Lozi mythology

Lozi mythology

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The main function of Lozi mythology is to show that the original Lozi people
Lozi people
The Lozi people are an ethnic group primarily of western Zambia, inhabiting the region of Barotseland. Lozi are also found in Namibia , Angola and Botswana.-Name:...

 (the Luyi or Luyana) were dwellers on the Barotse Floodplain
Barotse Floodplain
The Barotse Floodplain also known as the Bulozi Plain, Lyondo or the Zambezi Floodplain is one of Africa's great wetlands, on the Zambezi River in the Western Province of Zambia...

 of the upper Zambezi River and that they are, therefore, entitled to claim unchallenged title to that homeland. Secondly, Lozi mythology gives legitimacy to the Lozi kingdom's foundations, by linking the monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 and the people to a creator god, whom the Lozi call Nyambe.

The name Nyambe means "he who does not speak" in the Luyana language. Nyambe's wife was Nasilele (which means "she who is associated with long things") and his mother was Ngula (which means "she who is pregnant"). Nyambe is said to have created both his wife and his mother. He is also said to have created everything else that exists, including the heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, the Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 and all the plants and animals.

The founding myths

The Lozi
Lozi may refer to:*The Lozi language*The Lozi people*Lozi in South West Africa...

 founding myth
Founding myth
A national myth is an inspiring narrative or anecdote about a nation's past. Such myths often serve as an important national symbol and affirm a set of national values. A national myth may sometimes take the form of a national epic...

 is not cast in stone, there are several versions of it, depending on who is telling the story. Like any other oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

, it has changed with the passage of time, but there are some elements that do not change, such as the name of the creator
Creator deity
A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

 god, the name of the first man, and the name of the first sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...


The three versions of the Lozi founding myth given below are not the only ones.

Nyambe flees from Kamunu

One of Nyambe's creations was Kamunu, the first human being. Nyambe gave Kamunu the task of naming all the other creations and told the human being that all the animals were his siblings. As such he should look after them.

Kamunu, being the most intelligent of all Nyambe's creations, rapidly learned and copied Nyambe's various skills: the mastery over fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

; the forging
Forging is a manufacturing process involving the shaping of metal using localized compressive forces. Forging is often classified according to the temperature at which it is performed: '"cold," "warm," or "hot" forging. Forged parts can range in weight from less than a kilogram to 580 metric tons...

 of metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

; the art of moulding pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

; the carving
Wood carving
Wood carving is a form of working wood by means of a cutting tool in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object...

 of spoons, plates and canoes; the sowing
Sowing is the process of planting seeds.-Plants which are usually sown:Among the major field crops, oats, wheat, and rye are sowed, grasses and legumes are seeded, and maize and soybeans are planted...

 of crops; and the domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 of animals. Although Nyambe was at first impressed, he soon became tired of Kamunu's mimicry, especially when the man started killing the animals and cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

 their meat for food
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

. Nyambe told Kamunu not to kill the other creatures but Kamunu would not stop. To punish this misbehaviour, Nyambe begun taking away Kamunu's possessions: first his pot broke, then his dog died and eventually his son died. This, according to the Lozi, was the way that death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

 came to the human race.

In frustration, Nyambe moved away from Kamunu on several occasions but, wherever Nyambe moved to on the Zambezi
The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The area of its basin is , slightly less than half that of the Nile...

 floodplains, Kamunu would follow. Eventually Nyambe decided to cross the Zambezi River, but Kamunu carved a canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

 and followed. Nyambe built a mountain
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|right|The Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everestrect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan Plateaurect 250 406 340 427 Rong River...

 and lived on its summit, but Kamunu climbed the mountain and found Nyambe. Finally, Nyambe decided to move away from Earth into heaven (called Litooma in Lozi mythology). To accomplish this, and to prevent Kamunu from following, Nyambe instructed a spider
Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms...

 to weave a web. Once Nyambe had used the spider's web to climb into Litooma, he blinded the spider so that it would not tell Kamunu how to get to heaven.

That is how Kamunu remained on Earth, condemned to live and die here after Nyambe refused to provide medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 to prevent disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

 and death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. Hence death is Kamunu's divine punishment for his disobedient behaviour.

Nyambe founds the Lozi nation through incest

In this version, Nyambe is shown to be the founder of the Lozi nation. Nyambe and his wife, Nasilele, had a daughter whom they named Mwambwa (which means "one who is being talked about"). In a variation on this theme, Nyambe is said to have created many wives for himself and had children by all of them. (This story also legitimises polygyny
Polygyny is a form of marriage in which a man has two or more wives at the same time. In countries where the practice is illegal, the man is referred to as a bigamist or a polygamist...

 in the Lozi nation.) When Mwambwa had grown up, Nyambe fell in love with her and had incestuous sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which a male's penis enters a female's vagina for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. The entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails...

 with her. When Nasilele found out what had happened between her husband and her daughter, she quarrelled with her husband and beat her daughter. Nyambe was so upset by his wife's behaviour that he called his servant, Sasisho, and announced his decision to return to heaven. Nyambe ordered a spider to spin a web, so that he and his servant could climb to heaven leaving Nasilele on Earth. Due to her remorse, Nasilele died a few weeks later.

Mwambwa, the daughter of Nyambe and Nasilele, later became the first Luyi sovereign and, therefore, founder of the nation. Her eldest daughter, whose name was Mbuyu and who was presumably conceived from the incest with Nyambe, took over the sovereignty from her mother.

Nyambe founds the Lozi nation as the first person

In this version of the founding myth, Nyambe was not the creator
Creator deity
A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

god but was the first human being. All Luyi peoples were said to have originated from him. In this account, the identity of the Creator is not stated explicitly. Instead, the people in the myth are simply stated to have been living on the Zambezi floodplains. Nyambe's village was called Litooma-mundi-wa-Nyambe (which means "heaven, the home of Nyambe" in Luyana) and his first wife was called Mwambwa. She later became the first female chief of the Luyi people. Through this myth, the Lozi royalty was said to originate from Mwambwa. She was, therefore, given the title Njemakati (which means "a woman from whom the kingdom originates"). She is also said to have given birth to nine other children, including a daughter named Mbuyu, who took over the sovereignty from her mother.