!» One of my acquaintainces of the hpumbo clan 
used always to say, when be sneezed : ma>pa ma inba-k%ptimbd 'the 
enemies of the clan kjpumbd\ 

A person who gives a baby an ornament or other small ob- 
ject to play with will not take this back, if the child happens to 
sneeze while he is holding the object. If one took it, the action 
would be highly disapproved of by those present. 

b. People whom one meets looked upon as omens. 

When one is out on important business or has started a jour- 
ney, it is a bad omen to meet a solitary man or woman, and also 
three or more in company, if their number is odd^ Many people 
turn back again and postpone their project after such a encounter. 
On the other hand, if those one meets are an even number, two, 
four etc., it is of no significance. These rules vary, however, in 
different parts of the country. 

c. Animals as bearers of omens. 

A great many animals play an important part in the Akam- 
ba's life as tokens of coming events, usually misfortunes. Thus 
if the jackal's yell is heard several nights in succession, a mis- 
fortune is considered to be at hand: similarly if a cock crows in 
the evening. If a frog jumps up towards you, you will, according 
tho the saying of the old people, soon get ill or die. On the other 
hand, it does not matter if the frog goes into a hut, which among 
the Zulus means a death 2. But if the black biting ants come 
several times into a hut, the Akamba say that one of the dwellers 
in the hut will die. The hedgehog {ktpay^gaiti), on the other hand, 
brings good fortune with it, if it enters a hut. The nzai is a very 
common, non-stinging, brown night-insect, the size of a wasp. 

1 The Masai also believe that if, on a journey, one meets a soli- 
tary person on the road, the journey will be fruitless. Hoi lis, The 
Masai, p. 324. 

2 Kidd, The essential Kafir, p. 273. 

Medicine men and magicians 293 

which is often a nuisance to the traveller, because it continually 
circles round the lamp, falls into the food as one is eating, etc. 
If it falls into the camp-fire of a hunting party, it is a sign that 
one of the company will be killed by some animal; this is also 
the case if one hears them up among the tops of the trees round 
the camp. In such a case the hunters usually turn back home as 
soon as day dawns. 

If the domestic animals do something unusual, it is taken as 
a bad omen. Thus, for instance, if a sheep or cow, etc. rises up 
on its hind-legs to bite off the leaves of a tree, the animal is 
immediately killed. Goats, on the other hand, often do this, and 
so their behaviour is not taken as an omen, as it is natural to 
them, or, as the natives say; »This is their \vork» ^. It is also 
looked upon as an evil omen if, when the cattle are grazing, a 
bull horns and runs home to the village without any obvious 
reason. The animal may then be killed by anyone without the 
owner's permission being asked. 

As might be expected, various otiier kinds of birds are though 
10 be the bearers of omens. The owl is a bird of ill-omen in 
Africa as well as in Europe, and if it is heard several nights in 
succession it denotes death. Now and then one sees old crocks 
hanging in the trees at the villages: they are put there to frighten 
the owls away. The most important and best known of all 
prophecying animals is also a bird, the '^gomakomt "^, a red-headed 
species of woodpecker, to which the natives listened, especially 
in former times, before marching out on plundering expeditions.' 
It is considered to be a good or a bad omen according to the 
side on which one hears his pecking. The interpretation varies to 
some extent in different parts of Ukamba; the following detailed 
account is from Kikumbuliu, the south-east part of the country. 

^ The above undeniably logical argument does not seem, however, 
to be used by all Bantu peoples. It is said of the Bechuana: »If a 
goat climbs the roof of a hut, it is speare(^ at once, because it would 
bewitch the owner if it were not put to death. » J. Mackenzie, Ten 
years North of the Orange River, p. 392. 

^ < komakoma 'to rap, knock'. 

^ It is difficult to say whether the birrd's cry and rappng alone 
have caused it to be considered a bird of omen, or whether the red 
feathers of the head have also contributed to this. For the significance 
of red feathers see N. Hammarstedt in Fatburen 1909, p. 201. 

294 Lindblom, The Akamba 

If the bird is heard straight in front, one will »see blood », 
i. e. get scratched in the thickets, be gored by a rhinoceros 
or wounded in fighting, etc.; which of these tings is most 
probable depends on the object of the expedition or the en- 
vironment one is in or is going to be in. To hear the bird in 
front in an oblique direction and high up is also a bad sign, 
whereas if it is low in the same direction it only means that the 
listener will return without having effected his object. The left 
side is, on the other hand, the good side (in other districts the 
bad one), and if the bird is heard on that side, one has prospects 
of accuring women, cattle and other wealth. Finally, if it is heard 
from behind, it denotes that the listener will carry a burden, so 
that if he is going out hunting he will brobably shoot something, 
if he is about to cut the honeycombs from the beehives, he may 
be pretty sure of a good result, and similarly with those who are 
going to steal cattle, etc. 

This woodpecker is looked upon as a messenger from the 
ancestral spirits; it is not killed, arid its flesh may not be eaten 
by men. This prohibition does not apply to women, probably 
because as a rule they do not know of this bird, as they seldom 
have cause to go out into the desert, where the bird principally 
stays. In the immediate neighbourhood of Machakos, where trees 
are very rare and the bird is concequently not found, only a very 
few people seem to know of it. The Akamba who live there 
also carried out most of their campaigns on the steppe, where 
they probably had no opportunity of observing it.^ 

The natives state that even certain animals, such as the 
girafife, wild boar, etc. are so shrewd that they listen to and 
understand the 'ggomakomi s call. 

The different directions in which the woodpecker is heard 
have their special appellations: 

from in front is called tmsia, from behind '^gu'gguo; 
high up on the right is galled ina, low down on the right Ozcapz 

zva aumd 'the men's Gwapi ; 
high up on the left is called ivqinu, low down on the left Gzuqpt 

wa aka 'the women's 6wgpi . 

^ The Masai, however, have the species of woodpecker they call tilo 
(Mesopicus spodocephalus) as a bird of omen. If heard on the right or 
behind, it is good, if on the left, bad. Hollis, The Masai, pp. 323 ff. 

Medicine men and magicians 295 

As an instance of how much importance they sometimes attach 
to this bird of omen Brutzer relates how a party who had en- 
tered upon a long journey returned after four days because on 
the second day they heard the birds call^. 

10. Different substances (^ondm) used at ceremonial 


At different places in the foregoing work we have come across 
the word 'gondm, and we have seen that it means, in the first 
place, a purifier, used for religious or magic purposes to clean 
people, cattle, fields, huts, articles of clothing, in a word, objects 
of every conceivable kind. Its principal ingredients consist of parts 
of plants and certain intestines of animals, usually of the goat. 
Sometimes, as in the case of death (p. 108), such a ceremonial 
purification is obligatory, sometimes it is a more occasional pre- 

In its restricted meaning the conception of 'gondm contains 
nothing religious, nor is it used for purification, but is a more 
or less purely magic aid. For instance, there is 'gondui which, if 
eaten by a cow, causes her to breed only female calves and so 
increase considerably in value. Different kinds of 'gondia are used 
principally in connection with cattle. We shall return to this in 
describing the domestic animals of the Akamba. 

The ordinary medicine man seldom meddles with 'gondui, 
contrary to the practice of the Uima (p. 269). Generally the 'gondui 
expert is an experienced elderly man, who has got his know- 
ledge and power from the spirits. Old Malata wa Kyambi in the 
Machakos district was a real specialist in gondui. He knew of a 
great number of purifying plants and had planted them at his hut, 
others in his field and others in the surrounding thickets. Thus 
the plants were specially cultivated for medical or at least ritual 
use. In addition he had collected a large supply of dried roots, 
which he stored up in different places here and there in the 
neighbourhood of the hut, for instance in a heap of leaves, a hole 
in the earth, etc. He gave as a reason for this that it was not 
»good» to keep them at home. The fact of the matter was pro- 
bably that the objects were supposed to have more power if a 

^ Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube, p. ii. 

296 Lindblom, The Akamba 

little mysticism was attached to them. Malaba was an liima, but 
not a medicine man. 

Of the many different kinds of go^dia we shall, first of all, 
mention a common one which is used to purify both human 
beings and cattle. The parts of plants which are contained in it 
are the roots of muliJidUi or kxo^giua (Sanseviera sp.) and those 
of viukunda mbui^ or mulald. This kind o( gondui is, among other 
purposes, used to sprinkle one who, after a rather long absence, returns 
home, as it is considered injurious to him if any of those who have 
stayed at home have had sexual intercourse during his absence. All 
those who took part in the trade caravans which used to go down 
to the coast and those who went on campaigns out into the Masai 
steppes were treated in this way on their arrival at home. The 
purification ceremony was carried out as follows (cf. p. 108): The 
roots of the plants mentioned were crushed and put in a calabash 
shell with water ^, a part of which is given to a goat to drink. 
The goat is killed and certain of its intestines {kiptliko) are placed 
in the mixture, with which afterwards the person who has come 
home is sprinkled, and in which he has to tread with his feet. 
In a similar way they sprinkle his bed and all the inside of the 
hut, the entrance to it and the open places outside. Before this 
is done he may not eat any food in his house; he even likes to 
purify the food before he begins to eat. 

According to information which unfortunately I have been 
unable to confirm, those who are at home must also be purified 
in this way, so that they may be exempt from the danger which 
they believe surrounds them on account of the sexual intercourse 
they have had during his absence. 

A similar 'gondm is used to sprinkle on the crop which is 
springing up in the field (cf. below and the chapter on »Agricul- 
ture>). By some it is also used in house-building, when it is 
poured in the holes in which the rods, which form the frame of 
the hut, are set down. 

Some other gondm plants are '^ondm ta aka6t ('of the Masai'), 
mu/u/xvd, koia, ndata kiGunibu, wcea and Hceta. The last is espe- 
cially used to purify women and cattle. 

^ < kiinda 'to drink' and mhtn 'goat'. 

^ In the Kitui district no calabash shell or other household article 
is used, but the mixture is placed on leaves of the ktu^gn plant. 

Medicine men and magicians 297 

An animal which has very many and dififerent uses in the 
preparation of '^ondm is the rock Hyrax, ktgoijj or ktktla, as it is 
called when youno. The contents of its stomach are considered 
as a specially powerful means of purification. The regulations for 
the capture and treatment of this animal are very detailed and 
must be carefully followed if the 'gondiii is to have any effect. First 
a little food of different kinds (maize, beans, seed of Eleusine^ 
etc.), the products of the field, must be placed, as an offering to 
Mulungu, among the rocks which the animal frequents. A Hyrax 
may not be shot with arrows but must be taken in a snare. At 
Kibwezi instructions were in force to the effect that to catch the 
animal it should on no account be called kigond, but only kikila 
or ilondia sheep' (cf. p. 290). The animal is then brought to a 
sacrificial place {^pcBmbo), where the elders kill it by cutting off 
its head. The contents of its stomach are mixed with blood from 
the animal in a calabash shell, and the 'gondm is ready. For the 
sprinkling — and usually also at the sprinkling of other kinds of 
^ondm — branches o{ muta (Verticillatae-sp., with a strong aromatic 
odour) are used. 

This ^ondm has its most important use in connection with 
agriculture. If the crop is bad, they turn to the medicine man 
as usual in their difficulty, and he readily indicates to them that 
the fields should be sprinkled with it. It should preferably be 
mixed in water from the first rain, thus a sort of homeopathic 
magic. It is easy then to see that it also happens that this 'gondut 
is used to produce rain. 

Besides crops the cattle are also sprinkled, if they do not 
seem to be prospering, with 'gondm of the Hyrax. It is also used 
for human beings: barren women and those who are suffering from 
the illness called ^a6u (see below) are smeared with it and it is 
given to drink to those suffering from general weakness and ex- 
cessive thinness {uniosu). 

It should be noticed that this means of purification is differ- 
ent from those described before inasmuch as everything connected 
with it is managed and prescribed by the medicine man, while 
'gondm in general, as has been already said, is administered by 
special people. Although the latter do not occupy themselves 
with black magic, they inspire respect and are as a rule paid 
punctually for their trouble, as it is believed that they have the 

298 Lindblom, The Akamba 

power to be avenged on the patient by letting an illness loose on 
them, for instance to make them gradually waste away (ujnosu). 
This is said to happen by a certain treatment of the material used 
for the 'gondm, some part of which is always left in their bags. 

The skin of the rock Hyrax is considered very good to use 
for pouting out the pebbles on in divination. Some of the Akamba 
will under no circumstances eat the flesh of the animal, while 
others on the other hand have no scruples against this^. Hilde- 
brand^ who in addition mentions that the Akamba do not kill the 
Hyrax, says that the droppings of the animal are used as an 
astringent in circumcision. 

The intestines of poultry and the excrement of the python 
are also occasionally used in the preparation of '^ondiii. 

II. The illnesses i^a^w and makwa. 

As has been mentioned in Chap. VII pa6u is a kind of 
illness which may attack a person who does not observe certain 
instructions about purification, especially those which must be 
carried out after a death (p. 108). The symptoms of the illness 
are general weakness, a gradual wasting away and especially a 
very rapid loss of flesh, which is not seldorri in glaring contrast 
to the sick person's voracious appetite. If he is not purified in 
time, the illness causes his death. All the people who I was 
told had paGti had a worn appearance and looked apathic and 
depressed^. To pine away slowl)'^ in this way is called ktipuniua*'. 

The two most usual cases of pa6u in connection with deaths, 
before a village is purified after a death, are: 

I. A relation who is away and comes on a visit to a village 
where a death takes place and eats food there contracts the ill- 
ness (cf. p. 109). 

^ The Hyrax belongs to the animals which, according to the Mosaic 
law, the Jews could not eat. The prohibition of the Abysinians and 
Mohammedans from eating the animal perhaps originates from this. 
Brehm's Tierleben III, p. 592. A. E. Brehm, Vierzehn Tage in 
Mensa, Globus 1863, p. 297. 

^ Die Wakamba, p. 382. 

^ pa6u seems, in some respects, to be equivalent with the Suaheli 
■word thambi 'sin'. 

* Not to be confused with kupanriia 'to rest, repose'. 

Medicine men and magicians 299 

2. If a girl from such a village has sexual relations she gets 
paf)u. If she has a child it will be very thin and miserable and 
soften have something like goat's hair on its back». If after that 
she has a wooer, her former lover has to pay a goat for the 
preparation of the purificatory 'gondui for her. 

There are several other forms o( pa6u: 

On p. 105 we have seen that only the atumta may touch a 
corpse, while contact with a dead body brings fyaQu to other 
people. By eating his totem animal or marrying a girl of his own 
clan a man can also catch this illness. 

From pa6u, as from all other kinds of » ceremonial unclean- 
liness», one is purified by 'gondm. Every expert in 'gondui cannot, 
however, cure paGu, but for this purpose specialists are required. 
Such a specialist is called mutumia wa nkii, and is the same per- 
son who in cases of death says what must be done to prevent 
further deaths and to avoid 'pa6u. It is said that to be successful 
in his work, he himself ought to have. lost some near relative by 
death. A woman may also be a mutuima wa uku. 

I shall now describe in detail a purification ceremony of this 
kind that I witnessed near Kibwezi. 

The headman Makiti had two wives and one of them gave 
birth to a child which died. Through not troubling about the 
instructions concerning ritual coitus on the death of a child (see 
p. 106) he caused his other wife, with whom he was living at 
variance, to have pa6u. At length, however, he decided to have her 
purified, and the ceremony was carried out by an elder who was 
expert in 'gondiu outside M:s village on the path which led to it. 
The sick woman was placed on the path — to stand separate 
from the man — not in actual contact with it, but on a few large 
leaves on which were also placed a couple of branches of a 'gondiii 
tree. Opposite her, on the other side of the path, M. took up 
his position, and behind him the other wife who was also regar- 
ded as being guilty of causing the illness. Another man brought 
forward a goat, which he ripped up alive, and took out the little 
stomach, kipihho, the contents of which he placed in a cala- 
bash vessel, containing pieces of various kinds of trees, which 
the 'gondm man had previously arranged. The poor goat lived 
several minutes. Generally the goat is killed first, but in this 
case if it had been first killed, it would not have given enough 

300 Lindblom, The Akamba 

power (Oinia), explained the inutumta. During this time the latter 
had picked out a small piece of wood and, after laying ihe sick 
wife's hands on M:s shoulders, he told him to address her some- 
what as follows: »I am sorry to have done wrong to you, and just 
as this piece of wood is now thrown away, so I throw away all my 
ill-will towards you». Then the piece was given to the woman and 
she, on her side, declared that she threw away all ill-will towards 
her husband, whereupon she threw the piece of wood away. In 
the same way some further special causes of contention were 
treated, and for each matter which was settled a bit of wood was 
thrown away. Now the old man took some of the prepared 
^ondui and stuffed it in the mouth of the sick \voman and even 
succeeded with some difficulty in getting some into the mouth of 
her child, which she carried on her back. She had to spit it out 
immediately, but the old man was very careful to see that she 
spat it out between her feet. Makiti and his other wife had their 
faces smeared with 'oondui. The ceremony was over, and the sick 
woman ought now to get better soon. 

In the Kikuyu language frnQu is called pafin^, and Routledge 
gives no less than 29 examples of this » ceremonial uncleanness». 
He gives no information, however, about the symptoms and effect 
of f>ahti. The purification ceremonies he describes resemble very 
much those of the Akamba; the purificatory substance is also 
called n gondii. Hobley^ has collected no less than 62 different 
cases of thahu from the Akikuyu, several of which I recognize from 
the Akamba. No doubt a closer investigation among the latter 
would give a considerable number from them too. The two tribes, 
being in many ways so nearly related, seem especially to have 
almost quite the same conception about this kind of sickness. 

l)af)u plays an immense role in the life of these people. Every 
day, almost every moment, the native runs the risk of getting into 
conflict with some rule, the breaking of which will attract him paOu. 

Omission of the above-mentioned purification rites after a 
death may also sometimes bring about a ceremonial uncleanness 
and with it an illness which is more severe than paGu^ namely 

^ 6 does not exist in Kikuyu, but /; corresponds here to Ki- 
kamba 6. 

2 Kikuj'u Customs and Belief. Thahu and its connection with 
Circumcision Rites. Journ. Anthr. Inst. 19 10, p. 428 ff. 

Medicine men and magicians 301 

md\:iva. The author cannot with any certainty say that he has 
seen anyone suffering from this, but the first symptoms are said 
to consist of pains in the extremities, especially in the joints of 
the knees and elbows (rheumatism of the joints?); the person who 
is attacked by it has in addition » hoarse hawkings*. The limbs 
soon begin to swell and sores gradually break out on the body. 
The German missionaries in Mulango, East Akamba, who knew 
of this illness, considered it a kind of syphilis, but the natives 
themselves, who also know of syphilis, but only under its Suaheli 
name, deny this ^. They say that mal^tva has not, like syphilis, 
come from the coast, but existed in the country since olden times 
and also appears among the neighbouring tribes. 

malciaa is a much more rare complaint than J>a6u, so that 
those who know how to cure it are also few in number. These 
people are called muttiima wa inalcwa. The first qualifications 
necessary for this position is that one should have lost several 
of one's nearest relations by illness (no matter of what kind? or un- 
der circumstances that may cause pa6ut\ There is no age limit. 
Even a young man, provided he is intelligent, possesses the quali- 
fication to be a mututma wa malzva, if he has lost his parents and 
brothers and sister. Similarly in the case of a woman. According 
to Mr. K. Dundas, D. C. of Machakos, who was good enough to 
write and inform me of his enquiries about makwa, »an ordinary 
woman cannot become makwa, only a medicine woman ». 

A man visited by death in this way wanders long distances 
seeking eminent '^ondiu experts to learn from. He has to learn 
about the different plants, where they grow, what parts of them 
are to be used and in what way they are used. He thus deve- 
lops slowly into a connoisseur of a mass of plants and their uses. 
An almost necessary condition for obtaining real success seems 
to be, in addition, that he observes great or almost complete 
sexual continence. 

I shall quote the following from Mr. Dundas's paper which 
agrees completely with my own results: 

» There are no special initiation ceremonies, neither are there 
any special fees. There is no connection whatever with the »atu- 

' 1 Hofmann (with a reservation) renders mahwa by leprosy (»aus- 
satz?»). For my own part I have not heard of any cases of leprosy 
in these districts. 

302 Lindblom, The Akamba 

mia ma nzama* or the ;>atumia ma ithembo >, and it is not neces- 
sary for a person to belong to either of these grades in order to 
become an »ukuu» or a »makwa». 

It is to be noted too that so far as concerns the natives of 
this district [Machakos] at any rate there is no mystery or secrecy 
attached to these things. In short the »makwa» and »ukuu» are 
not grades, but positions attained to gradually by successful prac- 
tice, in much the same way as a successful medical practioner 
may finally develop into a Harley street specialist. The »atumia 
ma makvva» and the »atumia ma ukuu» are not in any way to 
be confused with the medicine men, who are supposed to be in 
direct touch and communication with the »aimu». A person may 
be a »makwa» or an »ukuu» only, or he may be both; of the 
two the »ukuu» is considered the more important; on the other 
hand it is said to be much more difficult to become a successful 
»makwa». Kesungu, the great Kilungu »ukuu», combines both 
functions and is also now on the way to becoming a medicine 
man; but this is due to the fact that he is now credited with 
becoming possessed with an »aimu». He was taught both »makwa» 
and »ukuu» by a woman called Siomuteti». 

To this statement of Mr. Dundas I will only add that the 
medicine man does not know how to cure paOu or makwa^ and 
further that in actual practice the mutuima wa uku is a more 
important person than the mutmma zva maltwa, because the cases 
of makzva are more rare. 

While j^adu is due to a psychical disturbance in the patient 
the illness called makwa appears to be somewhat mystical^. The 
consequences of his crime against the ritual prescriptions leave 
him no peace, but are continually present in his consciousness, and 

1 The symptoms scarcely point to it, or else one would be very 
much inclined to suggest consumption as an explanation. Junod (The 
Life of a South African tribe II, p. 433) shows how this sickness 
has been known for a long time among the Thonga and has been of 
great importance in their ritual. It would be interesting to know how 
widespread it is in Africa and the ideas that the natives have about it. 
It is certain that it existed there before the arrival of the Europeans. 
I do not know what consumption is called in Kikamba, but if Watt's 
Vocabulary, which is usually very unreliable, is correct about this, the 
Akamba have a name for consumption, namely ulolomi. This substan- 
tive is not known to Hofmann (WSrterbuch), who has, however, the 

Medicine men and magicians 303 

the psychical depression which results brings with it a physical one 
also, which may end with the complete extinction of life. This 
great influence of suggestion is well known by numerous examples 
from primitive people, whose physical equilibrium, while it cannot 
be called nervous, is very unstable. It is enough to mention the 
Australian native who after discovering that his sick wife had lain 
on his rug died within a fortnight^. 

12. Snake=charmers. 

Some medicine men may be called real snake-tamers, inasmuch 
as they capture and work with snakes. The taming of snakes in 
itself seems to have no other practical importance than to give 
people greater respect for the skill and magic power of the per- 
son concerned, although we shall soon see that these snake-tamers 
are also occupied in curing snake-bites, and as they themselves 
are immune from snake poisoning, it is* thought that they can 
give others immunity against it. The knowledge of this comes 
ultimately from the aimu, who may, however, bestow it upon a 
person, no matter whether he is a medicine man or not. 

The most famous of all the snake-charmers was the now 
deceased magic doctor Kimia in Ikutha, who was said to have 
learnt the art among the Wagiriama. He had many snakes which 
he kept in calabashes in his hut. Before he released the animals, 
he eat a kind of powder. He called them to him by whistling,, 
took them with his hands and let them coil round his body. To 
show his power over them he used, among other things, to put 
the snake's head into his mouth. When on such an occasion he 
was bitten, he naturally thought that it was due to some enemy's 
witchcraft and went to a medicine man to be treated. The latter 
buried Kimia in the earth, took him up again, and buried a living 
sheep instead. Then he gave him instructions not to go on the 
roads on his way home but to travel cross-country, and on his 

verb kuloloma^ which he translates only with 'to be ill'. It probably,, 
however, refers to some special sort of sickness, for the usual expres- 
sion for »to be ill» is ktiq. 

^ W. E. Arm it, Customs of the Australian Aborigines. Journ."' 
Anthr. Inst. 1880, p. 459. 

304 Lindblom, The Akamba 

arrival he must enter by a specially arranged opening, not by the 
ordinary entrance. Not to use this on certain occasions is, as a 
matter of fact, a very common direction of the magicians. 

According to information given to me by Hofmann, the mis- 
sionary in Ikutha, Kimia once let a few snakes loose in the mission 
station so as to show his power. They took refuge in a hole in 
the wall and no one could get hold of them or drive them away 
till K. himself was pleased to do so. 

A snake doctor can give another person his power to handle 
snakes and his immunity against their poison. On the body of 
the person who wants to receive this 6ima ('power') he makes small 
incisions here and there, even on the tip of the tongue, and into 
these incisions he rubs a powder which is prepared from a poi- 
sonous tree\ but also contains fat and parts of snakes. It must 
be poison, because the snakes have poison. Apart from this fact, 
its preparation is a secret. A bamboo tube with powder of this 
kind is in my collection. How this poison — if it really is poi- 
son — can be mixed with the blood without injury, is also the 
snake-doctor's secret. The patients whole body is now filled with 
6mxa, which is concentrated in the blood and saliva. He has now 
become a snake-tamer and can kill a reptile simply by spitting 
on him. The snake is then said to have convulsive twitches and 
to die soon with wild twistings. It is thought that even ordinary 
saliva will hurt a snake — similarly with a mole — and arrows 
smeared with it kill these animals, while the usual poison used 
for arrows is said to have no effect on them. 

These snake doctors treat snake-bite as well. Besides care- 
fully sucking the poison out, they use as medicine their own blood 
and saliva, which is of course considered to contain poison. It is 
done by cutting themselves on the wrist and letting the person 
who has been bitten suck up the oozing drops of blood, besides 
which they rub their saliva on the bitten place and finally spit 
in the mouth of the patient, who has to swallow the saliva. 

By means of the procedure here described one is protected 
against snake-bites and can without danger catch a snake, but 
real power over reptiles is not acquired before one has eaten some 
of the powder or been smeared with it. 

^ This is not Acocanthera Schimperi (Kikamba mu6ai), which in 
ihese districts is used for making poison for arrows. 

Medicine men and magicians 


There are no professional snake-tamers in Ukamba, but during 
the latter period of my stay in the country (191 2) I came across 
several young men who had small snakes and took them with them 
when they strolled about (fig. 62). One of these young men came 
to me one day with two '^gululcu, a common small snake, which 
the Akamba say is poisonous, though as a matter of fact they 
say this about most snakes. He put their heads in his mouth. 

Fig. 62. Young man playing with a snake. 

let them coil round his neck, etc. They showed the usual inert- 
ness of tame snakes, but one of them tried continually to get 
away, when their owner put them down on the ground. He said 
that he had given them »medicine» and showed me two kinds of 
powder, one black and one white. 

My tentboy Kivuvu was also one of these snakemen. During 
one of our expeditions we came across a little black snake, accor- 
ding to the boy's statement a young cobra, which darted into the 
thick grass. Kivuvu wanted to show ofif by catching it, and 
started by going round the tussock three times »to prevent the 

Arch.Or. Lindblom 20 

3o6 Lindblom, The Akamba 

snake escaping*. He then went into the thick grass looking for 
the reptile, and when he caught sight of it, grasped it swiftly by 
the neck. Then he asked me to make a little cut in his wrist, 
he himself cut the snake a little on the neck and dropped a 
little of his own blood into the snake's twisted »so that the 
animal should know him and not go away->. In addition 
he put a white powder on the wound and then twisted the snake 
round his neck where it lay quite still. One might possibly ima- 
gine, though it is not at all probable, that by means of mixing 
the blood Kivuvu considered that he had entered into a sort of 
bloodbrotherhood with the snake. He did not, however, trouble 
himself much about the reptile, for he gave it to me when we 
came home, 

13. The magic significance of numbers. 

Before we leave the question of magic, I wish, both as a 
survey and for the use of special investigators of the subject, to 
collect briefly the scattered information contained in this work 
about the part certain numbers seem to play for the Akamba. By 
numbers are meant partly the concrete number of persons or things, 
partly the number of times certain rites and similar actions are 
carried out. 

There are number of good, quite indifferent, and bad import, 
especially the latter. As we have already seen, odd numbers are 
generally considered disastrous or at least unlucky, and the lang- 
uage has a special expression for them (mzvg). Odd numbers are 
of course considered as inauspicious omens, while even numbers 
do not play any part at all as omens. Another thing that helps to 
illustrate the conception of odd numbers is the meat meals during 
the third nzaiko (p. 63) and the feasts of the nzama and k'hsuka 
(p. 144 ff.). When paying the fees for these and in order to attain 
a higher rank in them the natives are usually careful to see that 
the goats that are given in payment do not make an odd number; 
this is especially the case for the nzaiko meals. The malignant 
cattle disease ndalu is believed always to carry off an odd number 
of animals. 

On the other hand we have quite a contrary state of affairs 
at a medicine man's divination, as the pebbles that fall out of his 
calabash are a good omen if they are odd and vice versa (cf. 

Medicine men and magicians 307 

however the number 7 immediately below). To our more logical 
minds this is an inconsistency, but it is easy to forget that in- 
consistencies are not so rare in [irimitive ways of thinking. 

The idea that the number 7 has a special importance is, of 
course, very widespread, practically over the whole worlds Among 
the Akamba also it is the most prominent of all the numbers. 
This seems to be the case over large parts of East Africa as well, 
and one may with great probability account for this from Semitic 
and mohammedan influence (the Arabs and through them the Wa- 
suahelis, who have gone as traders from the East coast into the 
interior for a couple of thousand years). Among the Akamba 
seven is found both as a good and evil number; in most cases, 
however, it seems to be bad. 

The following are some cases in which the number is quite 
clearly considered to be inauspicious: 

When a native consults the medicine man 'on some matter 
to have his fortune told, and the latter shakes seven pebbles out of 
his divination gourd. Similarly in the method of procedure described 
on p. 285 of protecting one's sugarcanes against thieves by putting 
seven porcupine quills in the stalks; also in not allowing cattle to 
be watched longer than six days in succession by the same shep- 
herd. We also remember that, in taking an oath on the h^ttia, 
7 stones are placed by the side of it; on these stands the man 
who swears and they probably help to a certain extent to make 
the breaking of the oath baneful. 

The number 7 is thus an important factor in the Akamba's 
oaths and also in incantations and magic in general. Brutzer de- 
scribes a »muma» or »kisitu» that stood at the edge of a field to 
protect it against thieves. In its complicated composition there 
was, among other things seven fruits of a Solanum species (no 
doubt the ^gondu fruits) and a white shell with seven small spots. 
And he adds something that is not clear: »The efiect of such a 
mitma depends on the number of its parts, according as it con- 
sists of 7x3, 7x5 or 'J y.'j parts»^. 

According to Brutzer the Akamba call seven »the bad luck 
number*, which agrees with the Akikuyu's conception of it (cf. 

^ F. V. Andrian, Die Siebenzahl im Geistesleben der Vollcer. 
Mitteil. der Anthrop. Ges. in "Wien 1901, p. 225. 

^ E. Brutzer, Der Geisterglaube bei den Kamba, p. 13. 


3o8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

p. 58). Yet it is often used by the Akamba in cases when it is 
difficult to find anything inauspicious about it, but rather the 
other way about. The rites and dances during the second nsmko 
feast, during which it can scarcely be the idea to harm those 
who take part, last seven days (p. 47). And during the same 
initiation a fig-tree is stabbed with a nail that has been smeared 
with fat in seven places (p. 56). At prayers and sacrifices, i. e. 
when the natives wish something good for themselves, the number 
also appears, as when they throw seed against a tree seven times 
(or, as in another case, 3+4) during prayers for a sick person 
(pp. 241 ff.), or when at mealtimes they offer 14 iy+j) bits of 
meat to the spirits (p. 218). Hobley gives an instance of the use 
of this number which he expressly says is meant to bring »good 
luck, namely a whip, used for magic purpose, that was cracked 
seven times to bring good luck to elephant hunters (cf. p. 264). 

One might expect that the numbers 3 and 4 should be clos- 
ely connected with 7, and that is certainly the case. When an 
oath is taken on the ktpitm this is placed on three stones (p. 168) 
and the one who swears usually strikes it three times with the 
mukulwa twig. The number here seems thus to help in bringing 
about a baneful effect on one who breaks the oath. Sometimes, 
on the other hand, it is entirely opposite. When the medicine 
man — other persons do this as well — spits over someone or 
something with the intention of blessing or bringing luck, they 
usually do so three times. 

The number 3, and also 4, occurs remarkably often in driv- 
ing out the foreign spirits we read of under the name kisuka 
p. 229). The ^ondm then used, in which there were three hen 
feathers, was brought three times to and from the mouth of the 
possessed woman, before it was given her to drink. During three 
days they danced and on the fourth the woman was washed with 
'gondiu. Finally, as a protection for the future, three amulets were 
hung on each side of her body. 

Among the rites connected with the building of a hut there 
is included the cooking of some food when the work is done. If 
the food cooked is porridge, four small pieces are thrown on the 
floor for the spirits. 

The number 4 is also met with on other occasions. Four 
men carry the mbusia in the second initiation (p. 50); four men 

Medicine men and magicians 309 

build the hut in the third one (p. 62), and four elders watch at a 
man's deathbed. 

I cannot remember anything special about the number 2, but 
there is no doubt that it also has a certain importance. The 
stones placed at the side of the k^pilui are sometimes, according 
to Hobley, only two in number. Sometimes, on the other hand, 
they are eleven (7 + 4). 

Whether any symbolism of numbers is found in the Akamba's 
decorations, I do not know, inquiries about this having given no 
result. G. Backman M. D., in his review of the three first part 
of this work ^ (which are much more complete in the present 
monograph, calls attention, however, to the figures reproduced by 
me from the mnsai sticks in the second nzatko'. »the sun has 9 
beams, the moon (new) is surrounded by 9 stars, the chain has 
9 side-links, the millipede has 27 (= 3 x 9) feet, the chair has 3 
legs. And in the picture on p. 54, which is also t&ken from one 
and the same musai stick, the open place (fig. i) has 2x4 roads, 
the tortoise (fig. 2) has 4 legs, the star (fig. 6) has 4 beams, the 
star (fig. 7) has 2x4 beams, the thail of the cow has 4 tufts of 
hair. This repetition of definite number or multiples of them, in 
the one case 3, in the other 4, shows with pretty great probability 
that there are real and serious intentions behind the pictographic 
riddles of the musai sticks. . .»- 

This indication of Dr. Backman has led me to investigate 25 of 
these figures, which give respectively the following numbers of 
carvings (the numbers divided by a + sign give the distribution 
on two sides of the object: 12+13, fo'' instance, means the legs 
on each side of a millipede's body): 

3, 4, 4 + 4, 4+5, 5 (twice), 5 + 3, 5 + 5, 5+6, 5 + 7 (twice), 
5 + 9, 6 (three times), 6^6, 7, 7 + 3, T-^J, 7 + 8, 8, 9, 12+13. 

As will be seen both 2 and 3 are found in their multiples 
and also 5 alone, but no conclusion can be drawn from this about 
the symbolism of the numbers, as all possible combinations 01 
numbers are present. 

As a conclusion to this resume of the significance of numbers 
among the Akamba I may add that they will never count their 

^ Printed as an Inaugural Dissertation, Uppsala 1916. 
- G. Backman, review of G. Lindblom, The Akamba in British 
East Africa (Parts I — III), Ymer 1916, p. 361. 

3IO Lindblom, The Akamba 

cattle. When they are driven into the craal of an evening, the 
natives certainly look carefully to see that no animal is missing, 
but they do not count them. Similarly they do not like to state 
the number of their children (p. 88). The reason for this is 
probably that they are afraid of attracting the attention of the 
spirits, who are always envious. The same fear of counting people 
and valuable possessions is found among other Bantu peoples and 
is perhaps common to great numbers of people at a low level of 
culture, but it seems to be specially prevalent among the Hami- 
tic and Semitic peoples (not at least those in Africa, such as the 
Masai), and from these probably has, with so many other things, 
spread to the negroes '. 

^ See M. Schmidt, Zahl and Zahlen in Afrika, Miiteil. d. Anthrop, 
Ges. in Wien 1915, p. 196. 

Chapter XV. Medicine. 

To every people, no matter how low their stage of culture is, 
we must ascribe a certain knowledge of remedies and medicines for 
illnesses, a knowledge gained empirically and based on the expe- 
rience of generations. But it is usually very difficult to say where 
this actual knowledge begins or ends, for the real remedies in 
question are usually accompanied, as we know, by ceremonies or 
rites, which give the whole procedure a more or less magic cha- 
racter. And in many cases the magic element seems to be con- 
sidered as the essential thing. We have, however, discussed the 
magic weft in the Akamba's medicine in the preceding chapter, 
and in this one we shall, as far as possible, confine ourselves to 
concrete things. 

As the author does not possess special medical knowledge 
and the principal portions of what follows have to be based on 
the natives' own inexact descriptions, it is certain that the ac- 
count will contain various incorrect expressions. To a professional 
man, however, it ought to be a good starting-point for 
further and more scientific investigations into the knowledge of 
medicine possessed by the Akamba and their neighbours. The 
material I have collected is as follows. 

I. Illnesses (operations, wounds). 

A broken bone can be quite effectively treated. The injured 
limb is bound with a splint made of 4 to 6 pieces of wood fast- 
ened together with leather bands, the broken parts having first 
been twisted into their proper position. To keep the patient ab- 
solutely still, they use the radical method of placing him on the 
floor of the hut and then placing pegs round his outstretched leg. 
This is then fastened to these pegs and the patient, who cannot 
move now, is not released till the fracture is cured. 

312 Lindblom, The Akamba 

An interesting operation is the removal of the uvula {ka- 
hmdY when this is swollen. A pair of long giraffe-hairs are pla- 
ced round the uvula, which by means of these is drawn for- 
ward and then cut off with a knife. A cloth is then bound in 
front of the mouth >to hinder the cold». For about five days 
the patient has to be on a special diet and may then only eat 
hard and dry food, such as roasted maize and other baked food, 
especially hard-baked bananas. Ginger (called tangawizi, its Sua- 
heli name), which is bought from the Indian traders, is also eaten. 
This complaint is said to have come from the coast. A similar 
operation is very often carried out by the Galla, who in cases of 
inflammation of the larynx and of the respiratory organs tear of 
the uvula with a with thread ^. 

A usage about which I have very incomplete notes and which 
is therefore recorded with great reserve is as follows: when a child 
is from one to two years old, in the case of stronger children 
perhaps earlier, some of his teeth are taken out, the motive being 
to prevent by this means the pain which accompanies the cutting 
of teeth. The operation is performed with a needle and is carried 
out by an old man with special experience of such things. Of 
course these teeth are aftet wards replaced by the growth of the 
layer of teeth below them. According to the Akamba the Aki- 
kuyu do the same thing, but I have not found any mention of 
it in the accounts which have been written about this tribe. 

An arrow, especially one with barbs, which is fixed in a 
fleshy part of the body, is, when it is possibly to do so, taken 
out by knocking it through to the other side. 

Fresh and smooth wounds are treated as follows: The edges 
of the wounds are pressed against each other, after which thin aca- 
cia thorns are stuck through the edges on both sides. The thorns 
are placed in pairs, across each other. Then the whole thing is 
tied round with cord. The method of procedure, which as a 
matter of fact shows a close resemblance to the newest methods 
of treating wounds, is probably the same as is practised by the 
Akambas' neighbours, the Masai^. 

A remedy for wounds made with poisoned arrows is in many 

^ Diminutive of wintd 'tongue'. 

^ Paulitschke, Ethnographie Nordost-Afrikas I, p. 184. 

' Given in detail by M. Merker, Die Masai, p. 190. 

Medicine 315 

cases a powerful sucking-out, which is preceded by binding tightly 
above and below the wounded place, if it is so situated that a 
binding of this sort is possible. In addition they also usually rub 
the blood of a newly-killed sheep on the wound and place parts 
of the intestines of the sheep on it. The wounded man is given 
urine of women to drink. We shall say something more about 
the Akamba's poison for arrows later. 

An account of the treatment of snake-bite has already been 
given in the preceding chapter. It may be added here that for 
a python bite the dried excrement of the animal is eaten; it is 
said to be like a greyish kind of stone. 

The occasional practice of opening a corpse, to try to esta- 
blish the cause of death (see p. 157), might possibly be considered 
as a primitive stage of pathological anatomy. 

The most usual remedy for headache is to fasten a cord or 
a wire tightly round the head^. Primitive people are very well 
aware of the power of a circular pressure to alleviate pain. For 
plants as remedies for headache see below (p. 314). 

One often sees a native, wrapped in his blanket, lying on 
the ground exposed to the rays of the sun and thereby inducing 
perspiration. This is a prevalent method in Africa of curing fever 
{ndetcBmd). Malaria is common in certain parts of Ukamba, espe- 
cially in the lower and hotter districts in the east, from Mumoni 
to Kibwezi, although the attacks of fever seem to be of a very 
mild character. The thin and somewhat worn appearance which 
so many of the natives have is no doubt due, to a great extent^ 
to malaria. The medicine for fever will be discussed p. 319. 

It is considered bad for sick people to drink cold water. As, 
however, they are often very thirsty, they are given a sort of 
gruel made of fresh milk or water and millet flour. It is drunk 
warm, considered very refreshing, and can be taken during any 

^ A wire around the head is sometimes used as a pure ornament. 
I have seen no evidence to support the statement of a German tra- 
veller who says that the wire used in this way severely deforms the 
skull and causes an elevation of the vertex. A. Kaiser, Die wirt- 
schaftl. Entwickelung der Ugandabahn-lander, Globus 1907, p. 53. 

314 Lindblom, The Akamba 

2. Medicines. 

a. External injuries. 

By far the greatest number of medicines are taken from the 
plant world, as the reader has already seen, and the word for 
'plant, tree', muh, also means 'medicine'. I give here, beneath 
the different illnesses for which they are used, the medicinal plants 
I got to know among the Akamba^. The collection, which, when 
nothing is said to the contrary, comes from Machakos and the 
places closest to it, should be pretty complete for this district. 

For fresh wounds: The milky sap of the plant tlumbu (Calo- 
tropis procera) is rubbed on the wound (Ikutha). A yellow lichen 
{wcemea wa Uuld) is crushed and placed on the wound, which is 
then covered with leaves and bandaged. Or the wound is washed 
with the juice of the roots and leaves of kiq^ crushed together 
with sweet potatoes. 

For burns: The brown »floss» from the spadices on the 
'hka'^ga (Typha sp.) is placed on the wound. The leaves of 
musu (Cajanus indicus) are chewed and the saliva is placed on the 
wound (cf further p. 124). Small children especially often get 
burned, as they easily fall in the fire when running around in 
the hut. 

For a sore in the mouth the leaves of the w/z/tf/o: (Spilan- 
thus) are chewed. 

For tumours {mwzmbu): In boils and tumours a hole is cut 
and the powdered leaves or roots of inutula wa aum9 (Jasminum) 
are sprinkled in the wound (Muutha, East Ukamba). 

For other swellings roots of kaGila wimbu (cf. mwimbu 
'tumour') are chewed and placed as a poultice on the swol- 
len place. Or else leaves of the tree mutanda-mbq are taken 

^ My ethno-botanical material from Ukamba, some hundreds of 
pressed plants, have been handed over to the botanical department of 
the Swedish State Museum. They are not yet defined, so that I cannot give 
the scientific names of the plants here. The names inserted have been 
kindly given by Prof. N. G. Lagerheim and Dr. H. Dahlstedt. Of about 
40 medicinal plants I have also gathered and dried a sufficient quantity 
or a chemical analysis, which has, however, not yet taken place. 

Medicine 315 

and put in a cloth bag which is placed near the fire. When it is 
well warmed, the bag is placed on the swelling (cf. our treat- 
ment with poultice). The long lianlike roots of mukaiau, a small 
tree, are crushed into a powder, which, mixed with fat or water, 
is rubbed on the swollen place. For swellings on the arms or legs 
they also use the sap found in the bark and inside the little tree 
'hlawa or mulawa (Corchoras). The bark is crushed and the sap 
{ilcenda) rubbed on the swelling. 

For wounds and tumours they often use, at least in Kitui, 
certain powdered minerals and also excrement of poultry. 

For hip-disease {}kikt) an incision is made in the hip and 
in the wound is strewn a powder made of an ostrich-leg^ and 
roots of mukawa and leaves of mutula. The same powder is 
also mixed in water, which is given to the patient to drink. They 
also use leaves and roots of the little tree inukce^gaka (Legumi- 
nosae sp.). 

Women who have pain in their nipples {nondd) drink a 
decoction of the base of the leaves of the wild banana (Musa Li- 

For itching they use kiu6z^ a tall Rumex, which grows on 
the banks of rivers. The sap in its thick roots is placed in water, 
which is rubbed on the itching place. 

For »pain in the ear» (in most cases probably due to in- 
flammation in the outer acoustic duct) they use the sap in the 
stalk of the kiwa kia ndud, an epiphytic orchid (Kibwezi). 

For eye-affections (without closer analysis) they use seve- 
ral plants. The leaves of the bush munapa are crushed and put 
on the affected eye. 

In the same way are used the leaves of the fern upiu and 
the leaves of the plant luta (with big lipshaped flowers), the sap 
of which is dropped into the eye. Finally the little tree kiOasxwggu 
is said to have a great power in stopping pain in the eyes. Its 
branches are put in water overnight and the following day they 
are used as tubes to blow their sap into the affected eye. 

To stopp pain in the eye they use the sap in the big 
potato-like tubers of the roots of the plant. 

^ Perhaps sympathetic magic? The ostrich has particularly strong 

3i6 Lindblom, The Akaraba 

b. Internal diseases. 

For headache: From the leaves of the bush muQea (Com- 
bretuni) a powder is prepared with which the forehead is rubbed. 
The Wasuaheli, who call the bush mkomango, rub the same 
powder on wounds. 

For heart-disease I have obtained only one remedy: a decoc- 
tion of the roots of the spiny mutumbu bush is drunk by the invalid. 

For illness in the liver {ttczma) the juice of the aloe is drunk. 
It is said to cause vomiting. Another method is to lick the arrow 

For illness in the »spleen» {ivasxun'ggu) they drink a decoc- 
tion of the herb ha mata, in Kibwezi a decoction of the leaves 
of the bush kUi^-ggu. They also use the roots of the herb mu- 
pdkcspd. It also appears that they make an incision in the spleen, 
and then strew powder of the first-named plant in the wound. 

The remedies for stomach affections seem most numerous 
of all, but in many cases I have been unable to get the character 
of the illness precisely described. For diarrhoea {ivitao), however, 
they use: kxQ (Verticillatae), the sap of the fleshy leaf of which is 
mixed with water and drunk; musoka, the sap of the leaf of 
which is used in the same way (Kitui); and mwtanzoii, the roots 
of which are made into a decoction and drunk. Bananas are also 
eaten for diarrhoea. 

For constipation: the bark of the Uula is crushed and added 
to water, which is then drunk; a decoction of the herb kalahu is 
drunk (when its leaves are chewed the saliva is coloured red). 

A person who has eaten too much chews the leaves of the 
spiny mupunh bush. 

Stomach-ache: The natives often have peculiar expressions 
for stomach-ache and other ailments of the stomach, such as 
»something is eating me inside» or »I have a snake in my sto- 
mach*. This way of speaking seems to have nothing to do with 
black magic, nor do the Akamba believe, contrary to numerous 
other tribes, in any sort of spirit, which is incarnated in the form 
of an animal and enters human bodies ^ But according to an old 
belief each person is created with a snake in his stomach, and 

^ Various proofs of this conception are given by M. Bart els in 
Die Medizin der Naturvolker, p. 2r. 

Medicine 317 

when one belches it is that which gives the sound within one. 
It is possible that tape-worms have given rise to this idea. The 
statement that I also had from the natives to the effect that when 
drinking water they sometimes get a sort of worm in the stomach, 
which can grow considerably afterwards, seems improbable. A 
decoction of the roots of 'hpcea utuka (Amaranthaceae) is drunk 
for »snake in the stomach», so that it should die. In Muutha 
(East Ukamba) they chew the leaves of the bush kasiOu (isz6u), 
which have a bitter taste, something like horse-radish. 

For »a sore in the stomach» they drink a decoction of the 
leaves of mutata (Spilanthus — cf. » mouth-sore », above). 

Finally the following plants are used for »pain in the sto- 
mach » without more precise definition: 

a decoction of the leaves of the bush mutula wa aumd (Jas- 
minum) is drunk and also rubbed outside the abdomen; a decoction 
of the leaves of hhima inata mamu, of the herb mulaQutta or of 
the little bush mzvqma is also drunk. The last-mentioned is also 
mixed with leaves of knilu and mudapa (Compositae). 

For fever {ndetcemd) I have found comparatively few reme- 
dies: a decoction of the leaves of the little tree fnukimcei is kept 
in a cool place and drunk early in the morning; it is said to 
produce vomiting. 

The clusters of flowers of the tall plant mwggaimu (Hyptis) 
are treated and used in the same way; likewise a decoction of 
the roots of the mupa'gganna bush. In Muutha they also used 
the roots of the inukumutd. This medicine, which is said to cause 
vomiting, is too strong for children. Finally they are also accust- 
omed in cases of fever to rub the body with a decoction of the 
leaves of the little tree mupa (Leguminosse). 

For a cough {ukoaY many plants are used: they smell the 
flowers of mumetu or mulama, chew the bark of the little muOwzia 
bush, the vanilla-scented roots of muQukulwa or roots of the herb 
mukcBma (Leguminosae). 

^ Hofmann has in his diclionar}'^ iikoa wa mbtia, which he trans- 
lates by 'asthma'. I do not try to explain the etymology of the Kamba 
names of sicknesses, but very probably they express something charac- 
teristic for an illness, the symptoms which are most striking to the 

3i8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Whooping-cough, according to the statement of Herr Sau- 
berlich, missionary in Mulango, is a not infrequent illness among 
children. In Ikutha it is said that as a remedy for it they shave 
the crown of the child's head, whereas in other cases, as we have 
seen, they prefer to let the hair grow during illness. 

For a cold the leaves of mukandu (Verticillatae) are stuffed 
in the nostrils. 

For hoarseness they chew the roots of the creeper mu6qlo 
(Sapindaceje) or those of kaOila wimbu. 

For shortness of breath (asthma?) a decoction of the leaves 
of mutanda-mbq is drunk. 

For catarrh of the throat the roots of 'iwa laka (Clema- 
tis sp.) are chewed. A remedy obtained from the animal world 
is mbwepxa, the nest (chrysalis.?) of a certain insect (built of slime). 
These are powdered and mixed in water and the patient has to 
drink this. 

For obstruction in the nose the root of the m^li^ inuku tree 
is burnt. The patient, whose head is covered with a blanket, in- 
hales the smoke through his nose. 

Finally there are a large number of plants, of which I have 
found no more precise indication of their use than that it was 
for »pain in the chest*. The roots of ktha mbiti (Jatropha sp.), 
which is considered so poisonous that many people will not even 
touch the plant with their hands, are powdered and mixed in the 
gruel which the patients drinks; it is also mixed with the pow- 
defed roots of imvokia (Plumbago), or these are chewed by them- 
selves. The roots of knia (Hypericum sp.) are also chewed (Ki- 
tui), similarly those of the little mukautvi tree. The batk of the 
k%sem(BX tree is chewed. Of the bark of the Uuasi tree is made 
a decoction which is drunk, similarly with the leaves of mutula 
{iidulu) and a hot decoction of the leaves (with a burning taste) 
of %6o6otwd (Capparis); a decoction of the seeds of the wild pepper- 
plant {mupuh); a decoction of the berries of wusua, a low, spiny 
Asparagus. In Muutha they eat the powdered roots of the niwala- 
ndapd tree, added to water or food. 

I do not know of any Kamba remedies for sexual diseases. 
They seem happily to be rare, and as far as I know the Kamba lan- 
guage has no expression for them (cf. the preceding chapter on 
maliWa). Syphilis occurs, however, in East Ukamba, and during 

Medicine 319 

my stay at the mission station at Mulango the natives often came 
there to seek a cure for it. 

For methods of abortion, which is now and then practised by 
young girls, see p. 38. 

To remedy a scarcity of milk in women who are suckling 
their children they use especially plants with a milky sap, some 
at least of which are certainly of an exclusively magic application, 
an instance of the old saying »like cures like». Thus they use 
the milky sap of the plants ktnosia ndcB'ggd, h'^cBndia ndcs'ggd (As- 
clepias) and muQtua tiia (iiia 'milk'). A decoction of kamweha 
(Croton?) is drunk hot. In addition they use the long root-stock, 
similar to horse-radish, of the plant iinuiha (Asclepias). As we 
shall see later, the same or similar plants are used for scarcity of 
milk in cows and goats. 

An illness, the character of which I could not understand, but 
which is said to be very severe and contagious and often causes 
rapid death, is k%qpi. It is said that the blood rushes out of the 
nose, mouth and even the ears of the patient. According to the 
statement of some people the illness is due to the heart {ggo} 
and the kidneys {mbid), according to others it feels like a »fire 
in the stomach ». It is stated that it can be cured. For it they 
drink a decoction of the leaves of kiG^u or of roots of muQinda- 
dindi or hhima (Aloe sp.). They also drink for this illness the 
blood of poultry and sheep or sheep's urine. 

So far we have abstained from putting the question : who 
are the doctors among the Akamba? To a great extent, of 
course, it is the medicine men, who besides their magic reme- 
dies al.'^o use real cures. But the art of healing is not a mono- 
poly of the medicine men, for besides them there is another class 
more worthy of the name of doctors, although even their know- 
ledge is, of course, mixed with magic and superstition. To this 
class belong those persons who have no kind of official position, 
but who have learnt to know and to use a quantity of medicinal 
plants. Just as in the preceding chapter we learnt of specialists 
in methods of purification so these men are easily specialists in 
one or other of some few illnesses. Such a person was, to take 
an example, Mbonge at Machakos, a middle-aged man. His special 

320 Lindblom, The Akamba 

ne was stomach ailments, for which he used partly powdered 
parts of plants, partly whole roots, which the sick people had to 
chew. One of his medicines consisted of powder made of the 
plants mwtmesia mupteti and wuOuaGui. 

About plants in magic and medicine see Chap. XVI: i (botany). 
An account of the remedies and medicines for diseases among 
cattle will be given in the chapter on the Akamba's domestic 

Chap. XVI. Natural history. 
I. Botany. 

If we consider what has already been said about the use of 
plants in magic and medicine, we have to acknowledge that the 
Akamba have names for and use a great number of plants, and 
consequently we can say with justice that they possess a certain 
botanical knowledge, based on the observation of surrounding 
nature possessed by a primitive people, which, even though some- 
times led astray by superstition, is on the whole extraordinarily 
quick. We shall deal later with the numerous plants that are 
used in practical life. 

Although the Akamba thus know a great quantity of plants, 
yet they are not infrequently uncertain about their names and 
they dispute between each other about these. To some extent 
this uncertainty is due to the fact that a certain plant sometimes 
has more than one name or is called differently in different parts 
of the country. 

In my linguistic material I shall discuss the meanings of the 
plant-names. They usually indicate some characteristic of the 
plant, or are based on its use, e. g. 

ip(ea utuku 'that which shines at night', a plant belonging 
to the Amarantacese family; its white flowers are visible in the dark. 

kaOila zvhtnbu {6ila 'to shut', wwibu 'swelling'). The roots, 
when chewed and laid on a swelling, stop it. 

The natives distinguish to a certain extent families and spec- 
ies, so that plants that even botanically ignorant Europeans would 
perhaps not recognize as species of the same family are given 
the same (family) name, e. g. : 

kiisOa, Loranthus sp. with yellow flowers. 

hisda k'ila mutuno 'the red kueQd, Loranthus with red flower. 

k'hluma. Aloe, k'bluma Ma kia zucbo 'the aloe of the plain' is a 
smaller species, growing out on the steppe. 

Arch Or. Lindblom 21 

322 Lindblom, The Akamba 

The part played by plants in magic. 

We have seen at various places in the preceding work that 
the vegetable kingdom plays an important part in the Kamba 
people's rites and magic. In many cases the explanation of this 
seems fairly obvious and is to be sought in, among other things, 
the striking appearance of a certain plant. This is the case, for 
instance, with the wild fig-tree with its imposing size and its 
magnificent green foliage; in addition it also contains milky sap. 
Other plants with a copious milky sap are favourite remedies 
for scarcity of milk in women and cattle (homeopathic magic). 
Occasionally the thing that determines the use of a plant is some 
small, quite unimportant detail, such as the black pupil-like spot 
on the Euphrasia, which has given rise to the well-known belief 
that these plants are good for the eyes. Or else the explanation 
is to be found in the appearance ef the plant, as, for instance, 
in the case of the Loranthus species mentioned below, which 
cannot fail to attract attention when they grow on a tree quite 
different in appearence from themselves. 

For these or similar reasons, which are, as a matter of fact, 
universal, the Akamba have chosen the plants they use in their 
magic. Unfortunately I have to content myself with giving the 
following plants without any explanation of the reasons why they 
are used. 

muOolo (Sapindaceae). The medicine men prepare from its 
leaves a decoction which they give to possessed people as a 
drink or with which they wash them. 

mutceQd (Sapindaceae). A person who has caught an illness 
through black magic on the part of an enemy takes a handful of 
Eleusine seeds and throws them three times against this tree (cf. 
p. 241). The roots of the same plant are made into a powder with 
which the sick person's hands and head are smeared. If a man 
loves a girl who prefers another, he takes a little bit of mutaOd- 
wood and carries it to a worker in magic, who treats the piece 
of wood with medicine. It is then placed at the entrance of the 
favoured rival's hut, who will then soon cease to care for the girl. 

wania seems to be a Cactus species, 0.5 — i dm. long, with 
star-shaped, brown, malodorous flowers. Together with other plants 
it is used in black magic to bewitch people. 

Natural history 323 

ntulmlamha or muliiamhla (Malvaceae). As we have already 
seen, this plant is used to make the stick with which the medicine 
man's music-bow is struck, and also for the miniature arrows used 
by the novices during the second circumcision. When the cattle 
will not eat, »but stand with their heads in the air» (are consti- 
pated?), the animals' bellies are struck with mulmlamb'ha-X.wigs. 

mukiilwa (Acalypha). Twigs of this little tree or bush are used, 
as we have already seen, to strike the hpttiu with when an oath is 
taken on this, and also in the construction of the above-mentioned 
miniature arrows. 

muOia wa nhi (mentioned on p. 266). If several babies die 
in a family, the parents naturally go to the medicine man to find 
out the reason. He perhaps says that it is due to the father of 
the child and gives him a decoction of this plant to drink. In 
the case of one person who was pointed out to me the medicine 
man shaved off all the hair round the private parts and then 
washed his penis with this decoction, declaring that »now the 
child would not die». If cattle have miscarriages (kuOuna), they 
too are given this » medicine » to drink. 

kiGoGotwd (Capparis). During protracted rain twigs of this bush 
are put in the fire to make the rain stop. 

kipa'gga imvcso, a creeper (Leguminosae). The red seeds 
with black spots are often used by the medicine men for making 
amulets, etc. 

kiOtlu. A species of the same genus as the preceding plant, 
and used in the same way. 

upuko is a plant with a little, light-blue corona. A man who 
wishes to gain a girl's love smears the plant with magic medi- 
cine {^nupcBo) and then stretches it out in the direction of the 
girl's village, probably uttering some sort of incantation. 

^gu^gu, the large, button-shaped, darkly veined seeds of the 
mukwggu tree, are worn as a sort of amulet, or rather medicine, for 
pain in the back. It is enough if a single seed is threaded on a 
string, which is fastened round the waist. 

hcsGa (Loranthus) is used by the medicine men in the pre- 
paration of love-medicine, especially in the magic remedies they 
prepare for the young men when they are about to ask for a 
girl in marriage. Parasites and such things, plants growing on 
other trees, are very much sought after by the medicine men. 

324 Lindblom, The Akamba 

mwat is a tree from the roots of which is prepared a pow- 
der which procures favour from women. 

mun}ii (UmbelHferae). One ought to avoid using this bush 
for fuel, as its smoke is considered injurious to the eyes. »The 
woman who comes home with munm wood gets beaten by her 
husband*, I was told. The smoke is also said to make mens' 
testes swell and to cause abortion in pregnant goats (small cattle 
are kept in the hut during the night). 

mukau. A tree with pinnate leaves, two-lobed folioles. Its 
wood may not be used for fires, for if the smoke gets into peop- 
le's eyes, they quarrel. Hunting parties, especially, avoid using 
this wood for their camp-fires. Muutha, Eastern Ukamba. 

kiOdi, a small thorny tree with very small white flowers. If 
it is used as fuel and the smoke gets into the eyes, they become 
diseased. Muutha. 

A considerable number of plants are used in purification 
ceremonies, and we add the following 'gondm-pXdLnts to the list 
already given (p. 296): 

mupttu (Leguminos3e). A bush from which in Kikumbuliu 
'gondia is made for sprinkling a newly-married wife, when she 
enters her husband's home for the first time. 

m.ukce'ggcBsia (Commelynaceae), a plant which puts out its yellow 
flowers at the beginning of the rainy season. A person who has eaten 
»bad food», for instance in a village before it has been purified after 
a death, rinses his or her mouth with -gondia made from this plant. 

inu^umba, a low bush with white flowers. 

ktnosha, »the plant that makes (people) fat»^. A person suff- 
ering from excessive thinness {umosu) and general debility is 
smeared with 'gondm made from the roots of this plant. 

^ua mbumbu (Phytolaceae). Is considered exceedingly pois- 
onous and is used by girls to procure abortion (p. 38). Some- 
times a native secretly gives twigs of it to his enemy's cattle. 
According to the natives it is only necessary for an animal to 
eat a single leaf of it to die. Perhaps this is a case of pure 
poisoning, but it is usually combined with magic elements as well, 
so that it may be more certain in its effect. 

^ kuttost, causat. form < kunoa 'to become fat'. 

Natural history 325 

2. Zoology. 

As is to be expected of a people who, even if they cannot 
be called a hunting people in the real sense of the term, are yet 
occupied a great deal in hunting, the Akamba show that they 
have a quick sense of observation for animal life and a good 
acquaintance with the habits of animals, especially in the case of 
such as can be hunted. But even quite insignificant animals, such 
as small insects, from which, at least as far as one can see, they 
get neither good nor harm, come within the scope of their ob- 
servation, and they have pondered over and tried to explain this 
and that, a distinguishing feature of a certain insect, often a little 
detail only perceived with difficulty. Their stories and riddles 
show this especially. It is true that these explanations of causes 
are really most often only humorous, but this does not, of course, 
take away from their character of being the result of a good po- 
wer of observation. 

I shall publish my collection of animal names, like that of 
plant names, in connection with the result of my linguistic in- 
vestigations. I may just briefly mention here that many names 
of wild animals denote some characteristic, at least according to 
the natives' opinion, of the animal. Examples of this are given 
below; thus we have the names of the gerenuk (Lithocranius), the 
little rat kaihua ni nzta and the snake kuenda ndceto. Other names 
are purely onomatopoetic, as ?g^ 'donkey', kaman 'kind of wild 
cat', ^mci 'sheep' (a word sometimes used by women; otherwise 
'sheep' is %londiu), ktkwad 'francolin' (its cry is kwarre, kwarre). 

Some indications may be given of the way in which families 
and species are distinguished. 

All fishes, as far as 1 know, have the same name (tkuiu), 
which is perhaps due to the fact that the Akamba do not catch 
fish, as they do not eat it. The country is also poor in rivers 
with fish in them. 

Butterflies are all called kimbalutwa, whatever kind they may 
be. On the other hand, the natives distinguish between hairy and 
smooth caterpillars {xamu and kmxu respectively). 

A great many beetles are all called h^olondo, but there 
are also some with special names. 

On the other hand one may also say that to a certain extent 

326 Lindblom, The Akamba 

there are names for different species. A dove is called lOui. %6m 
ia k'h'gguhi is a small turtledove. 'h6u\ m mbaxki is a larger species 
of turtledove ('the %6ui of the Rhicinus seeds'), which is also called 
la 'gguku (black biting ants) or i6m ta 'ggomoa (the i6ux of the 
fruits of the mukumoa tree). These names are clearly from the prin- 
cipal food of the bird. Other doves, on the other hand, are distingu- 
ished by their cry, such as the little ndumbu (its cry is /«, tu). 

I have noted seven different kinds of lizards with different 
names, five kinds of locusts and in addition a special name 
{mbandi) for locusts in the hopper stage, and five kinds of ants. 

We now proceed to describe the Akambas' ideas about 
various kinds of animals, in which, however, it has been very diffi- 
cult to separate that which deserves the name of >zoology», and 
so I have included a certain number of superstitious conceptions 
in this description. 

The lion, the Akamba think, does not eat liver, but always 
leaves it untouched, when it has killed an animal. Most old debili- 
tated lions end their life by being killed and eaten by hyenas, 
who do not hesitate to attack a decrepit lion, when they are in 
a party of several. 

The hyena is a hermaphrodite, an idea that Hollis found 
among the Nilotic Nandi east of Lake Victoria^. The great famine 
in East Africa at the end of the decade of 1890, when the nat- 
ives died in great numbers, was a golden age for the hyenas, 
and they were at that time especially numerous and bold. Thus 
by means of throwing a corpse they were able to bring down 
a person who had tried to save himself by climbing up a tree 
several metres above the ground (!). The Akamba detest the 
hyena more than other animals, probably because it eats their 
dead bodies, and many cannot be made to touch a dead hyena, 
so that it is exceedingly difficult, not to say impossible, to get 
them to skin one. Other East African tribes, such as the Nandi, 
on the other hand, show a certain respect for the hyena, and 
among the Masai it is considered as a sign from the Ngai that a 
dead person has been good, if his body, when placed out, is 
eatefn the very first night by the hyenas^. The Wanyika even 

^ A. E. Hollis, The Nandi, their Language and Folklore, p. 7. 
^ Merker, Die Masai, p. 201. 

Natural history 327 

have a veritable hyena worship. In the Akambas' folklore the 
hyena plays an important part, appearing in it as the personifica- 
tion of foolishness. Its voracity is also ridiculed and often ca- 

The h'gala-'gala or kikoio is a large beast of prey, » something 
between a lion and a leopard ». No one I have met seems to 
have any more exact idea about the animal. 

A more mysterious animal is "ggikwa, which is said to be 
» spotted like a leopard » and to have »a tail and a head like a 
jackal, although it is somewhat larger than the latter*. It lives among 
reeds and thickets along the rivers and is only dangerous to wo- 
men, as it sometimes steals into the villages and kills some of 
them in order to have coitus with them and to suck the victim's 
blood. After this is done its strews sand in the women's mouth 
and genitals. Goats are also said to be treated in the same way. 

The two last-named animals give me an opportunity to add 
that there is much to indicate that there are mammals still un- 
known, and even considerably large ones, in East Africa. Mr 
Hobley has collected a number of statements of trustworthy per- 
sons concerning such animals, and some of these stories are exceed- 
ingly interesting, as, among other things, they include such sen- 
sational possibilities as the existence of a new anthropoid ape in 
the bush along the Tana River and a kind of great lake animal 
in Lake Victoria and the rivers flowing into it^. 

It is thought that the elephant cannot die a natural death, a 
belief that has quite certainly arisen from the length of its life 
as shown by practical experience. It is also one of the wisest of 
all animals. When an elephant has been stung by bees, it returns 
at night to be avenged, pulls down the beehive and buries it in 
the earth. Many native elephant hunters, who have had to seek 
refuge in a porcupine hole or some other cavity in the ground, 
are said to have been killed by the pursuing elephant having 
seized with his trunk a long stick and tried to kill the hunter 
by thrusting it into the hole, then filling the latter with earth. 

The elephant often appears in stories, but here, curiously 
enough, it does not maintain its reputation for wisdom but is 
often beaten by small and weak opponents. This is perhaps due 

^ C. V. Hobley, On some unidentified beasts. The Journal of 
the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society, vol. Ill, p. 48. 

328 Lindblom, The Akamba 

to the tendency of the natives to let the weaker parties in the 
story generally come off with the victory, usually by means of 
trickery and shrewdness. 

The gerenuk (Lithocranius) is called kawila ima by the 
Akamba, which means 'the little giraffe that eats the fruit of the 
mwq tree' (the vtwa is a species of acacia 0. When it is followed 
by beasts of prey it is said to climb up into a bush or a tree to 
escape its pursuers, a belief that is naturally derived from the 
fact that the gerenuk sometimes sets up on its hind legs in order 
to get at high berries or leaves. 

Baboons are cordially hated by the natives because of the 
harm they do in the fields. These monkeys are so alert and 
cunning that it is not so easy to surprise them, and the killing 
of a baboon is therefore a happy event for the negro. In one 
case they have to be careful not to shoot them, however favour- 
able an opportunity may present itself, and that is when they are 
out hunting. For a person who shoots a baboon may be pretty 
sure that he will not succeed in shooting any other animal that 
day. Elephants hunters like the Akamba especially are naturally 
disposed not to spoil their luck in hunting, when it is a question 
of big game. Professor E. Lonnberg made the same observations 
during his East African expedition.^ 

The natives state that on occasion the baboons carry of ba- 
bies. When the women work in the fields, they usually put their 
babies aside under a shady tree so as to be more free. Various 
children are said to have been stolen by baboons under such 
circumstances and have disappeared for ever. Some of them are 
said to grow up among the monkeys, live their lives and propa- 
gate among them. I have not come across among the Akamba the 
rather obvious and frequently encountered idea (found, for instance, 
among the Wadjagga) that the baboons are human beings that 
have grown wild and degenerated. 

There are several sorts of hares in these parts, but the nat- 

^ I have had occasion to see gerenuks in »the bush» west of 
Tana, which involuntarily made one think of giraffes. Cf. E. L6nnberg, 
Mammals collected by the Swedish Zoological Expedition to British East 
Africa 191 1. Sv. Vet.-Akad. Handl. 48: 5, Stockholm 1912, p. 172. 

^ E. Lfinnberg, N&gra exempel frin Ost-Afrika p& overtro ro- 
rande djur. Fataburen 191 1, p. 245. 

Natural histoiy 329 

ives call them all by a common name. The Akamba say that when 
the cattle are out grazing the hares often come up quietly and 
steal the cows' milk away; i. e. suck them, an idea that is found 
among various other African tribes. All over the world the hare 
is an important animal in belief and practice and the negroes con- 
sider him to be the most cunning of all animals. In the animal 
fables of the Bantu peoples he is most frequently the principal 
character, corresponding to the jackal among the Hottentots, or, 
to take an example nearer home, Reineke Fuchs in the German 
animal stories, Reynard the Fox with the English. As has already 
been mentioned, the hyena is opposed to the hare in the animal 
stories as the representative of folly, and it is outrageously cheated 
by the hare into committing a multitude of follies. Why the hare 
should be considered as so specially intelligent, seems inexplicable 
to me. The well-known and now deceased Bishop Steere of Zan- 
zibar questioned his Wasuaheli friends about this, and obtained 
the answer: »Just look at the hare: his mouth is continually 
moving, as if he had something to say about everything*^. 

When walking along the paths in the Kamba country, one 
cannot avoid seeing every now and then a little rat dart a good 
bit in front of one on the road. The rat is called by the natives 
katlwa m nz^a, literally 'the little one that is sent back by the 
road'. For it is said that this creature never crosses a road; if 
it were to do so, it would certainly die. 

Certain birds of prey — I have forgotten which — are said 
to be very keen on ostrich eggs. But as they are often unable 
to peck a hole in them with their bills, they take stones in their 
claws and let them drop down on the eggs, thus cracking them. 

Some more birds that are the subjects of superstition may be 
mentioned here. Many of the Akamba will not kill the 'hluvn, a 
big hornbill, black with white on the wings and a red hanging 
piece of flesh beneath its beak. In Taveta at the foot of Kili- 
mandjaro I have seen this bird walking fearlessly on the ground 
in the immediate neighbourhood of human beings, as the Wataweta 
universally consider it disastrous to kill it. There is no doubt 
that this security is due to the birds peculiar cry, a soft, hollow 
htn, hm. The Akamba call him tlumi 'he who yells'. 

^ E. Steere, Suaheli Tales, London 1891 (Preface). 

33° Lindblom, The Akamba 

^gund, the shadow stork (Scopus umbretta) is a brown bird 
of medium size, which builds an enormous nest in trees. It is 
not killed, they will not even dare to climb up the tree where it 
has built. If one does so, one gets the illness called musa/y, 
which consists of sores breaking out on the body, round the mouth, 
on the feet, etc. Another bird that is not killed is the ndicsx, the ox- 
pecker (Buphaga), which takes ticks from the cattle and is considered 
to be very useful. When the cattle go astray, one hears its cry, 
tjwi, tjwi, and then it is only necessary to follow this. The Akamba 
often put milk and fat out for these birds, and if they succeed 
in catching any in their nests, they give them food, and fasten 
a red ribbon round their legs and then let them go. The bird 
is said to bring wealth, if it is well treated; on the other hand 
anyone who kills it becomes a poor man. 

Many of the Akamba believe that the python {^tq) breeds all 
reptiles. When they are very small all the young ones look the 
same, and their mother keeps them in the same place. When they 
have grown a little, she steals away and then creeps along un- 
perceived and starts buzzing. Most of the young ones are then 
afraid and run away, a few, perhaps only one or two, are braver 
and remain. These few then grew up into pythons, while the 
rest have to be content to be smaller snakes, lizards, etc. 

The swmeluha is a snake that is often met with near Kamba 
villages. It is also called k'hcenda ndceto 'he who likes words', 
because it is said to creep along to the huts to listen to what 
people are saying, a belief that has presumably arisen from the 
fact that this snake is usually found in the proximity of the huts. 
It is said to be harmless; if it bites anyone, it is due to magic. 

A very big snake, said to be bigger than the python, is the 
'iajpa. I have not obtained any description of its appearance; it 
is possibly quite a mythical animal. But it is not improbable 
that it is only a case of an unusually big python, especially as 
the estimate of a snake's length is, of course, always exaggerated. 

Another common smaller species of snake is the '^guluku, 
0.6 metre long, with dark and grey stripes running along the back, 
a narrow rusty brown stripe on one side and a yellowish-white 
belly. It is said to gather together small stones or the yellow 
globular fruit {^gondiu) of a previously-mentioned Solanum species 
{kikondui) and then watch over these treasure suspiciously. He who 

Natural history 331 

finds them and succeeds in getting possession of them will be a 
rich man. This is, however, a risky undertaking, as the snake- 
owner will untiringly pursue the thief to kill him, »though he go 
as far as Mombasa » ^. 

This refers, presumably, to the snake's eggs, although it 
seems improbable that such a small species of snake should have 
such large eggs. The eminent authority on the Wadjagga, the 
missionary Gutmann, relates exactly the same conception among 
them, but in this case it is the python that is referred to, which seems 
a good deal more probable. B. says: Wie ein spielendes kind 
sammelt sie (the python) die gelben pflaumengrossen friichte eines 
nachtschattengewachses. Das sind ihre kiihe, die sie eifersiichtig 
bewacht. Gelingt es aber in einem unbewachten augenblick eine 
der friichte zu stehlen, so wird man ein besitzer grosser herden 
werden». B. then adds very rightly that this is a false concep- 
tion of the correctly observed fact that the python hatches its eggs 
by means of the warmth of its own body and at the approach 
of a human being is terrified for the safety of its progeny^. 

The kipz is a dark grey blindworm, 25 — 30 cm. long, in which, 
as in all Typhlops species, it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish 
between head and tail. The Akamba think that the snake has 
two heads. Gutmann states the same about the Wadjagga, adding 
that this belief appears to be spread over the whole of East Africa^. 
According to Brehm the natives of the west coast of Africa and 
of India, and also many European colonists in these places, believe 
that the snake really has two heads*. 

The chameleon is believed to creep on to guinea-hens and 
other birds and thrust its long tongue round the bird's neck. No 
matter how it runs or flies, the chameleon holds fast, until the 
bird dies of hunger. He then waits near by until flies come and 
worms are formed. These are what he wants and so he kills the 
bird. The chameleon is shunned and hated among most of the 
Bantu peoples, and they kill him by putting snufl" in his mouth. 

^ Paulitschke (Ethnographie Nordostafrikas II, p. 27) mentions 
a similar belief from the SomaHs. 

- B. Gutmann, Dichten und Denken der Dschagga-neger, p. 39. 

^ B. Gutmann, Die Fabelwesen in den Marchen der Wadschagga. 
Globus 1907, p. 243. 

* Brehm, Tierleben (1913) 5, p. 263. 

332 Lindblom, The Akamba 

The reason for this cruel treatment is the previously described^ 
well-known and widespread myth about the origin of death among 
the children of men (p. 253). 

As fish are considered to be closely related to snakes, the 
Akamba, like so many other Bantu peoples, do not eat fish. I 
remember very vividly a day when for once in a way I had 
succeeded in catching some small fish. I and one of my servants^ 
who had for a long time worked for Europeans and in this way 
become accustomed to eat fish, were just about to have a proper 
meal, when the man's wife came to see him. She had a good hours 
walk to my camp, and had not seen her husband for over a week. 
When she saw what he had in front of him she was so indignant 
that she at once turned back without as much as aword to him. 

It has already been shown that the Akamba do not eat fish, 
because fish »are related to snakes*. They do not care to eat 
porcupines or tortoises either. As is to be expected of a hunting 
people, the Akamba eat, apart from these, almost all wild ani- 
mals, contrary to their neighbours in the west and south-west, 
the Akikuyu and Masai, who only in extreme need can be made 
to eat game. A person who does so is considered inferior. I 
remember a march out in »the bush», miles from the nearest 
native village. The provisions we had taken with us were nearly 
finished, and we had to maintain ourselves principally by hunting. 
Among the bearers there was also a Kikuyu, who for as long as 
possible avoided eating the game that was shot and consequently 
went half hungry for several days. At last he could hold out no 
longer, but, excusing himself on the ground that he was far away 
from his own country, away from all honour and honesty, he eat 
heartily of an Oryx antelope that had been shot. 

Various animals, according to the Akambas' opinion, have 
the effect on arrow poison that if one shoots one of them, the 
poison loses all effect on other kinds of animals. As animals in 
this category I have noted Coke's hartebeest, the duiker (Cepha- 
lophus), the mole and the barn-door fowl. 

Hunters have in addition a great many things to observe, 
especially regarding big game, elephants, rhinoceroses, etc.^ 

^ See the account of »the magic power of names* on p. 258. 

Natural history 333 

As soon as an elephant is killed the oldest and most experien- 
■ced hunter runs forward and with his knife cuts off the end of 
the trunk, which he runs off with and hides in the bushes, so 
that the youngest members of the hunting party, who are on their 
first elephant hunt, shall not se it. I have myself had an oppor- 
tunity of verifying this. A similar practice seems to be common 
— or has been common — among many Bantu tribes, such as 
the Wakami and the Amaxosa, both of which bury the trunk of 
the elephant when they are out hunting^. The real motive of 
this is not known to me, but it is quite clearly connected with 
the remarkable qualities of the trunk — the elephant's hand, as 
the Wadjagga call it — as a prehensile organ. When a female 
elephant was shot it was an old custom to cut off its dugs and 
hide them. It is said that they resemble the breasts of a woman; 
this is said to be specially the case if the female elephants has 
suckling young ones. Many people had such an aversion to the 
sight of the dugs that they would not partake of the animal if 
they had seen them. 

Finally I may remind the reader of the ideas about animals 
that have been described earlier on in the chapter on totemism, 
religion and magic. 

^ Kay, Travels and Researches in Caffraria, p. 138. 

Chap. XVII. Cosmology. 
I. Meteorology. 

Hail {ma6ia 'stones') is considered to be a favourable sign^ 
denoting a good harvest. According to Hobley (Akamba, p. 54), 
on the other hand, »it is said to be a sign of shortness of rainfall*. 
Clouds (matu) and fog {mumbi) are smoke from the fire of 
the Creator {mumbi, p. 244). According to another view it is the 
smoke from the huts of mankind. » Cannot everyone see how the 
smoke rises up in the air in still weather ?» To what extent the 
natives themselves believe in this and other explanations I must 
leave unsaid. In many cases one might compare them with, for 
instance, our talk of »the man in the moon». At the sight of a 
cloudless sky they are sometimes accustomed to say jokingly that 
>the newly-married wife had swept well», a -way of speaking that 
is based on the custom (see p. "]€) of a newly-married young wife 
getting up early on the first morning in her new home and sweep- 
ing the hut. 

The rainbow {utapt), lightning {uttsiY and thunder 
{kitandahlci or, when distant, kttundumu) are considered to have 
no special meaning, nundu wa mbua, » these phenomena are con- 
nected with rain», they say. When the thunder rumbles at a 
distance they sometimes say: »X:s father is beating a skin», a 
humorous comparison with a man preparing a goatskin so as to 
make it into a dress for his wife. The rain is sent by Ngai 
(mumbi), who leads it out through a mutau, a dug-out channel 
such as the Akamba use for the irrigation of the fields. When 
Ngai stops this up, the dry season (J^anu) comes. In joking speech 
I have heard the rain called mwana i_ma wa mumbi 'the sister 
of the fog' I 

^ < tisa = I. to become visible (of the moon), 2. to lighten. 
^ The conception of the rainbow is given in chap. XIV, p. 274. 

Cosmology 335 

Those persons I asked did not know of any case, or were 
not aware how people would act if anyone were struck by light- 
ning. They were sceptical with regard to Hobley's statement 
(Akamba, p. 55) that »if anyone is killed by lightning no one will 
touch or move the body; the people say the person is killed by 
God. If anyone does touch a person killed by lightning he or 
she will also be struck*. 

2. Astronomy. 

The stars are called ndata, which also (if it is really the 
same word) means a stave, stick, often of the club-like type that 
the young men are accustomed to carry in their hands when they 
stroll about. Rev. W. E. Taylor in his Giryama Vocabulary gives 
ndata 'a walking stick' as a Giriama name for the evening and 
morning star, while »star» in general is called nyenyezi^. 

The Akamba call the evening star 'ggcemandi (probably a 
causative of kcena- 'to become visible' and ndi 'earth'). I have 
not been able to ascertain the name of the morning star, but, 
according to Hobley, it is called kithioi. It is thus certain that 
the Akamba, like other Bantu peoples, do not know that these 
two are one and the same planet. 

Comets are also called ndata. They are omens of misfor- 
tunes, war, famine, rinderpest and other diseases. An expression I 
have noted, ndata la ktsipd 'the star with the tail', doubtlessly 
refers to some cornet^. The natives tell of a comet, ndata la wa 
'the star of famine', that appeared about 25 years ago (1888?). 
This is probably identical with the one Merker talks of, namely 
a clearly shining comet in the eighties which was soon followed 
by severe epidemics among the cattle, rinderpest and lung diseases^. 

Falls of aerolites (also shooting stars?) are omens of disease 
and epidemics. A place in which it is supposed that parts of a 
meteor have fallen down is sprinkled by the atufma with -gondui. 
from a goat that is taken to the place and killed there. In the 

^ See A. Werner, Note on Bantu Star-Names, Man 1912, p. 195. 
W. gives and discusses the names of the stars among some tribes in 
South and East Africa. 

* The Bathonga call a comet »the star with the tail» {nyeleti ya 
nkila). Junod, The Life of a South African Tribe II, p. 287. 

^ M. Merker, Die Masai, p. 206. 

336 Lindblom, The Akamba 

northern part of Ulu the purifying fluid is also sprinkled in rivers, so 
that people should not be affected injuriously when they drink the water. 

Earthquakes appear to be rare in these parts, and I have 
not heard any mention of such things in Ukamba or got any name 
for them. Hobley calls them Engai (Ngai) and S. Watt in his 
Vocabulary of the Kikamba Language — apparently a constructed 
vocabulary to a great extent — »the trembling of the earth* 
{utetiBmo iva ndi) ^. 

I may be allowed here to mention in parenthesis the only in- 
formation T gathered about the Akamba's »geology», namely about 
the mountain crystal that is sometimes found among the quartz. They 
call it madia ma ndata 'stones from the stars', and believe that 
it has fallen down from heaven. The Akamba told the German 
missionary Gerhold that mica, which is fond in abundance here and 
there, is »pieces of God's clothing and falls down with the thunder*^. 

Sun i^snid) and moon {mtvcBTt). According to legends the sun 
and the moon were originally brothers, and the moon was the 
more important of the two and shone more brightly. But because 
of disobedience and a consequent curse of its parents it had to 
give up its position and with it its more brilliant light to its 
younger brother. The detailed account of how this took place will 
be given by me in a special work on the Akambas' folklore. 
The same story is found as far west as among the Pangwe people 
in the Cameroons*. 

When the sun goes down {sxua lafioa) they say jokingly that 
it is going home to the village to eat supper. 

Eclipse {siua mpotd mupcgmaY. They remember an eclipse, 
apparently from the end of the nineties, when a voice was heard 

^ According to Mr Hofmann, however, earthquakes are not un- 
common in conjunction with subterranean noise. He experienced one 
of these (Evangelisch-Lutherisches Missionsblatt, p. 195) on Boxing Day, 
1897, when the natives said: »It is Chumbe» (a spirit hill south-west 
of Kibwezi). In »Geburt, Heirat und Tod» (p. 24) he also says that 
when such subterranean rumbling took place the Akamba used to saj': 
»Now the dead are allowed to go in to God». 

* H. Gerhold, Wandertage in Nordost-Ukamba, p. 11. 

^ L. Frobenius, Der Ursprung der Afrikanischen Kulturen. 

* Owing to some misunderstanding Hobley (p. 55) calls an eclipse 
Mumbi. Probably he had been told by the natives that it was the 
work of mumbt (the Creator). 

Cosmology 337 

to call from the sky: » Leave your huts and gather together with 
all the cattle at the porno !•» Every father of a family then killed a goat 
and sprinkled his household and his cattle with 'gondm. After this 
eclipse came smallpox (ndugn), rinderpest, the formerly mentioned 
tumour-like epidemic mzvimu (= rinderpest?), which attacked wild 
animals such as buffaloes and hartebeests, and a disease not 
known to me called loa}a. 

While the moon is »in the desert*, i. e. during the two (three) 
days the moon is invisible, it is no use going out hunting, as 
one cannot then succeed in killing any game. A man called 
Kasong'a at Machakos was born during this period and some 
people say that because of this he is successful in hunting during 
this time, while others, on the other hand, deny this exception 
to the usual rule. 

At the first glimpse of the new moon's fine sickle in the 
west they say that the moon is »visible to the horns of the cattle*. 
This expression is somewhat obscure, but it is perhaps not in- 
correct to connect it with the old worship of the moon. In Western 
Asia and Europe people sacrificed cattle to the moon in former 
times. Cattle were thought to be a representation of the moon 
because of their horns ^. 

A lunar halo is called kiduio, which really means » threshing 
place », the hard, dry ground where the women thresh millet (< 6ua 
'to beat, thresh'). 

At Kibwezi they spoke of the moon's sex and apparently of 
various moons, namely a male one (called ndamba 'male') and a 
female one {muka 'woman'), but I did not succeed in getting a 
more detailed explanation of this way of speaking. A male moon 
was said, however, not to give rain *. On a calabash shell that I 

^ E. Hahn, Von der Hacke zum Pflug, p. 61. E. Hahn, De- 
meter und Baubo, p. 23 ff. 

^ This distinction between a male and female moon reminds one 
rather naturally of the moon-goddess of Babylonian mythology, Istar, 
who had by her side the male moon-god Sin. Just as Istar alone was 
the symbol of fertility, so, according to the Akamba's belief, the male 
moon cannot bring the life-giving rain. The connection of the moon 
with cattle by the Akamba also makes us think of the Babylonians. It 
is too risky to draw any conclusions from these interesting analogies, 
but they are worth pointing out in case anyone should feel disposed 
to investigate the matter further. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 22 

338 Lindblom, The Akamba 

obtained from a medicine man, who used it for beer-drinking, these 
two moons are carved (fig. 63). According to the medicine man's 
statement the straight stroke (a) represents the path of the moon, 
the three points along it (b) are stars; c is the moon in an 
earHer phase, d is the full moon and e a big star (the evening 
star ?). 

Fig. 63. Natural size. 

3. Determination of time. 

By day the time is determined with great care and accuracy 
from the position of the sun. During the night they listen espe- 
cially to the cry of the cricket (gg'zh), and when it grows silent 
they know that the morning is near. Those who are going on 
a journey then get up. 

»/g mtvaka is a Crinum sp. with splendid red flowers. The 
name, which means »he who calls on the year (the rainy season) », 
has been given to the plant because, when its flowers develop, 
they know that the dry season is coming to its end and that the 
longed-for rain is near. 

There is a method of using the direction of the sun at differ- 
ent periods of the year to calculate the arrival of the rainy season 
and the seasons in general. By drawing directing lines over 
isolated trees or some similar objects from a place with a some- 
what open view, for instance a level piece of ground on a farm, 
one finds roughly the place for the sun's farthest advance in 
the north, and similarly the point to which it goes in the south. 
A number of intermediate points are also fixed, especially the 
place where the sun is when the rainy season normally begins. 
Such a place of observation is called k'isxcBS\o kxa sma 'the place 
where one often looks at the sun'^. 

When it is necessary to determine a point of time for some- 
thing that happened in rather distant past time, remarkable events 
serve as a help to the memory and as a point of departure for 

^ < kusuesia, an iterative form of kustsm 'to look'. 

Cosmology 339 

calculating time. Such events are, above all, the famines that time and 
again have visited East Africa on account of continual drought. 
In Ikutha I have noted from native tradition a number of such 
famines, each of which has its special name, and I have attempted 
to fix the times when they occurred. 

>oa xa malakwd (Kisuaheli maharagwe^ beans of Phaseolus 
vulgaris, which is otherwise called by the Akamba mbqsd): a 
famine in East Ukamba 1908 — 09, during which the chief food 
consisted of these beans, which were got from the better watered 
Ulu and also from the Kikuyu country. 

Xoa ya mu6ugga 'the famine of the rice', the great and long 
famine of 1898 — 99, which visited a large part of East Africa. 
There was little to eat except the rice which was distributed by 
the missionaries and the government. It is also called J^z^i }a 
'ggah 'the famine of the waggon', because of the building of the 
Uganda railway, which was considered to be the cause of the 
absence of rain. 

xoa x^ ndata 'the famine of the star': this famine, which 
has been mentioned before, probably occurred in 1888 at the same 
time as a comet appeared. 

xoa x^ 'ggiBtisld (< k(Sta or kcstcsla 'to bleed cattle'): the 
year is unknown. In order to supply the deficiency of food the 
cattle were bled. 

xoa x<^ US^^^ (*^ ?^^ '^*^ bind'): year uncertain. Many people 
went to remote districts to look for food, but when they returned 
with their burdens, it is said that they were attacked and bound 
in their weak state, and then the food was taken away from them. 

xoa *« kxasa: year uncertain. An exceptionally long period 
of drought during which rain clouds repeatedly accumulated only 
to disappear again. 

wa J(e/«^^z (< Iwggila 'to increase'): year uncertain. First 
there was a smaller famine, during which they eat up all accessible 
supplies in the expectation of having the next harvest. Instead 
of this there came a still more severe and lasting famine. 

xoa *tf J/a 'the famine of the python', probably about the 
year 1850, as several men of between 40 and 50 said that their 
fathers were children at the time. Pythons were said to be un- 
usually numerous and came up to the villages, so that the people 
said that they were the cause of the famine. 

34° Lindblom, The Akamba 

ioa xa kudthla mbua (see p. 1 1), the great famine in the 

4- Seasons and months. 

The year is called mwaka, which really, however, means only 
»raintime», of which there are as a matter of fact two in the year. 
The great rains (March — June), usually expected at the end of March 
but often delayed, are called mbua xa uwa. The smaller rainy 
season (Nov. — Dec.) is called mbua xandoa. July — August is a 
dry season, not hot but cool and cloudy. Thick, heavy fogs 
cover the valleys in the mornings or hover round the heights; 
the sun is hidden by clouds. This time is called nundu. The 
really hot time, ^ano, begins later, in September. 

The days of the week have no name among the Akamba 
nor among the Akikuyu, though they have, on the other hand, 
among the Wadjagga. » Month* and »moon» have the same ap- 
pellation, mwcBX' So also among the Akikuyu and the Wadjagga 
{mweri and mwei'i respectively). Of the different names for the 
months and their sequence — I have taken notes about them from 
Machakos in the west and from Muutha in the east — I have not 
succeeded in getting a quite clear idea. It looks as if the use of 
the names of the months was dying out. As far as their signi- 
ficance is concerned a great many of them are merely numbers. 

The names of the months in Muutha are: 
i) pdndatu (6), said to be the first month of the year. 

2) mwonza (7) 

3) nxanxa (8) 

4) kcenda (9) 

5) 'hkumt (10) 

6) muOm 'the hot one' (October). The rain begins at the end 
of the month. 

7) kalq (= mwq). The fields are dug and sown. 

8) wima (< ima 'to dig'). The fields are cleared from weeds, 

9) mwanza 

10) No special name (= o'ggonono in Machakos?). 

11) » > » (= wakatqno-i> > ?). 

The names of the months in Machakos are the same as in 
Muutha, though the order is different. Here they apparently begin 

Cosmology 341 

the year with mwa, the month when work on the fields begins, 
so that they shall have time to get them ready before the arrival 
of the rainy season. The year is thus made to begin with the 
moment that introduces the agricultural period which is so im- 
portant for the people's existence. At least in Ulu they always 
begin to reckon the months with mwa\ 
i) mwa. During mwa the fields are dug. 

2) wimq (< ima ('to dig'). During w^ma the fields are got defini- 
tely ready and sown before the arrival of the rain. 

3) umau or tnwansa 

4) wa katano (the 5^^) 

5) » pandato (the G-^) 

6) » mzvon-a (the 7*^) 

7) » nuima (the 8'*') 

8) wa k(Bnda (the 9*^) 

9) » -hkumt (the 10'^) 

10) -» mu^u ('the hot one'). During mu6iu they begin to clear 
the fields (kukupa). All dry remains of growth are collected 
in heaps and burned. Fires are seen everywhere, a fine sight 
after dark. The women are busily employed and go to work 
early in the morning. Men also take part in the work. 

11) o^gonono, which I do not know where to place. It is said to 
be a »bad month ». Without being actually ill, one never feels 
quite well during it. 

In this way the month which is called the fifth {^wa katano) 
is the fourth in order. This inconsistency disappears if one thinks of 
the year beginning with muOm, during which commences the work 
on the fields, of which the work during mwa is only a continuation. 
The primitive starting-point for reckoning the months has perhaps 
been continually pushed forward, as B. Gutmann has shown was 
the case among the Wadjagga^, the character of whose year he 
holds to be a pure lunar year, the beginning of which is continu- 
ally getting later. In this way, just as in the Arabic reckoning 
of time, the same month gradually comes to fall in different 

Finally a third version gives the following names of the 

^ B. Gutmann, Die Zeitrechnung bei den Wadschagga, Globus 
1908, p. 238. 

342 Lindblom, The Akamba 

months : Mwa or ka/a, unma, mtoiu, tulha, wi'^gononoy pqnu wa mdfc 
'the first dry reason'), wa muonza, wa nianfa, wa tkumi, muOxu. 
We have only got eleven months. The Akikuyu have 12 
and the Wadjagga 12 (or 13). The names of the months in Ki- 
djagga are also to a great extent ordinal numbers, while the Ki- 
kuyu names, given by Dundas, show no similarity to the Kamba 
names ^. 

^ K. R. Dundas, Kikuyu Calendar, Man 1909, p. 37. 

Chapter XVIII. Geographical ideas and conceptions 
of other peoples. 

We have already seen in Chapter I that the Akamba, through 
their trade and hunting expeditions, have obtained a by no means 
inconsiderable knowledge of large parts of English and German 
East Africa and the peoples that live there. To the details al- 
ready given about the extent of these excursions we may add 
here that in 1895, up at Kenia, Dr. G. Kolb came across a band 
of Akamba with slaves, and the latter told him that they had 
been taken away by the Akamba from their homes in Marsabit, 
on the east side of Lake Rudolph^. But even if, theoretically, 
such knowledge was disseminated by the accounts of those who 
returned home, these could, of course, only reach a small number 
of the people; and women and children especially, who always 
stayed at home, must formerly have had the same slight know- 
ledge of geography that they now show, while the men, on the 
other hand, in many cases had a wider knowledge at the time when 
the >pax Brittanica» did not hinder their expeditions. Nowadays, 
on the other hand, many young Kamba men, who work in the 
service of Europeans, go to districts far from their homes, to 
Lake Victoria and other places. 

Of the Europeans {aswggu) they know that they come »over 
the sea» to Mombasa and then farther. Many people in remote 
districts, especially women, believe, however, that the coast-land 
is the Europeans' country and Kisuaheli their language. Many 
even think that the white men have come from their land by 
a kind of tunnel through the earth. As a matter of fact the na- 
tives do not say » white* people, but »red», and they compare 
the colour of our skins, which they think unbeautiful, to that of 
raw meat. Many tribes (Akamba, Akikuyu, Masai, etc.) say that 

^ S. Kolb, Von Mombasa durch Ukambani zum Kenia, p. 225, 

344 Lindblom, The Akamba 

they have old prophecies about the coming of the Europeans, 
that they should come with >a giant snake over the country* 
(the railway). 

The Akamba are fairly proficient at languages, and a great 
many of them are tolerably at home in Kisuaheli as well as in 
Kikuyu and the Masai language {kikaOz), and in the neighbouring 
languages in general. 

Most peoples, and not only primitive ones, have probably 
once believed in the existence of more or less monstrous beings 
inhabiting the parts of the world that lie outside the boundaries 
of their own geographical knowledge. In this way some of the 
Akamba believe that people with tails live far to the north and 
north-east, beyond the countries of the Galla peoples and the Somali. 
Accounts of people with tails, who usually appear as cannibals, 
are found in my collection of Kamba folklore. Formerly, when, 
in spite of often extensive trade expeditions, their knowledge of 
geographical regions was in certain respects more limited than 
now, such beings were supposed to live considerably nearer, but 
as their geographical knowledge increased, the boundaries were 
removed farther and farther away. As far as this special belief 
in people with tails is concerned, it rests, at least to a certain 
extent, on a real basis, as it has its origin in the tail-like flap 
that is worn by many African tribes. To mention a single example, 
the married Kavirondo women wear behind them a tuft consisting 
of black cord. 

Points of the compass. 

With regard to the points of the compass east and west are given 
according to the sun, as is to be expected. The east is thus called 
{m)ufmlo wa snia 'the sun's exit' (< utmla 'to come into'). The 
west is called up^u^lo (or ndwih) wa siua {puna = ?). North and 
south have no special names but are given by geographical names 
or names of tribes dwelling in these directions, e. g. k'hhn%a (Mount 

The Akamba believe that the sky {yiu, plur, matu 'cloud') 
touches the earth somewhere; this place is called htmlm ha itu 
and corresponds no doubt to our » horizon*, kitmlia means 'end, 
finish' (in the concrete signification) and appears, for instance, in 
the expression htudm kta iima 'the bottom of the pit'. Formerly, 

Geographical ideas and conceptions of other peoples 345 

when the Masai still occupied and ruled the steppe at Machakos 
up to the foot of the Ibetini range of hills, the Akamba did not 
know the country west of this so well, and it is said that people 
at that time sometimes went over to Mua, a range of hills a few 
English miles to the west, because they believed that from there 
they could see >the end of the heaven*. But when they came 
there, they saw that it was always farther away. »You aswggu 
(Europeans), who know so much more than we Akamba, have 
you found itr» they asked me. I tried to explain to them that 
the sky has no end and that it nowhere touches the earth, but 
they would not believe this. 

They think that complete darkness prevails high up in the air. 


We have already seen that the Akamba, perhaps more than 
any other of the tribes in the interior of East Africa, have roamed 
far and wide, partly as hunters, partly as traders, principally in 
ivory. Because of their knowledge of the countries and peoples 
in the interior many of them were in former times guides or 
practically leaders of the trade caravans coming up from the coast. 
C. Pickering, to quote an example, mentions a trading party to 
the Djagga country, »commanded by a Makamba man, who had 
often conducted similar expeditions, and who knew all the languages 
on the route » ^. 

On their journeys {kmld) they take with them weapons, in 
their quivers they put the apparatus for making fire, and hanging 
on their belts they have sandals, which they do not use at home 
on ordinary occasions. They are taken with them not only to 
protect the feet against thorns and the roughnesses of the road, 
but just as much — and especially during the hot season — as a 
protection against the heat, which is sometimes so strong that it 
can be felt through the soles of thick marching boots. Food, 
such as gruel, maize and beans, is taken in calabashes, which 
are hung over the shoulders with leather straps. They are often 
beautifully polished with fat and the straps are adorned with beads. 

Obstacles on the way in the form of deep rivers are sur- 
mounted by a good swimmer going over first with a long rope, 

^ The Races of Man, p. 200. 

346 Lindblom, The Akamba 

which he fastens to a tree. Then the others manage to get across 
by holding to the rope. When it is necessary to drive cattle 
over a river, they stretch a rope out in the same way and some 
men take up their positions along it. The cattle are driven into 
the water a little way above the rope. If the animals are driven 
towards it by the stream, they are forced to seek the shore by 
the blows of the men at the rope. If the stream is shallow and 
narrow and not rapid, those who cannot swim get across simply 
by walking on the bottom. When it is necessary they come up 
to the surface and take a breath of air^. 

The art of swimming, I may take the opportunity of adding, 
is very widespread among the Akamba, a fact which inspires 
respect, when one considers that great parts of their country are 
poor in water. They usually, like the Akikuyu, swim on their 
sides and tread water when they wish to rest. 

Long journeys were dangerous undertakings, especially in 
older times, and so they tried in all conceivable ways to protect 
themselves against dangers, disasters and fatigue. First of all 
they had, of course, to consult the medicine man so as to find 
out if the journey was being undertaken under favourable auspices. 
In addition there were during the whole journey a great many 
observances of a more or less ritual character. Similar measures 
or precautions are practised practically over the whole globe during 

When decamping to continue their march each morning dur- 
ing a journey, the leader takes a firebrand from the hearth, goes 
a few steps forward in the direction in which they intend to con- 
tinue the journey and throws the brand out on the path, ex- 
pressing a hope that no evil might happen during the day's march: 
»May we not meet lions, rhinoceros or Masai nor any other evil 
beasts !» This does not seem to be any prayer to the spirits, 
but it is possibly some sort of incantation. Another prominent 
person then takes grass and throws it in the campfire, uttering 
a similar wish. The signification of the grass and the fire in this 
connection is unknown to me. 

^ The natives of the southern slopes of Kenia can even pass rapid 
streams in this way when they on the head carry a load which makes 
them able to resist the pressure of the water. A. Arckell-Hardwick, 
An Ivory Trader in North Kenia, p. 356. 

Geographical ideas and conceptions of other peoples 347 

I have already described (p. 218) how during journeys they 
ofifer sacrifices to the spirits of deceased eminent caravan leaders. 

Beginners at big game hunting and indeed those who take 
part for the first time in a military campaign have to submit to 
certain observances. Something similar applies to those who are 
out on their first long journey. The Akamba seem even to have 
a special word (mupo) for those who are making their first long 
journey. Before such a person may drink from a stream on the 
way, someone first dips the point of his bow in the water and 
lets the novice suck it. Otherwise some mishap might befall him 
during the journey. Hobley says further that on journeys in 
former times, before they could drink from a river, they had to 
cross to the other side and there »drop a stone ». »This practice > 
he adds, >is evidently the survival of a ceremony connected with 
the propitiation of the river spirits* (for »river spirits* cf. p. 218). 
I have not obtained any confirmation of this statement about the 
stone. Certainly it is not unusual for people to take stones with 
them when wading over a stream, but this is probably only so that 
they may use them against crocodiles that may possibly be 

Observances of a sexual nature are also connected with the 
undertaking of long journeys. Thus it is forbidden for any man 
to have connection even with his own wife, if she is with him 
on the journey. By doing this he might cause disasters, and the 
object of the journey may be endangered. Hildebrandt tells how 
Kamba travellers in his time resisted most strictly the temptations 
offered them in the coast towns, a thing that had practical utility, 
too, as to a certain extent it protected them from catching vener- 
eal diseases and carrying them home. The sexual taboo was 
carried to such an extent that the food for the journey was not 
to be prepared by unmarried girls, on account of their connec- 
tions with the young men. A long journey is comparable in this 
respect with another important enterprise, namely a military ex- 
pedition (see p. 189). Further, if anybody from a village is trav- 
elling and a death occurs there during his absence, nobody may 
have sexual intercourse until the absent one returns. 

Just as the rites connected with war have disappeared at the 
same time as the warfare and will soon be quite forgotten, so those 
just mentioned in connection with journeys are scarcely practised 

348 Lindblom, The Akamba 

any longer. Even the conservatism of the African has its limits 
and his practical view of things gets the upper hand of his fear of 
offending against hereditary customs. I shall quote an utterance 
of a man with whom I discussed the rites connected with journ- 
eys: »We no longer have need for them. If we go to Nairobi 
and anything happens on the way, there are white doctors there. 
And if we go to Kitui, there is a doctor (an Indian compounder 
at the boma). And if we wish to go to Kiswani, we travel with- 
out danger by »the fire-carriage » (the railway), etc. Even if this 
explanation of the disappearance of the old customs is not quite 
satisfactory, it undeniably contains a great deal of truth. 

Chapter XIX. History and historical traditions. 

It is quite futile to try to get any insight into the history of 
the tribe through the Akamba themselves. There is an almost 
entire lack of any kind of tradition, both historical and legendary. The 
explanation of this is, to a great extent, to be sought in their 
state of society with its stamp of democracy and equality, which 
has prevented the rise of chieftainship and made it difficult for 
individuals of strong character to attain to any important position, 
so that their names are preserved for posterity. Nor do any im- 
portant events in connection with their neighbours seem to have taken 
place; the fights with the Masai and the Akikuya have certainly 
been endless, but have consisted principally of plundering expedi- 
tions witl;iout any importance worth mentioning. The only man 
from a bygone time whose name is generally known in Ukamba 
is Kivui in Kitui, whom we know from Dr. Krapf s descriptions 
in 185 1 and who had a great influence and reputation as a mag- 
ician (cf. p. 149). It is interesting to see how Kivui, during the 
short time that has passed since his death, has become partly a 
legendary figure. Legends, especially about his strength, are 
prevalent among the people: no other man could carry his weapons, 
which were of enormous size and weight; his arrows, for instance, 
were almost as thick as a man's arm. 

If we turn to the oldest historical sources, we find in them 
no information about the Akamba. Before the arrival of the 
Portuguese in East Africa we are confined to some Arabic writers, 
who have a fairly good knowledge of the coast and give us quite 
important information about it — thus we have Edrisi in the 12'^ 
and Ibn Batuta in the 14*^ century — but say very little about 
the interior. A number of statements in the old Arabic sources 
make it fairly probable, however, that the Arabian travellers had 
a certain knowledge of the peoples in the interior. It is not at 

35° Lindblom, The Akamba 

all impossible that the term »moon people*, which some of them 
speak of, refers, among other peoples, to the Akamba.^ 

The Portuguese too seem never to have penetrated into the 
interior. Consequently one looks in vain for any information about 
the Akamba in the writers that have dealt with the Portuguese 
period in East Africa^. Certainly about 1523 two Portuguese left 
Melindi with the intention of reaching the great lakes that were 
reported to exist in the interior, but after eleven days they came 
back in an exhausted condition. 

There are, however, events that have made a great impression 
in the history, not only of the Akamba, but of the whole of East 
Africa. These are the great famines. As we have already seen, 
the people have retained a whole series of these in their memory, 
given each of them its special name and remember pretty exactly 
the times when they occurred as far back as the 'thirties. The 
worst of them, since Europeans came to the country, was probably 
at the end of the 'nineties. In 1899 there had been no rain for 
five rainy seasons, i. e. they had no harvest for five times in 
succession. The people tried to appease their hunger with what 
they could find, roots and wild fruit of slight or no nutritive value, 
such as the fruit of the baobab, which is common in the east. 
Yet most of them could not manage to slaughter their horned 
cattle, but had to die themselves before their cattle. In Ikutha 
Hofmann, the missionary, fed on an average 500 adults a day, 
and every two or three days 300 children on an average. This 
feeding could not be stopped until 1900. During this time the 
big mission house in Mulango was built, and Herr Sauberlich used 
to say jokingly that it was built of rice, because the natives had 
to work at the building of the station in return for the food that 
was given out. 

During this great famine there arose a severe epidemic of small- 
pox, which in East Akamba came from the south, from the Kib- 

^ Cf. F. Storbeck, Die Berichte der arabischen Geographen des 
Mittelalters iiber Ostafrika. Westasiatische Studien (Mitteil. des Seminars 
f. oriental. Sprachen) 19 14, p. 130. 

^ J. Strandes, Die Portugiesenzeit in Deutsch und Englisch Ost- 
afrika, p. 317. Guillain, Documents sur I'Histoire, la G6ographie et 
le Commerce de I'Afrique orientale. O. K erst en, C. v. d. Deckens 
Reisen in Ostafrika, vol. Ill, 

History and historical traditions 351 

wezi district. The missionary Kanig describes how in Ikutha 
120 people smitten with smallpox sat at one side at the distribu- 
tion of rice. > Those whom hunger spared were taken by the 
smallpox. The sick people often went mad. We noticed that 
young and tolerably strong people were overcome by the disease 
more easily than the old ones who were quite exhausted from 
hunger »^ 50 % of the tribe are estimated to have died 1898 — 99. 

In Chap. I. I have shown how the famines broke up families 
and drove the people in big crowds to seek food in other places. 
The natives told the author how, at the end of the 'nineties, bands 
of them went to the better watered Kikuyu country but never 
came back. Weakened as they were, they could not defend them- 
selves, but were killed in great masses by the Akikuyu. On one 
occasion several hundred of them were drowned in a small stream. 
This cruelty on the part of the Akikuyu was certainly due to a 
great extent to their fear of being infected by smallpox, of which 
the starved wretches were full. A. Arckell-Hardwick, a trader, 
describes how at the Thika River he met a big band of these 
hungry wretches, who were driven off by his bearers^. There are 
not many families in Ukamba that have not lost some member 
during the last great famines. 

Many of the Akamba who emigrated to the Kikuyu country 
stayed there until 1900, »selling their cattle and leaving their 
children in payment of food, to be afterwards redeemed, when 
better days came round »^. 

The relations of the Akamba with their neighbours and their 
trade expeditions have also been touched upon in Chaps. I and 
XVIII. . Those of the Arab and Suaheli traders who were allowed 
to go through Ukamba, being dependent on the natives, tried to 
be on good terms with them so that they could get their slaves 
and ivory safely to the coast. This did not, however, prevent them 
from luring the Akamba into transactions, in which the business 
capacity of the latter, which was ordinarily high, was blinded by their 
desire for the seller's finery. The latter consequently did splendid busi- 
ness. For instance, for the variegated cotton cloths that now cost 

^ G. Kanig, Dornige Pfade, p. 12. 

^ A. Arckell-Hardwick, An Ivory Trader in North Kenia, p. 354. 
^ H. R. Tate, Notes of the Kikuyu and Kamba Tribes of British 
East Africa. J. Anthr. Inst. 1904, p. 137, 

352 Lindblom, The Akamba 

a rupee each, they got three goats. The article most sought after 
was the red cloth mukumbu and, of course, copper or brass wire. The 
merchant made a little heap of different articles and put on the 
top as a bait a cheap mirror, which they threw in for nothing. For 
bigger purchases they even got slaves, cattle and stolen Masai asses 
in payment and drove whole bands of these down to the coast. 

Curiously enough it seems, however, to have been only in 
very recent times that the traders from the coast were allowed 
to enter Ukamba more freely. Burton goes so far as to fix the 
time by saying — I do not know on what grounds he has come 
to this conclusion — that before 1857 '^o Arab trader had visited 
the country ^. The method of trading in his time he describes in 
the following manner: » Trading parties from Ukambani sold ivory 
to the Wanyika for four times round the tusks in beads, and these 
middlemen, often fleecitig those more savage than themselves, 
retailed the goods at high profit to the citizens [of Mombasa]. 
The Wakamba of the coast are, of course, anxious to promote 
intercourse between Mombasa and their kinsmen of the interior» *. 

The trading also went on without middlemen, the Kamba traders 
meeting the Arab and Suaheli caravans in the Duruma country. 
Hildebrandt tells how the unity of value was cattle, which was 
valued in a certain quantity of cloth, beads, metal wire etz. Only 
seldom were the caravans allowed to enter Ukamba ^. 

The slave trade carried on by the Akamba was probably, 
however, comparatively insignificant. An author who visited Zan- 
zibar in the middle of the last century writes after hearing the 
opinions of the natives there: »They [the Akamba] do not bring 
slaves, except a few, but trade in ivory»*. A German traveller of 
a recent date says, on the other hand, that right up to the end 
of the 'eighties they were » pretty dangerous slave traders and 
were even suspected of cannibalism*, the latter certainly a quite 

1 R. F. Burton, Zanzibar, City, Island and Coast, II, p. 67. 

^ The main caravan routes from Mombasa to the interior, especi- 
ally the one to Lake Victoria, did not cross Ukamba but went over 
Taveta and the Masai steppe. Vide T. Wakefield, Routes of Native 
Caravans from the coast to the interior of Eastern Africa, Joum. R. 
Geogr, Soc. 1870, p. 303 ff. 

^ Hildebrandt, Die Wakamba, p. 385, 

* Ch. Pickering, The Races of man, p. 200. 

History and historical traditions 353 

unfounded accusation^. During my stay in East Ukamba in 191 1 
one could, however, still say that slave trading took place to a 
certain extent, as I knew at least one man, in a good position, 
who secretly sold women to harems at the coast. 

The war with the Masai was occasionally interrupted by 
peacable intercourse, during which the sons of the steppe bought 
vegetables and salt from the Akamba. The Akamba have appar- 
ently always been on good terms with the Wanika and combined 
with them in order to fight against the Galla, atwa^, who seem 
to have had a firm footing in East Ukamba even in Krapf s time. 
The battles with them were waged with varying success, until at 
last the Akamba drove them back to the Tana. I shall take the 
opportunity of adding here to what has already been said on these 
battles in Chap. I that Mr. Sauberlich told me how, in spite of his 
earnest dissuasion, over 400 Akamba once went over the Tana to 
plunder but were so thoroughly beaten that only about ten came 

In the 'eighties the English began to settle in earnest in Ukamba 
and then met with armed resistance. They had, however, scar- 
cely any serious difficulties to overcome. 

To this very brief glimpse into the Akamba's history I shall 
add the myth that the Akamba have about their common origin 
with the Akikuyu and the Masai. It tries to give an explanation 
to the old enmity between these tribes and is as follows^: 

A very; long time ago a woman gave birth to three boys, 
who were called Mukavi (Masai), Mukikuyu and Mukamba. The 
boys grew up, took wives and each man built his village. And they 

^ A. Kaiser, Die Wirtschaftliche Entwickelung der Ugandabahn- 
lander, Globus 1907, p. 56. 

* The words atwa, watwa, batwa, with other forms from appar- 
ently the same root in primitive Bantu, appear, as is known, as the 
names of several peoples, as far as one can see of different origin, in 
South and Central Africa. A comparison of them, together with a very 
interesting and plausible analysis of the meaning of the name, has been 
given by Eric von Rosen in his large and excellent monograph on the 
Batwa that live at Lake Bangveolo, Traskfolket [the Swamp people], 
p. 88 ff. Cf. also above p. 21. 

^ A version of this story is given by R. F. Burton, Zanzibar, 
II, p. 64, who was told about a keeper of cattle with three sons: 
Mkuafi [Masai], the senior, Mgalla and Mkamba. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 23 

3,54 Lindblom, The Akamba 

had children, who had different words (i. e. the three different sets 
of children each spoke its own language). Mukavi got milk and 
blood (kept cattle), while Mukikuyu and Mukamba got beans, 
maize, sweet potatoes and other food from the fields. But they 
also wanted cattle and went to Mukavi and asked for a cow for 
each of their children. Mukavi refused to give them any, saying: 
»You have got other food, which I have not got. I have my 
cattle and nothing else. If you wish to fight, I don't mind». 

Mukikuyu and Mukamba went away and sat down to take 
counsel. Mukamba said: »Let us take our young men and seize 
the cattle by force ». And they gathered together their children, 
went to the Masai's village and after a fight took a great many 
cattle, which they drove away. But in the night, while the war- 
riors were asleep, the Masai come and took back most of the 
animals. In the morning the Akamba and the Akikuyu came to 
blows about the remainder, and then each went off in enmity to 
his own district. 

And nowadays, when an old mututma (old man) in Ukamba 
feels his end approaching, he says to his sons: »A very long time 
ago the ancestor of the Akamba, Akikuyu and Masai was one and 
the same man. But our relationship and friendship died because 
of cattle. When I die now, take care not to come to blows be- 
cause of cattle ». 

In those parts of East Ukamba where the Akamba come 
more into contact with the Galla than the Masai one brother in 
the myth is called Mutwa (Galla) or Mukala instead of Mukavi. 

p. IV. 


Chap. XX. Decorative art. 

Apart from the southern parts and the coast, which is in- 
fluenced by a foreign cuhure, decorative art is very poor and un- 
developed, in the whole of East Africa a state of affairs that is prob- 
ably due less to psychological conditions than to the fact that among 
the East African tribes the men have always been fully occupied 
with feuds and looking after cattle. The same thing applies to 
the Akamba, whose time and interest has also been very largely 
claimed by hunting. For the sake of completeness, however, we 
shall give a brief account of the small amount of decorative art 
they really possess. 

The Akamba apply their ornamental art — this term, like 
» ornament », is taken in a wide sense — chiefly to carving and paint- 
ing. The calabash, owing to the ease with which it is worked, 
its appearance and its smooth and even surface, is, of course, 
the most promising material for attempts at decoration. On cala- 
bashes one thus finds most of the decorations as well as the 
greatest variety in motifs. Painted decorations, with black, red 
or white clay, which are put chiefly on the dance drums, are, of 
course, still easier to produce, but in spite of this they do not 
seem to be so well-liked as the carvings on the calabashes. We 
shall therefore begin with the calabashes, and, if necessary, one 
could limit oneself to these to obtain an idea of the motifs in 
the Akamba's decorative art. 

The calabash decorations are carried out partly by carving 
with knives, partly by stippling with nails (awls), the latter pro- 
cess being slower. Specimens of both methods are given here. 
They are afterwards rubbed with ashes. The representations are, 
for the most part, reproductions from nature, and are thus in the 
style of free imitative art. 

The most important contribution to ornamental art is made, 
as one might expect, by the animal world, and by the animals in 

358 Lindblom, The Akamba 

it that are most used as ornamental figures over practically the 
whole of the dark continent, namely serpents, lizards and tortoises. 
This is especially the case, as we know, with the lizard, and 
among the Akamba as well this or the serpent is found in some 
shape or form on most calabashes. The varying forms are, at 
least as far as the lizards are concerned, not arbitrary; an attempt 
is made to reproduce a certain species, and they often succeed 
in bringing out something that is characteristic of the animal in 
question. The large and powerful lizard in fig. 66 (g), for in- 
stance, represents a Varanus. The big snake, on the other hand, 
in fig. 71, a python, is not very successful, while the flexibility of 
the tree-snake's narrow, slender body (fig. 64 k) is well reproduced. 
The black cobra »that has swallowed a rat» (fig. 66, h) is freely 
and realistically represented. 

Chameleons are also found on two of my Kamba calabashes, 
in both cases, curiously enough, without heads. They are, how- 
ever, not recognizable, but resemble lizards. The crocodile occurs 
sometimes (fig. 64, b), and it is worthy of mention, because accord- 
ing to K. Weule it is rare in African decorations. M. Heydrich 
does not discuss it at all in his work^. When one considers that 
the lizard is perhaps the most popular animal for ornamental 
purposes in Africa, it seems inexplicable that the crocodile, which 
is, of course, as easily drawn as a lizard, is used so little. 

Mammals are reproduced less frequently, and when they occur, 
they are always wild animals: the elephant, the rhinoceros, the 
giraffe, the zebra and the antelope. There are very few reproductions 
of the latter from East Africa, and so I give here a Thomson gazelle 
(fig. 65, a) and a couple of hartebeests. The calabash decorated 
with the latter (fig. 68) gives a whole hunting scene from the 
steppe, which in its realism reminds one of the Bushmen's paint- 
ings. We see a hunter on the steppe overgrown with acacias 
hunting two hartebeests, one of which has the sloping back 
that is peculiar to this species of antelope. Beneath an acacia is 
lying a giraffe, which is not badly drawn either. 

Domestic animals are almost completely absent from African 
ornamentation, and the only things of this sort I have seen in 
Ukamba is the sheep in fig. 66 a. 

^ Afrikanische Ornamentik, Intern. Arch. f. Ethnographie 19 14. 

Decorative art 


Fig. 64. Calabash bowl, Ikutha, East Ukamba. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. 
Inv. 12. 7. 52. Va nat. size. 
The circle in the middle is Kilimandjaro. The concentric circles 
remind one of the lines showing elevation on a map. 
On the left half: a zebra (note the hoofs); b crocodile; c frog; d 
a woman's stool; i the ^guluTiu snake; / Y2 rupee; 
k a snake (ikua) that lives in trees and is said to 
be very poisonous; / arrowhead. 
On the right half: e rhinoceroses, the bigger one male, the smaller 
one female (notice the horns); / the plaited divid- 
ing wall of the we, the back part of the hut; g 
axe-head; h blindsnake (Typhlops sp.); m a human 


Lindbloni. The Akamba 

Fig. 65. Calabash bowl, East Ukamba. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. 

Inv. 12. 7. 55. Ys nat. size. 

a Thomson gazelle; b the woman's tail (mupita), studded with cowries. 

This last ornament has obviously also given the material for the border 

decoration; c frog; d human being. 

Decorative art 


Fig. 66. Calabash Decorations, Eastern Ukamba. V2 nat. size. 
a sheep, with a fat tail. This was obviously too small to begin with; 
b womans chair (shown by the tall legs); c part of a hill; d star 
(seven points); e comet, probably seen in the 'eighties and connected 
with a famine which then prevailed (cf. pp. 335, 339); / axe-head; 
g lizard ndanu (Varanus sp.); h black spitting cobra {kiko) »that has 
devoured a rat» ; * railway train. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

Nor do birds and fish play any part worth mentioning as 
ornamental figures among the Akamba, as is also the case among 
most negro peoples. They occur, however, as we see, occasionally 
(fig. 69, f— g; 71, e, g). 

Among the lower animals we need only mention the milli- 
pede (fig. 69, a) and the centipede, both of which have already 
been reproduced from the musai sticks (p. 54, 55). 

Before we leave the pictures of animals I wish to draw atten- 
tion to some small details of interest, although they are not pecu- 
liar to the Akamba nor even to African ornamental art in general, 

Fig. 67. Details fi-om a calabash, East Ukamba. ^/a nat. size. 
a snake; h its eyes; c frog; d tortoise. 

but, on the other hand, are found wherever animal pictures 
are produced by an undeveloped art, the most familiar examples 
for us being children's pictures. I refer to the tendency to place 
the mouth, the two nostrils, ears and eyes on an animal that is 
reproduced entirely in profile. Our material shows several examples 
of this. The eyes are specially important, and so one is not sur- 
prised to come across such a case as the snake in fig. 6^ , where 
an eye is placed on each side of the head, as there is not room 
for them on the head itself^. 

Phytomorphic motifs are rare in Africa and among the Akamba. 

1 Other examples are given by K. W e u 1 e in Die Eidechse als 
Ornament in Afrika (Festschrift an A. Bastian), fig. 23, 27 — 28. 

Decorative art 


I have only seen them of once, in the case the acacias just 
referred to (fig. 68). 

Anthropomorphic decorations occur rather infrequently in East 
Africa and on all my calabashes there is — apart from the hunter 
in fig. 68 — only one human figure, namely 65, d. Fig. 64, m may 
also be a human being, although it is executed in the same way 
as the frogf on the same calabash. 

Fig. 68. Hunting scene on the steppe. Details from a calabash, East 
Ukamba. Vs nat. size. 

The most common motifs after certain animals are arrow- 
heads, the sun and the moon (half-moon). The former consists of 
only one circle and never has a human face. Comets are also 
reproduced, sometimes in triangular shape (fig. 66, e). As is shown 
by the examples, the natives take, in addition, as motifs practi- 
cally all possible objects from daily life, tools, household articles 
etc. The portion of a hill in fig. 66, c seems to be rather a unique 
motif; note also the representation of Kilimandjaro on fig. 64. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

The Akamba's ornamentation of their calabashes — and 
similarly their art in general — does not seem to have attained 
to any real conventionalization — and is therefore no ornamental 
art in the real sense of the word. One might, however, say that 

Fig. 69. Decorations from calabashes, East Ukaniba. -/s nat. size, 

a millipede; b crab-like animal (sw-man^ala) ; c the sky, beneath it the 

moon, above it an arrowhead; d branch of tree with a bee-hive; e 

rupee; / fish, Cf. g fish »with arms» from a musahstick. 

such decorations as the millipede and the fish in fig. 69, and still 
more the one that is said to represent some sort of crab-like ani- 
mal are on the way to being artistic. Other examples are shown 
in fig. 70, both motifs of which are unknown to me, but of which 
a seems to be derived from a lizard decoration and d from a human 

Decorative art 


On the other hand, as a specimen of real and thoroughly- 
worked out conventionalization — though of the simplest kind — 
we may take the series of triangles and segments of circles that 
are in common use over the whole of Ukamba as borders or to 
distinguish different fields on the calabashes. The triangles are 
said to be arrow heads. Both kinds of borders from Kamba cala- 
bashes are reproduced by M. Heydrich ^, who, from a source un- 
known to me ^, identifies the segment of the circle with the small 
iron dancing bells {kiambd). 

The figures carved with knives in the bark of the musm sticks 
occupy a special position and their peculiarity is due partly to 


Fig. 70. 

Conventionalized (?) motifs on a narrow calabash from East 
Ukamba. Y2 nat. size. 
a lizard; b human being? c are borders. 

their material and technique, partly also to their function as a 
sort of hieroglyphic, in the interpretation of which the novices in 
the initiation rites have to undergo a sort of examination Whet- 
her the motifs are fixed by tradition or not, is unknown to me. 

The paintings of the Akamba can be dealt with in a few 
words. With the exception of the figures of animals, which I 
have never seen used in painting, the motifs are the same as on 

^ M. Heydrich, Afrikanische Ornamentik, Taf.II, 64. 

^ Probably from the collections in the Leipzig Museum, brought 
home by the German missionaries in Ukamba, or from Hildebrandts 
collections in the Berlin Museum. 

the dance drums 

366 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the calabashes. See also fig. 72 — 73 and 
fig. 109 — no. 

No sculpture in wood or any other kind of ornamental wood- 
carving is found. Stools, spoons, snuff-bottles, etc. may show pure 
and pleasing shapes but are without any embellishment. Only 

Fig. 71. 
a snake, 

•■.•.•::•-• ■■■.: .«s» 

■ / 


a — h decorations on a medicine man's calabash, Machakos:: 
h python; c — g from East Ukamba: c tortoise; d rolled-up- 

leather-strap; e guinea-fowl; /snake; g fish. V2 nat. size. 


Fig. 72. Figures painted with red ochre on a long dance drum (kid). 
a bed; b framework of a hut. The points show the poles stuck in 
the ground (cross section); c beehive with a hook for hanging it up; 
d fork-shaped stick, the sign of an old man's rank; e blacksmith's 
tongs, trying to seize an ironpin. V2 nat. size. 

among the accessories of the dance does one find any attempt at 
the simplest kind of ornamentation such as carved or burnt lines. 
Specimens of the most adorned dancing accessories I have seen* 

Decorative art 


(U a 





■^ S. 



Lindblom, The Akamba 

in Ukamba — both types are, however, 
rare — are reproduced here (figs. 74, 75). 
The first of these is of interest if we 
remember that anthropomorphical figu- 
res, especially wooden ones, are in gene- 
ral rare in East Africa. Thus I have 
not come across anything else of this 
kind in these districts. The figure is 
a youth, wearing on his head — in the 
shape of a metal bead, a — the white 
conus shell that the young men are 
fond of adorning themselves with. At 
the end of his fingers there are small 
metal beads, possibly representing rings. 
The fingers are four in number; pri- 
mitive art usually shows a supreme con- 
tempt for the real number of fingers 
and toes. But the number of the latter 
is correct in this case. 

I do not know what the other 
dancing accessory represents, and I have 
nothing to say about it except that it 
suggests a sort of dancing accessory 
or medicine man's stave that is used in 
certain quarters in the East Indian ar- 

In the department of metalwork 
we find very little decorative art, and 
this really consists of the simple engrav- 
ings, in conventional designs (straight 
and curved lines, ovals, dots, zigzag de- 
corations, etc.) that are found on arm- 
lets and bracelets (fig. 84 — 86). Yet in 
Fig. 75. Dancing accessory certain respects the Akamba's decorative 
from Machakos, bound with ^^^ ^^^^^es its highest point with the 
copper and brass wire, a me- , , ^ , . , , , 

tal beads; 6 tin mountings, help of metal material, namely by means 
V4 nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. of wire. I refer to the symmetrical decor- 
Coll. Inv. 12. 7. 224. ations that are sometimes put on the 

Decorative art 


old men's stools with wire, which is drawn through the wood 
with great skill and patience (fig. j6). Hobley reproduces a number 
of such chairs, and also details of the decorations on them ^ But 
he does not inform us that unfortunately this art is practised 
by only extremely few individuals. As a matter of fact I know 
for certain of only one man, and he is the very one that made 
the stools tiiat are reproduced by Hobley. During the whole 

Fig. 76. Old man's chair with wire decorations. The circle in the 
centre is the owners village with four paths running from it. The four 
other circles are moons. Vs nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 12. 7. 73. 

of my stay in Ukamba I only succeeded, in spite of many 
attempts, in coming across a single stool of this kind, the one in 
iig. "/G. M. Heydrich states ^ — the source of his information is 
unknown to me — that the Akamba have learned to use wire in 
this way from the coastal tribes, especially the Wagiriama. 

The china beads that are ust d for »loin clothes*, ornaments 
for the arm, etc., are made in simple patterns: triangles, rectangles 
and zigzag designs. 

^ C. V. Hobley, The Akamba, p. 34 ff. 
- Afrikanische Ornamentik, p. 62. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 24 

37© Lindblom, The Akamba 

In passing 1 wish to remind the reader that the clan and 
ownership marks placed on arrow-heads, cattle and beehives fdr 
practical reasons seem to be in a fair way of becoming purely 
decorations (pp. 130 ff.). This is also the case with the » trade 
marks* on the pots, which have as yet no decorative purpose, but 
might probably very easily give rise to ornamentation. 

Finally we must stop a moment to discuss the motives for 
the Akamba's decorative art. There scarcely seem to be any 
others but purely aesthetic ones and sometimes, as in the em- 
bellishment of the calabashes, the pleasure of the work for its 
own sake. Possibly some medicine man puts magic signs on his 
apparatus. But on the whole it is all pure ornament. The figures 
of animals have no connection with totemism; the production of 
the sun and the moon have no magic or religious import. Whe- 
ther it was otherwise at an earlier time, we cannot decide. 

Chap. XXI. Clothing and Personal ornaments, 

I. Clothing. 

Everything goes to indicate that a few decades ago the Akamba 
wore few or no garments. In Krapfs time »many of the men 
were perfectly naked, whilst others wore a mere rag in imitation 
of the fig-leaf of a sculptor, and even the women had a very 
scanty covering below the waist, being otherwise completely naked 
from head to foot» ^. At most a strip of cloth or something of 
the sort wound round the hips seems thus to have been the usual 
dress about 1850. Krapf adds however that »they have clothes, 
but do not usually dress themselves*. He is probably referring 
here to the imported cloths, American sheeting (americano) and 
blue calico (Ocekd, Kisuaheli kaviki), which they got at the coast 
in exchange for ivory and cattle for slaughtering and which in 
Hildebrandt's time — when of course the communications with the 
coast were less risky and therefore more brisk — seem to have 
been in fairly common use in East Ukamba ^. They were worn 
in the form of a plaid, 2—3 metre long, which was thrown over 
the shoulders and falling over the chest was fastened at the side. 
They were made waterproof by being rubbed with fat and red 
ochre. Many young girls still wear a piece of white cotton cloth 
rubbed with ochre, but as a rule this garment is replaced nowadays 
by the considerably warmer blankets, imported principally from 

* The skin garments for men referred to by Hobiey (Akamba,. 
p 40), of different sizes for the different age classes (atumia, attdceh 
and anakd), which he says have been in use a long time ago, seem 
to be unknown to Krapf as they are to the writer of this book. 

* In the Machakos district, on the other hand, according to v. 
H6hnel (Zum Rudolph-See und Stephanie-See, • p. 800) even at the 
end of the 'eighties most of the men went completely naked, wearing 
only ornaments. 

372 Lindblom, The Akamba 

India, which are used by both sexes and are carried with a certain 
easy charm. When an old man comes striding solemnly along, 
draped in his blanket, he reminds one of a dignified Roman in 
his toga. These blankets protect them against both rain and cold, 
and are used as a covering at night. 

The married Kamba woman's proper dress, which is in general 
use in Ulu, is, however, the ua, a calf- or goatskin, which has 
been stripped of its hairs and rubbed with the usual ochre salve, 
and which is fastened over one shoulder. The ua is made for the 
wife by her husband and is a gift of his. It does not completely 
cover the breasts, as the Akamba feel no shame at having them 
uncovered. The method of making it is to stretch the skin out 
to dry in an apparatus {kibaw < ku6q 'to scrape the hair of a skin') 
consisting of a frame made of osier switches, to which it is fast- 
ened, so as not to touch the ground, by three pegs fixed in the 
ground on the long side of the skin and two on each of the short 
sides. The hair is scraped off with an axe. The skin is then 
placed against a stone and rubbed with the hands and feet until 
it becomes soft. It is finally rubbed with fat and red ochre {nibu), 
the primitive method of shamoying used in Africa. It is almost 
impossible for a collector to obtain one of these skin, as the wo- 
men partly will not, partly dare not give them up. If they did, 
their husbands would be so angry that they would even leave 
their wives. 

Neither Krapf nor Hildebrandt mentions these female dresses, 
but they visited only East Ukamba, where even at the present 
day they are not used. Two possible explanations of its origin 
may be given. If we remember that the skin garment in Africa 
belongs to an older stage of civilisation and is widespread in the 
southern and eastern parts of the continent — used, among other 
tribes, by the Akambas' nearest neighbours, the cattle-keeping 
Masai and Akikuyu — it is not too bold to assume that it is an 
old primitive garment that was discarded by the people in the 
east when they, better off than their relations west of Athi, 
were able to obtain cloth from the coast. The climatic condi- 
tions, which haVe, of course, a great influence on dress, may also 
have contributed to this. East Ukamba being lower and therefore 
considerably warmer than Ulu. Further, in almost all things Ulu 
is looked upon as setting the fashion for the other parts of the 

Clothftig and Personal ornaments 


country, as here the old customs have been kept 
most unahered. On the other hand it may, how- 
ever, be thought that the people of Ulu have 
borrowed the skin garment from their neigh- 
bours because of the colder climate and because 
the communications with the coast were poorer. 
It is, however, not long since this skin dress 
was worn by men as well in certain places^, as, 
for instance, the Kilungu district. The Akamba 
in Machakos say that this was due, among other 
things, to the fact that the Kilungu men, notorious 
cattle-thieves, were better protected by this gar- 
ment against the thorny thickets, when they went 
out at night to steal cattle. 

Another leather garment is the woman's tail 
mupita), a narrow bifurcated strip of leather, 
which is fastened beneath the belt of beads that 
all women wear. It is too narrow to be of real use 
to sit on and is intended principally to cover the 
anus, and is thus a manifestation of the ideas of 
the tribe concerning the proprieties. A married 
woman's tail is usually so long that the ends trail 
on the ground. It is usually unornamented, while 
the young girls' is trimmed quite coquettishly 
with beads or small chains (fig. yj). In old times 
all the tails were without ornaments and the girls 
wore instead, at the base of the tail, a sort of 
flap of metal beads (called iscpso) resembling the 
ktmcB'^go mentioned below. 

This tail is not found in the whole of East 
Ukamba either. In this case we may assert with • ji . •', , 
greater certainty that here an original custom has ed with beads and 
been abandoned, presumably on account of the fine iron chains, 
increasing use of cotton cloth. In Krapfs time Riksmus. Ethn, 

the tail must still have been in use, as he says ^^''' '^ "^*- ^^^®- 
^, ^ ,, T^ , T-, 1 • • 1 , • ^Jiv. 12. 7. 116. 

that the Kamba women at Rabat in the hinter- 

^ This was the case in the 'nineties, according to M. Schoeller, 
Mitteil. fiber meine Reise nach Equatorial-Afrika und Uganda II, p. 304. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

land of Mombasa wore it, and these Akamba had emigrated from 
the present Kitui district. One may also see them still worn by- 
young girls as dancing ornaments. 

Finally in Ulu a rectangular loin-cloth [katu^gd) that is worn 
by girls is also made out of skin. This is decorated with beads, 
sometimes arranged in geometrical patterns on the piece of skin, 
sometimes forming hanging strings. Sometimes the whole rect- 
angle consists of beads, with a fringe of hanging metal chains at 
the bottom. It is thus an ornament at the same time. 

Before we leave these gar- 
ments of skin, it may be added that 
leather straps, such as are used 
for carrying loads, etc. are made 
soft by being drawn through a 
hole in a piece of wood. 

A loin cloth or apron for 
girls, which owing to its appear- 
ance, weight and clumsiness must 
also be classed among ornaments, 
is the hmce^go^ which is fastened 
round the waist with leather straps. 
It is made of imported thick brass 
wire, which is flattened out and 
Fig. 78. Girl's apron, made of "^^^^ into small cylinders {nzah) 
brass cylinders. Ys nat. size. that are threaded on to leather 
Riksmus. Ethn. coll. Inv. 12.7.119. straps. The one reproduced here 

(fig. 78), one of the larger ones, 
consists of over 700 of these and weighs about 4 Va pounds. The 
top rows are not made of brass but of iron. 

To make an » apron » of this sort is a laborious task; about 
ten cylinders a day appears to be the maximutn rate of produc- 
tion. It accordingly commands a rather high price or about three 
goats. Because of this it is only the better situated natives who 
procure the garment. Nowadays, however, it is rarely seen except 
on some small girl and then of course in a small size. It is probably 
scarcely made any more, and will perhaps soon quite disappear. 
The usual loin-cloth {ndami) that all women wear is a small 
rectangular double piece of cotton cloth, rubbed with fat and red 
clay. The men do not wear any garment of this sort. 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 375 

I will here mention an observation made by M. Schoeller 
which is unknown to me and all other authors. As I do not 
understand him clearly, I will quote. He says that »manner 
und knaben das mannliche glied unter dem lendengijrtel, in 
diesem fall unter einer schnur oder einem metalldraht hindurch- 
ziehen und auf diese weise gewissermassen die beschneidung 

No headgear is worn. A number of old men, however, wear 
dutiiig the hottest part of the year as a protection against the 
sun a round scull-cap of black gont- or calf-skin, which fits so 
tightly on the head that it is difficult to distinguish at a distance. 

Sandals {hatu) are used only on journeys and even then not 
by everyone. They are of the usual type: a leather sole, coarsely 
cut to the shape of the foot and fastened with straps. Before the 
small stools came into use the natives took a piece of leather 
called kidipd with them on their travels to sit on when they rested. 

2. Ornaments. 

The Akamba wear a great number of ornaments (mapa) of 
various kinds, especially metal ones, but they never overload their 
bodies with them on ordinary occasions. On account of the com- 
position and choice of colours these ornaments are attractive even 
to European ideas of beauty, and the fine execution of the work 
must arouse admiration. »These metal objects*, says v. Hohnel 
in his previously mentioned description of his travels, >show with 
regard to work and taste a skill that puts everything of this sort 
we have formerly seen in Africa completely into the shade*. 
Generally speaking everyone makes his own ornaments for him- 
self, but the young men, who also use the greatest number, are 
specialists in this department and devote a great part of their 
time to this occupation. A married woman gets her ornaments 
from her husband, a girl from her father, his friends or her admi- 
rers among the young men. 

The metal ornaments of various kinds are characteristic, but 
it is especially trade wire that is used in an ingenious and skilful 
way. Besides ornaments for the different sexes there are also 

^ M. Schoeller, Mitteil. tiber meine Reise nach Equatorial -Afrika 
und Uganda 1896 — 1897, II, p. 314. 

37^ Lindblom, The Akamba 

those for different ages, and they also vary in the different parts 
of the country. 

The women wear round the waist a belt of beads {kxQma), 
which in the case of young girls may be 2 dm. broad and res- 
embles a sort of corset. The older women, however, only wear 
a few strings of big blue ring-shaped glass beads of the older 
type, while the girls' broad belts consist of white and red china 
beads, which show up beautifully against their dark skins. Blue 
and white beads are also useil together. Originally all married 
women wore blue beads {kitcetz) and the girls red and white ones, 
but nowadays many of the younger wives retain the belts of beads 
they wore as girls. 

Men do not wear these belts. It is only at the dances that 
the youths decorate themselves with wire spirals {inulta) round 
their waists and chests. These spirals are twisted round a thick 
iron wire. They are closed by one end being put into the other 
and twisted half a turn, so that the two ends interlock. When 
they are placed on the upper part of the body they are fixed 
sparsely at a few fingers' breadths interval. They are also used 
as neck-rings (called ndi»a), either alone or several one above the 
other, forming a sort of collar. They are also worn round the 
neck by women, who only wear them round the body in excep- 
tional cases. 

A number of women aho wear round the waist a strip of 
leather trimmed with cowry shells {'^guiu). This seems to be an 
older decoration which is dying out. Cowry shells are not much 
used in Ukamba nowadays as ornaments; they have been super- 
seded by china beads and trade wire. 

There are a great number of neck ornaments of different kinds- 
Besides the above-mentioned metal spirals 'the old ringsh.iped blue 
glass beads are also used as necklets, which are worn exclusively 
by old women. A characteristic decoration of the young men 
and of girls too is the ^mili, a neck-ring of bast, tightly bound 
with links of small white china beads. This ornament, very taste- 
ful in its simplicity, is worn by youths around the head as well. 
In East Ukamba, where it is called idatt, it usually consists of 
beads of difi'erent colours. As a rule variegated bead ornaments are 
preferred in the east, while those of one colour are liked best in 
Ulu. Thus we find in general use in the east and characteristic 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 


for the Kitui district a broad flat neck-ring (^g-a/ta, called isoa in 
the west) composed of many rows of green and blue china beads 
threaded on steel wire, fastened close to each other in the same 

On these neck-rings there often hangs a round flat piece of 
the shell of a Conus mollusc {k}6uc), which is much in favour as 
an ornament in East Africa. The Kamba youths make them, 
themselves from the top piece of a Conus species about 0,5 dm. 
long, which is sold by the Indian traders but was formerly brought 

Fig. 79. Girl's collar, East Ukamba. Iron chains with Conus shells- 
attached. V4 nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. coll. Inv. 12. 7. 125. 

from the coast. It is also common for the young dandies to wear 
them at the top of the forehead fastened to the hair. 

The kiOuo is used with a successful effect as an appendage 
to the 'ggujn, a decoration for the neck or collar for young girls 
consisting of thick iron chains which partly cover the shoulders 
and fall down over the breast. At the back they are bordered 
by these shells, which stand out beautifully against the dark skin_ 
Fig. 79 shows a rather modest example of this type. The East 
African Company's old copper pesas sometimes are fastened to- 
gether into tasteful chains, which are worn over the .shoulders. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 


^ O 

If 3 


t.. ft 

(/J O. 

3 T- 



W » 

b S. 
— 3 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 


Chains of different metals and fineness 
are much used as necklets. Those made of 
iron are especially worn by married women. 

Necklets are also made of metal beads 
in(/ekd), which the young men make them- 
selves. They are threaded on wire. The 
neck-ring in fig. 80 consists of these. 

The older men, who do not use many 
ornaments, do not always wear necklets. 
One sees on them, however, one or more 
chains or rings {ukumii) of thick metal wire, 
twisted round another piece of metal wire 

Fig. 82. Breast ornament of copper, ^/a nat. 
size. Riksmus. Ethn. coll. Inv. 12. 7. 168. 

Fig. 8 I . Neck-ring of 

copper wire. Vi "at. 

size. Riksmus. Ethn. coll. 

Inv. 12. 7. 165, 

(fig. 81). Fig. 82 shows a 
breast ornament for older 
men, a very thick, spirally 
twisted copper wire, hang- 
ing on a neck-chain of the 
same metal. As a rule 
hanging objects of one 
kind or another are fixed 
on the neck ornaments, 
especially chains. In fig. 
80 we thus see a brass 
chain with an ornament of 
tin, representing the uten- 
sil used to whisk blood in 
order to separate the fib- 
rin. Flat copper rings 
made of thick wire or the 
old copper pesa are com- 
monly used as hanging 

A special group of 
neckltts consists of those 
that are made by twisting 
he narrow roots of the 
kxulu grass. These — a 
number of other roots are 
used as well — have, espe- 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

daily when in a fresh condition, a peculiar, somewhat suffocating 
smell, which the natives like and which stimulates their sexual 
desires. This necklet is const quently worn specially by the young, 
men and girls, but also by mariied women when they sleep with 
thtir husbands. Several of them are usually worn fastened together 
and they are also worn on the head. The older men seem never 
to use them. The aromatic lilac buds of musonsona (Spaeranthus, 

Lippia?) are used for necklets 
for children. Similarly in Kitui 
they wind the strongly-smelling 
tnutOf plant (Verticillatae), which 
is also a 'gondm plant, round 
the neck, and when the girls 
go to dance they sometimes 
put ko, a strongly aromatic 
Mentha-like species of Verti- 
cillatse, in the chains they wear 
on their ears. 

K^pua is a necklet made 
of the roots of a rather large 
grass, small round pieces of 
which are cut and threaded on 
Fig. 83. Necklet, made of grassroots, cords (fig. 83). It is worn by 
/4 nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. coll. women and sometimes by young 

Inv. 12. 7. 131. 

' ^ men. 

In the places where Coix lacrymae Jobi grows, such as at the 
River Nthua (ndua), necklets are occasionally made of its seeds 
i^g'ald), the well-known Job's tears. In former times, while trade 
beads were still rare, these seeds were said to have been used as 
ornaments. The Akamba thus use seeds, pieces of wood and 
other vegetable substances as ornaments only to a very slight 
extent, while the Akikuyu, on the other hand, do so very much. 
The necklets coming from Kikuyu, made of small sticks of hard 
dark wood, are called by the Akamba nda'gga and are occasionally 
met with. 

Round the wrists both men and women wear metal armlets^ 
which have the common name of kUa^ga (or kt/a^a). They are 
made of trade wire, which is either kept unaltered in thickness or 
is melted into broader armlets as shown in fig. 84 — 86. As we 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 


see, simple ornaments are often engraved ^ Especially in the case of 

the narrower kinds several are worn together, so that a part of 

the forearm is covered. The anakd 

wear a special kitwg^a, a kind of 

cuff of alternate copper and brass 

rings, often coveiing the whole 

forearm. This ornament, which is 

at most about ten years old, is Fig. 84. Armlet of copper. Nat. size. 

very beautiful. 

We find on the Kamba women the arm spirals of thick wire 
that are common in Central Africa, and men too sometimes wear 

Fig. 85. Armlet of bi ass. Nat size. Fig. 86. Armlet of brass. Nat. size. 

a spiral round the upper or lower part of the arm. In the Machakos 
district many women wear an ornament of this sort below the 
knee as well, a custom that is not found in the east, and is cer- 

^ A great number of these decorations are oval in shape, with 
pointed ends, as shown in fig. 84. This type of decoration is also 
found among the Masai, the Somalis and the Galla, but, in spite of its 
simplicity, does not seem to occur among negro tribes. It is therefore 
possible to assume that the Akamba borrowed this ornamentation from 
their Hamitic neighbours mentioned above. Among the objects — 
about 260 in number — from Ukamba and adjacent districts that were 
brought home by Dr. G. Kolb in the 'nineties and handed over by 
him to the Natural Historical Court Museum in Vienna there are also 
some armlets of quite the same type as shown in fig. 84. Dr. W. 
Hein points out that the ornameniation on these is quite ike the ovals 
on the armlets from the bronze age in Europe, which is interesting to 
note, even though one cannot immediately draw any conclusions from 
this as to the origin of these pointed ovals of North- East Africa. See 
W. Hein, Armringe von Eibesthal in Niederosterreich und von Ukamba 
in Afrika. Sitzungsber. d. Anthrop. Ges. in Wien 1898, p. 53. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

tainly borrowed from the Masai or the Akikuyu, They are said 
to have been fashionable in former times on men as well, and 
one may still, although rarely, come across some old man wearing 
this leg ornament. Apart from it not many ornaments are worn 
on legs or ankles. A chain or cord with blue or white beads is, 
however, usually worn, and at dances the young men twist fine 
chains round the lower part of the leg. 

As the thick wire is bound tightly round the extremities and 
is seldom taken off, it easily causes troublesome abrasions. The 
natives try to alleviate the pain arising from these by putting soft 
leaves, etc. between the metal and the wound. The author has 
seen girls who have endured sores caused in this way for weeks, 
which would have been healed in a few days if they had left off 

the spirals. This they will not do 
on any condition, saying that the 
young men would not care for 
them or would not want to dance 
with them without their orna- 
ments, and so they prefer to suffer 
for their appearance. 

Some additional ornaments for 
the arms may be mentioned here : 
'hamba is a rectangular piece 
of embroidery with white, blue 
or red beads, which is worn by women, sometimes by the miakd, 
on the upper part of each arm. The beads form geometrical 
patterns, usually triangular. The patterns seem to have no special 
signification. Used most in East Ukamba. 

Fig. 87 shows a tin armlet with insertions of copper wire. It 
is worn on the upper arm by older men and also by women. This 
type, like the above described armlets of copper and brass, is 
made by persons specially skilled in this work, who melt the metal 
and pour it into a mould that is either cut out in wood or formed 
in sand. Armlets of this type are also cut out of ebony (fnuOi^go)^ 
which is mounted with small metal pins. 

Armlets of ivory {ukopo or 'ggopo), which are worn only by 
men, are comparatively rare in Ukamba nowadays. They have, 
however, never been in common use, but have only been worn 
by elephant hunters or rather eminent persons. Even in Hilde- 

Fig. 87. Armlet of tin with copper 

insertions. V2 nat. size. Riksmus. 

Ethn. coll. Inv. 12. 7. 176. 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 


brandt's time they were only worn »by a few nobles*. Fig. 88 
shows the form typical for Ukamba; the thickness varies, how- 
ever. The elephant also provides 
the material for another sort of 
armlet, namely those that the hunt- 
ers, when they kill one of these 
animals, usually cut out of its hind 
feet. They are very proud of this 
ornament. The natives say that 
they cannot cut these out of the 

pachyderm's forefeet, as the horny 

, • 1 r 1 • u .u • • Fig- 88. Armlet of ivory, Vs nat. 

material from which the ring is * „., „ . •'„ '% 

" size. Riksmus. Ethn. coll. Inv. 

cut is there present to a less ^2 7 182 

Fig. 89. Kig. 90. Fig. 91. Fig. 92, 

89 — 90. Ear-rings of tin with metal chains, typical. 1/2 nat. size. 

91. Earring of tin. 92. Ear-ring, consisting of 7 copper rings, 

held together by cross-pieces of tin. 

extent. As, of course, the natives are no longer allowed to hunt 
elephants, these ornaments have become rather rare. 

We now pass to ornaments for the ears. 

The Akamba never deform their ears like the Masai, Akikuyu 
and other tribes influenced by the Masai, but only make a small 
round hole in the lower lobe of the ear. The hole is made with 
an acacia thorn and is kept open by inserting some object in it 
until it is healed. Only metal ornaments for the ears are worn, 
no wooden ones as in the case of the Masai and their imitators. 
H^re and there in the east there are certainly seen boys with 

384 Lindblom, The Akamba 

^short wooden peg {kikulu) in the lower lobe of the ear; these, how- 
ever, are not ornaments, but are used to stretch the hole, which 
in certain places in East Ukamba is made somewhat larger than 
the ordinary size. 

Ear decorations are used mostly by the young people, who 
to a great extent make them for themselves, as they do almost 
ail ornaments, when they begin to go to dances (cf. p. 143). 
Characteristic for the tribe are round tin rings, t6u/i (figs. 89 and 
96), which are placed either in the hole in the ear or hung with 
chains over it, as shown in fig. 92. Another very common vari- 
ant of the ^6u/^ is cylindrical, adorned with grooves running along 
it, as shown in fig. 91. Of these the one that is placed in the 
hole in the ear-lobe is the older. From these two basic forms 
local variants have then arisen, such as when in the Machakos 
district they began in 19 12 to wear instead of one earring a 
number of thin ones attaining altogether about tlie same thickness 
as the single one. An example of these ear-rings of the latest 
fashion, which are also made of copper, is given in fig. 92, which 
shows seven jagged copper rings, held together by cross-pieces 
of tin. But it is unnecessary to discuss these unimportant things 
any further; it would only burden the account with details of 
very little value. 

Finger-rings {ggomo) are used and worn on any finger, usu- 
ally several of them on the same finger. They are made of metal 
which is either kept smooih or engraved wiih the same, decora- 
tions as the armlets. There are also rings made of fine, spirally 
rolled wire or else of hoUowed-out one-cent pieces (small money 
for British East Africa), which were at first made of aluminium. 

A finger-ring that deserves special mention is the one called 
by Hildebrandt the Akambas' »war-ring», which »in the shape of 
an extended shield protects the index finger and the back of the 
hand against sword-cuts». It is only seldom met with nowadays 
and seems to have been borrowed from the Galla» (H., p. 356). This 
type of ring is found in the collections in the Berlin Museum 
brought home by H. As I have not seen it, I dare not give a 
positive utterance on the question, but I must state that for my 
own part I have never heard of such war-rings among the Akamba, 
nor do I know them from the southern Galla I visited. The latter 
use, however, another sort of »war-ring», not as a protection -but 

Clothing and Personal ornaments ' i^S 

as a weapon, namely a ring with two sharp edges, which is worn 
on the little finger and with which they strike, for preference,' it 
the face, cutting from the top downwards. Om the other hand I 
have seen a few older Kamba men wearing rings of the type de- 
scribed by H., but these seemed to be only worn as trophies 
taken from the Masai or Akikuyu ^. The fact that the owners 
would on no conditions dispose of them to me supports this. 
Among the Masai at least they are only ornaments, as they are 
worn only by women. Merker definitely states that the Masai 
do not make them themselves, but say that they come from the 
Kikuyu country. 

Hildebrandt's expression »vvar-ring» has caused misunder- 
standings in books. Thus Frobenius" has classified them among 
the few battle rings found in Africa, probably overlooking H's 
statement thit they were used as a protection and only noticing 
his supposition that they were borrowed from the Galla. 

In this chapter I shall also mention certain finger-rings and 
armlets in the form of a narrow strip of leather, which is worn 
by the older men. I am not certain as to their purpose, but they 
do not seem to be pure ornaments, but a sort of souvenir, some- 
times cut out of the skin of sacrificial animals, sometimes of such 
as have been consumed at some festive meal. As is the case 
among the Akikuyu a number of the older men also wear a goat's 
beard with the strip of skin belonging to it fastened round the leg 
below the knee. 

Finally we must add a few words concerning the variations 
and alterations within this group of ornaments. Although, of 
course, the primitive peoples, generally speaking, keep to their tra- 
ditional customs, there is one department especially in which they, 
like all human beings, give freeer play to the caprices of fashion, 
and that is just in this department of ornaments. We understand 
from what has been already said that during late years these 
have shown some small changes. Unfortunately the oldest source 
we have, Krapf's work, gives no information as to ornameilts in 
older times. Hildebrandt, on the other hand, gives (p. 352 ff.) a 
good de.scription of the ornaments in his time. In many things 

^ Reproduced by Merker (Die Masai, fig. 61) and Hollis (The 
Masai,. pi. XIV). 

* L. Frobenius, Der Ursprung der Afrikan. Kulturen, p, 117.' 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 35 

386 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the variations between then and now are of secondary importance, 
but some details may be given. Thus the round pieces of the 
shells of ostrich-eggs (resembling the white Conus shell), that were 
worn fastened to the belt of beads, seem now to have quite disap- 
peared, just as the pieces of German pfennigs and brass counters 
with holes at the edges, which H. introduced and which, accor- 
ding to him, became very popular. The present typical ear-rings 
do not seem to have existed either, but there were simpler forms 
instead, made of wire. It is of greater interest to observe that at 
that time some persons had 4 — 6 holes at the edge of the muscle 
of the ear, but the small hole in the lobe was the most usual 
fashion even then. 

A number of other ornaments, dating from the end of the 
'eighties, are described by L. v. HohneM. 

If all these ornaments are to have the best possible effect 
they must be kept bright and shining. So they are polished con- 
tinually and washed with sand and water. For this purpose they 
also use the leaves of certain plants, especially of kvudt, a Rumex 
species, the seed of the baobab and the pulp of the tamarind 
fruit, which contains a strong acid. 

3. Hairdressing, treatment of the beard and of hair 
on other parts of the body. 

There is no head-dress that can be called typical for the tribe; 
one may say instead that there are great number of fashions. 
Especially among the men everyone seems to wear his hair as he 
thinks best. The same person also alters his coiffure; he will, for 
instance, have his head clean-shaved for a time and then later on 
let the hair grow again. One sees clean shaven heads in both 
sexes and at all ages. Sometimes, on the other hand, a little hair 
is left at .some spot, for instance in the shape of a round spot on 
the neck or forehead, or a piece like a comb along the head. 
Another way is not to shave the head, but to keep it cut short 
except above the forehead, where it is allowed to grow. A rather 
popular fashion among the young people — perhaps influenced by 
the inhabitants at the coast — is to shave thin lines on the head, 

1 Zum Rudolph-See and Stephanie-See, p. 800. See also If. 
Schoeller's work mentioned above, vol. I, pi. XXVII ff. 

Clothing and Personal ornaments §8f 

between which the hair, rubbed with fat, is left growing in similar 
thin lines. The married women often plait their hair into tufts 
and rub the whole head with fat and red ochre. This coiffure, 
which may really be called characteristic for the married women, 
is called mutiundiu] it is less often seen on men. The anakd 
usually let a small tuft of hair — called kipuku — grow out in 
order to be able to fasten the white Conus shell more easily on 
the head. 

According to information that I received the present genera- 
tion of old men in the Machakos district wore as anakd their hair 
plaited in a pigtail in the Masai and Kikuyu fashion; the latter 
tribe, like so many others, also imitated the Masai in this respect. 

It is more uncommon to see people with long and freely grow- 
ing hair. Those who suffer from illness for a time, however, let 
the hair grow and when one sees long hair it is pretty certain that 
the wearer is ill. Similarly a child's hair is allowed to grow if its 
mother was ill at the accouchment. In only one case do I know 
of long hair being worn for another reason, namely by a medi- 
cine man on account of special orders from the aimu^ the spirits. 

The hair is shaved with a razor {wcBnsi) of the usual knife 
type; as a matter of fact any kind of knife is used. It is made 
wet with water; no kind of soap is used. The men shave each 
other; the women are, however, always shaved by the men. A 
person who shaves a medicine man must, on account of the magic 
powers he possesses, take care not to move round him while 
shaving. From our point of view it is, strictly speaking, incorrect 
to translate lucenzi by 'razor', as the beard, as we shall see, is 
never shaved, but is pulled out. The razor is sharpened on a 
rather large stone (*«o 'whetstone'), which usually lies at the 
f)omd. How the hair that is removed is hidden has already been 
mentioned in connection with magic. 

The eyebrows are also shaved with knives. The hair beneath 
the armholes and on the private parts is either shaved or pulled 
out with tweezers. 

Both sexes pull out the eyelashes with tweezers. These are 
made of iron and are of a type widespread in East Africa (figi 
93). The young people adorn theirs by twisting metal wire or 
giraffe-hair round them, so that the neat little articles serve at 
the same time as ornaments. The natives always carry them 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

with them, usually fixed on a chain round the neck, on which the 
snufif-bottle is worn. They usually have several at the same time 
(I have seen as many as five), which clearly indicates the ornamental 
character of the object (fiuf. 94). 

The tweezers reproduced here, which are called 'ggosd, are 
typical of those used by the young people. The old men use 
either similar ones, although about twice as big, or else such as 
are shown in fig. 95. They are called "ggola. 

Every adult native removes the different kinds of hair we 
h,ave spoken about. The young people begin to do this ns soon 

Fig. 93. Fig. 94^ tig- 95- 

93. Tweezers for removing hair. 94. Tweezers for removing hair, twisted 
with copper wire. 95. Tweezers used by older men. V2 "^t. size. 

as they are big enough to be interested in the opposite sex, which 
happens about the same time as they begin to take part in the 
public dances. It is thus done with the view of embellishing their 
appearance and making themselves as attractive as possible to the 
other sex. But it is also a rule of the toilet that applies to every- 
one and a fashion that anyone who cares about his appearance is 
very careful to follow. They also try to appear as »cleanshaven» 
as possible on the different parts of the body, and it is exceed- 
ingly common to see men squatting at the ^qmd pulling out especi- 
ally the hairs of their beards, which of course grow most quickly. 
The process is sometimes a trifle painful. With their alert sense 
of humour the Akamba have made this troublesome but necess- 

Clothing and Personals ornaments 389 

ary occupation give rise to a riddle, which, translated freely, is 
as follows: »What is the contest at the pomd which must be settled 
as quickly as possible?*. Answer: »The contest between the 
mutumta and the 'ggola (tweezers)». 

According to Hildebrandt (p. 350) the Akamba think that the 
removal of the eyelashes produces keenness of vision, a reason for 
this practice that is unknown to me. 

4. Perfuming and painting of the body. 

1 shall take the opportunity of mentioning two additional 
matters in this connection, namely the custom of using certain 
aromatically smelling plants as a sort of perfume for the body 
and garments, and the use of pigments for beautifying the body. 

The perfume, if we may call it so, consists of powdered parts 
of plants mixed with fat and is called kiuttc. They use especially 
woodmeal from certain trees, in which woodpeckers have pecked 
holes. Material for k\utu is also obtained from: kq, a species of 
Verticillatse mentioned above; the small greenish-black, pleasantly 
aromatic fruit of the 'ggcenea, a little tree with strong thorns; the 
vanilla smelling roots of muOukulwa (Apocynaceae ? Asclepiadeae?) 
and the flowers of a Gnaphalium species, the native name for 
which I do not know. 

k)uiu is much used at dances, not only those of the young 
people, but also in the religious spirit dances. I cannot decide 
whether in this case it merely has a refreshing effect or if it also 
has some religious import, but a certain importance seems to be 
attached to it, as the kiutu that is used at these dances is sought 
for by the medicine men. 

Pigments on the body are used especially by the young 
people at the dances. Many women, however, even at ordinary 
times, use the red ochre {tnbii) which they rub in their hair to 
paint their cheeks with as well. Wiih it the young people paint 
spots on their cheeks and draw rings round their eyes when they 
go to a dance. Another red species of earth, which is lighter 
than mbu but is used in the same way, is nda. A lump of ochre 
is often seen lying in the larder. A white colouring-matter, prob- 
ably a kind of chalk {ha), is also used. The anakd paint, among 
other things, fine zigzag lines on the legs with it. With the deep 

Qi^ Lin db lorn, The Akarriba 

yellow pollen of a Typha species {ika'gga) they paint rings round 
the eyes and smear the edges of the eyelids, for which ochre is 
also used. Finally they are accustomed to stick some white or 
deep red or yellow petals on the face, which form an effective 
contrast to the skin. 

5. Cicatrization and tattooing. 

Cicatrization is employed to embellish the body by both sexes, 
but mostly by women. Raised scars {ndo) of a lighter colour than 
the skin are produced. They are situated on i 

the breast, back and abdomen, and are made some- 
times with a knife {ndq %a kaQ^d), sometimes with 
needles {iido %a mukuQd). They sometimes form sim- 
ple lines, as for instance a circle of points round the 
nipples, sometimes decorations, such as zigzag 
lines, half moons; arrow heads, etc. (fig. 98 — 102). 
That the wounds may heal more quickly they are 
rubbed with fat. To make the scars raised they 
use a rather painful means, namely the milky juice 
of the kxapa (Euphorbiaceae), a small tree with 
whole leaves. On women the scars on the front 
of the body are made by women, those on the Fig. 96. Cicatrice 
back part by men. on a man's upper 

There is no tradition about the origin of the '^^^- "1^ nat. size, 
cicatrization. It seems to be looked upon exclus- 
ively as a means of embellishing the natives' ex- 
terior. A fact, however, that indicates a deeper, 
perhaps primitive conception that has now fallen 
into oblivion, is that this cicatrization is carried Fig. 97. Cicatriz- 
out preferably when the crop is ripe, according ^tion on a man s 

Sinn /o TiAt^ ^\7^ 

to a statement made to me »when the inw(E (Peni- ' '" 

cillaria spicata) is ripe». 

Many men put a number of small swellings, a little bigger 
than a pea, on the deltoid muscles of the arm (fig. 96). On many 
one also sees a larger swelling ndcekapo that reminds one of a four- 
pointed star (fig. 97). This usage, which is found among the 
Akikuyu as well, is perhaps borrowed from the Masai. 
.[. Tattooing is found less frequently among the Akamba, and then 


Clothing and Personal ornaments 


rig. 98 a. Fig. 98 b. Fig. 99. 

98 «, b. Cicatrices on man. Front, a rather common form; b lyre- 
shaped. Among the Masai this form with different variations is 
the most common. 99. Man's back. 

Fig. 100. Fig. 1 01 a. 

100. Cicatrices on a woman. 10 1 a. 

Fig. loi b. 
Women's backs. 

Fig. 102 a. Fig. 102 b. Fig. 102 c. 

102 a, b, c. "Women's backs, a half-moon, a common pattern; 

b cross-roads {makwatana ma nha). 

39^ Lindblom, The Akaraba 

practically always on the face, the cheeks. Figures representing 
the sun and the moon are the most common (fig. 103). They 
are black, darker than the colour of the skin, and are produced 
in the following way: 

The skin is scratched with the rough stalks of the plant 
kanola (Rubiaceae, Galium?) used like files. Then the powdered 
root of the plant ntwokia (Plumbago)*, called by the old people 
Tvala^ is taken, dipped in milk or the juice of sugarcane and placed 
on the wound. The compress is left on the wound for a night 
and is then removed. When the wounds are healed, black marks 
are left. The method is said to be very painful; the wound swells, 
»burns like fire and one cannot sleep at night». 

Fig. 103. Black tattooings on the face, usually one on each cheek. 
The first one represents the sun, the two next ones the moon. 

6. Teeth-chipping and extraction. 

Both sexes deform a number of the front teeth of the upper 
jaw by chipping {kuseuGm^ maw). This custom is found over the 
whole of the tribe, but dififers in different districts, partly in regard 
to the number of teeth so deformed, partly in regard to the shape. 
Each district, however, keeps pretty regularly to its custom, and 
so one can decide fairly accurately by his teeth from what part 
of the country a native is. Thus in Ulu six, less often 7 — 8 teeth 
are cut and drawn out into narrow, sometimes awl-shaped points, 
but in the Kitui district only four with triangular, shorter and 
broader points (fig. 104). In the whole of East Ukamba, from 
Mumoni to Kikumbuliu (and in Kibwezi) only two teeth are cut, 
and these are shaped in the same way as in Kitui. In Ikutha, 
however, I sa\y teeth with curved points (as in fig. 105), sometimes 
suggesting half-moons, and there are possibly local variations in 
several places. 

* Presumably Plumbago ceylonica, which the Masai use for the 
same purpose. Merker, Die Masai, p. 151. 

* = to cut, pare? Or is it identical with kuseuQm 'to make beautiful?' 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 


Fig. 104. Teeth of three young Kamba men, Machakos. From a 
photograph by C. F, Johnston, missionary. 

The most primitive custom seems to have been to 
two teeth. It was then a fairly obvious development to 
the appearance still more by increasing the number. 
Hildebrandt gives the number as four in his description, 
but this only applies to East Ukamba. What the case 
was in Krapfs time is not clear from his work; he only 
says that 3>the teeth are artificially pointed*. According 
to the natives themselves the fashion prevalent in Ulu, 
especially in the Machakos district, of pointing six 
teeth or more is a recent one, which in 1910 had not 
been carried out for many years. The latter statement 



'••>v.>\-. •••• 


cut only 


Fig. 105. 

Pointed ; 
teeih from 



Fig. 106. Teeth-chipping, as describel on p. 394. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

could easily be tested by investigation; I neglected, however, to 
do so. When one comes to work out one's material at home 
there is a great deal that one finds has been overlooked. 

The pointing of the teeth is carried out in the way shown 
in fig. io6. I may say in passing that I am rather pleased with 
this photo, as during my year's stay in Ukamba and daily con- 
tact with the natives 1 only saw the 
operation perfi)rmed this one time. 

A person who is going to have 
his teeth pointed lays his head on the 
operator's knee. He has a bit of wood 
placed between his teeth, so that his 
mouth is kept open and his jaws kept 
steady. The instrument {^cesa) consists 
nowadays of a European knife, on which 
only a short piece of the blade has, 
been left, ground like a chisel (fig. 107)., 
The primitive instrument, which is now 
seldom seen in use, is more clumsy 
and is made of native iron in the same 
shape as the Akamba's broad-axe (fig. 

The operator places the instrument 

Fig. 107. 

Tool for 
ping. Knife 
of European 

ture, Vs nat. 

Fig. 108. 

Tool for 

teeth chip- 

pine, the old against a tooth and strikes it carefully 
onginaltype. ^j^.^^ ^ stone or a piece of wood. In 
V2 nat. size. , . , ... 

Riksmus ^^^^ ^"^^ away piece after piece, 

Eihn. Coll. in somewhat the same way as a sculptor 
Inv. 12. 7.256. uses his chisel. The work takes about 
5 — 8 hours, and is not carried out by 
any special man, but by anyone who understands the art. The 
young men often do it to each other. Of course they prefer to 
trust someone who has a reputation for skill and can produce 
really elegant points. Women cannot chip teeth, so the men per- 
form the operation on them as wtll. When the work is done, 
the beautified individual goes proudly to be admired by the girls 
(the girls similarly to the young men) and to be envied by those 
of his friends who have not yet had this improvement in their 

The consequence of this ill-usage of the teeth is that they 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 395 

can no longer be effectively used for the purpose they are intended 
for and, what is still more serious, they are usually quite destroyed 
after a short time. They then level what are left, if it is necess- 
ary, bore holes in the roots with a pointed iron pin, an awl 
(muku6a), and fix in » false teeth*. These are made of bone, pre- 
ferably of the goat or hartebeest, which is said not to grow yellow 
so quickly. The fatter the hartebeest is, the better its bone is 
said to be. It is usually very difficult to distinguish these arti- 
ficial teeth from the natural pointed ones. They are often whiter 
and finer than the latter, so that many natives actually prefer 
them to their own. The false teeth hold quite firmly and can 
only be taken out after being shaken for a while. They cannot 
be used for chewing. 

They seem to prefer to carry out this operation at a certain 
time of the year, namely the period that shows no extremes of 
temperature or, as the natives themselves express it, »when the 
mzv<s (Penicillaria spicata) is ripe». For they say that »the teeth 
do not like too strong sun nor too cold weather either*. We 
remember that the same expression, »when the mzv^p is ripe», is 
used to denote the most suitable time for carrying out cicatriza- 
tion. For this too they choose perhaps the time of the year when 
the part of the body that is being treated, in this case the skin, 
is least exposed to strong heat or cold. 

Teeth-chipping is widely spread in Africa, but in these districts 
the Akamba is the only tribe that practises it^. Nor is the custom 
found north of them in East Africa. They have no traditions at 
all about its origin. The motive for the usage has already been 
touched upon on p. 70, to which I refer the reader. Whatever it 
may have been originally, it is at the present moment — and has 
certainly been for many decades and longer — exclusively a thing 
of fashion, merely a refined manifestation of the desire on the 
part of the natives to embellish their external appearance. Just 
as for this reason, for instance, they bore the lobes of their ears, 
so they deform their teeth. »A person without pointed teeth 
looks like an animal », say the Akamba, a statement that is reported 
from several other peoples, although it is of no importance for the 

^ According to Hildebrandt (p. 304) some of the Wanyika file a 
deep notch in one of the front teeth of the upper jaw. The edges of 
the tooth then remains in the form of two points. 

396 Lindblom, The Akamba 

question of the origin of the custom, as this view of the matter, 
as V. Ihering observes, is, of course, a secondary one in relation 
to the origin of the custom ^. The fact that the deformation is 
only carried out after the young people have reached the age of 
puberty does not prove any connection with the rites associated 
with puberty. For it is only at the arrival at this age that the 
sexual impulses awaken and with them the desire to please the 
opposite sex and to associate with them, the latter desire finding 
expression especially in the wish to dance. To make themselves 
as attractive as possible for the dance they put on a great many 
ornaments. But they are not content with these, and try even to 
beautify the body itself, sometimes by painting, sometimes by 
direct injury to some of its parts. Thus teeth-chipping, like cica- 
trization, is comparable to the use of ornaments '. 

If one cares to do so, one may call teeth-chipping a tribal 
mark of the Akamba. It is, however, not obligatory to undergo 
this, although, for reasons easily understood, they do so all the 
same. Many realise the foolishness of it, but consider that the 
gain is greater than the loss. 

In addition the Akamba take out two teeth in the lower 
jaw. This is done with a wooden peg, at the point of which a 
metal bead is fixed, and on which the operator strikes with an 
axe or other weapon. It is impossible to decide which of the two 
kinds of deformation is the older. The last-mentioned kind has 
its special name in Kikamba {kwi6a), while the Ovaherero, for in- 
stance, have the same term {pkuhd) for both methods of proce- 
dure ^. 

If one asks the young men why they have their teeth de- 
formed, one always gets some of the following answers: 

(i) Because it is a custom (the power of custom). 

^ H, v. Ihering, Die kunstliche Deformiering der Zahne. Zeitschr. 
f. Ethnologic 1882, p. 218. 

* I agree in other repects with the view of teeth-chipping in 
Africa that R. Lasch has put forward in Die Verstiimmelung der Zahne 
in Amerlka und Bemerkungen zur Zahndeformation im allgemeinen. 
Vide also W. Joests great monograph, Tatowieren, Narbenzeichnen 
und Korperbemahlen. Ein Beitrag zur vergleichenden Ethnologie. Joest 
considers all these things to be cosmetic, ornaments only. 

' Dennert, Uber die Sitte der Zahnverstfimmelung bei den Ova- 
herero, Zeitschr. f. Ethn. 1907, p. 930. 

Clothing and Personal ornaments 397 

(2) Because the girls think it is beautiful (the most important 

(3) Because one can spit nicely (the person who can spit 
farthest through the gap in the teeth of the lower jaw is admired). 

A short story may be added, which illustrates in its way 
something of the importance attached to the deformation of teeth. 
It is certainly only a story, but at the same time a realistic pic- 
ture, though an exagge-ated one: 

Some girls went to have their teeth pointed and removed. They 
were all improved in appearance, but one of them got much finer 
points than the others. On the way home one of them said: »Let 
us see who can spit the best and so find out which of us has got 
the most beautiful teeth*. And they spat eagerly, the girl in 
question, however, farthest of all. Then her friends were seized 
with such envy that they threw her in the river and she was 

A couple of the Akamba's many riddles have teeth-chipping 
as their subject. One, which tries in a humorous way to explain 
the origin pf the custom, is as follows: »Who has taught us to 
point our teeth ?» Answer: y>kilu'may^, an Agave species with serrated 
leaves. Another is: »Te]l me the man who lives amidst swords 
and spears.'» Answer: »The tongue». 

Chap. XXII. Music and dancing. 
I. Musical instruments. 

The Akambas' musical instruments are few and simple. Those 
commonly found are used in dancing, especially at the young 
people's dances, which are their favourite recreation. The most 
important instrument is, just as everywhere in Africa, the drum, 
of which there are the following kinds: 

i) The ordinary dance instrument {mbalm, in Eastern Ukamba 
^gupa). It is a cylinder of thin wood, narrowing somewhat towards 
the bottom, which has at the top a membrane (germ. »anpfloc- 
kungv) fixed with pointed wooden wedges hammered hrough the 
walls of the drum. It is open at the bottom and thus belongs to 
the tube type (the german »r6hrentrommeln»). The skin, from a 
goat, ox or other mammal (never from the snake or lizard), is 
soaked before being put on and then lightens when it dries. The 
player stands with the drum fixed between his knees and beats 
it with both hands. A cord of bast or sinews fixed in a hole 
serves to carry the drum to and from the dancing place. Most 
of the drums are unpainted, without any ornamentation. Fig. 109 
shows one painted with red earth. 

2) A drum of almost the same type as the preceding, but 
considerably larger (diameter about 0.5 cm ) and not growing nar- 
row at the bottom is the hpceinbd. It is used only by old people, 
especially by the old women and preferably at religious festivals 
and exorcisms as music to the dance ktlum>^ the spirit dance of 
the old women. Formerly it was also used as a signal drum at 
hostile attacks. The drummer sits astride the instrument, which 
rests on the ground, or else he (she) sits on the ground himself 
and leans the drum against the inner part of one of the thighs. 

The hpcsmbd drum has, etymologically, certainly nothing to 
do with kupcsmba 'to sacrifice' or its derivative %p(Bmbo 'place of 

Music and dancing 


Fig. 109. 
Dance drum (mbqha). 
Vi nat. size. 

-c . 


Fig. no. 

Dance drum (/fe>a)- 

Ys nat. size. 

4po Lindblom, The Akamba 

sacrifice', although, as a matter of fact, it is closely connected 
with spirit worship. The word is, instead, probably identical with 
the term for the vessel of the same name, i. e. a cylindrical 
wooden vessel with a lid of skin. 

3) A cylindrical drum with skin at both ends is called '^goma. 
The way in which the skin is put on is unknown to me; if the 
drum is indigenous, it ought to be by means of pegs being driven 
in. The '^igorna was formerly used in one of the women's dances of 
the same name, which was afterwards succeeded by the kilumi and 
the k'hpcembd drum. The drummer sat on the ground with the drum 
horizontally over his knees and beat it with one hand against 
each end. 

At Kibwezi 1 have seen 'ggoma's with two skins fastened with 
cords, but these are certainly, through the medium of the coast 
tribes, of Suaheli (Arabic) origin, which is borne out both by the 
method of fastening the skins and by the name (Kisuaheli goma 
'drum'). Besides being used by the Suaheli and Arabs these drums 
are, as a matter of fact, also used by the Wanyika and the Wadu- 
ruma and other tribes in the hinterland of Mombasa that have 
been influenced by the Suaheli and with which the Akamba in 
the south-east are in contact. 

4) A dance drum for youths of quite another type is km 
(formerly called muOji'ggti). It consists of a spool-shaped wooden 
cylinder (fig. no) with a bottom of skin (a) and a handle at the 
top (b). Inside the tube a stretched metal wire goes from the 
bottom up to the peg (c) fixed above the mouth. The specimen 
reproduced here is the biggest I came across. 

The instrument is used by being held by the handle and 
rhythmically knocked against the ground, giving out a Soft sound 
(the german »stosstrommel, stampftrommel»). The metal wire, which 
is, however, not obUgatory, is intended to strengthen the sound. 
There are tubes of dififerent thickness, which give different tones 
(intentionally?). Otherwise the sound is more softly monotonous 
than that of the mbaha, the present drum of the young people. 
The kia is now out-of-date, though it is found lying in many 
a hut. 

This drum for knocking with seems to be fairly unique. Its 
prototype is probably, however, a bit of bamboo tube closed at 
the bottom, and. as a matter of fact, Hildebrandt (and, after H. 

Music and dancing, 401 

perhaps, R. Hartmann^) says that in his time such bamboo tubes 
were exclusively used by the Akamba, who got them from Kenia. No 
bamboos grow in Ukamba. As there was probably not always 
access to bamboo, they tried to make these drums of wood. It also 
appears as if the wooden kya drum arose after Hartmann's time and 
has now also disappeared. Percussion drums of bamboo, usually 
hung with small metal bells, are still found, however, among the 
Wapare, where I have collected them myself, and according to 
Frobenius also among the Waseguyu, i. e. generally speaking in 
some scattered places in East Africa^. 

There is no need to enter into the occurrence of this type 
of drum in Indonesia and Polynesia; I refer the reader to Fro- 
benius. To draw conclusions from this occurrence as to remains 
of Malay-nigritic culture in these parts of East Africa appears rather 
inappropriate. The discovery that a sound can be produced by 
knocking a piece of bamboo against the ground is a very obvious 
one, but bamboo is so rare in Africa that the instrument could 
not attain any general dissemination there. It is not improbable, 
however, that' this type of drum had formerly a greater distribu- 
tion, but from the time when real drums came into use in Central 
Africa, they were preferred on account of their better sound and 
because they had the additional advantage that the material for them 
was everywhere easily accessible. Hildebrandt, who is a careful 
observer, does not, curiously enough, mention any real drums from 
Ukamba. May one draw the conclusion from this that these had 
not yet come into use in his time? (The Akikuyu, who in many 
respects are closely related to the Akamba, do not use drums.) 
If this is the case, it is quite easy to understand that after real 
drums came into use, they soon gave up the more difficult work 
of hollowing out a narrow wooden tube. 

For reasons unknown to me Ankermann does not discuss 
percussion drums in his monograph on African musical instru- 
ments. Perhaps he looks upon them more as dance staves, 
under which appellation, for instance, Koch-Griinberg groups his 
knocking drum from North West Brazil, which, we may mention 

1 Abyssinien und die iibrigen Gebiete der Ostkuste Afrikas, p. 233. 

- L. Frobenius, Der Ursprung der Afrikanischen Kuhuren, p. 
187. F:s description of these bamboo tubes as open at one side does 
not apply to those I saw among the Wapare. 

ArchOr. Lindblom 26 

402 Lindblom, The Akamba 

in passing, offers an interesting resemblance to that of the Akamba, 
with regard to decoration as welP. The term » dance stave* 
is, at least for the East African knocking drums, unsuitable, for the 
purpose of the tube is to produce sounds, even if possibly they 
are sometimes by chance swung in the hand. 

For the decorations of the dance drums referred to here we 
have to turn to the chapter on the art of decoration. 

String instruments. The drum in its various forms is the 
only instrument that can be said to be in general use. There are 
two kinds of string instruments, but both are used only by spe- 
cialists, if one may use the term. 

An instrument that is used exclusively for a certain pur- 
pose and by a certain class of men, is the music -bow {uta 'bow'), 
with a wire string, which the medicine man uses when he gets into 
communication with the spirit world (fig. 1 1 1), as has been already de- 
scribed (p. 258). This music-bow is the only one in Africa that I 
know of which has the sounding body fixed between the string and 
the bow. Of the Akambas' musical instruments it is the only one 
that has no independent name. From a geographical point of 
view its occurrence in Ukamba is not remarkable, as Ankermann 
has shown the distribution of the music-bow over all that part of 
Africa that is inhabited by negroes. We may perhaps explain 
its occurrence in Ukamba only among the medicine men as a relic 
from an earher and lower stage of culture^. For it is, of course, 
scarcely likely that this music-bow is a new instrument that has 
not yet attained any wider dissemination than among the medicine 
men. E. von Rosen, on the other hand, takes the few musical 
instruments fitted with calabashes that he found among the Batwa 
m the Bangveolo swamps to be an article of luxury that has not 
yet become widespread^. 

1 Th. Koch-Grunberg, Zwei Jahre unter den Indianern (see 
Index under >Tanzstab»). 

2 The metal string is, although rare, not unique. Frobenius, Der 
Ursprung der Afrik, Kulturen, p. 122, mentions it from Angola. 

^ E. von Rosen, Traskfolket, p. 265. 

Music and dancing. 


'/ ^N( 

Fig. III. The musical 
bow of the medicine man. 
a calabash as a sound-box, 
b wire, c wire as orna- 
ment. Vs nat. size. Riks- 
mus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 
12. 7, 100. 

Fig. 112. The mboeda — fiddle with its 

bow, c. Ve nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. 

Inv. 12. 7. 98. 

404 Lindblom, The Akamba 

The other string instrument is the nibcsOd (fig. 1 1 2). The sound- 
ing body is a calabash, the string a cord that is still more 
stretched by means of a little piece of calabash used as a bridge 
(a). The string-holder in our figure is bow-shaped, but in my col- 
lection there are also instruments with a straight stick and a 
piece of a side-branch still left at the end for fixing and tightening 
the string. This form is reproduced by Ankermann ^. His speci- 
men from the Berlin museum has no string, so he has reconstruc- 
ted this without the bridge belonging to it. Similarly it is without 
the little bow of bast string {c in my fig.) with which the inbceOd 
is played, and this causes A. to make an incorrect assumption 
about the method of playing it and consequently an incorrect 
classification of the instrument. The interesting thing about the 
mbceOd is just the bow, the only example of the use of this that 
I know from East Africa south of Abyssinia. 

The instrument is not common; I have seen it only in Kib- 
wezi and Ikutha. It gives only a weak sound, and so it is never 
used at dances, but exclusively as a pastime, for the pleasure of 
the player himself and his audience. It is really the only one of 
the Akambas' instruments in which musical talent has any oppor- 
tunity to show itself; its occurrence thus proves that there is such 
talent among the Akamba. One can come across real virtousos, 
■whose playing approaches actual melodies. It is said of these that 
they »can speak* with their instruments. 

The rnbcsOd is clearly not an indigenous instrument among 
the Bantu negroes, but we must look opon it as a form of the 
Arabs' r^bab (the Persians' revaveY, variants of which, also with 
one string, are found spread over Northern Africa, north of the 
Bantu territory. Even the name mbcedd must be identical with 
rebab or some form of this word. A further question is that of 
finding out how the Akamba got the instrument, as it does not 
seem to be found among the neighbourrng peoples towards the 
coast, whence the Arabic influence in East Africa has, however, 

^ Die Afrikanischen Musikinstrumente, fig. 7. It is also depicted with- 
out any string by M. Schoeller, Mitteil. iiber meine Reise nach Aquatorial- 
Ost-Afrika und Uganda, 1896 — 97, vol. II, fig. C. II. S. does not, however, 
say exactly what the object represents. 

* C. Sachs, Real-Lexikon der Musikinstrumente, Berlin 1913. 

Music and dancing. 403 

come. The rnbceOd I came across were found, however, only in 
East Ukamba^. 

Among the string instruments may also be counted a toy 
that the boys make from pieces of Sorghum stalks. When the 
Sorghum is reaped, they take 6 — 10 stalks of equal length, about 
2 dm., and fix them together with a bast fastening. Along each 
one is a string split and the strings are stretched by means of 
a stick fixed across each end of the instrument. The strings are 
struck with a little peg. This toy is also called mbceG^. The 
type appears in a larger and more complete form among several 
East African tribes, amongst others the Kavirondo, where I havq 
also seen them used as toys. 

Wind instruments. Of these there are in my collection 
horns of the greater Kudu and the Oryx. The former has the 
hole one blows through on the concave side, which according to 
Ankermann is most usual. I have, however, never seen them in 
use, but they are said to have been used on festive occasions, 
such as the solemn entry of a hunting party returning from a 
successful hunt. 

The little war-flute iMguli), which is also made of horn, has been 
discussed and depicted on p. 192. Hildebrandt (p. 391), on the 
other hand, describes the war-flute as a »tubular flute of the thick- 
ness of a finger and with three holes », while Hobley's account 
agrees with mine. We shall soon find that the name '^guh is also 
used for a tubular flute, but, on the other hand, there are no such 
flutes, at least at present, in Ukamba with three holes, but only 
with four, the most common number for African flutes. 

The ordinary bamboo flute {mutul(Eld) is never used at dances 
but only as a pastime for young men and boys. The Kamba flute 
always has four holes, which are burnt out and which lie on the 
same side as the notch for the mouthpiece. The two first fingers 
of each hand are used and are held alternately over the holes. 

A composite wind-instrument, which the young men use simi- 
larly for their amusement is the so (plural maso). It consists of a 
bamboo tube about a metre long, fixed into a funnel of calabash 

^ To judge from a picture in J. G. Wood's Natural History of 
Man, Africa, p. 444, the Wahuma in Karagwe have a kind of rebaby 
played with a long bow. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

as a resonance chamber (fig. 113). The upper end of the tube is 
stopped up. It is blown at a rectangular incision, 3 cm. long. 1 

f ^rrf^mni^in k ;r"Ty^ ' i" ! Uf"ii"f i jii wi p ii i piiiii p . 


Fig. 113, Wind-instrument (50). Reed shaft with burnt 
ornaments, ^/g nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. 
Inv. 12. 7. 105. 

have tried in vain to produce sounds in this trumpet, a task which 
demands practice and good lungs. 

From a linguistic point of view the name so, 
£ c-.'^...f, with the absence of a class prefix, gives the im- 
pression of a loan-word. Ankermann (fig. 97) re- 
produces quite the same instrument from the Ussu- 
kuma, south of Lake Victoria. 

Among the small boys' toys there are also some 
little objects that come under the heading of musi- 
cal instruments: 

nzumali is a complicated flute, consisting of a 
piece of tube with four holes burnt out and a 
roUed-up maize, leaf as a funnel for the sound (fig. 
114). The mouth aperture is made at a joint of 
the tube. This little flute is the only one that 
has a reed, a piece cut out on the tube (a in 
/" "'iH'-nilWV "• ^^ figure). Bast is fastened round the tube over 
the base of the reed {b), and a straw (^) is placed 
Fig, 114. Flute i" front of it to keep it open. The lower end of 
(nzumali), toy the maize leaf is kept together by an acacia thorn 
for boys, V4 or a little peg (/)^ 

nat. size. Riks- Flutes with vibrating reeds seem to be rare 

mus. Ethn. , 9 t^ r 1 • t -n 

Coll Inv I among the negroes . Because ot this and still 

7. 277. more because of its name, I assume that this little 

^ I do not know any instrument with a similar funnel for the 
sound from Africa, but I take the opportunity of mentioning that in 
the Ethnogr. Museum of Stockholm there is, coming from India (Inv, 
81. 204) a horn of roUed-up strips of palmleaf, rolled in the same way 
as our maize leaf above (»Borikna poukni»). 

* Hildebrandt (p. 391) mentions one from the Wataita. 

Music and dancing. 407 

toy flute has arisen under Suaheli-Arabic influence. Nzomari or 
zomari is, according to Steere, »a kind of clarionet, a pipe*. I 
do not know what it looks Uke, but as far as the Suaheli word 
is concerned, it is clearly identical with the Arabic zumara, which 
is certainly, however, a double flute. 

The boys also make a sort of double flute or pipe of two 
short pieces of stalk (0.5 to i dm.) of Rhicinus communis, fastened 
alongside each other with bast. A bast fastening between the 
openings gives additional firmness. The pipe is called g^w/z, just 
like the war-flute. It gives a strong, shrill sound, which it needs, 
however, a certain amount of practice to produce. 

This type of flute seems to me to be fairly isolated. If we 
leave out of account the divergent Arabic-Egyptian double flutes, 
I know only one similar instrument, namely the flute from the Jaunde 
in the Cameroons reproduced by Ankermann (fig. 74) after Fro- 
benius (fig. 1 14). This is said to be blown from the top, whereas 
the Akamba pipe is blown, in the regular African way, from the 

This investigation of the Akambas' musical instruments 
shows that although few in number, they ofifer a good deal of 
interest. We have found, on the one hand, instruments of a pri- 
mitive type that are undoubtedly indigenous, such as the drum 
for knocking with and the music-bow of the medicine man, on 
the other hand several others with foreign, Suaheli-Arabic, cha- 
racteristics. For a complete understanding of the latter it would 
be desirable to know more about the instruments among the tribes 
between Ukamba and the coast, but for this the author lacks the 
necessary material. 

2. Dancing. 

It is not necessary to be an ethnologist to know that dancing, 
if not actually the dearest of all the pleasures of primitive peoples, 
is one of the dearest of them. Similarly it plays an important 
part in rehgion. 

Dancing in general is called wapt in Kikamba and to dance 
kwina wa^i, really to sing the dance'. Song and dancing are 
really inseparably connected (more closely connected than dance 

4o8 Lindblom, The Akamba 

and music) and the dance is alway accompanied with singing. In 
the young peoples' dances the singing is conducted by a chief 
singer (^gui), who is at the same time the leaderof the dance. Asa 
sign of his dignity he sometimes carries a long stave in his hand, 
which in some ways may be compared to the baton of the leader 
of an orchestra. He leads the various figures in the dances and 
with some word, for instance l>asz (enough), he shows when it is 
time to pass to a new one. The ^gui is also the author of the 
songs that are sung during the dances. When one of these has 
been sung so long that it is known, or when for some other 
reason they have grown tired of it, it is he that makes up a new 
one. One may say that almost at every full moon they take up 
a new dancing song. The dances take place, of course, pre- 
ferably on moonlight evenings and nights. 

There is great rivalry and envy between different chief singers, 
and they try to eclipse each other. It has also happened that 
they have tried to bewitch one another by magic {tvoi). 

A ^gut must never eat the lungs of animals; this is thought 
to be injurious to his own lungs and may spoil his good voice. 
The most important thing about a good leading singer is, of 
course, the strength of his voice; he has to be able to sing louder 
than all the others. 

»To dance ^> is also called kutula, which, however, always means 
dancing with girls. Another expression is kuswgga, which originally 
had no special significance. 

Each little district has its dancing place {kitutoY, where the 
young people gather together in the evenings. Especially when 
the girls have been together helping each other in the work in 
the fields, they are wont to gather for a dance after its finish. The 
different dances take place periodically, and seem to be arranged 
according to the seasons, inasmuch as during a certain time only 
a certain dance is danced and then disappears altogether for a 
time, during which they go in just as eagerly for another dance. 

The most common of the young peoples' dances is mbalta, 
so called after the drum of the same name, which is the only 

^ < kututa 'to sweep' ; the dancing place is always swept before 
being used. It serves also as a meeting-place, a sort of club room for 
the young people, who meet together here occasionally and discuss 
their common concerns. (Cf. p. 185.) 

Music and dancing 


instrument used in this dance, in which it serves to mark the time. 
As this dance is danced in the Machakos district, one can distin- 
guish three parts. First a general dance in couples, i. e. the 
young men and girls arrange themselves in two ranks so that 
the partner stands opposite his lady and turns towards her. 
The ranks are sometimes quite military in their straightness, 
sometimes more curved. They bend a little forward and the 
young man puts 
his right cheek 
against the girl's 
right (fig. 115). 
The forearm is 
bent upwards, the 
upper arm rests 
against the side 
of the body. The 
upper part of the 
body is swayed 
in time with the 
music, the drums, 
and at the same 
time they rub 
their cheeks a- 
gainst each other. 
This rubbing is 
the most impor- 
tant part of the 
whole dance, as it 
produces pleasant 

feelings. They like to stand so near each other that the girTs 
breast touches the man during the movements. As a matter of 
fact one can hardly call it a dance in our meaning of the word, 
as the feet do not move from their place, only the upper part of 
the body sways to and fro (fig. 115). 

This goes on for about ten minutes, after which the girls^ 
retire and collect together in a cluster in a corner of the dancing 
place. There they remain standing with their arms round each 
others' waists, a characteristic position for Kamba girls. During 
this time the voung men form a semicircle and stand thus for 

Fig. 115. Detail from a moaha-dance, Machakos. 

The man puts his right cheek aganist the 

girls right. 

4 lo 

Lindblom, The Akamba 

a little while singing. Then the girls, still in a cluster, begin to 
move forward, until they are standing in the semicircle of the 
men, with their arms all the while round each others' waists. They 
now have to choose partners to begin the dance again — for it 
is the girls that »ask for a dance » — and they make their choice 
known by moving a few metres towards the chosen man or simply 
by stretching out a hand. The young men are standing in tense 
expectation as to whether they shall be asked to dance by those 

they like best. 
Besides, the girls 
are always in the 
minority, so that 
some of the boys 
are usually left 
without a part- 
ner. That the for- 
mer are smaller in 
number is due to 
the fact that many 
of them are marri- 
ed when they are 
yet quite young 
and little. As soon 
as they are marri- 
ed they do not go 
to the dance of 
the young people, 
which, on the 
other hand, a mar- 
ried man may do. When ihe girls have made their choice, the 
dance begins again. 

During the dance the men are practically naked, as they 
roll up their blanket into a sort of belt round their waist. On 
the dancing place there is always a small fire burning, at which 
the musicians now and then warm their drumskins so as to bring 
back their tension. The »band» consists of four to five drum- 
mers, who cluster together in a corner of the dancing place (fig. 
1 1 6). At the fire those who are not so keen on dancing also 
squat so as to warm themselves and talk. Over the whole dancing 

Fig. 1 1 6. The »banci» at a ijibaha-dance. 

Music and dancing. 411 

place there are also darting about half-grown, still uncircumsized 
boys, who watch the dance with envious glances and try to prac- 
tise the art for themselves until they have the right to take part. 
The more advanced among them make attempts at flirtation, but 
are dismissed by the girls, often pretty forcibly. 

The custom of the girls' asking for the dance gives the Kamba 
girl an opportunity of showing which young man she likes best, 
and in this way the foundation of many marriages is laid during 
these nights of dancing. This is thus an advantage, but, on the other 
hand, the young men are easily made by this means into ridiculous 
fools unable to act for themselves, hunting for the girl's favour, while 
the latter are often as haughty and arrogant in their conduct as 
a spoilt and celebrated belle of the ball. If there are any young 
men present who are displeasing to them, it often happens that 
they declare they will not dance as long as these men are there, 
and actually leave the place if their request is not granted. The 
young men submit, drive the displeasing individuals away and 
run after the fair ones to implore them to stay. 

Quarrels and disputes easily arise at the dancing place on 
account of jealousy, especially when » foreigners*, i. e. youths from 
villages situated farther off, come there and » spoil* the dance. The 
whole thing may then very easily end up in a general fight. In 
ancient times the boys did not dare to go to dances outside their 
own little district, and where outsiders were bold enough to make 
their appearance in order to compete for the favour of the girls, 
there was always a fight. There were, however, populous districts, 
in which the anakd, gathered into bands, out of pure love of 
contention, used to go from one dancing place to another, and, if 
the natives at these places dared to utter the slightest murmur, 
they were driven away from their own dancing place. Such 
disputes show a resemblance to the fights of cock birds at a 
place of copulation. 

To understand a dance properly and to get to know the 
feeling it produces the investigator ought to dance it himself. 
Even without such experience it is easy to understand that the vibaka 
dance has a strong erotic stamp, although it cannot be called 
mimetic; the Akamba do not seem to have such dances. The 
flirtation is very undisguised and every now and then a young 
man whose feelings have become too strong tries to entice a girl 

412 Lindblom, The Akamba 

aside into the thicket surrounding the dancing place. As a rule 
these nocturnal dances end up with general sexual intercourse on 
the way home. 

The young people thus have the most unrestricted freedom 
during these dances. No elder people go there, as it is generally 
considered wrong to concern oneself about who is making love 
to one's daughter. 

On moonlight nights the dances go on till long after mid- 
night, and any one who is not accustomed to the monotonous 
drumming and singing and noise finds it difficult to get to sleep. 
When the nights are dark, they dance in the afternoon. About 
3 o'clock the drumming begins, calling them to the dance, just 
like the accordion in the country districts of Sweden. On the 
paths appear flocks of youths, singing and striking their drums. 
They are splendidly attired with all their ornaments, on the pol- 
ishing and fixing of which they have spent much time and trouble. 
In the neighbourhood of the government stations they even carry 
small mirrors, purchased in the Indian bazaar, in which they look 
at themselves now and then to see that everything is in its place. 

These afternoon dances, which end early and from which 
they all go home at the same time, are more innocent than the 
ones held at night. 

The most popular pleasure dance after the mbal%a is the 
musm. In this no drums or other musical instruments are used, 
but the time is indicated by rattles, small bells (3—4 cm.) of 
iron or copper, containing stones or pieces of metal. The bells 
are fixed on a leather cord, that the young men wind round 
the right leg, which is often quite covered with bells. They thus 
stamp the time with the right foot. This dance also consists of 
different figures, which are carried out partly by the youths alone. 
In these latter intermezzos the dancers move about, and they 
stamp round, now in a long, twisting line, now in a sort of round 
dance, but without holding each others' hands ^. During these 
they carry instead various dancing accessories, such as bows,, 
staves and clubs of different types. The girls take part in certain 
parts of the dance, but as I unfortunately forgot to make careful 

^ Reproduced in my popular work Afrikanska stroMg, p. 157. A 
picture of the mbaha is found there on p. 153; m6«?6^-playingmen on pp. 
196, 211. < . 

Music and dancing. 413 

notes about this dance and dare not rely on my memory, I must 
omit the details. 

Contrary to the mbalm, the musm always takes place in the 
afternoons, before darkness comes on, and is attended by a great 
hort of spectators. The number of those who take part in it is 
also greater than in the former dance, and so a considerably 
larger dancing place is needed for the musyx. The young people 
from the different small districts (kiOalo) come in a close crowd 
marching in procession to the common dancing place. The young 
men usually carry their bells in their hands and put them on 
when they have gone a bit of the way, after which they come 
on in procession, the men in single file and after them the girls 
from the same district. It is quite a fine sight to see them; they 
do not go direct to the dancing place, where the spectators are 
waiting, but go in procession, now zigzag, now in a curved 
line towards their goal, and then suddenly, when they reach the 
place, they turn aside once more and make another big swing. 

The tnbaha and the mus\a are the two great pleasure dances. 
I shall add some dances, the nature of which I am not quite 
certain about, as I only know them from descriptions. One 
of these is the k%lamu, which is danced by the young people in 
certain places »when the maize is ripe» (originally a ritual harvest 
dance?) ^. During this dance clapping of hands sometimes takes 
place; further details are unknown to me. The dance is only 
performed in certain places (not in Machakos), because the elders 
forbid it as they say it is » wicked » and may bring about famine. 

In the Kitui district in former times a dance is said to have 
existed, in which a kind of stilts were used, with the dancer's feet 
about half a metre above the ground. This dance does not seem 
to have existed in West Ukamba. 

The iOwulu is danced by the married women and the younger 
married men {nitfceld) together and in pairs, a man and a woman 
turned towards each other. This is the least aesthetic of the 
dances I have seen in Ukamba. It is true that they stand on 

1 It is not improbable that ritual dances in connection with the 
harvest are found in certain places. Hildebrandt says (p. 390): »0b- 
scene movements of the body are peculiar to dances at sowing and 
harvest time». Further research on this point would be of great 

414 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the same spot, as in the vibaha, but body and legs are bent in 
all conceivable ways, such as in hip-movements, and similarly a 
great many arm movements are carried out. Now the dancers 
are crouched and bent towards the ground, now they stretch 
themselves as high as possible, with their arms swinging over 
their head. I have only observed this dance in connection with 
exorcism, etc., and so it is perhaps exclusively of a religious 
nature. As music they use the h^cembd, the big spirit drum. 

Religious dancing. The general ritual dances in connection 
with the cult of ancestors is the k^lumt, which has already been 
discussed on pp. 230 fif. It is danced, generally speaking, in the 
same way as the mbaha (the couples lean their cheeks against 
each other), when men take part in it. When women dance with 
each other there is a little interval. The movements are, however, 
more violent and spasmodic than in the young peoples' dance. 
The time is given by the kij)cembd drum. The drummer strikes 
once with one hand and then three short strokes in succession, 
of which the last is strongest, with the other. This monotonous 
music goes on without interruption, only with an increase of ra- 
pidity when they go into ecstacies. In addition the women wear 
iron bells round their arms, of the same type as those used in 
the mnsia, but considerably larger. From the upper arm hangs 
down a cow or zebra tail called mwt^gu ('tail' is otherwise kiszpd), 
which swings to and fro during the violent motions (vide fig. 58). 
These tails must have a certain significance from a magic-religious 
point of view; tails are also used by the medicine men as stoppers 
for their medicine calabashes. 

kilumt does not seem to be an old dance, for the older people 
say that it was preceded by 'ggoma, which was accompanied by 
drums of the same name. In the 'ggoma the women are said to 
have carried swords, arrows and spears, the latter being war-tro- 
phies, as the Akamba themselves do not use spears. 

Mr Sauberlich told the author how there was formerly in 
Kitui a dance called rnb(g6o. I connect this dance with the spirits 
of foreign tribes (see pp. 234 ff.). It is forbidden, however, 
by the elders under a penalty of two cows, because during its 
performance there arose so much trouble and immorality between 
the men and the younger women. 

Music and dancing. 415 

Of the religious dances I have also already mentioned hcesu 
(p. 238) and those connected with the circumcision rites, of which 
at least a certain number have special names (see nzuma, p. 59). 

We thus undoubtedly find different dances for different occa- 
sions, and even the pure pleasure dances seem to change with the 
seasons, as has already been shown. At one time they devote 
themselves entirely to the mbaha, and then finish with it altogether 
and go in for the niusia, from which later on they go back to 
the first, and so on. Yet the Akamba do not seem to have any 
old dances, national dances so to speak. These dances emerge 
and disappear just like our fashionable dances. When a novelty 
of this sort begins, all the young people, especially the girls, are 
very eager and restless until they have learned the new art, and then 
they give themselves up to it passionately, only to let it quite 
suddenly go out of fashion for some other. 

When the natives really get into the grip of dancing, they 

— especially the young men — are seized by a regular passion for 
this amusement, which is beyond all description. Dancing is then 
their whole life, the sole thing they are interested in. This leads 
to unpleasant consequences both for those around them and for 
themselves. Under such circumstances it is practically impossible 
for the travellers to get bearers and this is difficult even for the 
government service. When there is no other remedy one has to 
take bearers forcibly — a thing of which I have had experience 

— and when the young men can keep away, it is their fathers 
or elder married brothers who have to go with the burdens on 
their backs. The older people have to suffer in other ways as well 
while the youngsters rush from one dance to another, sometimes 
on regular dancing tours, as during the present peaceful times 
there is little risk in visiting even distant dancing places. Many 
of them neglect their of watching cattle, which the exasper- 
ated father has to do himself; others ought perhaps to have crushed 
sugarcane for beer for the old men, who have now to go without 
their precious beer. 

If nothing else is of any avail, the old people have recourse to 
the most effective remedy within their reach, that is prohibition 
of all dancing. And if they are really annoyed, they do not stop 
at this, but forbid all intercourse betwen boys and girls, so that 

4i6 Lindblom, The Akamba 

they are not allowed even to speak to each other, when they 
meet out on a path. The refractory youths cannot stand this for 
long, as without dancing and girls life has lost its greatest pleas- 
ures for them. So they submit and keep quiet, as long as 
they can. 

3 Song. 

We said that singing is inseparably united with dancing. The 
dancing songs are sung for the most part in chorus, but certain 
parts are preferred by the chief singer — the leader of the dance 
— alone. Further there are songs sung in unison by young girls 
on various occasions, such as when they work together. Solo songs 
are also sung by women, for instance when they are crushing 
maize, lulling their children to sleep, etc. Men also like to sing 
alone during their work. Thus I have often heard solitary young 
men singing as they were digging up a field. And they are not 
content with humming softly, but sing with the whole power of 
their lungs. These songs of labour, as one might call them, usu- 
ally consist of some few words, repeated ad infinitum, as for in- 
stance, when I heard a man uninterruptedly sing the following, 
only interspersed now and then with some vocalization: m^gukwi- 
nza leu T am now digging'. 

All these songs of various kinds are songs for the occasions, 
sometimes improvised for the moment by the singer himself, some- 
times such as a recognized singer has improvised and which have 
then become popular. Old songs handed down by tradition are 
certainly entirely lacking, with the exception of the songs connec- 
ted with the initiation rites, which are reproduced in Chap. III. 

There are no wandering singers. An apparently unique ex- 
ception was a man known over almost the whole of Ukamba, 
Kieti by name, a blind singer from the Ikutha district, who sang 
to the mdceGd songs composed by himself. His wife, who guided 
him on his wanderings, he is said to have won by his singing. 
He was a very uglylooking man, his face being altogether disfigu- 
red, as in his childhood he was bitten by a hyena. 

I discuss the subject of the Akambas' songs quite briefly here, 
because the songs I noted have been worked out as a separate 
work and are to be published in connection with other examples 
of the art of composition and intellectual life of the tribe, their 

Music and dancing. 


stories, proverbs and riddles. To take down a song is rather 
difficult, as a person who can sing a song is unable, in most cases, 
to reproduce it in any other way, and thus cannot recite it, which 
is necessary if one is to take down the words. I have also re- 
corded a number of songs with the phonograph, but in this there 
was another difficulty, namely to make the natives speak into the 
phonograph. The nren were pretty willing, but the women were 
impossible, although I asked those that I had been in daily con- 
tact with for months and whose confidence I enjoyed. My phono- 
graphic records are incorporated with the phonographic archives 
of the Ethnographical museum in Stockholm. 

To describe the musical character of the Akambas' songs in 
a few words, we may mention that they always begin very high 
up in the scale of notes, with a series of vowel sounds, before 
the real words begin. A kind of refrain, usually consisting of a 
longdrawn ? (see the initiation songs), is often heard. Melody in 
our meaning of the term appears just as little in their songs as 
in their music, but their manner of uttering the words may be 
described as a sort of singing speech. 


•< -rrwi.!.l 

.J, - ' . 
Arch. Or. Lindblom 

,1 •,;.,■! ->..> 



Chapter XXIII. Toys and games. 

To begin with I take the opportunity of observing that, in 
the case of many peoples who are otherwise well known, little or 
nothing is known about their games and similar amusements. Even 
clever investigators, who have carried out admirable researches, 
often pass by this subject silently or content themselves with 
saying that the natives have no real games, a statement that has 
more than once proved to be rather rash. To a great extent this 
is, of course, due to the fact that the authorities in question have 
only stayed a short time among a certain people, during which 
they have not had an opportunity of making such observations, 
especially as certain pastimes are only indulged in during certain 
times in the year. 

If we examine the Akamba's games and pastimes, we find 
that the grown-up people concern themselves very slightly with 
such things; they are the children's business. To a great extent 
these children, like others, try to imitate the occupations and 
work of their elders. We know that the child's desire for activity 
finds expression in games, and like all healthy children, no matter 
what race they belong to, the Kamba children are seldom idle. Thus 
the boys, for instance, make small bows with bast strings and 
arrows of pipes or twigs, by means of which they engage in 
shooting small birds. They even construct small bee-hives of ca- 
labash and hang them up in the trees. It sometimes actually 
happens that the wild bees take possession of such a »hive». The 
boys like to imitate the young men's dances, and then make dance 
drums of calabash, the ends of which they cut off and then fix a 
bit of skin on one end. 

The girls, for their part, soon begin to practise preparing 
cords of bast and with them plait small sacks, a work which they 
see their mothers doing on every conceivable occasion. In the 
sacks they put small calabashes, filled with earth, which represents 

Toys and games 


porridge or other food. Similarly they make vessels of clay, and they 
lay out small fields on which they plant. Of course they also cook 
food, with earth and water, etc. 

The boys and girls play » father, mother and children » toge- 
ther. They build small huts of grass and imitate the grown-ups, 
an imitation which is sometimes so carefully done that not even 

Fig. 117. Doll (woman) made of pipe-shaped stalks, o arms. 
1/2 nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 12. 7. 284. 

the sexual part of a marriage is omitted. As is well known, such 
things cease to be a mystery to children of primitive people at a 
very early age. 

The Kamba children have few toys in the real meaning of 
the word. Rattles are used by small children, although I have 
seen them only in the simple and primitive form of a dry fruit 
with hard seeds inside. Thus the fruits of musth (Crotaelaria) are 
tied to pegs and then used as rattles. 

I have seen the girls playing with dolls, though this is rare. 
These have names and are also called by their little owners mwa- 

420 Lindblom, The Akamba 

naktva "my child'. On the other hand no word for »doll» seems 
to exist. The dolls I haVe seen are made out of pipe-shaped stalks 
in the most simple manner and are adorned with ornaments (fig. 
117). The picture shows a woman with her loincloth, which is 
taken from a real one. Round her »neck» she wears chains and 
round her waist a pearl belt, just as women are clad. This type 
of doll always seems to lack a head. If the doll represents a 
baby, the mother owner makes a baby-carrier out of a cloth and 
carries the d,oll on,her back in a cord over her forehead. 

Fig. 118. Clay doll (woman). The strokes on the breast represent 

the tattooing of scars. The ear is bored through but there are no 

ornaments. 1/0 "^t- ^^2^- Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 12, 7. 287. 

A type of doll which sustains the illusion better are the 
figures of clay which I saw at Mulango (fig. 118). They are cer- 
tainly coarsely made, but in part very realistic, with sexual organs 
and scar-tattooing. As I have not seen these at any other places 
but Mulango, I must suggest the possibiHty that they may be imi- 
tations of the missionary children's dolls there. 

. Among toys for boys I have found the peg-top (n^ic^/^/z) 
which is roughly cut out of wood, without notches, and is struck 

Toys and games 

42 1- 

with a whip of^bast (fig. 119). It is spun with the whip in exactly 
the same way as is done by European boys. Whether this top is 
indigenous is at least open to doubt. On the other hand the tops 
which smaller boys make by sticking a peg through the globular 
fruits of the mukomoa tree are certainly native. This top is spun 
by the hands alone'. 

The boys also trundle hoops {fid}a 
'wheel') made of flexible branches. 

kiscB^g(sla km k'iku 'calabash sherd' 
is a little wheel, cut out of a bit of cala- 
bash-shell, and threaded on a little peg, 
which is placed crosswise in the fork of 
a stick. The wheel, which is driven along 
the ground, is probably originally an imi- 
tation of a real cart. 

Like Our children the boys also make 
air-guns out of hollow branches of plants 
and fix a peg as a butt at one end and 
in the other a clod, which is sent out by 
the force of the air. This toy appears in 
several places both in West and East 
Africa ^. 

The sling {kikupa), of the well-known 

type, is also used by boys. The bigger 

boys, plait it carefully with strings (fig.. 

120), the smaller ones make it out of a 

piece of banana skin. With a good sling they can throw at least 

a hundred meters. These toys have also a practical use, as the}- 

are used for chasing the birds out of the cornfields. 

Of the bullroarer I have only seen a single example in Ukamba, 
used by quite a small boy. In consisted of a pointed oval slice of 
wood, coarsely cut out, with a cord fixed in a hole at one end. 
To the domain of toys belong finally the small musical instru- 
ments of several difierent types which the boys construct. Theii; 

Fig. 119. Wooden top. 

Nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. 

Coll. Inv. 12. 7. 273. 

^ Hob ley, Akamba, p. 56, says[ incorrectly that » they do not 
make tops». , • 

^ Karutz, tiber Kinderspielzeug. ■'Zeitschr. f. Ethnologic, 191 1, 
P- 239. - .. .;.-,:.>' 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

Toys and games 423 

description is already given in connection with that of the real 
musical instruments (p. 406). 

We now pass to real games. The word for 'game' in the 
general sense in the Kamba language is 'ipau and 'to play' ku- 
pauka. I have observed only the following boys' games. 

kmpa ndia 'shoot the wheel'. Those who are playing 
form two sides, and each player is provided with two maize spa- 
dices, which are joined in the middle by a cord about i dm. long. 
The two groups stand at some distance from each other, and from 
the one is rolled a »hoop» of osier switches past the other. The 
members of this try to throw their spadices through the hoop. 
If this is accomplished one of them goes over to the opposing 
side and from there tries to throw his spadices through the wheel, 
when it is sent back by his own side. If this fails, he becomes 
the enemies 'slave'. Thus the game goes on until as many as 
possible of the one group have become slaves ^ 

In the following game the sole player has a secret accomplice 
among the lookers-on, who usually sit in a circle. A row of pegs 
or the like are laid on the ground, and the one who is skilled in 
the game goes away and asks one of those present to touch a 
peg. He then says which peg it was and asserts that he is able 
to find this out by means of the smell, as he first pretends to 
smell all the pegs. The explanation lies in the fact that before- 
hand he had agreed on a certain sign with his secret accomplice. 
For instance the latter may imperceptibly raise the toes on one 
foot, when the other comes to the peg in question. 

A similar pastime, almost identical with one of the Swedish 
children's Christmas games, is for a boy, at the request of his 
secret accessory, to cover his head with his blanket and then guess 
to whom among those present the accessory hands a knife. The 
latter takes two knives and sharpens the blades against each other, 
pretending in that way to talk to the finder. According to a 
previous agreement with the latter, he then hands the knife to 

1 This game is also found in West Africa. J. H. Weeks, Anthro- 
pological Notes on the Bangala of the Upper Congo River. Journ. 
Anthr. Inst. 19 10, p. 405. 

424 Lindblom, The Akamba 

the one who last said something before he told the other to hide 
his eyes. 

Another game of the same character as the two preceding is 
the following. One of the lookers-on puts an object in a- bamboo 
tube, and the expert in the game then says what the tube con- 
tains. This is done by his stating that he needs leaves of a certain 
tree in order to ht able to guess correctly, and he disappears a 
minute to fetch these. He returns with a small bough, swings it 
closely over the bamboo tube and then says that he needs another 
sort of leaf. On returning with this he swings it as well over the 
tube and then says what it contains. 

I have seen this game carried out in a very skilful and ef- 
fective manner. The simple explanation is that the person who 
performs the trick has another bamboo tube quite like the real 
one, and changes the two without being noticed. The first bough 
is' used to hide this. Then when he goes off to fetch new leaves, 
he looks to see what the tube contains and on his return places 
the right tube in its place again, a manipulation which is con- 
cealed by the second bough. 

Such small tricks puzzle the uninitiated greatly and they 
exercise their brains to find an explanation. To get to know the 
secret they make payments consisting of ornaments, such as neck- 
or ear-rings, and then in their turn teach the trick to others for a 
similar fee. 

These games are to a certain extent thought-reading games. 
There are, however, also games which deserve to be called real 
»jeux d'esprit», and which even grown-up people enjoy. The 
nature of one of these is as follows: 

A man and his wife and son are out walking and have to 
pass a number of rivers, which are represented by pegs or groo- 
ves made in the ground. Between the streams lie ranges of hills, 
thus representing the ground such as it appears in the greater 
part of the highlands of Ukamba. The question is now, with head 
tiirned away, to let the wanderers pass as many rivers and hills 
as possible, during which it is to be observed that never more 
than one at a time may be in the same place and that of course 
there should be no gaps between them. The moves ought, be- 
sides, to be made very quickly. The game begins by the leader 

Toys and games !.l 485-r' 

saying twcendd "('let us go'), upon which the one who wishes to^r> 
try his hand at the game says: »The old man goes down in the; 
river {mutumia aGofa), the old man climbs up (i. e. on the hill),. 
{muiumia ahsa). The Wife goes down in the river {hOceh kia6ota)y 
the wife climbs up, the son goes down», etc. If he makes a mis- 
take he must give up. The number of the rivers seldom exceed 
four, but I once saw a man, who for a rupee in payment cleared 
ten rivers, without doubt a very good mental performance. 

The same game exists among the Wadjagga. B. Gutmann 
says that usually a collision occurs in the fourth valley (= » river » 
in our case). He holds that the game has been imported from 
the coast ^. 

The boys go in for games especially when they are minding 
cattle. One of these games consists of making two rows of holes- 
in the sand, five or six holes in each row. One of them hides a 
stone or a bit of a maize spadix in one of the holes and then 
fills them with sand, upon which the others guess where the stone 
is. This is called kuhmana, really 'to outdo each other'. 

« . ' - " ■ 

No real sport exists. The boys compete in walking on their 
hands as far as possible {kutantbuka, really 'to walk'). Similarly 
they try to stand on their heads. 

A competitive game described by Brutzer, the missionary, is 
as follows. An old pot or something of that sort is set up as a 
goal in an open place. This is guarded by a boy with a stick, 
by means of which he has to prevent the goal being reached by 
a peg which another boy strikes with the help of a stick. When 
the goalkeeper knocks the projectile back, the distance to the 
point where it falls is paced and for every ten full paces he 
obtains a point. When the goal is hit, he has to change places 
with his opponent^, 

A pastime popular arnong smaller boys reminds one of the 
well-known old Swedish game of »hoppa kraka», »hop the crow» 
(curvetting). The players stand in a row, crouch down and begin 
to sing: 

^ B. Gutmann, Kinderspiele bei den Wadschagga, Globus 1909^ 
p. 30 r. 

^ E. Brutzer, Was Kamba-jungen treiben, Leipzig 1904, p. 13. 

426 Lindblom, The Akamba 

kwa wamandamanda. The frog jumped, 

iihupi kuhka ndtanu she is going to enter the pool, 

ila lalikild mukic^ga in which went the viukufiga snake ^ 

na stgna stnkj. with its children. 

indipt! Now go! 

They then jump along saying 7nba, mba (this is an onomato- 
poetic rendering of the sound a frog produces when it jumps on 
ground soaked with water.) 

Of special games for girls I have only observed »hide and 
seek» {kuiGipulamla). Some of them have to find out the where- 
abouts of the rest, who hide in all conceivable places, such as the 
bushes round the village, in the storehouses, inside the huts, etc. 
When they have hidden, they shout kulu\ then the search may 

Exactly like European children the Kamba children sometimes 
count to find out who shall begin a game and this is done by 
using a rigmarole of words, apparently without any meaning. There 
has of course been a meaning at one time, but through continual 
mechanical repetition the forms have been so mutilated and twisted 
that they are almost impossible to identify. Brutzer gives from the 
coast Akamba one of these rigmaroles for counting out: tali, talita, 
inundjinga, mungelele, kwatambea, mayembe, kandzili, kavelendzeli, 
kaunekad::uu, mwiiango^. B. adds: »The one who gets the tenth 
word, mzvitango, has to begin. They have heard these words from 
the grown-up people. They do not know any meaning for them. 
If one asks: »What does it mean?» the parents answer: »I don't 
know, I heard it from my father. » 

Only occasionally and in exceptional cases does one see 
gambling. Games of chance do not exist at all. 

A game is played with Solanum fruits. An unlimited number 
of people can take part in the game. They sit on the ground, 
each with his little heap of the Solanum fruits mentioned several 
times before, which serve excellently as marbles. The one who 
begins takes two marbles from another player, places one in 
front of him and throws the other up in the air. He now has to 

^ See p. 274. 

^ Bruize r, Begegnungen mit Akamba, p. 32. 

Toys and games 427 

take up the one which is on the ground and then catch the 
faUing one with the same hand. He can go on till he fails, and 
in this way he tries to win all the others' marbles. There is no 

Another game with the same fruit is kuaj>a ndo^gti 'to shoot 
Solanum fruits'. An even groove about i — 2 dm. broad is made 
in the sand and a player takes his place at each end. Both have 
a heap of these fruits and place a similar heap in front of them 
in the groove. The one who begins knocks his ball with his 
fingers and tries to hit his opponent's, which then becomes his. 

kuapa ^gu to shoot pegs of wood' is the name of a similar 
game. A heai) of soft stalks of plants, a little longer than a 
lead-pencil, is placed in front of the players, who sit on the 
ground. The one who is playing takes a peg pointed at the end 
which he holds with the point upwards between the middle finger 
and the ring-finger, supported against the innerside of the thumb, 
while the index finger is free, point straight forward. When the 
fingers are released, the peg is jerked violently downwards. The 
point ought then to stick in one of the stalks, which then goes 
to the thrower. This is continued till he fails \ The game de- 
mands a great deal of training to become skilful at it. 

A game needing calculation and reflection is knisi, a form 
of the well-known and widespread inancala game. As in the 
latter they sometimes use a board with indentations in it, but as 
a rule holes are made in the ground, two rows with 10 — 20 holes 
in each row. In each hole are placed four small stones or large 
seeds, preferably ^gaij, the fruit of the mukan tree. The two 
players sit with »the board » placed lengthways between them. 
The stones are moved according to certain rules; I have forgot- 
ten what they are, but remember that they are the same as 
among the Masai". The one who can place a stone in a hole 
which has become empty may take the contents of a hole oppo- 

^ This game is described by C. V. Hobley, Kamba Games, Man 
\gi-2. p. 179 in which a drawing shows two different ways of holding 
the peg. H. says correctly that the game is called kwatha ngn, but 
he calls the missile mtikii (more correctly mtiku), which means simply 
peg' (singular of iigu). 

- Merker, Die Masai, p. 36. 

428 Lindblom, The Akamba 

site. In this way they continue till the stones are finished. [The 
one who has got the most has won. 

It is supposed that this game is of Asiatic origin and has 
come over from Asia to Africa, where its extension is thought 
to coincide with the boundaries of the influence of Arabic culture. 
Its Kamba name, however, kviisi, seems to be native and does 
not show any relationship to other appellations of the game which 
I have seen.^ 

^ See S. Culin, Mancala, the National game of Africa, Rep. of 
the U. S. A. Nat. Museum 1894, p. 595. Reprinted Washington, 1896. 

p. V. 


Chapter XXIV. The village and the hut. 

I. The village. 

The Akamba build their villages on the slopes of hills, never 
right up at the highest parts, where they are exposed to the 
winds. One finds them only exceptionally on level ground, and 
then in the densest thickets, where the huts are difficult to dis- 
cover. The cause of this method of building is an attempt to 
protect themselves as far as possible from hostile attacks, as up 
on the slopes they have a good view over the sparsely wooded 
country. During the daytime it is thus impossible for an enemy 
desirous of plunder to approach unperceived. As numerous 
streams have their sources on the slopes of the hills, the conditions 
with regard to water are also usually better here than down in 
the plains. There are villages situated as high as 500 metres 
and even more above the ground, but in spite of this the natives 
run up and down the steep paths several times a day, the women 
frequently with heavy loads of field produce. They have a pecu- 
Uar way of making the ascent easier, namely singing or whistling 
with all their might, which would entirely take the breath away 
of a European. 

When we Europeans speak of a » village* we usually imagine 
a greater or smaller collection of homes situated quite near one 
another. This is, of course, the case in West Africa, where the 
huts are often arranged in rows with a path through the village. 
In Ukamba the huts owned by one man alone form one village 
{musid), and so a village may consist of a single hut. At most 
two or three families live close to each other, but otherwise the 
different homes are scattered over the hill-slopes without any 
arrangement. I saw the biggest collections of huts in East Ukamba, 
where six or seven families sometimes build the thorn hedges that 
surround the huts so near each other that they form a single walU 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

sometimes over a hundred metres long. This was down on the 
flat ground, where the risk of hostile attacks is greater, and in 
such cases one may observe a clear tendency to draw towards 
each other for mutual protection. 

Let us examine more closely the appearance of one of these 
Kamba villages. Around it runs a sort of barricade of prickly 
branches {mapanhi) fixed in the ground, and outside and over 

r yi^TB"^ o 


'■9<J '--."j 




Fig, 121. Kamba village, Kitui, owned by one man. 

Surrounded by dense bush. 

I. Huts (5 in number, consequently the man has 5 wives). 

2. Storehouse (3 — 4 to each hut). 3. Big shady trees 

under which the old men are accustomed to sit. 

these are placed other branches. Those of the prickly acacia are 
specially suitable, as the thorns hook on to each other so that the 
whole forms a connected wall. In the spaces and outside bushes 
soon shoot up and make the barricade still denser. There is an 
entrance to the interior through an opening in the hedge, which 
is often s6 arranged that one has first to go through a narrow 
•passage {mu6ia), enclosed on both sides by the barricade, before 
^one gets in to the huts. The- cutting of the material for this 

The village and the hut 


fortification is done by the men, while the women carry it to its 

In former times, when the natives were never safe from the 
enemy, the villages were much more fortified than now. The 
hedge was then often as much as 5 metres or more broad, and 
on the inside there was also a row of piles driven in the ground. 
Even double hedges were found. In spite of this it happened, as 
we have seen in the chapter on war, that the Masai warriors, at 
dead of night, stole over them. During the dry season there was 

-» JO- 

Fig. 122. Kamba village, Kitui. Man with 6 wives. The mother's hut 

in an enclosure by itself on the left. 

I. Huts. 2. Hut of the man's mother (a widow). 3. Storehouses. 

4 and 5. Villages situated at a little distance from the one 

in the middle. 6. Dust-heap. 7. Big shady tree. 

also the possibility of the enemy succeeding in setting fire to the 
defences. Nowadays the hedges serve only as a protection against 
wild beasts, and they are allowed to fall into decay in districts 
where these are not found. 

During the night the opening of the hedge is shut by means 
of thorny branches, which are drawn in with the thick ends for- 
ward so that the branches point outwards. It is impossible to 
remove them from outside. A higher stage of development is a 

Arch.Or. Lindblom 28 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

sort of gate that I saw in East Ukamba, consisting of four wooden 
rails. On the top rail are threaded 6 — lo thick poles, in which 
holes have been bored. The holes are burned out with glowing iron. 

Fig. 123. A village, Kitui. 4 families. On the side connected with 
the bush the enclosures are weaker. 
I. Huts. 2. Storehouse. 3. Big shady tree. 4. Whetstones. 

In the evening these are lowered towards the threshold, and then 
a rail is pushed to inside^. See fig. 124. 

^ According to A. Schachtzabel, Die Siedelungsverhaltnisse der 
Bantu-Neger (Int. Archiv. f. Ethnographie, Leyden 191 1), p. 27 this 
type of gate is general in Central Africa. 

The village and the hut 


Inside the enclosure is the cattle craal, a circular open 
place of 12 — 20 metres in diameter on an average. A man who 
is the fortunate possessor of many cattle naturally needs a greater 
space. The animals sleep here during the night and are milked 
morning and evening. At this place the droppings of the cattle 
accumulate, so that during the rainy period the whole forms a bottom- 
less mass, in which the women sink up to their knees when they 

il^^^J!^^WL h 






Fig. 124. Entrance to a village in East Ukamba. 

go to milk the cows. It even happens that the milking cannot 
be accomplished at all here, as the cows are up to their bellies in 
the mud. 

Quite outside the village and common to all the huts lies the 
open place, pomd, always with a shady tree, beneath which the 
old men spend a good deal of the day, talking and taking snuff. 
They also like to take their meals there and then the food is 
carried out to them by the children. Similarly they often hold 
their beer-parties at the ^omd, and the fathers of the families 
carry on their domestic industry, make chairs, spoons, arrows 

436 Lindblom, The Akamba 

sheaths for swords, digging sticks, etc. When several men squat 
at a common pomd, they appoint a sort of leader for this, who 
is called mutuima wa pomd^. The women are never allowed to 
sit there, but they may use the place for domestic purposes, such 
as threshing. During the cold season it is the duty of the boys 
to make a fire each morning and also in the evening at the poms, 
so that their fathers can warm themselves. It is also usual to fix 
up a screen as a protection against the wind. 

The old men set great store by their chats at the ■poind. 
They revive their old memories, talk about their youth, about the 
fights with the Masai and the stealing of cattle and women. 
They like specially to talk about women, and their stories are 
often so indecent that they used to say themselves that they can- 
not be told in the presence of women. But the women are 
often, however, not a bit better in their conversation together. 

2. The hut. 

Along the enclosure — sometimes inside it, sometimes form- 
ing a part of it — are the huts, one, two or more, according to 
the number of wives. They are of the usual beehive shape that 
is met with in so many places in Africa^. The framework consists 
of pliant young trees stuck in the ground and narrow rafters 
(called '^geti), which are joined by means of withies placed cross- 
wise above them and forming concentric circles. At the points 
of intersection the material is fastened together with cords, and 
then the whole structure is covered with long grass. To keep 
this more securely fastened, bands of withy are also placed round 
the hut on the outside. The section of a hut is usually from 3 
to 4 metres, its height at the centre about 3 metres. Near the 
centre stands the thick post (kitud), consisting of a cut tree-trunk, 
that supports the hut ^. 

^ See Ch. Dundas, History of Kitui, p. 422 ff., which gives a 
good description of villages in East Ukamba. 

^ In Mumoni, where in several respects the Kikuyu influence is 
prevalent, there are huts of the Kikuyu type, i. e. with special walls 
and roofs (»kegelhutte» type). 

^ Suitable material for hutbuilding is supplied by the following, among 
other, trees: for the framework {ggeti) the flexible branches of the 

The village and the hut 437 

In erecting a hut the owner gets the help of relations, neigh- 
bours and friends. If anyone tries to avoid taking part in the 
work, he incurs great displeasure. The men cut down trees and 
build the framework, while the women cut grasses. The prepar- 
atory tasks, collecting the building material, take the longest time, 
a week or more, the actual erection of the hut is often done in 
a day. At a place that has been made level a circle is first 
drawn with the foot. This, like all the principal work on the hut, 
is done among the Masai by a woman, but among the Akamba 
always by a man, as they say that women would draw a little 
circle so as not to have a big hut to cover. 

The door to the hut usually consists of a screen put together 
with sticks or (as in East Ukamba) stalks of palm leaves. To 
the east I have also seen a large flat piece of wood, hewn labo- 
riously out of a thick trunk of a tree. Formerly, when it was 
necessary to have a protection against enemies, this more tnassive 
door was probably used more extensively than is the case now. 
Such a precaution is rather unnecessary nov/adays, and the negro 
does not work strenuously when there is no need. There are no 
peepholes in the doors, nor are they placed on vertical pins, as 
I have seen in use among the Wapare. The door is kept shut 
simply by some piled-up bits of wood or a pole drawn across. 
The opening itself is very narrow and often so low that one must 
creep on one's hands to get in. In huts situated on slopes the 
door is always placed at the lower side so that the rain cannot 
run into the hut through the opening. 

Let us enter and look at the interior. The floor consists of 
earth that has been trodden smooth. In former times it is said that, 
at least in certain districts, the floor was covered with the droppings of 
cows. This custom still survives in the Kamba people's folklore \ 

iimsusu bush (Leguminosae). which is also used for the framework of 
the big storehouse for corn {kii'gga); mupakwa^ one of the larger plants 
(Compositae), miitambu, a thorny bush; for the covering of the roof 
the grasses mbelu (Andropogon), ktktj (Andropogon), mbwcea (Panicum 
sp.) and ilg (Tricholaena rosea), from the latter of which the ku^ga 
is also made. The elastic underpart of the bed is made of mnOapa 
(Vernonia), among other things. 

1 The author took down a story in Kikumbuliu (published in Hela 
Varlden, 191 7) in which this custom appears and is mentioned as a 
matter of course. 


Lindblom, The Akaniba 

In the Kavirondo country north-east of Kisumu I saw walls 
and floors covered with a mixture of cow manure and clay, which 
forms a hard, flat and easily cleaned surface. Even at the mis- 
sion station there they have let the natives cover the floor with 
this mixture, which serves fairly well as a substitute for cement. 
In Kikumbuliu, where the ground is more sandy and consequently 
less firm, they still cover the threshing place with cow manure. 

Fig. 125. Sketch of a Kamba hut (cf. p. 97). i . The place where the wife 
sits at the hearth. 2. The place where the husband sits at the hearth. 
3. The place where grown-up daughter (or son's wife) sits. 4. The 
place where grown-up son sits. 5. The fireplace. 6. The support 
for the roof (in this hut unusually far from the centre). 7. Place for 
apom, when they pay a visit. 8. we, the sleeping-compartment of 
the husband and wife. 9. ntutu, wall separating the ive and the exterior 
part of the hut. 10. The husband's and wife's bed. 11. Sleeping-place 
for the children. 12. Wood store {ki6ceta). 13. Hen-coop. 

Across the farther part of the hut there is a partition made 
of basket-work or sticks standing close to each other {ututu), with 
an entrance, and inside it is the zve, the wife's (and the hus- 
band's) sleeping-place. If several wives live in the same hut. 
which may happen in exceptional cases with a young man, the 
> greater » wife lives in the zvp, the others outside this compart- 

The village and the hut 439 

merit. In the more roomy outer part of the hut, there are, one 
on each side of the fireplace, sleeping-places for the sons and the 
daughters. The bed consists of a bunk made of narrow, elastic 
sticks {mzvau, pi. mmn), from which the bark has been peeled off. 
These bunks are placed on four posts and slope gently towards 
the foot of the bed. The bunk is covered with a skin. When 
a native wishes to sleep he wraps himself up in his blanket and 
always pulls it over his head. In certain places curtains made of 
plaited palm leaves or of imported cloth are used round the bed. 
Beneath it during the night calves and goats are tethered to pegs 
fixed in the ground. In a corner there is a big broken jar or a 
little nest of sticks from which a sitting hen peeps out. 

The usual central point of the hut is, however, the fireplace, 
consisting of three stones, on which a pot is bubbling a good part 
of the day and night. There is no opening for the smoke to go 
out, and so the ceiling is always full of soot. The numerous 
riddles of the Akamba generally deal with the pan on its three 
stones, the symbol of the home in the Kamba country. »Tell 
me the rich man who has three entrances to his village*, runs 
a well-known riddle, and another with the same meaning is: »What 
sort of a little woman is it that sits on three chairs?»^ 

Almost every hut in Ukamba looks like the one we have 
described, as the wealth or poverty of the owner is of little or no 
importance with regard to the size and furnishing of the separate 

The fire burns on the hearth practically all day and night, 
especially during the cold season. In the evening, when they go 
to bed, a big piece of wood is always placed on the fire, and it 
burns slowly and lasts all night. Even at other times the fire 
seldom goes completely out, although it may appear to do so, 
but beneath the ashes there are always embers, which one can 
easily blow into life again. And if it does go out, they go to 
the next hut or to their neighbour and get new. This is why in 

' The state of affairs described by Hobley, Akamba p. 30, is en- 
tirely unknown to me. He says that » there are two fireplaces in a 
hut, the children cook at the one near the door and their parents at 
the inner one; the children cannot go and sit at the inner fireplace*. 
On the contrary it sometimes happens on cold evenings that the parents 
make a little fire within the ivc\ 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

a village one never sees fire being drilled ^, which is the usual 
method of firemaking for the Akamba, as for most Africans. The 
firesticks are meant for journeys, and the longer one, which is 
rotated between the hands, is kept in the quiver, the shorter one, 
which is placed underneath, in the travelling bag. The former 
one is called whnd^, the latter kilia, probably the same root as in 
muha 'woman' and "gga 'hen'. In jocular speech this is also called 
»woman» and the stick for drilling with »man» ". The stalks 
of Cajanus indicus {muso) are very suitable for drilling sticks 

Fig. 126. Fire-making. 

The man to the right has a flute of 
Orvx horn. 

and the wood of the wild fig-tree for the underneath piece. 
The drilling stick need not be made of harder wood than the kiha. 
To increase the friction some grains of sand are placed in the 
hole in the lower stick. In front of it are placed some dry leaves 
or dry grass, on which the pulverized wood falls and begins to 
glow. I have seen clever natives drill fire in 20 seconds. As a 
rule, however, it takes longer, and several men relieve each other 
until the result is attained. Women cannot make fire in this way, 
nor have they any use for it, as they never go out alone on 

^ Professor Weule made the same observation during his journey 
in the southern part of German East Africa. K. Weule, Kultur der 
Kulturlosen, p. 66. 

2 Frazer, The Golden Bough, I: 2, p. 208 ff., shows that these 
terms are found among different peoples of different races. 

The village and the hut 441 

long journeys ^ Even among the men it is by no means all who 
know the art. 

If the fire on the hearth goes out during the night, it is con- 
sidered a bad omen, especially if it had been decided to under- 
take something rather important during the day. If, for instance, 
beer has been brewed for a present to a future father-in-law of 
the son of the house, it should not be used for this purpose. 
But they may drink it themselves without any risk. 

Rites and customs in connection witli hutbuilding. Such 
important undertakings in the life of a family as deciding upon a 
dwelling place and building a hut are, of course, bound up with 
ceremonial observances. The natives wish to have the best pos- 
sible guarantee that they shall not settle down at a place that 
may be injurious to the growing children and the cattle. The 
man and the wife go in the first place to the medicine man to 
get him to choose a suitable place by divination, or else they do 
it for themselves by going out to try to find a good omen {mufxina 
mused), e. g. to listen to the cry of a bird. If they do not come 
across one on one road, they try in another direction. When an 
apparently suitable place is found, the man breaks two small 
branches, and the wife takes a handful of grass, which they hide 
in a bush near the place. When later on the hut is built, a branch 
is twined in on each side of the door and the grass is put above 
it. This is to bring domestic happiness in the new home. 

Similar methods of procedure are found among different 
peoples, and these may certainly be included in the category of 
rites that are called »bauopfer» by German investigators. This 
does not mean only real sacrificial actions, but practically any 
action of a ritual kind by which something is placed in a hut,, 
with the intention of warding off misfortunes and bringing good 
luck and permanence to the new dwelling^. 

When setting up the important post that supports the whole 
hut some cow droppings are first placed in the hole in the ground. 

^ I do not think, however, that the Katnba women are forbidden 
to drill fire, as is the case among the Nandi, where firemaking is »aa 
exclusive privilege of the men». Ho His, The Nandi, p. 85. 

* See P. Sartori, Uber das Bauopfer, Zeitschr. f. Ethn. 1898. 
p. I ff. 

442 Lindblom, The Akamba 

This is similarly intended to bring good luck to the owner, espe- 
cially to increase his flocks. 

When the men have finished their work on the framework 
of the hut and before the women may begin covering the roof, 
the owner's bow is hung up on the wall and also »the wife's bow», 
i. e. the bast sack in which she carries the products of the field. 
This is a rather interesting detail, probably a very old custom, 
which confirms to some extent the idea that the Akamba are 
originally a hunting people, during which stage of their history 
the bow was ot course the man's most important possession, but 
during which the woman certainly began to be occupied with 
some primitive agriculture or at least contributed to a considerable 
extent to procuring the necessaries of life by collecting edible 
wild plants. 

Before the hut is covered, a fire is also made in it for the 
first time. Similarly all iron tools, such as axes, knives, etc. must 
be left outside the hut before this is done. It is believed that 
the hut will be cold and draughty if there are iron objects in it 
before it has been covered. 

Hobley tells how, when a new village is founded, the owner 
walks around it with an amulet in his hand, »and it is believed 
that wild animals, leopards, lions etc. will not enter it»^ 

The first food that is eaten in the new home, if the latter is to be 
good in the future, should be Eleusine porridge {ggttfta). The 
husband eats first, then the wife, and then the children. Some is 
also thrown on the floor as an ofiering to the aimu. This is thus 
another example of the great part that Eleusine plays in rites and 
also an additional fact showing the antiquity of this kind of grain 
as a cultivated plant in East Africa. 

Finally, when the hut is ready and the inhabitants have 
moved in, the man and his wife must have ritual coitus during 
the second night. Before this, however, the previously mentioned 
eating of '^gima must have taken place. If the husband tries to 
have connection with his wife before this, she always refuses, and 
if in spite of this he succeeds in getting his way, she throws away 
all the cords she has got ready for the work with the hut, and 
makes new ones. Before they have eaten the 'ggtma porridge the 

^ C. V. Hobley, Kamba protective magic, Man 19 12, p. 5. 

The village and the hut 443 

husband must not have connection with any other woman either, 
but must observe complete sexual continence. 

In connection with these ceremonies it may be mentioned 
finally that when a stranger comes on a visit to a village, they 
are careful to see that he goes out the same way as he came in. 
It has happened to the author more than once that when, after 
paying a visit to a hut, he has tried to take a short cut over 
some broken-down part of the fence, he has been called back and 
asked to go back by the proper entrance through Avhich he came. 

Hutbuildin^ for the medicine man. The building of a 
medicine man's hut offers a number of variations from that of an 
ordinary hut. We have already touched on this on p. 257. 
Everyone who lives m the district takes part in the work. Before 
the work is begun the old women (of the nzaina) dance the kilunn 
on the place where the hut is to be built, and the young people 
perform their dances. The old men and women who have a long 
way to go home sleep at the place during the night so as to be 
able to begin the building work early the next morning. The 
youths bring up the materials and the atum'ha erect the framework 
of the hut, after which the women cover it. Only the old ones, 
those of the nzama, may cover the highest part and the part 
nearest the ground, the middle part is done by the »small» women 
{ila mm), i. e. those who occupy a subordinate position at the 
bringing of sacrifices up to the sacrificial places. These women 
are not allowed to enter the hut during the work. The posts on 
which the medicine man's apparatus, his divinatory bag, medicines, 
etc. are to hang are made of a special kind of wood (mup?^^?). 
They must be put in their places by the atuima of the nsama. 
The work must be completed in one day. 

Although the Akamba are a settled people they have a great 
deal of the impulsiveness of the nomad with regard to oft-recurring 
changes of habitation. It is very common for them to live only 
a few years at the same place and then move. The causes for 
this vary, but the most important and most common are of a 
superstitious nature. When misfortunes occur again and again 

444 Lindblom, The Akamba 

and nothing else seems to be of any use, they try, on the advice 
of the medicine man or on their own initiative, to escape from 
these by changing their dweUing-place. In this way a family may 
move incessantly from place to place. It is in particular repeated 
deaths or infectious disease among human beings or cattle that 
they try to escape from, or if the cattle do not seem to get on 
well generally or the children to grow up well, etc. If the wife 
turns out to be barren, the medicine man may prescribe a re- 
moval to another place as a remedy. 

If a man has several wives, he first builds, at the removal, 
the »great» wife's hut. If the »small» wife's hut were built first, 
it might hurt the »great» one, who has then to get her hut within 
a special enclosure. 

When a wife becomes a widow and then perhaps wishes to 
move to her married son, she must not live in his hut, for that 
might injure her on account of the sexual relations between the 
son and his wife. But after a specialist in ceremonial purification, 
a mutum'ha wa 'gondm, has been called in and has drawn a groove 
in the ground and sprinkled it with 'gondia, she may build a hut 
for herself on the other side of the groove. Although she thus 
may not live in the son's hut, she can, however, visit it as much 
as she likes. 

Generally there is rather good order and cleanliness in a Kamba 
hut. The wife sweeps every morning with a besom {uGiaw) made 
of pliant twigs. Sweepings, remains of the previous day's meals, 
such as the spadices of maize, and droppings of goats and sheep 
are swept up in a goatskin and thrown out over the hedge around 
the cattle craal. For this refuse there is a special place called 
utunda (pi. ndundd). If one comes across a hut that is untidy it 
is in most cases because the wife is ill and has no daughters big 
enough to help her with the work. 

Under certain circumstance.s, however, the hut may never be 
swept, namely when the man is away on important tasks, such 
as hunting big game, or when he is on a campaign for stealing 
cattle (for the observances about sweeping the hut for a certain 
clan see p. 124). 

The village and the hut 445 

Although they try in this way to keep the hut tidy, there 
is, as we have already seen, often much to be desired in the way 
of cleanliness in the cattle craal. Outside the village, on the 
other hand, it is fairly clean, and one seldom sees, for instance, 
human excrement, provided there are no small children in the place. 

A few metres from the hut are situated the storehouses 
{Tkkumb't)^ of which there are 2 — 4 to each hut, thus one for each 
wife. They are about the height of a man, of the same type as 
the dwelling huts, although more lightly and airily constructed than 
these. Underneath them there is a low pile-work, so that the 
floor, which is made of sticks, shall be a few decimetres above 
the ground. Here food is kept in calabashes and in the big 
wicker baskets {kii'ggd). In big families the young unmarried men 
{anqkd) also use the provision-sheds as sleeping-places. To protect 
the storehouses against white ants and other injurious insects 
ashes are sometimes strewn round them. The big wicker baskets 
are plastered with cow-dung for the same purpose. 

In Kikumbuliu the storehouses, which are there called kitsumba, 
are situated in the fields, and when the crops are about to ripen, 
they are inhabited, usually by young girls, who keep watch against 
baboons, wild boars and porcupines. The girls live here entirely 
during this time and do their own cooking. 

3. Home life. 

Life in the village begins at daybreak, when the cocks begin 
to crow and solitary dogs to bark. The huts remain closed for 
a little while, but soon the first of their inmates are seen, the 
women going to milk the cows. Those who get up last are the 
young people, especially if they have danced a good part of the 
night, in w^hich case they are very out of sorts and sleepy. When 
the milking is finished, the cattle are driven out to graze by the 
boys, who take turns in watching them. 

In the evening the natives go to bed between 9 and 10 
o'clock, pretty soon after the evening meal. They like to talk 
for a little while, and perhaps some begin to dance. At this time 
the girls often imitate some of their friends who dance in some 
strange way. They are good imitators and their performances pro- 
duce a good laugh. 

446 Lindbloni, The Akamba 

We know already that the juutumia, the paterfamilias, is the 
head of his family. He is possessor of everything, and if a mar- 
ried son is living at home, he is considered to own even the latter's 
wife. It is thus not uncommon to hear a man say: »My wife is 
not mine, she belongs to my father». If the young man cannot 
make his wife obey — it happens sometimes that she refuses to do 
the work he gets her — he complains to his father, and respect for 
him is then sufficient to produce obedience. If, on the other hand, 
the young woman persists in her defiance, she gets a thrashing 
from the old man, and then she soon gives in. 

Family life is on the whole very calm, but it sometimes hap- 
pens that a man chastises his wife corporally if she has deserved this. 
He does not, however, like to do this out of doors, as this would 
furnish amusement for his neighbours at his expense. He waits 
instead until she comes home from the fields in the evening. Then 
it may happen that she gets a good thrashing. Then man takes 
the nearest weapon, for instance a firebrand from the hearth, and 
is not too careful with his blows. 

Such intermezzos are not, however, common, and one must 
not conclude from them that the Kamba woman has a very sub- 
ordinate and oppressed position, at least she does not consider it 
so herself. I have had occasion to hear well-meaning missionaries 
eagerly depicting to the women their hard lot, and they were 
completely at a loss to understand them. To cut this matter short, 
I must content myself with referring the reader to Chap. XIV. 5 
and adding that the elderly women and usually the mothers have 
a great deal to say, not only within the family but also in general 
affairs. I know for instance several cases from Machakos where 
the husband gave the rupees he earned by selling skins to the 
merchants in the Indian bazaar to his wife for safe keeping and 
then went to her each time he needed money. And examples 
have been given on p. 235 of how the woman can often make 
her husband do much by trickery and can rule over him ^. 

The Kamba wife is seldom lazy but is always seen busy. 
Even on the way to and from the fields she finds time to do 
something useful, plaiting a bast sack or chewing fibre for mak- 

^ Cf. B. Gutmann, Die Frau bei den Wadschagga, Globus 1907, 
a treatise that also applies in many respects to the Akamba and cer- 
tainly to several East African tribes. 

The village and the hut 447 

ing cords. If she has a young child, she carries it with her every- 
where on her back, and when it has grown a little, one can see 
it sitting at the top of a bundle of wood that the mother has 
collected and is carrying home on her back. It is remarkable 
how these small mites know how to hold fast and how they can 
sleep undisturbed during the mother's work. When there are 
daughters, they help to carry their young brothers and sisters, and 
one often sees little girls, not yet ten years old, struggling around 
with the smallest of the family on their backs. 

Babies are carried in a }>go%, a rectangular piece of skin, fitted 
with straps. It is made by the father of the family himself out 
of a calfskin and is usually adorned with a row of cowrie shells. 
The calf must not have died a natural death — that would ob- 
viously have an injurious influence on the child — although apart 
from this the Akamba make use of both the flesh and skin 01 
animals that have died from natural causes. The women do not 
allow anyone to step over a 'ggo%. The child might then get 

The ^goh is evil-smelling and dirty, but nevertheless a very 
precious and important possession, on which the future welfare of 
the child depends to a great extent. There are some that descend 
from one generation to another. It is impossible for an ethno- 
graphical collector to buy the garment; the women will not part 
from it on any conditions, not even for the highest conceivable 
prices, such as a cow, and the suggestions I made with regard to 
this were always received with exclamations of astonishment and 
indignation. If it were sold the child would surely die. Nor will 
a mother lend her '^go^ to any other woman, not even to any of 
her co-wives. 

As is often to be seen among Negro tribes, the Kamba child- 
ren are suckled by their mothers for an unusually long time, and 
it is not uncommon for children who have long since learned to 
walk, even those who are certainly 6 — 7 years old, to run every 
now and then to their mother and suck her breast. To wean 
children they rub the breasts with the bitter juice of the leaves 
of the aloes growing on the steppes. 

Suckling with cow's milk and with a teat occurs. A piece 
of skin is stretched over the opening of a calabash bottle and 
a hole made in the skin with a nail. 

^48 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Small children are kept very clean and washed every day all 
•over the body with cold water. When they grow up, they have 
to look after themselves with regard to this, and as they crawl 
about a good deal on the ground playing, they are often exceed- 
ingly dirty. When there is a chance, as, for instance, when there 
is a stream in the neighbourhood, they like, however, to bathe. 
The girls rarely neglect to do this when they go to the river to 
fetch water. 

The boys sometimes quarrel and fight with each other, as is 
the custom of boys all over the world. The games can easily 
pass into fights, which are sometimes carried on according to 
certain rules and are preceded by a sort of challenge. When 
two boys quarrel, one says to the other: »Spit, and I shall do 
away with your expectoration {tunla mata, m6alamd)\-» If the 
other accepts this challenge and spits in front of his opponent, 
the latter obliterates the saliva with his foot. The gauntlet is 
then thrown down and taken up and they begin to belabour each 
■other with their fists or with sticks. The quarrel is often accom- 
panied by insulting words such as ant-eater {luma), dog (su/u), 
hyena {mbztt), wart-hog {'gge) or snake {nzol\a). Stronger expres- 
sions are: »Your mother is a witch » {mwcenni ni mtaoi), »Your 
father is a thief» {nau ni kf^cei) or »Your whole family consists 
of thieves* ivnba% %akw \on^d ni zgcsi). A common term of abuse 
is to call someone a Kikuyu, which is interesting as showing that 
the Akamba have a considerably higher opinion of themselves 
than of this allied tribe. When a Kikuyu comes to a Kamba 
village, it may even happen that small boys put on an air of 
superiority towards him. Such expressions as »Your mother has 
run away from her husband !» or »You are a sheep, accumbens 
matril» (we 'hlondti, ivhtindaa na mzvceniu)^ are still more offen- 

1 M. Marker, Die Masai, p. no, tells how the Masai youths use 
similar offensive terms of abuse: accumbens matri, accumbens sorori, 
ace. patri (used by young girls to each other), etc. Similar insulting 
expressions are especially met with among Orientals or peoples stan- 
<iing under Arab-Mohammedan influence. Vide O. Stoll, Das Geschlechts- 
leben in der Volkerpsychologie, p. 767 ff. 

Chapter XXV. Weapons. 

As in the case of the Wataita and the Wanyika tribes, so 
in the case of the Akamba the bow is the principal weapon. In 
hand-to-liand fighting they use swords. They have never used 
spears and shields; the latter are found only in exceptional cases 
among African tribes that use bows. 

The bow {uta) is the usual East African type^, the Ethi- 
opian bow according to Frobenius", or the straight-staved bow, 
as Eric von Rosen, from another point of view, graphically calls 
this form, because the stave, before the string is fixed on, is 
straight^. The stave of the Kamba bow is round, thickest in 
the middle and narrowing uniformly at both ends, which end in 
points {tnbtd). It is relatively short, about 1.20 — 1,30 metres. The 
largest bow I have seen, 1.56 metres long and with a diameter 
at the middle of 2.3 cm., is in my collection and has belonged 
to an elephant hunter. The string {ua) is made of sinews {hlw^^gii)^ 
two rather narrow cords of sinew twined together into one. It is 
fixed about five centimetres from the points and is sometimes 
supported by a piece of leather placed above or below it; this 
piece of leather is put on the stave in a fresh condition, so that 
when it has dried and contracted, it is immoveably attached like 
a ring round it. At one place where the string is fastened a 
piece of superfluous string is usually bound round the bow; this is, 
however, so short that it cannot be used as a reserve string in case 
the bow-string breaks. They usually have instead an extra string 
or some sinews in the quiver. 

^ F. Ratzel, Die Afrikanischen Bogen. Abhandl. d. Sachs. Ges. 
der Wissenschaften 1891, p. 304. 

^ L. Frobenius, Skizze der Bogenforschung in Kulturtypen aus 
Westsudan, Petermanns Mitteil. 19 10, p. 166. 

^ E. von Rosen, Traskfolket, p. 176. 
Arch.Ot. Lindblom 29 

45° Lindblom, The Akamba 

The bows used for elephant hunting seem often to be larger 
than the bows for fighting, but for the most part the same bow 
is used for both hunting and fighting. The bows used by half- 
grown boys for shooting birds are smaller, and smallest of all, of 
course, are the toy bows of the small boys. In the dance ntusia 
bows of medium size are also used, which the youths carry in their 
hands and which are tightly bound with wire and have their ends 
adorned with metal beads. It is to be noticed that these bows 
are not used to shoot with. 

The bows are made of several different species of trees, such 
as hOau (Dombeya), mutiiGa (Turneraceae) or mwau. They are 
made from the thicker branches as well as from bigger pieces of 
wood. The latter variety is, however, considered the best, be- 
cause they do not contain pith {munw). This of course, makes 
the bow weaker, and especially on military expeditions, when the 
natives sometimes go very far from home and have little prospect 
of getting hold of another bow, it is important that the one they 
have taken with them should be strong and reliable. For without 
their bows the Akamba are pretty helpless in battle. 

The tools used in making the bows are the axe and knife. 
To make them pliable they are rubbed many times with fat and 
held over fire. No special bow-frame is used, but the operation 
is carried out slowly by hand. When it is ready, it is polished 
with rough leaves, among others those of the plants kitc^l (Cordia), 
mupitu or inuku (also called ikiC). In the neighbourhood of the 
government stations they also use for this purpose sandpaper, 
which is obtained in the Indian bazaar. 

When a branch is taken as the material for a bow, they 
make the lower part of the branch also form the lower point of 
the bow, i. e. it is always held downward when shooting. I have 
not seen this fact mentioned in the literature of the subject, but 
it is probably in practice in other parts although it has escaped 
attention. It also appears as if even investigators who give de- 
tailed descriptions of bows often neglect to observe the method 
of their manufacture, a point that is by no means unimportant. 
E. von Rosen, on the other hand, gives an excellent picture of 
the making of bows in his previously mentioned work on the 
Batwa in the papyrus swamps of Lake Bangveolo. 

The Akamba even distinguish the two ends of the bow by 



different names, as they call the upper end mbta la mupia {mupia 
'end, top), and the lower one mbia ia ittna i(btina 'bottom, base'). 

Fig. 127. Kamba arrows. 
I, Arrow rubbed with poison, bound with skin. 2. Arrow without 
poison a— -c. Variations in the shape of the arrow heads. V2 "^t. size. 

The bow is in some ways the Akamba's most important pos- 
session, for with it they can, as they express it themselves, procure 

452 Lindblom, The Akamba 

cattle and wives, either by plundering expeditions or hunting, in 
the latter case especially by elephant hunting, for the sake of 
the ivory. For this reason the bow is submitted to ritual treat- 
ment, so as to bestow strength upon it, and then certain rules of 
taboo are connected with it, so that it shall not lose its strength. 
Thus to give good luck to a new bow a bird is shot — the species does 
not matter — and its blood is smeared on the ends, middle and 
string of the bow. In the hut the bow has its place by one of 
the posts of the bed. If on any occasion it has been left behind 
outside the village, its owner may not indulge in sexual intercourse 
as long as it is away. The same thing applies in such a case to 
the Akamba's second most important possession, their cattle: when 
they are away, as for instance when they are grazing on an out- 
lying farm, intercourse is also forbidden. And just as in the case 
of a transgression of this custom the cattle must be sprinkled 
with "gondm before they can come in to the village again, so the 
bow has to be purified in the same way. It is curious that the 
^ondm that is used for this is prepared by a child that is not yet 
circumsized, the only occasion I have heard of when the purifica- 
tory substance is prepared by a child. One of the herbs used is 

The Akamba arrows are rather small, on the average 0.60 
— 0.65 centimetres long. Those used for hunting and fighting 
(musia) have shafts of wood, exceedingly even and finely con- 
structed (fig. 127). To make certain that they are quite straight 
the maker holds them in front of him, shuts one eye and glances 
along the shaft. Like the bows they are finally polished by being 
rubbed with rough leaves. Trees and bushes suitable for making 
arrows are mukwcBo, mukaka (Croton sp.?), muahka, 7nukutu and 
muOwna (Verbenaceae.?). At the somewhat widened back end of 
the shaft there is the notch for the bow-string {mbalio) and above 
this there is a narrow ring of leather or thick sinew, to prevent 
splitting. For the same reason the upper end of the shaft is 
somewhat widened. For greater safety the shaft is also bound 
round its upper end with sinews, which are chewed until they are 
quite soft. The arrows have three guiding feathers, and great 
importance is attached to having stiff feathers. They use 
preferably feathers of birds of prey, such as those of the ydei, 
the secretary bird (Falco serpentarius). They are stuck on the 

Weapons 453 

arrow-shaft by means of the gum of certain trees or the sap of 
the root of >kuasi m. ndu (Gloriosa sp.?), and for greater security 
they are also bound fast with fine bast threads. To give the 
arrows an ornamental appearance the lower part is painted with 
a beautiful bright red colour. This is now often bought in the 
Indian shops, but is originally a natural product, being made of 
'hhtu, which is crushed and mixed with roots of kanolq, the same 
plant as is used in tattooing. The colouring matter is mixed to- 
gether on a banana leaf or some such article and is spread on with a 
stick. To strengthen and ornament the shaft still more they like 
to bind the shaft above the notch as well and also up towards the 
upper end with hair from the tail of the zebra {yisa'h) or hartebeest 

In a hole at the end of the arrow-shaft there is fixed the deci- 
metre long wooden foreshaft {upunzi), which in its cloven end holds 
the head itself {mmu). To prevent splitting and to keep it fast 
the foreshaft is also bound at the front with sinews. The arrow 
heads, which are cut out of a thin hammered-out piece of iron and 
then ground sharp, are triangular, all of the same type, although 
the indentations at the base vary somewhat in size. As has al- 
ready been described in connection with the clan system, they 
are accustomed to cut the owner's clan mark on the foreshaft. The 
foreshaft is intended to stick in the object aimed at, while the 
shaft falls to the ground and can be taken up again. In this way 
the arrow is prevented from coming out of the wound on the 
game during its flight through the weight of the shaft or by the 
shaft fastening in the thicket. 

In the Ikutha district I found arrows with heads and foreshafts 
of iron, in one piece, just as, for instance, among the Wapare. 
This type is said to have quite recently come into use among 
the Akamba. 

The Akamba make the most ornamental and perhaps also the 
best balanced arrows I have seen among the sixteen East African 
tribes I have come into contact with. They are little masterpieces 
of their kind, even in respect of their careful execution. In de- 
scriptions of travels one reads many expressions of admiration 
about these arrows. »The most substantial we have even seen in 
Africa», says von Hohnel, for instance. Weule in his monograph 
on the arrows of Africa points out how the arrows of the Akamba, 

454 Lindblom, The Akamba 

like those of their neighbours, the Wataita and the Wanyika, are 
among the foremost in Africa for exact workmanship^. The five 
Akamba arrows he weighed gave an average weight of 22 gr. 
with a difference of only 0.4 gr. These figures are taken from a 
very small material, but have caused me to weigh some of my own 
arrows — all of them were not accessible to me — and I have 
found that 21.8 gr. was the average weight of four arrows with 
their points bound and 19 gr. that of 22 others without leather 
and partly with, partly without, poison. The absolute difference 
is, however, rather large for my arrows, the maximum weight is 
25 and the minimum 15 gr. It should, however, be added, that 
the arrows come from different makers. 

That the degree of careful work on the arrows that is shown 
in their weight is by no means accidental and meaningless is 
shown by Weule. Both the Akamba and the Wataita have of old 
a reputation as good archers, and because of this they enjoy 
the respect of their neighbours. 

I have nothing of interest to communicate about the power 
of penetration of the arrows, but the natives themselves state that 
many of them could shoot through the Masai shields and kill the 
men behind them. They also say that the war arrows were for- 
merly larger and more powerful than they are now, with points 
stiff and sharp as knife blades. 

Arrows of the kind described here are mostly poisonous. The 
arrow poison used over wide stretches of East Africa — from 
Somaliland and Abyssinia right down to German East Africa and 
still farther south — is everywhere the same and is made out of 
an Acocanthera species, especially A. abyssinica, which in Ukamba 
grows sparsely in the Machakos district as well as here and there 
elsewhere in UIu. I have also seen it a few miles south of Nai- 
robi, and it is found, in addition, in many other places which are 
situated high^. It is not found in East Ukamba, but there the 
natives get the poison by barter from Ulu or from the Taita or 
Giriama country. The tree is called by the Akamba mu6a> and 
the poison i6ax, names which strongly remind one of the Somalis' 

^ K. Weule, Der Afrikanische Pfeil, Leipzig 1899, p. 7. 
" Of the distribution of the Acocanthera .species see F. Stuhl- 
mann, Beitr. zur Kuhurgeschichte von Ostafrika, p. 425. 



ivabei or wabayo — which is made partly of the same, partly of 
a closely-related species — and one is tempted to conjecture some 
sort of connection. 

To prepare the poison the wood of the Acocanthera is split 
into small bits, which are boiled for 8 to lo hours in a covered 
jar of water. During the boiling the mixture is stirred from time 
to time. When it is thought that all the goodness has been boiled 
out of the wood, it is taken out and the poison is boiled still 
more. When the water has evaporated, the poison lies in a pitch- 
like, dark and sticky mass at the bottom of the vessel. To make 
it more easy to manipulate it is mixed with ashes 
and formed into a dough, after which it is ready for 
use. It must not be kept in a cold and damp place. 

Those who work with the poison are careful to 
see that they have no wounds on their hands. With 
a wooden spatula, kiGalii^ (fig. 128), it is smeared 
copiously on the arrow-head and all the foreshaft. So 
that it shall keep soft it is bound with a fine strip 
of skin from kids or small antelopes (fig. 127. i). The 
skin is made thin by scraping it with knives and is 
softened by being drawn repeatedly over the back 
of the knife and being worked with a stone. 

The quality of the poison varies in different pla- 
ces, as sometimes other ingredients are also added Fig. 128. 
to the pure vegetable poison. A man who was con- Wooden spa- 

sidered to prepare unusually strong poison added 

r , • A 7 • poison on the 

the head ot a snake species. Another emment spe- arrows with 

cialist in the preparation of poison gave me the follow- 1/2 nat. size, 
ing list of extra ingredients for his poison : 

Snake heads and certain poisonous spiders {mbua-mbm) and 
roots of the plants hlia mbih, kalamba mta and hpux. The first 
of these, a Yatropha species, and one of the most important plants 
the Akamba know of, we have already made the acquaintance of, 
and we perhaps remember that, among other things, it is used for 
removing the embryo (abortion), kalamba is a little tree, i — 2 
metres high (Apocynacese — thus of the same family as the Aco- 
canthera), with a milky sap, bluish green, smooth leaves and beau- 

^ < kuOal'a 'to paint, smear'. 

45^ Lindblom, The Akamba 

tiful purple-coloured flowers. The two others are quite unknown 
to me. 

The making of poison is of such great importance that it is 
easy to understand that certain magic observances of a prohibitive 
nature are connected with it. The sexual taboo especially is 
stringently observed, inasmuch as a woman may not even be 
present during the manufacture, or else the power of the poison 
would be destroyed^. The boiling is therefore carried out pre- 
ferably at a place apart, and when the women bring food to the 
men during the work, it is put down at a respectful distance. 
Further the arrow-poison may be made only by the nsceld or 
the atmma, young men are not permitted to make it. When I 
asked my boy Kioko, a man of about 30 years of age, to show 
me the process, which he knew, he refused, saying that he was 
too young. 

I have not been succesful in finding out anything about the 
effect of the Acocanthera poison — it is known that it affects 
the heart. The only attempt I made was to make a slight cut 
on the leg of a hen and smear poison on the wound. The hen 
refused, however, to die and continued to look for food quite 
calmly. The natives are, however, very much afraid of the poison 
and state that big game, such as a lion or a leopard, cannot get 
far after a well-aimed shot. Elephants, on the other hand, run 
for miles before the poison takes effect. These statements appear 
to be correct, as according to other authors middle-sized antelopes 
die after a few minutes-. The poison thus has a very strong 

According to the natives the poison is also most powerful 
when it is warm, i. e. just after it is made, while it gets weak 
with time. According to M. Krause's investigation^, this appears 
to be incorrect. The fact of the matter probably is that when 

^ The Wandorobo are also very careful about this, as I know 
from my own experience. See further M, Weiss, Die Volkerstamme 
im Norden Deutsch-Ost-Afrikas, p. 396 and M. Merker, Die Masai, 
p. 246, 

- M. Weiss op. cit. p. 397, M. Merker op. cit. p. 247. 

' See further M. Weiss op. cit. p. 396. In addition there have, 
of course, been various descriptions of this and other African arrow 

Weapons 457 

the poison is old and consequently dry and hard, it dissolves more 
slowly in the wound, and so the natives quite naturally conclude 
that its strength has decreased. 

The treatment of wounds caused by poisoned arrows has been 
touched upon in connection with medicinal methods (p. 312). 

From the arrows used for hunting big game we pass to the 
bird arrows {laggi, pi. ma'ggi), which are mostly used by boys and 
young men. Their shafts are cut from reeds, etc. (among others 
from upu^ga ula muncsm, a rather large Sonchus species). They 
are not so careful about the feathering, but content themselves 
with softer feathers, such as those of guinea-fowls ^ A notch 
for the bowstring is made in the reed and above this it is bound 
with thin sinews just like round the upper end, where the arrow- 
head of hard wood is fixed in. Good material for the heads of 
bird arrows is furnished by the mutuQa (Turneracea;), the straight, 
hard branches of which contain but little pith. There are several 
different kinds of arrowheads, most of which are not specially 
characteristic for the Akamba, but are met with over great parts 
of East Africa. The simplest kind consists of a straight, pricker- 
like head, which the boys sometimes adorn with carvings, probably 
an imitation of the clan marks on the heads of the real arrows. 
Simple developments of this basic form are shown in b and c in 
fig. 129. The four short sticks fastened with bast in c {ndatj) 
are to prevent the arrow from going too far in and disappearing 
in the thick grass in the case of a miss. E. von Rosen has 
described and reproduced an iron-headed arrow with a similar 
arrangement, a little cross-piece of wood, from the Batwa and 
several tribes round Lake Bangveolo^. He is the first to describe 
the type, which, however, is certainly found as a bird arrow with 
a wooden point here and there, at least in East Africa. That it 
has escaped attention is probably due to the fact that bird arrows, 
which are mostly used by boys, often seem to have been overlooked 
by the investigator. On the other hand the iron-headed arrows 
from Bangveolo are probably unique of their kind and have the cross- 
piece evolved, owing to the loose nature of the ground. The 

^ An arrow on which guiding feathers have not yet been fixed is 
called multika. This word thus does not denote a special kind of 
arrow, as Hobley, Akamba, p. 43 imagines. 

^ E. von Rosen, Traskfolket, p. 186. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

Fig 129 (a — c), 

Kamba bird arrows. 

V2 nat. size. 

type may very well have de- 
veloped from a bird arrow, a 
supposition that is suppor- 
ted by its awl-like head, the 
other Batwa arrows having 
heads of a more developed 
shape. In b there is fixed 
at the base of the head 
something that is called 
ns(epo, consisting of four 
small pegs held together by 
cords or gum and designed 
to give the arrow a greater 
possibility of hitting the 
mark. Another well-known 
arrangement, which in East 
Africa has probably been 
carried farthest by the Wa- 
pare, who use clumsy heads, 
is to have a pointed piece 
of trunk with thick, cut-ofif 

From the flat head of 
equal thickness it is very 
easy to pass to one with 
simple barbs cut out here 
and there (r, /) and then 
to arrange these in a certain 
way {a, g). When perfectly 
arranged we have the barbs 
in three rows {d). This form, 
however, is more unusual. 
Sometimes the bird arrows 
are smeared with a little 
poison, as seen in the streaks 
on a and d. 

As is seen we thus easily 
get a pretty good typical 
series of our bird arrows. 




Fig. 129 (d— g). 
Kamba bird arrows. V2 nat. size. Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 12. 7. 14 — 19. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

I do not, however, by any means maintain that the line of 
developement must necessarily have been the one indicated, even 
though one must admit that the primitive peoples generally go 
slowly and gradually, if they have to look after themselves. 
But such a thing as putting some simple barbs on an arrow- 
head may, it seems to me, be the result of a direct and pri- 
mary thought, especially in districts where there are as models- 

Fig. 130. Quiver decoration of ostrich feathers. V* "at. size. 
Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. In v. 12. 7. 7. 

numerous plants (Acacia species and others) with thorns of various 
shapes, which catch on to the walker. It does not, however, ne- 
cessarily follow from this that these barbed wooden arrow-heads 
must have come from thorns of plants and succeeded these, although 
this is, of course, possible. C V. Hobley thus shows ^ how in 
some of the arrows of the Congo pygmies »a long tough thorn, 

1 C. V. Hobley, The Evolution of the arrow. The Journ. of the 
East Africa and Uganda Nat. Hist. Societ}'^, vol. Ill, 1913, p. 33. 

Weapons 461 

probably from one of the Acacia family, is grafted on to the shaft* , 
and of a certain type of Kavirondo arrows he says that »it is belie- 
ved to mimic an acacia thorn, which is frequently of the same shape». 

The arrows are kept in a cylindrical quiver {piaka) made of 
skin, with a detachable lid, the universal type in these parts. It 
is carried in a leather strap over the shoulder. From the lid there 
often hang down a couple of short straps fitted with cowry shells. 
Just as among other tribes they like to adorn the quiver with 
black ostrich feathers, fixed with a bit of leather (fig. 130), over- 
which a solitary long white plume often rises. In the hut the 
quiver has its place on a bedpost. 

While shooting arrows both eyes are kept open. The arrow 
is held between the index and the long finger. When shooting 
at long distances the arrow is not aimed directly at the object, 
but a little higher up, or else it w^ould hit the ground in front of 
the object. This implies that the shooter understands his weapon 
well and gives an opportunity to note that it is by no means a 
matter of indifference with what bow one is shooting. As Weule 
shows ^, a man who shoots with his bow must know his weapon 
as well as a soldier knows his rifle and must have got used to 
his bow. 

In our days it is difficult to get a correct idea of the Akam- 
ba's power of wielding their weapon, as they have too little occa- 
sion to exercise it, being forbidden to hunt by the government. 
My experience in this respect does not agree with their old re- 
putation as good shots. I have, however, seen boys shoot pigeons, 
and at ten metres' distance repeatedly hit a fruit the size of a 
ball. In Hildebrandt's time the bow was still essential for the 
struggle for existence and he says »that at a distance of 30 steps 
a good shot hits a fruit of the size of one's fist almost every 
time-.» It is not clear, however, if he is referring to the Akamba here. 

Finally we come to the sword {uGm). This is of the usual 
East African type, which has been described so often that it is 
unnecessary to do it here^. I merely wish to state that it is typ- 

1 Der Afrikanische Pfeil, p. 6. 

^ Die Wakamba, p. 361. 

3 Vide Hildebrandt, Die Wakamba, p. 363. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

Fig. 131. Kamba sword. Small 
and not so typical; worn by a 
young man. Vs nat. size. 

Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 

12. 7. 3. 

Fig. 132. Club-shaped 

stick to carry in the 

hand, i/s nat. size. 

Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. 

Inv. 12. 7. 250. 

Fig 133. 

Club with 
wrapped in a 
piece of skin. 
Vi nat. size. 
Riks. Ethn. 

Coll. Inv. 
12. 7. 230. 

Weapons 463 

ical of the Kamba sword that the blade is longer than the sheath 
{ndo). It is carried for preference hanging in a strap over one 
shoulder, but also, as among other tribes, in a belt round the 
waist or in the hand. The short sword reproduced here (fig. 131) is 
not a really typical shape, but serves more as an ornament and 
has been worn by a young man. The sheath is painted with 
bright red ornamentation, the same colour as is used for the ar- 
rows. A similar colour is obtained from several plants, among 
others from the bark of the mwcBa (Mimosa species), which is put 
in water. 

* * 

Before leaving the weapons, a few words remain to be said 
about clubs. As is well known, the club is a common weapon 
in East Africa; it is made for the most part of wood and is 
used for hitting and throwing. The Akamba, however, do not 
use them, and I have not had any confirmation of Hildebrandt'.s 
statement about them. On the other hand it is a fact that there 
are many objects which resemble clubs, but they are to be con- 
sidered as dancing accessories or as a kind of stick, which the natives 
like to carry in their hands when out walking. That many of these 
objects, which we might take to be clubs, are not so considered 
by the natives themselves, is shown by their language, as they 
are certainly often called nzuma 'clubs', but just as often ndata 
'stick'. So much is certain, that they are not used in fighting, 
and at most they may be used for an occasional throw at a bird. 
The type of these dance-clubs and sticks varies, but they gene- 
rally have the shape of a pole gracefully cut out (fig. 132) and 
are often adorned with artistically twisted metal wire. So that the 
wood shall get a fine polish it is rubbed with fat. 

A real club of an interesting type is, however, found, although 
rather sparsely among the Akamba. Even this, however, they use 
only for carrying in their hands and do not make themselves, 
but get it from the districts on the south slope of Kenia. On a 
very narrow wooden shaft is placed a stone head, a quartz ball, 
surrounded with some wooden splints, and then the whole is sewn 
over with a piece of leather (fig. 133). 

This type of club has already been described and reproduced 
by L. Riitimeyer from three specimens in the ethnographical 

464 Lindblom, The Akamba 

collections at Basle University ^ To judge from the reproductions 
these are quite like those brought by me from Ukamba. They 
are said, however, to come from the Ja-Luo tribe in Kavirondo, a 
statement that I cannot of course dispute, but of which I am 
doubtful, as during my stay in the Kavirondo country I never 
saw or heard of such clubs 2. Riitimeyer is, in addition, of the 
opinion that we are here concerned with a pre-historic relic, a 
hammer, but, as far as my own specimens are concerned, I can 
see no reason at all to believe this. It is true that I have only 
troubled to remove the casing of skin on one of my stone balls, 
but it seems to have been knocked together recently and shows 
no sign of wear, which it ought of course to do if it had once 
been used as a tool. If, on the other hand, Riitimeyer's assump- 
tion as to their age is correct, it is clear from my specimens that 
a new production of these stone balls has continually taken place 
or has at least taken place down to a recent time. But even if 
one has to deny that these clubs are pre-historic — I am only 
speaking for my own specimens — they are still exceedingly in- 
teresting and even rare. As far as I know they are not known 
from other parts of Africa, and as far as the museums are con- 
cerned, even the great Berlin museum appears to have no such 

1 L. Rutimeyer, Uber einige altertumliche afrikanische Waf 
und Gerate und deren Beziehungen zur Praehistorie. Zeitschr. f. Et 
1911, p. 240 ff. 

^ After the proofsheet of the above was even ready Prof. Riiti- 
meyer kindly wrote to me saying that he bought his clubs at Old- 
ham's in London, the well-known dealer in ethnographical objects. As 
mistakes about the origin of objects sold in this way occur not infre- 
quently my doubts about Kavirondo as the locality of these clubs have 
been further strengthened. 

Chap. XXVI. Hunting. 

According to their traditions the Akamba were originally a 
hunting people, and there is a great deal to support the truth of 
this tradition. Thus even at the present day they enjoy a very 
good reputation as hunters and compete with the professional 
hunting peoples, especially the Wandorobo, for the honour of being 
considered as the most skilful nimrods in these parts of East 
Africa. They have from time immemorial devoted themselves to 
elephant hunting because of the profit attached to it, and these 
hunts of theirs extended not infrequently beyond the boundaries of 
Ukamba, for instance as far as the poorly watered and largely un- 
inhabited deserts north of Kenia. Nowadays, however, as might 
be expected, hunting is of subordinate importance compared with 
agriculture and cattle-rearing. 

Elephant hunting. The preparations for a hunt for elephants 
or other big and dangerous game and the rites connected with 
entering upon such a hunt show great resemblances to the pre- 
cautions taken on entering upon military and plundering exped- 
itions. »Is it not war to hunt such animals as the elephant, the 
rhinoceros, the buffalo and the lion?» said an old warrior to the 
author. A skilful elephant hunter has a great reputation, and 
he is compared to a victorious leader in war. For both bring 
wealth home with them. The leaders of a hunting expedition are 
also usually the same as those of a military campaign {aptam). 
We may note in passing that this agreement between the ideas 
and the arrangements of hunting and mihtary expeditions seems 
to exist among most primitive tribes that follow these pursuits to 
any considerable extent. The magic rites connected with hunting 
and war are also often identical ^. 

1 This view is propounded and developed in Hubert and Mauss' 
excellent work on magic in the Annde Sociologique, vol. VII, p. 132 ff. 
Arch.Or. Lindblom 30 

466 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Elephant hunting is usually carried on by a number of men 
together. The hunting party {nhima or mma < kusnjna 'to hunt') 
is composed of an equal number of representatives from each pomd, 
the open place in front of a village. Several neighbouring families 
have a poind in common. 

Before the expedition is begun, as before a military campaign, 
the natives go to the medicine man to find out under what aus- 
pices they are entering upon the campaign. A beer-party is also 
held with its accompanying sacrifices^ to Mulungu, i. e. the aimu, the 
ancestral spirits, amid prayers for a successful result. On such 
occasions they sacrifice especially to some deceased famous hunter. 
Such a man is usually buried, like other eminent men, at the foot 
of a wild figtree where sacrifices are made. If any unfavourable 
omen is met on the way home from the place of sacrifice, they 
go back there and sacrifice again. After a successfully concluded 
hunt thankofferings were similarly presented to Mulungu. 

When a hunting party marched out it consisted to some ex- 
tent of young men who were about to make their first attempt 
at hunting. These inexperienced beginners had, the day before 
the beginning of the march, to present the old experienced hunters 
and leaders with beer and an ox as a treat. 

From the medicine men the hunters procured abundance of 
things to bring good luck in hunting, such as powder to rub on 
the bow and bowstring, to increase their certainty of aim, and 
medicine to rub on their eyes, to sharpen their vision. Once when 
I went out elephant hunting with the Akamba they poured a sort 
of powder in the barrel of my rifle. The leader on that occasion 
brought with him a talisman consisting of sticks fastened together, 
which was said to have the power of enticing the elephants out. 
Just as on military expeditions the leaders also had magic medi- 
cine, which prevented the animals from running away, even so that 
if they are shot on one side, they shall then kindly turn the other I 
Hobley describes^ how the old elephant hunter Sulu carried about 
his person charms and medicines of various kinds: to ensure game 
being seen, to make the hunter shoot straight, to let him get the 
beast he wishes and, if he approaches a fierce animal, not to be 
attacked by it. 

^ kuumta kipa'ggotia 'to deliver sacrifices'. 

^ C. V. Hobley, Kamba protective magic, Man 19 12, p. 4. 

Hunting 467 

This idea that religion and magic are part of the necessary 
preparations for hunting or military expeditions in order to ensure 
success is a fact that applies to all mankind. 

As has been mentioned, during such hunting expeditions the 
natives often travel very far from their native district or the near- 
est cultivated place. If there is a good supply of game, they 
construct a sort of headquarters, consisting of simple huts. This 
work is carried out by the novices, who are treating in rather a 
bullying way. They have to do all the menial work, chop the 
wood and cook the food. They are not allowed to live in the 
huts, but sleep outside. There is a good deal to support the idea 
that this sleeping on the ground is of a ritual character, as in the 
case of the novices during the initiation rites. When the hunt is 
taking place in the neighbourhood of the headquarters, one of 
them stays at home and cooks the food. 

As a rule novices are not allowed to go alone to shoot at 
an elephant, even if the opportunity seems to be a very favourable 
one, but if they discover an animal, they have to report it to the 
leaders. The intention of this is presumably to prevent them, in 
their inexperience, from disturbing or frightening the animals away. 
On the other hand many of the recruits are so frightened at the 
sight of the huge pachyderms, which they see perhaps for the 
first time, that they tremble and feel anything but inclined to 
attack them. 

A person who has not been present before when an elephant 
or rhinoceros has been killed may not go up and look at one of 
these animals before its tail has been cut off and removed. The 
prohibition does not seem to apply to any other kind of big game. 
If this rule is not observed, the beginner is supposed to have but 
a slight prospect of being able to kill an elephant and would 
thus miss what is perhaps the best chance of procuring cattle and 
wives for himself. We have already described (p. 333) how the end 
of the elephant's trunk is cut off and buried in the sand before the 
novices have caught sight of it, and in the case of a she-elephant, 
although for different reasons, the same thing is often done with 
her dugs. We have also spoken already about the fear of men- 
tioning an elephant by name during the hunt (p. 289). 

The novice is not allowed to partake of all the parts of an 
elephant that has been killed; thus he may not eat the udulio (a 

468 Lindblom, The Akamba 

part near the heart) or hpd (part of the back). These restrictions 
are probable comparable to similar ones with regard to the eating 
of meat in general, which we have mentioned on p. 144 fif. 

The beginner who has himself killed or helped to kill an 
elephant is on his return home at the end of the hunt initiated 
into the secrets of hunting by one of the leaders as a reward. 
He pays for this instruction with a goat. 

Elephant hunting is carried on or was carried on — the nat- 
ives are, of course, forbidden nowadays to hunt elephants — in 
several different ways. They sometimes used the well-known dis- 
guised pitfalls, although I never saw any of these in Ukamba. 
They used to a greater extent the equally well-known snare — 
widespread in Africa — in the shape of a poisoned spear falling 
from above. This apparatus (Kik. ktatnbii) is described below 
under »Traps». 

A method of hunting which is much in vogue but which, how- 
ever, imposes a hard test on the hunter's patience, is to build platforms 
of branches up in the tree at the elephants' watering-place and 
from these to send a shower of poisoned arrows on the animals, 
often at some metres' distance^. In most cases, however, they 
prefer to follow their tracks and steal upon them while they are 
feeding or resting. It is a rule that the" one who first catches 
sight of an elephant is not to attack him alone, but the whole 
party or as many as possible shoot their arrows at the same time 
so as to increase the chances of success. When the game is 
distributed attention is paid to the effect of the arrow-shots. We 
remember that the arrows are marked with their owner's clan 

If any one is killed during an elephant hunt, two tusks are 
handed over to his wife and children. 

A successful elephant hunter usually braids a ring made of 
the sinews of the elephant's feet round his bow for each elephant 
he kills. In my ethnographical collection there is a bow with nu- 
merous rings of this kind. 

There is no doubt that the natives still have a quantity of 
ivory concealed in the grass-covered roofs of their huts or buried 

^ An account of the preparation of arrow-poison is given in con- 
nection with the description of weapons p. 455. 

Hunting 469 

in the ground. The government buy up their old ivory at 4 ru- 
pees a pound, but they are no longer disposed to sell it at this 
price. Many of them still think that the Europeans will once 
leave the country for ever, and then they will sell their ivory to 
the Arabs and Suaheli, as they did formerly. In remote parts 
the Akamba certainly still carry on elephant hunting secretly. 

Opinions about the skill of settled African natives as hunters 
vary a great deal, even in the case of the same tribe, and one 
finds the most enthusiastic admiration side by side with rather 
contemptuous expressions of opinion. It is perhaps most correct 
to say that, just as among us there are good and bad hunters, 
so there is the same mixture among the natives. As far as the 
Akamba are concerned, I have heard nothing but good reports, 
and my own experience quite bears out the general good reputation 
they enjoy as hunters. Together with Mr A. Champion, District 
Commissioner of Kitui, I followed elephants in the bush towards Tana 
east of Ukamba for some weeks' time, and I had an opportunity 
of observing two experienced old Kamba-hunters and learned to 
estimate their capacities, their knowledge of the animals' habits, 
their acute sight and hearing and their skill in following a track. 
It was really a pleasure to see them study tracks and discuss them : 
Here the track is deeply impressed and the sand has been viol- 
ently thrown up: the elephant has been frightened or for some 
other reason has begun to run. In another place, on the other 
hand, it is seen that the pachyderms are walking rapidly: they 
have probably scented us and consequently begun to move. This 
track, again, is that of an animal moving quite lazily, feeding on 
the leaves and bark of the trees. It is quite unaware of our 
proximity, and so on. A handful of sand serves to establish the 
direction of the wind. The Akamba also use dogs in hunting, 
and they are trained to follow the scent. 

In order to attract the animals they also use call-notes but 
as far as I know only against rhinoceroses and in the case of 
boys hunting certain birds. 

Traps. " 

Several traps of different construction and methods of use are 
called "hkav^gd, as we shall see below. They are all, however, drop 
traps. The name is possibly formed from kce^gga 'to cheat, de- 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

ceive'. The words k'htcei and itceo also mean 'trap', perhaps in 
a general sense (< kutcea 'to trap'). 

I. Drop trap {k'hambu'^). A pole made of a hard species of 
wood is pointed, coated with arrow-poison and fixed in another 
pole, which in its turn is fastened in a log of wood. The whole 
apparatus thus corresponds to an arrow with a head, loose middle 
piece, and shaft. It is hung by means of a cord above an ele- 
phant track on a projecting branch; the cord is brought down to 
the ground and there set as a trap. When the elephant comes walk- 

Fig. 132. Trap for smaller beasts of prey. 

n a ring made of plaited fibres near the end ofthe stock, whose length 

is about 1,5 m. h stick fastened through the fibre ring. 

c cord forming a loop at the extreme end of the stick d. 

e fork stuck in the ground, in which the 

cord rests. / bait (piece of meat) fixed • 

to the stick d. g The walls 

of the trap. 

ing along and releases the cord, the spear falls down on its back 
and its point pierces it, while the remaining parts fall to the ground. 
Traps of this type are also used for hyenas and leopards. 

2. Drop trap (ykcB'ggd) for killing smaller beasts of prey, such 
as gennets and serval cats. A log, i — 2 metres long, is placed in 
the position shown in fig. 132, built round at the sides with an 
enclosure of twigs, etc. forming a narrow passage, on which the 
log rests. A piece of meat (/) is used as bait. When the animal 
touches this, the loop that the cord c forms round the extreme 
end of the stick d, slips off. The released log then falls down. 

1 really = 'stopper, wedge of wood'. 



3. The following trap is also set for smaller beasts of prey. 
A pit is dug in the ground with a sloping entrance. In the vert- 
ical back wall of the pit a hole is made and in it is placed a living 
hen, which is kept shut in by means of a grating made of sticks 
driven into the earth. The hen usually cries and so attracts small 
beasts of prey to the place. At the bottom of the pit is placed 
in a vertical position a running noose, which is fastened to a bow- 

Fig- 133- Running noose (fnuJcwa). 
by the author. 

From a photo 

shaped bent switch. When the animal goes through the snare to 
the hen, it treads on the stick by which the snare is set in an 
unstable state of equilibrium. The released switch then becomes 
straight and the noose is drawn tight. 

4. There are several types of running nooses for smaller 
game, sometimes intended to catch them round the neck, some- 
times by the legs or body. Nooses of the former kind are set at 
the animals' drinking-places and in the fields, where they go to 
eat. The mul:zva (fig. 133, 134) is a snare of the latter type. It 
is fixed to a stick thrust down in the ground, a, which is kept 
bent bow-shaped by the peg c placed on the noose and pressed 


Lindblom. The Akamba 

against the bow b (set in the ground) by the peg / wedged in 
unstable equiUbrium between the bow and the stick d. 

Another sort of running noose, called nd^ndelo, is only known 
to me by name. 

5. Bird snare {ikce^gd). This is made of sticks (fig. 135) 
and somewhat resembles in shape an arched lid of a box. The 
snare is placed edgeways resting against a stick, which is resting 

Fig, 134. Running noose {tnuhwa). 

unstably between the prongs of another fixed in the ground and 
shaped like a fork. From the lower end of the first stick a cord 
runs to the ground, where it is fastened to a small stick lying 
beneath the outer part of a longer one, which in its turn extends 
in beneath the trap. Here are scattered grains of maize or other 
bait. When the bird touches the last-mentioned stick, the trap 
falls down like a lid. 

These snares are made by the boys. The one reproduced here 
was used for catching partridges, francolins, pigeons, etc. For 
guinea-fowl they are made larger and heavier. 

6. Hobley, who mentions four traps (Akamba, p. 30), speaks 



Fig- 135 Falling bird snare. 

of another kind of drop trap {hkceggd) of a well-known type^ 
» consisting of a flat slab of stone supported by a twig and baited 
with grain; the supporting twig is usually pulled away with a 
string. This is used »to catch birds and monkeys ». 

Fig. 136. Trap for catching moles. Ye nat size. 

7. Trap for catching moles {kttatt or kiswggula). The mole, 
which in Ukamba is much bigger than the Swedish species, does 
a great deal of damage to the fields and the natives accordingly 
try to catch as many as possible. The trap consists of a cylindrical 
piece of wood (fig. 136), hollowed out except at one end. It is 

474 Lindblom, The Akamba 

placed with its aperture towards the moles' hole or in the mole 
run itself. Through the small holes a is drawn a cord, which is 
fastened to a stick in the ground and keeps the pliant stick d bent 
in a bow. The running nooses c, fastened to the stick, run through 
small holes d in the upper part of the cylinder and are hidden 
by being placed in recesses in the walls of the cylinder. In 
addition earth is strewn over the nooses at the bottom of the 
cylinder. On this are put grains of maize, etc. as bait. When the 
mole knocks against the cord running through a and is checked by 
it, he finds it suspicious and bites it through. The stick is 
suddenly straightened, draws the trap with it and the mole swings 
at c/. The person who has set the trap remains near it and goes 
occasionally to see to it. 

Formerly this trap was also u^ied, although in a smaller size, 
for catching rats indoors, but nowadays, when cats are usually kept, 
it has almost entirely gone out of use for this purpose. 

Moles are also caught in the following way: The natives ob- 
serve the animal's wandering in its underground passages, and 
when they have discovered they proper place, they drive a pointed 
pole down with such accuracy that it blocks the way for the 
mole, which is then quickly dug out. A certain amount of skill 
is needed to see where the animal is and to place the pole so 
that is goes just through the passage. 

No fishing is carried on, as the Akamba do not eat fish. 
Besides there are no waters with fish in them in Ukamba, no lakes 
at all and hardly any rivers except Athi, Tiwa and Nthua. 

Chap. XXVII. Domestic animals. 

I. Myths about the origin of cattle. 

When one remembers that cattle are the negro's dearest 
possession in this world, it is not strange to find that he has 
pondered over the origin of these precious animals. While real 
•myths of origin, as I have shown on p. 252, are almost enti- 
rely lacking among the Akamba, there are ideas about the origin 
of cattle in several of the people's myths, in their folklore and 
traditions^. To this subject I have found the following allusions. 

1, In the myth of the origin of man (p. 252) the first cow 
and one of the first two human couples come out of a termite 
hole (jnupianbini). 

2. A myth that I heard in Kitui, which is possibly the same 
as the preceding one or a variant of it, is as follows: 

The first human beings, who came up out of the termite 
hole, settled down in the neighbourhood of the mouth of the 
hole. They had no cattle, but increased and soon formed a 
whole village. One day they heard a voice from heaven — it 
was Ngai — saying: »On the seventh evening after this, when 
you go to rest, do not shut your craals!» 

The seventh evening came, and some did as they had been 
requested, others, on the other hand, were afraid and carefully 
shut the entrances to their craals, before they retired to rest. 
They were awakened by a gentle, inexplicable sound from the 
big opening in the earth. It was the cattle coming up and going 
into the craals that were open. A little while later other and 
more shrill cries were heard from the hole. It was goats and 
sheep coming the same way as the horned cattle. 

^ Hobley declares (p. 20) that the Akamba have no legend as to 
the origin of cattle and other domestic animals. 

476 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Whe the sun rose, those who had left their craals open found 
them full of cattle. Those on the other hand who had kept then* 
shut bitterly repented not having obeyed Ngai's exhortation. From 
the former arose the Masai, from the latter the Akamba. 

3. In the tradition about the common origin of the Akamba, 
Akikuyu and Masai (p. 353) the Masai are the first to keep 
cattle. According to their own traditions as well S they consider 
themselves as originally the sole owners of all cattle, and when 
they set out on a plundering expedition, they are getting back, 
according to their own view, only their rightful property and they 
use this as an excuse, if they trouble to try to find any excuse 
at all. 

4. Among the numerous stories of the Akamba about ani- 
mals there is one that treats of how the cow became a domestic 
animal. She was originally a wild animal, »like the bijfifalo», but 
harassed by beasts of prey, came to the villages of human beings 
and asked to be taken in by them. In return for the protection 
they gave her, she gave them her milk, and so they lived together 
to their mutual satisfaction and profit. 

5. In Muutha, East Ukamba, I heard this tradition: When 
the first human beings, the Akamba, came out of the termite 
hole, they had in their right hand a bow, "in the left the pro- 
ducts of the field ^. Thus we see that they had no cattle, and it 
was a long time before they got any. They maintained themsel- 
ves instead principally by hunting. They shot elephants especially 
and sold the ivory to the Suaheli traders, who came up from 
the coast to meet them. They soon learned to go down to the 
coast themselves, and on these journeys they got to know about 
cattle and were especially pleased with their milk and with their 
fat »to mix in their snufif». Then they exchanged ivory for cattle. 
»This was the beginning of cattle. » 

These traditions have little scientific value. At a hasty glance 
they seem to contradict each other, but on closer comparison 
this contradiction can be explained. The fourth in the series can 

^ See H oil is, The Masai, p. 268. 

* The expressions » right » and »left» undoubtedly denote the dis- 
tribution of labour, the difference between the man's and the woman's 
occupations. Cf. p. 104, note 2. 

Domestic animals 


at once be left out of the reckoning as being merely a xvanv, a 
fairy-tale. Similarly we can eliminate nos. i — 3, which may be 
considered as probably having the same value as fairy-tales, and 
which are probably taken really seriously by few people except 
women and children. The fifth story, on the other hand, is con- 
nected in the beginning, it is true, with the myths about origin, 
but has afterwards a good deal of truth in it. It teaches us that 
the Akamba consider themselves originally a hunting people, who 
seem, however, to have been connected with the land to a certain 
extent. This short tradition is of a certain interest because it 
introduces us to a common problem concerning the way human 
culture has developed. We know the old customary path of cultural 
development from hunters to nomads and then to farmers. Against 
this division E. Hahn especially, and many others after him, have 
emphatically pointed out^ that cattle and other domestic animals 
could only be produced by settled peoples, who were therefore 
at a comparatively high level of culture (through the attempts at 
cross-breeding of generations of different wild races). For this 
reason it is clear that after being a hunter and gatherer man first 
became a farmer, more or less settled, before he began real cattle- 

What led me on to this topic was the fact that the last-men- 
tioned Kamba tradition says that the people had the products of 
the field before they got to know about cattle. We may venture, 
perhaps, on account of this to state that this idea, even though it is 
unconscious, forms part of the primitive consciousness of the fact 
that agriculture is older than cattle-breeding. 

2. Cattle=breeding. 

The Akamba's cattle is of the same race as that which is 
kept by the neighbouring tribes and numerous other East African 
peoples, namely a species of zebu with rather short horns. With 
regard to the colour the cattle is black and white, light yellow or 
greyish, while brown animals are very rare. The stock was app- 

^ E. Hahn, Die Haustiere, Leipzig 19 15, and, in concentrated 
form, in Demeter und Baubo, Versuch einer Theorie der Entstehung 
unsres Ackerbaus, Lubeck 1896. 

478 Lindblom, The Akamba 

reciably reduced by rinderpest and also during the last great 
famine, but is now, on the contrary, pretty considerable. There 
is a general tendency, even among those who possess only a 
small number of animals, not to keep them in the same place, 
but to divide them up into small herds in different craals with 
intervals between them, which, in the case of a rich man with many 
women to look after the animals, may be as large as a whole 
day's march or more. This is done chiefly for practical reasons, 
to prevent the spreading of cattle diseases, and in former times 
also as a protection against the attacks of the Masai. In either 
case the risk • of losing the whole stock at once was, of course, 
decreased. Superstitious motives may also play a part. The na- 
tives are afraid of their neighbour's envy, the »evil eye» and 
other magic. 

These precautions were, however, not always sufficient to save 
them from rinderpest. The great epidemic in 1891, the same one 
as decreased the Masai's herds so enormously, passed in Ukamba 
from village to village, and those, for instance, who owned 500 
head of cattle had only five to ten left. 

The cattle are milked early in the morning, but are not driven 
out to graze before the dew has dried up, as the wet grass is 
not considered to improve their condition. They are watched by 
youths and boys, who do this work in regular turns. One some- 
times sees an old man who has no sons at home minding his 
cattle himself. Although this is, as we see, the work of the men, 
there is nothing to prevent women doing it (among certain other 
Bantu peoples, Kafirs, etc. they are not allowed to do this), and they 
usually do it when the men are engaged with other things. The 
cattle-herd usually takes his place on a termite heap {kibtonbu), 
from which he can watch the animals. The boys pass the time 
with games and jokes, and the young men sit and polish their orna- 
ments. In warm Kikumbuliu the cattle are taken to rest beneath 
some big trees during the hottest part of the day. 

A number of cattle are pastured as a rule so far from the 
village that they cannot be driven home daily but are kept dur- 
ing the nights in an enclosure called hce'ggo out at the grazing 
place. In it there is also a hut for those who are looking after 
the cattle. 

The cattle are milked in the morning and evening by women. 

Domestic animals 479 

A man living alone in the kiesggo, however, milks them himself. 
The women milk standing, in a somewhat crouching position, with 
only one hand, as they hold the calabash in the other. 

According to Hildebrandt, in his time the men did the milk- 
ing. This seems to be a custom common for cattle-keeping 
tribes at an earlier stage, and if his statement is true, it is very 
interesting to see how the Akamba in late times have changed the 
original custom. In the beginning not only hunting but also cattle- 
keeping, and everything connected with it, is the work of the men. 

To increase the supply of milk in cows and small cattle they 
are given certain plants, preferably those rich in milky sap, often 
the same as are eaten by women who are suckling their children 
and who have a deficient supply of milk. Such plants have been 
mentioned on p. 319. We may mention here, in addition, a 
decoction of mweha or kamueha (Croton.?) and 'gondiu (xa) akadiy 
which is chiefly given to goats to drink. 

When milking cows which have young calves, the calf is allo- 
wed to suck before the milking begins. If the calf dies, the mother 
stops giving milk. The Akamba then stuff the calf's skin with hay 
and put it by the mother, who then lets herself be milked, a 
practice that is also known among the Masai and Nandi. 

Cows which do not care for their calves are given the excre- 
ments of the python to eat. It is said to have a good effect (for 
the various use of the excrements of this snake vide Index). 

If an animal will not stand still or if it has the bad habit 
of kicking, a stand is made with tree trunks, to one pole of which 
the animal's head is fastened, and its hind legs to another. 

Fierce cattle that wish to butt can be made harmless by the 
following process, which is undoubtedly of a magic character, though 
the mental procedure of the natives with regard to it is not so 
easy to understand. An %awd, a sort of night-jar, is procured and 
its feathers and skeleton are burnt and the ashes put in water, 
which is given to the animal to drink. If eggs of this bird are 
found, they can be used for the same purpose. In this case it is 
only necessary to throw the eggs at the animal that is to be 
cured of its bad habit. To make animals tractable by a certain 
ceremony, by using certain magic means, is called kudoOm. We 
shall find that the Akamba also tafce measures with their bees for 
the same purpose (p. 496). 

.480 Lindblom, The Akamba 

To lead cattle leather straps are used. They are fastened 
round the base of the horns. To catch calves a long wooden 
crook {mbolo}) is used, of the same type as that by which beehives 
are hung up. Cow-bells {mbwi) are used. They are made of iron, 
■of the type usual in these districts and like those in Europe. 

Cattle are castrated by having a red-hot awl stuck through 
the veins of the testicles. This is called kuOakua in the case of 
horned cattle, kutua when sheep and goats are castrated. 

Sheep and goats are killed by being strangled. The animal's 
mouth is kept closed and its neck squeezed. 

Bleeding of cattle. Like the Masai, the Akikuyu and other 
tribes the Akamba now and then bleed their cattle, the blood being a 
favourite food. I have seen them seize an animal which was to be 
bled where it was grazing; this was done by suddenly seizing it 
by one of its hind legs and throwing it over. Then its legs are 
fastened tightly with leather straps, so that the animal cannot 
move. Another strap is fastened so tightly round its neck that 
the blood accumulates in the big blood-vessel and forms a swell- 
ing. A blunt arrow {ndia, see fig. 137) is shot with a short bow 
at the lump. The shooter stands close by the animal. The arrow 
does not stick in, but rebounds back. A stream of blood rushes 
out and is collected in a calabash. Some' people then put their 
mouths to the hole and drink eagerly. One may even- see boys busy 
picking lice from the animals' udders and putting them in their mouths. 
Then the animal is released, after the stream of blood has been 
stopped by smearing a little cow-dung or earth on the wound. It 
resumes its interrupted grazing as if nothing had happened. An- 
other animal is then caught and treated in the same way. 

The arrows that are used are kept in a leather quiver of the 
same type as the ordinary arrow quiver. For bleeding sheep and 
goats, however, they use arrows with shorter points. The arrows 
have no feathers, as the distance is only a few decimetres. The 
base of the arrow is bound above the notch, sometimes with 
-sinews, sometimes with hair from the zebra's tail. 

During famine they take the blood in this way once a month 
or more often. At other times bleeding is really used chiefly as 
a medical remedy, especially during the rainy season, when it is 
sometimes carried out, during an abundant rainfall perhaps twice. 
The natives maintain that during the rainy season the animals 

Domestic animals 


get constipation more easily than at other times, and bleeding is 
used as a remedy for this^. 

A difficulty that cattle-breeding has to overcome in many 
places in East Ukamba is the meagre supply of water during the 
dry season. It is then often very troublesome to procure water for 
the needs of human beings, and still more for cattle. Even the 
bigger rivers, such as the Tiva, dry up, and holes i — 2 metres 
deep have to be dug in the riverbed in order to reach the water 

Fig. 139. Arrow for 

bleeding cattle. Vs siz. 

Riksmus. Ethn. Coll. Inv. 

12. 7. 82. 

Fig. i4o. Cattle-bleeding. 

The cattle are watered in some places only every other or 
every third day, and not more than one or two animals at a time 
are allowed to go down to the water, so that they shall not jostle 
together and stir up the water. To prevent this the waterhole is 
often also enclosed. I have often seen a man standing at the 
entrance of such an enclosure with his sheep and goats outside, 
waiting for them to drink. They go one by one down to the 
water, and it is interesting to see in what an orderly way this is 
done and how patiently the animals wait for their turn to come, 

^ The Masai also bleed their cattle, especially during the wet 
season, as a remedy for an illness that the animals get by eating big 
larvae that are found in the grass on the steppe (Merker p. 171). 

Arch Or. Lindblom 

482 Lindblom, The Akamba 

although they are very thirsty. The man guides them merely by 
whistling. In Kikumbuliu I saw a kind of water reservoir con- 
sisting of living trees with their trunks broad, as it were swollen, 
at the bottom and hollowed out. During the rainy season water 
was collected in these hollows, out of which the goats were then 
allowed to drink. 

It is usual to guide the cattle by whistling also, when they 
are driven to and from their grazing places. The Kamba herd 
controls his animals as skilfully as a thorough nomad, and his 
silent but certain demeanour has a salutary effect on one who is 
accustomed to the Swedish peasant's continual shouting and halloo- 
ing to his cattle. To whistle is called kuusia fnm\ no kind of 
superstition is connected with it. 

The Akamba, like other cattle-owning people, are very fond of 
their cattle, as they are, of course, their real wealth. More than 
one man whom I jokingly asked whether he liked his cattle or 
.his wife best took this question seriously and was unable to de- 
cide, leaving me without any answer. A herd of fine oxen is 
the special pride and delight of the Kamba man. A delight to 
the eyes is just the right expression, for the cows are there to 
give milk and fat, but the oxen »to grow fat», as one of my na- 
tive friends expressed it. They seldom have the heart to kill an 
ox, except in cases of need and on ceremonial occasions. To kill 
a calf is almost unthinkable. The meat that the Akamba get from 
their herds is given for the most part by sheep and goats. To use 
oxen for any work appears ridiculous to them; besides »they 
grow thin from it and their flesh is spoiled*. Thus the oxen 
lead a pleasant life, and only in their older days do they get 
killed for food. 

This love for cattle has made many a coward show proofs 
of courage and daring, when at a Masai attack he had to recover 
a favourite ox. If a grazing herd was attacked, it was considered 
a great dishonour for the herdsman to abandon his cattle and 
try to save himself by flight. He had to fight as long as pos- 
sible. Sometimes he was able to keep the Masai in check as 
long as his arrows lasted, and then, when they were all shot away, 
he would yield with dull submission and wait for death. 

On the other hand this passion gives rise to endless quarrels. 
Most of the law-suits may be said to be in connection with 

Domestic animals 483 

cattle. They also cause avarice and dishonesty. It is not long 
since the Akamba enjoyed the doubtful honour of being regarded 
as prominent cattle thieves, even among themselves. While I 
was still living in Machakos, it happened that some men went 
over to the Kikuyu country and in the old traditional style drove 
off some animals. . In former times it was not uncommon, when 
a man died, for someone to come to his heir and say: »Your 
father owed me an ox or so many goats*. Young and inexperi- 
enced individuals were sometimes taken in by such deception. 
One of my friends answered such a claim very pertinently: »My 
father lay ill a long time before he died. Why did you not 
come while he was living?* They also imposed on the credulity 
of boys who were tending the cattle. A man would go, for in- 
stance, to the grazing place and say to the herdsman: »Your 
father told me to bring an ox home with me, as I had to pass 
this way. » He would then disappear with his booty. 

Cattle and also goats and sheep often appear ip the num- 
erous riddles of the Akamba. Of about 120 riddles I have noted, 
14 deal with these domestic animals. 

3. Other domestic animals. 

Besides horned cattle the Akamba keep very many sheep 
and goats. The former are a species of fat-tailed sheep. The 
he-goats become very tame, and one sometimes sees a he-goat 
following a woman like a dog on her way to and from the fields. 
The following plants are considered to be good food for goats: 
the leaves of mupelea, a low bush with lip-shaped, lilac flowers 
(2 stamina); the leaves of the tree called mwcsma n^du (Legumi- 
nosae, with small lilac flowers); the dry hard fruit of the wa 
(Acacia sp.). 

They do not keep asses, but in former times these were 
found in certain places. Hildebrandt says about asses (p. 380): 
»They do not thrive well in Ukamba because of the dondorobo 
fly^ [tsetse fly? — only found, however, in the south-east]. The 

^ A dorohbo is the Masai name for the tsetse fly (Glossina mor- 

484 Lindblom, The Akamba 

Akamba eat the tame ass after having first fattened them, a thing 
that I have not found among other East Africans ». 

Poultry is perhaps the most common domestic animal in 
Africa, and however mean a hut may be, it is never without 
some cocks and hens. The species is small and thin and lays 
small eggs, which are never used by the natives as food. This 
is due partly to a mere dislike of eggs, which are called »the 
hen's excrements {mai ma ^guku), but economic reasons are still 
more important. It is, of course, foolish to eat eggs and by so 
doing voluntarily prevent the increase of one's poultry. 

Poultry must never be shot with arrows. A friend of the 
author had a great number of cocks and hens and often used to 
have a good meal of one of them, which, for the pleasure of the 
thing, he shot with his arrows. His poultry thrived excellently 
for a long time, but then they began to die, one after the other, 
and many were taken by ki6u%, probably a species of gennet or 
some small cat. The old men maintained that the cause of this 
was that he had killed poultry with arrows. 

The poultry are very tame. I used now and then to buy a 
few, and when the natives let them loose at my tent, it was very 
amusing to notice how they were immediately at home and began 
to look for food. In the evening they crept into the tent without 
any fear and slept there. On my marches the bearers transported 
them in the usual cruel native manner, namely by tying their 
legs together and fastening them to a load. Often they were 
unable to get a foothold but hung down swinging from side to 
side. One meet natives daily carrying poultry in this brutal way. 
If a single person, however, is carrying a number of cocks and 
hens to market, he takes them in a sort of wicker basket on 
his head. 

The Akamba have a story about the origin of domestic 
poultry. Like the cow they were originally wild beasts. The 
story is briefly as follows: 

Long ago guineahens and barndoor fowls were brothers and 
sisters and lived together in the wilderness. Once during the rainy 
season they were very cold, and so the guineahen said: »Go to 
the Akambas' villages and fetch what they warm themselves with, 
fire!» The barndoor fowl raised objections and did not want to 
go, for she was afraid of human beings, but the guineahen drove 

Domestic animals 485 

her off. She came to a village, went into a hut and began to 
warm herself. When she was warm she crept in beneath a bed 
and went to sleep. 

The guineahen waited in vain the whole night and was ex- 
ceedingly cold. When it got hght, she went out to look for the 
barndoor fowl, calling continually to her. Finally the fowl heard 
her, but she had found her new home much too pleasant to leave. 
Accordingly she cried at the top of her voice: »There is no fire 
here, there is no fire here!* The guineahen then went away but 
came back again the next morning, and the same thing was 
repeated. The guineahen then flew away in anger, never to come 
back again. »But the day they were cold the friendship between 
the barndoor fowl and the guineahen died and never came to 
life again ». 

Many of the Kamba dogs are undoubtedly of a mixed race, 
as many Akamba got pups from Europeans during recent years. 
The original race — I must leave the question unsettled as to 
whether there is really only one race — shows a great resem- 
blance to our village curs, rather small animals with tails curling 
upwards. They often cut the tail off to improve the animal's 
appearance. Hildebrandt saw in his time a species of greyhound ; 
I have, however, never come across any of these. 

The Akamba are very much attached to their dogs, as they 
are to their animals in general, and treat them very well. Thrash- 
ing a dog may occasion severe hostility, even a life and death 
struggle. The native dogs are very afraid of Europeans, just as, 
on the other hand, the white men's dogs usually show a great 
dislike to the natives. 

In Hildebrandts time there were no cats. Nowadays they 
have a number, obtained from the Europeans. 

To keep wild animals as company or for amusement is not 

The different kinds of domestic animals are called with differ- 
ent cries. For dogs they whistle or call su, su, su. To goats 
they say kcs/t, kceh, kceh, to sheep a sort of buzzing mah, mah and 
to poultry a sort of clacking sound which it is difficult to express 
in writing. The cattle have names, and each animal is called by 
its name. 


Lindblom, The Akamba 

4. Names for domestic animals in the Kamba language. 

Many of the African tribes that keep cattle have an exten- 
sive nomenclature for their cattle, having for instance different 
words for the same kind of animal at different ages, etc. and 
similarly an enormous number of technical terms in connection 
with cattle. My studies in the Kamba language have not given 
very great results with regard to these. The rather few terms I 
have found for domestic animals are as follows: 

'joombB cattle 

nzau bull 

ndcewa ox 

kasaUy kasalu calf 

mox heifer, dimin. kanioh 

mulao calf that has finished suck- 

ndu\ half-grown cattle 

mupuku (kipuJiu) hornless cattle 
(one occasionally sees such 

ndata barren cow 

mmbi grey cattle (apart from 
this the Akamba have no word 
for grey^) 

'ggindd cattle with the horns bent 
forward and backward close to 
the head (they are loose and 
vibrate, as it were, when the 
animal moves) 

mbu% goat 

yitSce^gd he-goat 

nd(Pla, 'ggulata castrated he-goat 

vtwofna female goat bearing 

mbaika young female goat, that 

has not yet had kids 
ndcEna, kateena kid 
^gondu, tlondu sheep 
ndatnd ram 
mwqti young female sheep not 

yet bearing 
^guliu barndoor fowl 
nzokolo cock 
mwcela hen 

'ggih, sidu, ikulu, ^gulu dog 
mbaliU cat (Kisuaheli pakd) 
i^ot donkey (onomatopoetic word) 
'ggaima camel (= Kisuaheli) 
mblast horse (Kisuaheli farasi). 

We can scarcely expect a closer investigation of these words 
to give us any idea of the origin of the domestic animals among 
the Akamba. Experts in the Bantu languages have observed that 
most of them are pure Bantu stems. I have not found any res- 
emblance to the Masai and Galla languages. In Kikuyu these 
expressions are the same as in Kikamba, making allowance, of 
course, for the differences due to sound laws. 

^ Cf. how the Hottentots have numerous terms for the colour of 
cattle, but not for colours on other objects. 

Domestic animals 487 

The natives, especially the women who have to milk the 

cows, give names to the cattle. The sheep and goats also often 
get names. Examples: 

mwcelu (dim. kcslu) 'the white one' sxo-ntita 'the mother of the duiker'- 

kailu 'the little black one' The name is given to a cow 

muiund (dim. katund) 'the red one' with a calf like a duiker (Cepha- 

katundumu (< tunduma 'to thun- lophus sp.) 

der') sxo-kutu: name of a cow that bore 

kiGala: name of cattle with a a calf with peculiarly shaped 

white blaze on the forehead ears {kutu 'ear'). About the 

(lit. 'spot on the ground where prefix sw- cf. p. loi. 

no grass grows') 

A common name for dogs is masd\. 

5. Rites connected with cattle=breed