• Stephen Osieyo

THE UNIVERSALITY OF LUO SNAKE ORGY

Updated: Mar 8





About a month ago I tried to share with my daughter a picture of a heap of snakes in a ritual and what it means in Luo culture. She asked me a very simple question. “Dad forget about foreign religions that came to Luos when they were in the Gulf of Kisumu, what was the religion of the Luo people before the foreigners came. And don’t me give nursery rhymes like the sun, ancestor, tree, rain, snakes. What was our faith say in distress or thanksgiving?” The truth is I didn’t have an answer but I decided to explore a bit about serpents and snakes.


The folklore about snakes and life or the giver of life is too numerous to recount here and vary from culture to culture. The slander about snakes seems to have arrived in Luo land at the same time as African slave trade and such demeaning words like black Sunday, devils cake, black tea, black snow, the devil is black.


If that is so how did the snake move from man’s enemy no 1 and jumped other beasts like the buffalo or the shark or bees. The buffalo for example hates the sight of man and will seek a tree trunk that looks like a man from 3 kilometres away. And there are beasts out there who are real man hunters yet the snake has jumped the queue to be the most dreaded beast. The snake never hunts humans like say the crocodile. The snake has a readiness to get away at the sight of man. But the snake is more dreaded than the hyena. I doubt if this has always been the case.




Even in biblical times, the famous encounter between man and snake was very collaborative and collusion in Adam’s presence with disastrous consequences. And Adam was right there so let nobody lie to you that Adam was an innocent bystander. But before that they were never enemies. Some scripture studies have argued for Satan that up to that point the snake was not a supernatural thing. And it is only when Satan entered the snake and personified the snake that it became supernatural even able to speak. In other words, the serpent was only an instrument that Satan was using to do the bidding.


The beginning would be in folklore. In Luo folklore, a pregnant woman dreaming of a snake will imply that a baby boy is on the way. And given the values attached to male child in the ancient times, this was a good thing. There was no negativity about a male child on the way. So how could such good tidings be preceded with dreams of snakes and sightings of snakes. I will come back to that.


Other Ancient cultures.

I will pick on a few fables from Hollywood movies. And given that these stories came from African diaspora culture, the stories may even be of River Nile extraction.


Haiti

The underworld culture of Haiti cannot be overemphasised. They say Haiti is 80% Christians and 300% African underworld practitioners. In Haitian folklore there are fables about the serpent and the rainbow. The rainbow represents life. And this is a far cry from the dreaded snakes that we are expected to kill on sight. I will not go deeper into the Hollywood blockbuster of the Serpent and the Rainbow.


This movie says that in their African extraction the snakes symbolised life to the people of Haiti.


Brazilian Amazon

Further up the Amazon, I picked another story from Anaconda 2, the sequel to the movie Anaconda 1. There are half-truths to make this Hollywood blockbuster sell. One thing Brazilians have assured me is that Anaconda don’t hunt human beings. However, in this movie they are made to hunt and eat people. But that is not my concern here.


What concerns me is that in Anaconda 1 the expedition passes through a part of the Brazilian Amazon where snakes were worshipped and there are even traditional sculptors and oracles of snakes as worship idols. It appears from the carvings that were there before the movies that human sacrifices were fed to snake Gods. (gory stuff)


In Anaconda 2 the legend based on local Brazilian amazon folklore gets even more interesting. The movie expedition is to extract a plant/ flower. And this plant has the potential of curing aging thus ensuring longevity. The problem is that the plant is deep in amazon and can only be extracted where the anaconda is mating or having an orgy. And this is where we meet the Luo folklore that I will come back to.


Once again the Brazilian Amazon has retained much of the African traditions in their original form. So it is not any wonder that this could traced back to the River Nile.


Orientals (Far East Asia)


In the far East, there is a completely different snake eating legends and practices. Here the folklore is not spiritual like in Africa and the Latin America. In the far east the snake is a medicinal food and even bottled as a medicinal beverage drink. Their main preference of eating snake meat is that it is an aphrodisiac and a cure for male impotency. Eating of snake meat, it is believed not only cures erectile problems but prevents erectile dysfunctions. For what purpose would one want to maintain erectile functions- To procreate. Of course, to give life.


It therefore implies that there is some mystic ingredient in the snake meat that guarantees this. It is that ingredient that the Orientals seek to consume sustain life.


Luo

In Luo beliefs today as it was before there are four dimensions of spiritual interactions with snakes. The first of these is the sighting of a snake in a household by an expectant mother. This one is simple. The sighting of a frog means a baby girl is on the way. The sighting of a snake means a baby boy is on the way. Plain and simple. I witnessed this so many times while growing up on both sides of Nam Lolwe than I care to recount.


Then there is the spiritual dreaming of snakes playing around with you around your feet. As much as it is scary the message is very good tidings. The interpretation of this dream is that 'at this juncture in your life you have a feud with a friend, colleague, partner, family or a spouse who is taking very decisive and ulterior steps against you that you are oblivious to but your ancestor that you are named after is fighting on your corner. So do not be alarmed but be wary of the opponent'. Very simple. Again the snake story is driving at one theme- the preservation of life.


Then there is the one I have not only heard about but in one occasion been very close to. In Luo folklore if a big snake was sighted in a home, they never killed it. It was guided away. Children born around these sightings are the Luo names of Othuol and Ng’ielno. The sightings were showered with village feasts just like the sighting of rare heavenly bodies.


In at least one occasion I came close to a sighting of a big snake that disappeared in the house for weeks. When it re appeared after weeks, it was killed by excited youths. And a passer-by condemned the youthful exuberance that led to the killing of the snake. Any the lady of the house who was expecting and the child passed on while giving birth. I am not legislating. I am just exhibiting.


Concurrence of Luo, Latin America and Orientals.

I have cited the South American spiritual and medicinal folklore. I have cited the Luo spiritual folklore. I have also cited the Far East Asia medicinal folklore faith. There is also a Luo medicinal faith.


One of the folklores we were told is of snakes coming to retrieve a piece of the mound of a person died of snake bites. I have covered this folklore elsewhere.


The is also another folklore we were told of the legends of seeing snakes involved in a mortal combat. The Luo legend had it that they would fight to death of one snake. Then in less than understood mystery, the victor snake would leave the fallen rival then slither away to fetch herbs and bring the herbs to resuscitate/resurrect the vanquished snake. I am not sure whether I should use resuscitate or resurrect as one is a matter of faith while the other word is a medic term. In Luo we just have one word chiero. This story was told to us so that if you see a heap of snakes entangled into that "fight", then keep watch at a secure distance. The winner will eventually lead you to herbs that is an anti dote and bingo you have found your self a snakebite anti dote.


Evidently snakes fighting of the Luo is the equivalent Brazilian Amazon orgy near the plant that gives life longevity. Otherwise the winner would be swallowing the looser because that is how snakes fight. So what the Luos presume as a snake fight the Brazilians correctly see as a heap of orgy. While the satisfied and pacified male lies asleep, the male slithers away to seek the orchard.


While the Luo wait forever to sight the orgy (fight) then stalk the snake as it goes to pluck the orchard, the Orientals are not prepared to waste time in such wild goose chase. They just eat and drink any snake and in the process will harvest the little aphrodisiac trapped in its body to distil any life giving chemicals.


So back to the beginning, how did the snake get such a bad reputation? Was it after Eve plucked that orchard to give to Adam?


Luo Folklore continue to mesmerise me whether it is snakes or otherwise. And in most cases the universality of Luo folklore is mind boggling. So in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve see a snake and their first born (kayo), a male child is born and named Cain (Kayo) and that makes the mother min-Kayo shortened to mikayi if we continue in that Luo trajectory. Wait a minute. I am sure I have heard somewhere the Luo folklore that sighting a snake is followed by the arrival a male child. I am definitely sure I have heard of that Luo belief. Never mind.

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