Cege wa Kibiru – Strong Medicine


THE PROPHET

The greatest and most famous Gikuyu prophet and seer was Cege wa Kibiru who lived at or around Kariara near Thika. Because like all great Gikuyu seers he was to become a renowned healer or Man of Medicine, Mundu-Mugo, he later came to be known as Mugo wa Kibiru that is Mugo, (Doctor) the son of Kibiru. He was however not the biological son of Kibiru but was adopted and born ceremonially into the Anjiru clan of the Kibiru’s.

Among the “ten” Gikuyu clans, the Anjiru clan have traditionally been associated with prophesy and strong medicine. They were and still are the great healers of the tribe as evident from modern Anjiru like the late Nobel Peace laureate Professor Wangari wa Maathai. It is said that “a Munjiru has something and a bit more”, “Munjiru ari undu na kaundu kangi”, meaning that you can never fathom the depths of the soul of a Munjiru. In his role as a Diviner Priest, he carries a guard with a hooked neck, rugoci, so that unlike an ordinary Medicine Man who uses a straight narrow guard, he will always leave some divination beads and cowrie shells caught inside the dark unknown.

The Munjiru has a strong connection to all of nature and with his flute he can keep animals away or summon them to an assembly or to infest an entire village. In this way they were the guardians of the drinking places at the rivers so that people and their livestock could use the drinking places without fear of attack from wild animals. They would also place protective charms and paraphernalia at village entrances, bee hives and cultivated areas – of cause for a fee. No war party could set out without the protection of a Munjiru Man of Medicine or in Gikuyu, Munjiru Mundu Mugo aka Munjiru Mundu wa Mithaiga. Triple M. Strong medicine indeed!

A Munjiru Man of Medicine with his flute summoning the animals.

A Munjiru Man of Medicine with his flute summoning the animals.

Cege as a very young boy was found in the forest by the hunter Kibiru as he was inspecting his traps. Seeing the boy all alone so deep in the forest, Kibiru approached him and asked;

“Young man, who are you and who is with you?”

The boy replied, “My name is Cege and I am with God, Ngai, Mwene Nyaga

Kibiru: “And where do you come from?”

Cege replied, “I have come from God, Ngai, Mwene Nyaga

Kibiru: “Will you come with me?”

Cege: “Yes”

Kibiru took the boy home and gave him to his eldest wife. He then performed the necessary purifications and rites of adoption and the boy became Cege wa Kibiru.

The great transformation of the Gikuyu from hunters and pastoralists into mainly agriculturalists must have happened after working iron became widespread in the Cuma Generation around the late 17th Century. The great Gikuyu historian and academician, Muriuki mentions a Cege regiment of the Manduti generation and places it just before the Cuma. This would plant the Cege’s firmly in the hunter/pastoralist period before Cuma. Could the mention of a Cege in the Gikuyu chronicles mark the period when the famous MMM, Cege lived? This would place these events in the early 1600s.

As a young boy his work before circumcision entailed looking after his father’s goats with other boys all day. Out in the field, he would often leave the other boys and go into the forest without fear of the wild animals. When they asked him where he had been he would reply that he had been with God, Ngai. When he grew up he began prophesying. It is not possible to compile a comprehensive list of all his sayings but the following is what has come down to us.

THE PROPHESIES

  1. There will come a people from the East who will look like butterflies. Their skins will be colourless like that of the tree frog, Kiengere and you will be able to see the blood flowing under their skins just like in the Ciengere (plural). These people will also look like lepers.
  2. The Ciengere will cause a painful upheaval of the tribal ways and things will never be the same again. These pains will be the birth pangs of good and of bad.
  3. An Iron snake will be built by the Ciengere from the Sea of Rukanga, iria ria cumbi, and it will enter the Sea of the Sparrow, iria ria ihii. It will not be possible to cut the snake with a machete or spear.
  4. A living snake with a bushy head, kihinga, bellowing smoke will ride on top of the sleeping snake. It will swallow the Ciengere and spit them out.
  5. Shortly after the snake’s coming, there will be a big famine and a pestilence that will nearly finish the people.
  6. The Ciengere will carry sticks that spit fire and it will be foolish for our warriors to confront them with their spears.
  7. The Ciengere will fill the whole land.
  8. The Ciengere’s skin will look like they have leprosy and their eyes will have stripes like the skin of a mouse.
  9. Children will be born who will not have ears but only holes. They will abandon the ways of the tribe and will show no respect to their elders and parents.
  10. Children will be born who will wear bells, mbugi, in their ears and will not listen or hearken to tribal teaching, kirira.
  11. Children will be born who will have no fear of committing abominable acts, migiro.
  12. Adultery and promiscuity, waganu, will fill the whole land.
  13. Theft and petty crime will fill the whole land.
  14. Cooked food will be sold on roadsides and markets all over the country.
  15. The Gikuyu people will not heed the leadership and warnings of the Anjiru Clan and instead will follow the Aicakamuyu.
  16. Lake Naivasha will be planted with sugarcane and bananas by the Gikuyu.
  17. The plains where the Maasai, Ukabi, roam with their cattle will be farmed and millet planted there.
  18. The great forest of Mbage will one day join with the great one of Kiriti and will become one.
  19. When the sleeping snake will shift and sleep alongside the Ngong Hills, only then will the living iron snake swallow the Ciengere and take them to the Sea of Rukanga.
  20. Until the great Thingira wa Iregi (Ruling Council hut) shall be built in Githunguri and inaugurated with the necessary ceremonies and purification rites, the country will never be free of the ills brought by the Ciengere neither benefit from the good brought by them.
  21. Until the great fig tree, Mugumo at Thika shall fall, the country, bururi, shall never be free.

THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHESY

When I ask a young man whether he is hearing what I am saying with the earphones and ear buds ringing bells in his ears the answer is always an irritated, “Yes, I can hear you”

In the time of Cege, all around Lake Naivasha was a paradise teaming with wildlife as if Noah’s ark had just been opened. It was not imaginable that the Gikuyu would one day live on the shores of Paradise Lost least of all plant bananas. The horrible implications of this prophesy is that one day the lake itself will be no more and will be farmland. Thai! Thathaiya Ngai Thai!

It was unthinkable that cooked food could one day be sold. It was said that irio hiu itumaga mburi meaning that cooked food can never be sold. Traditionally the Gikuyu customs demanded that cooked food be shared freely.

It is after all, the spirit of the Ciengere that will fill the whole land and not just the Ciengere themselves per se. Therefore we will see the youth transforming their skins, their hair and their ways to look like Ciengere. The Ciengere then will be everywhere.

The railway linking the Kenyan Indian Ocean Coast and the Lake Victoria connected and united the new country in the name of Kenya and it would be impossible from then onwards to cut it up again into separate nations like existed before. The links are permanent and will never be broken. According to prophesy it cannot be cut.

It is necessary in interpreting and decoding prophesy to go beyond the literal as many of the elements within a prophesy are but mere symbols. It is also necessary to understand that man is a microcosm of the universal events and therefore every human must at some time in his/her existence encounter a cataclysmic event that requires the rebuilding anew of the great Hut of the soul. Therefore even as we interpret Cege’s prophesies to have centred around the events of the coming of the white man and the railway, we see that we must not just behold a mere railway but the coming of a technological new age that will ensnare and swallow the youth for after all, the Mugumo with its roots in the underworld and that connected the Gikuyu to their ancestral past will have fallen. The event of the falling of the Great Mugumo tree at Thika was a decisive moment in the struggle for independence probably more so than the battles fought with arms. This was a spiritual struggle that involved the ancestors and the future generations and the white man seemed to understand this very well. (Read more here)

We must understand that the erection of the New Thingira, in every soul, in every home, not just the physical one at Githunguri or the one Mzee Jomo Kenyatta erected in Nairobi, holds the key to re-establishing the respect for the traditional prophetic Unjiru in us and the embracing of the futuristic and daring complexity of the Uicakamuyu in us. Every individual must have a connection to the past, the present and the future. The prophesied New Thingira must be erected spiritually for it to inaugurate the New Order in Gikuyu society, itwika. Prophesy is a clear vision of the future and destiny is therefore the living of prophesy not pre-ordainment. The destiny of the Gikuyu is to live the prophesy.

Further Reading:

Mugia, Daniel Kinuthia, Urathi wa Cege wa Kibiru, Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi (1979) – Not available in Bookshops or any public Libraries.

Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mt. Kenya: The Tribal Life of the Kikuyu. (Available at Prestige Bookshop, Mama Ngina St, Nairobi and at Bookpoint, Moi Avenue Nairobi and all Text Book Centres, Nairobi.)