Culture: Mother tongue languages facing extinction
At a place called Gaturi in Murang'a County, there are some women who are avoided because they are feared to have 'supernatural powers'.
According to a Gikuyu mythology, the tribe believes to have originated from two people–Mumbi and Gikuyu who had nine daughters and who later formed the nine clans. The nine clans had different names.
The women with the cursing tongue are believed to be from the Ambura or Ethaga clan. Wairimu Kariuki, an old woman who lives in Murang'a explained to me that women belonging to the Ethaga clan differ greatly with the other clans.
According to a book by J B Wanjuhi, 'My Native Roots', in the early days the Ethaga clan was said to have experts in witchcraft, but not necessarily for evil doing.
They just used it to protect themselves against their enemies. Wairimu goes on to narrate that as infants these women were born with five seeds clutched in their hands. It was believed that the ‘gift’ was inherited from the ancestors, who probably they were named after.
That meant that they would be fortune tellers or traditional doctors. It was a blessing and a curse at the same time. Some used their ‘gift’ to do good while others misused it by their malicious acts.
“The women would noticeably have a darker tongue with dark spots at the front. Their gum would also be unusually dark. Their powers lied in the tongue.
A compliment from them could turn disastrous,” explains Wairimu. For instance, they could compliment your beautiful skin and in no time pimples and freckles would appear.
These women, it is claimed, could even look up to the birds in the sky and they would drop dead or glance at a blossoming tree and it dries up almost immediately. “Women who possessed this power and did not want to harm people would spit on you thrice, so that the ‘curse’ wouldn’t affect you,” she says.
Mothers would smear oil extracted from pigs on their infant’s face to avoid the Gethemengo. My mother once narrated to me about our neighbour who had the ‘cursed tongue’. She would occasionally come to the house with her eyes shut and before anything she had to spit on us three times and then we would be okay,” Wairimu says.
There are also women who are part of the Ethaga clan, but their spell was more potent. Their gift was more of a curse than a blessing. Known as Atumia a Chiero dune (woman with the red thigh).
They do not have a red thigh literally, but it simply meant they were women of bad luck. These beautiful women were never to be married. Any man who married her and consummated the marriage died mysteriously
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