Diviners in time of coronavirus pandemic

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Global pandemic.

As the impact of the global pandemic heats up, many people are looking for solutions everywhere including the mystical

Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine

Karisa Juma’s sleep was interrupted by an urgent phone call. Immediately after, he woke up, did as instructed, afraid of any bad omen that might come his way. 

“Well, I was woken up by my relative at around 4am, that a new born baby had instructed all people to drink black tea without sugar to cure coronavirus. Some say the baby was born in Horohoro, in Malindi, in Mariakani, and in Likoni.

And immediately after the pronouncement, the child died. In my home area Kaloleni, almost 95 per cent of the locals took this seriously, brewed that tea and drank it,” he says.

A resident of Nyali area, who also received the call, says he drank the tea as instructed since there is nothing to lose anyway.

A matter of faith

“I received the call at 4:31am from a relative who is a staunch Muslim believer and preacher.

He is not a joker or known to  spread gossip. And if anyone called him about the same, it must have been a reliable source.

He gave me instructions and told me about the child. He said it was for cure and protection. I thought about it for a second, and asked myself, ‘really what do I have to lose by drinking tea?’

It’s not poisonous. It is only a matter of faith. And I will still wash my hands and sanitise anyway,” said Suleiman Makwaro.

This is one of the many tales and accounts of children with supernatural abilities.

There are also accounts of radical God-encounters experienced by children around the world including of stories of healings, visions, miracles, prophetic evangelism, marketplace intercession and prophecy. 

Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya organising secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa. Photo/PD/FILE

In this case, the spiritual intermediary came in the form of a new born baby– and the perceived innocence of such babies may have made it  easier for people to believe it.

The Mijikenda say this is not unusual especially at a time tragedy has hit the world. Divinity is normally expected to protect the people. 

Kaya elder, Emmanuel Munyaya, who also received the late night calls, says such events used to happen traditionally when a pandemic struck the village.

“Traditionally when a pandemic befell the people, the community would turn to a diviner to find a way out of it, to cure it and to protect community members.

In my village, there was a divine protective spirit called Pepo Katsumba Kazi. A shrine would be built for the spirit with a table on which bread and wild fruits known as tondo  would be placed.

The spirit would then communicate with the diviner, usually an elder, to whom instructions on how to conduct cleansing would be issued,” he narrates. 

The elder would then prepare vuo, a concoction of medicinal leaves and herbs in water, which the whole village would use to bathe and cleanse themselves. 

“Today the world has changed. Traditional leaders are dubbed witches and the younger generation doesn’t listen to any advice from them as it used to be back in the day. That is why the elders are silent,” the Kaya elder adds. 

Biologically impossible

He says the response to this late night call comes as a light at the end of the tunnel.

As much as the source of this information cannot be clearly pointed, people took the directive with a lot of seriousness, hence creating an opening for elders to take their place one more time and be diviners for their people, because they might just listen and receive help.

However, religious leaders have stood firm against this midnight call from the savior dead child, claiming it is malicious and without religious or scientific proof, and thus should not be followed by anyone.

“Words like these should not be believed because they lack in truth. There is no proof of the child, or even the child’s place of birth.

People should not believe it completely. How can a newborn child speak before even sitting, biologically this is impossible.

These are people want to use the pandemic to sway people away from true religious faith.

Do not be easily cheated and manipulated, don’t listen to things like these or even act upon them,” said organising secretary Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa. 

Some locals agree with the Sheikh, saying the rumour had already appeared on the internet days before the phone calls started. 

“These stories are not true; 100 per cent so because there was a circulation of this information on WhatsApp.

I think it’s just how rumours move with the wind and distortion on the way,” said Albert Kalama, a Kaloleni resident.

As much as most people did as they were instructed in the phone call, the World Health Organisation insists there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat coronavirus disease as yet. Research is currently underway. 

More on Lifestyle