Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/290

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

254 Reviews,

Two of the most important chapters are those headed " Circum- cision" (pp. 68-77) ^i^d "Religion and BeUefs" (pp. 85-92). In the former, the pictographic staves {Mtisat, p. 71) are a feature new to us. The Mubwiki (instructors of the initiates) "go into the woods, each alone, and cut sticks from a tree called Mthiwa," on which they carve " what may be called riddles in picture writing . . . [being] conventional representations of common objects . . . and the pupil has to guess these one after the other. They are called Ndeto or riddles." On the same page is figured a Musai stick made specially for Mr. Hobley by one of the chiefs. A sort of rude picture writing is used by the Akikuyu (Routledge, op. cit., pp. 109-10, Plates Ixxxvi.-lxxxviii.), but it appears to be con- fined to the gourd rattles sometimes used by boys when dancing and singing (kuinya kishandi) ; and the staves described by Sir H. H. Johnston ^ as " intended to tell stories and point morals " would seem to come under the same category as these last.

The (now obsolete) ceremony of Choo Mmanba in Mumoni (p. 76), in which a monstrous aquatic animal, supposed to have come up out of the Tana river, was " caught . . . and led through the country . . . secured with ropes," recalls the Zinyao of Nyasaland. Mr. Hobley adds (p. 77), "Of course there is no doubt that this beast was of the nature of an animal one is accustomed to see on the pantomime stage, a couple of men covered with skins or something of the sort, but somewhere far back in the mists of time may have had some connection with the legends of the dugong or manatee." The place of the " whale " {iiyamgumi) in the Nyasaland mysteries, and the mud model (seen by the late Mr. Lindsay of Blantyre) of some creature unknown at the present da)', seem to connect it with some tradition of extinct beasts.

Besides the impersonal Engai or Mulungu, " vaguely supposed to live in the sky," the Aiimu, or ancestral spirits, are the principal objects of Kamba belief and worship. Mr. Hobley uses this word as though it were alike in singular and plural, but one would have expected it to be the plural of a singular M^miniu. It is certainly the same word as mzhnti, which in Swahili takes the plural wazimu, though in other languages, curiously enough, it

^ George Grenfell a7id the Congo, vol. ii, pp. 807, 811.