Wamuyu: A Single Mom?


Wamuyu aka Warigia aka Wanjugu was the Gikuyu daughter of Mumbi who according to legend did’t marry. This post speculates on the reasons she did not marry.

According to the existing myths of the tribe, Gikuyu and Mumbi the first parents of the tribe bore nine plus one daughters and no sons. This was at their home at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga in Muranga. Gikuyu then prayed to God and God asked him to make a burnt offering of a goat under the Mukuyu tree and return in the morning. On return the following morning he found nine young men waiting whom he took to his daughters and each took one for a husband.  These nine went on to establish what are the cornerstones of the tribe the nine  plus one clans. The clans are ‘nine with the fill’ not because Wamuyu’s clan, the Aicakamuyu was the fill but because the Gikuyu do not count their offspring exactly for fear they might perish. The myth is not clear whether there were actually nine young men or ten. Remember the Gikuyu will not count exact numbers of people or livestock due to superstition. So it is not at all clear whether Wamuyu refused to marry because there was no husband for her or because she had to wait as some people who tell the myth say that she was too young to marry.

I am a great fan of folk tales and myths and I have come to understand that most of them contain a very powerful meaning once deconstructed. Take the story of little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. A mere tale to amuse children? Nay! It is the story of maturation and initiation according to some writers. “Take care little girl, men are wolves” Or take the story of Beauty and the Beast. Isn’t it a teaching to young girls to beware of judging their future spouses by mere externals and looks?

In order to deconstruct the story of Wamuyu, we have to understand the dynamics of family life as presented by the first family. Look at them. They have nine grown up women who are all married to “goats” They shortly all go away one after another with their husbands to settle elsewhere. This aging couple had no son who could bring a young woman to take care of them. This was a serious matter as there were no old people’s homes then. One of the girls, certainly the one who either  loved them more than she loved herself or was favored of the father and mother must have decided – to hell with the “goat of a husband” and decided to stay and take care of the aging couple. This girl, Wamuyu, as she has been called, rather than being an outcast  as some people have suggested was probably the most beloved, the most caring and possibly the richest of the ten daughters of Mumbi as she would have inherited Gikuyu’s property. That is why even being single she is recognized as the mother of a full clan in its own right, the Aicakamuyu.

From her life we might conclude that:

  • Women owning and inheriting property was a fact from the beginning of time. It was overturned only later. (another myth)
  • The phenomenon of a single motheris not “un-African” or a misfortune as is insinuated by some people. It was a fully recognized status by Gikuyu himself.

THESE ARE THE SEASONS OF A GIKUYU WOMAN – Such as Wamuyu


Updated on 2nd Aug 2011 – Internal links

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4 thoughts on “Wamuyu: A Single Mom?

    • When a pregnant woman neared her full term, a midwife was called to be with her and would usually be assisted by two other women. In a corner of the hut called gaturi-ini between the foot of the woman’s bed and the kweru, a cow hide, ndarwa, was spread and this was where the woman delivered her baby. The hut was completely out of bounds to all except the midwives for four days in case of a girl and five days in case it was a boy. After the five days the woman was shaved and the hut swept of everything including all the dirt accumulated over the years under the goat’s pen, gicegu and the girl’s bed, kiriri. All the dirt was taken out by the midwife not to the homestead dump, kiara but into a forest where she also took the elephant. This was what was called the great sweeping or kuhata mirura. For an unmarried woman to give birth in her mother’s hut was a very grave thing almost unheard of. Who was going to do the sweeping for her and why?

      main source: L.S.B. Leakey

  1. I have a feeling that the Kikuyu myth of origin contains a very powerful meaning if we can get someone out there to deconstruct it.

    The Ndia and Gicugu people are Kikuyu just like the people of Kiambu, Muranga, Nyeri, Mathira, etc. The only difference is that their ACCENT is a little bit off. Ndia and Gicugu people are very close distance-wise to the Embu people who happen to have defined a different myth of origin.

    The word Ndia means a deep dam, or something like that. The word Ndia may also means “rigia”. Rigia is the root word for the name Warigia. In Kikuyu myth of origin, Warigia is also known as Wanjugu. The root word for Wanjugu is Njugu which I believe is also the root word for Gichugu. The “plus one daughters” means more than nine daughters – it could mean ten, eleven or even twelve daughters.

    When people are left in the “first home” they may as well be referred to as irigia…., moving out from “old home” is as good as getting married…., and then you go on and on in defining your people to be included in the “kingdom”.

    When the Kikuyu people migrated to the Mount Kenya region, the first waves may just have been the Ndia and Gichugu people, and that these two people were the “host” to the other latter waves of migration who certainly may have used a different migration route. When everybody had arrived and settled, then politics started. Politics about forgetting about the past, politics about future generations being made to believe the land was theirs given to them by God and that they should be ready to defend and die for it, politics about how to rule the people by establishing a kingdom as it was in Buganda kingdoms in Uganda, Yoruba kingdoms of Ifẹ and Oyo of 13th century in Nigeria, and finally politics about defining the boundaries of the new found territory. The Kikuyu myth of origin has all these ingredients. Unfortunately the idea of a kingdom for the Kikuyu people seems to have failed miserably.

    This may be a very abstract and crude way of thinking but that is how I see it. What do you have to say about this?

    • Wa Gichugu,
      We agree with you that the Gikuyu myth needs a deeper interpretation probably at a religio-philosophical level as the Jewish kaballah has been interpreted. As an exercise just do a quick check on the myth’s similarities with the kaballah.

      As for it being a political tool, OF CAUSE! Most myths of origin are politically motivated. Again just do a quick check on the famous one by Jews of their deliverance from Egypt and their takeover of the promised land. Promised by who? by God Himself. Some Bible scholars actually go as far as stating that the Bible and especially the Old Testament was written to justify genocide and the takeover of the “promised land” by the Jews.

      The so-called “promised land” of the Gikuyu was also inhabited by an indigenous people, the Gumba and the Dorobo who were replaced just as the Canaanites were replaced by the Jews.

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