Wamuyu: The Unmarried 10th Daughter

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.


Updated on 2nd Aug 2011 – Internal links

30 thoughts on “Wamuyu: The Unmarried 10th Daughter

    1. 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


    2. I think I have heard about a sacrifice called mùruru when a girl gives birth when unmarried but later gets married. The sacrifice is to cleanse the afterbirth because its a taboo to give birth while at one’s parent homestead and to signify the acceptance of the kid by the clan of the man who later marries the girl.


      1. Unmarried daughters when they reach a point they cannot be married are treated as sons by their fathers including in all inheritances. When she dies she is burried where she was shown to buid her house by her father. It may not necesarily be where her parents are burried. Married women co-inherit with their husbands. And never inherit from their father. It is a denial of their marriage and they enter their children into a curse.


        1. Hi, does this still apply today, the part about a married woman inheriting the father’s property and bringing a curse upon their children?


        2. On this one you are wrong she was only treated like son only akiendia na akiguranira ihî ciake remember she was regarded as kîhîî kiria kinini otherwise muiritu ndagauaga tiri tondo mundu muka ni mugunda


  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?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 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.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. im moved by these pieces of advice,i wish in nairobi or any other areas where kikuyu meet they should be discussing these as they provoke thinking and way of thinking.


  3. I would concur with the fact that our myths have a striking similarity with the Kabbalah.
    Notice there’s such a similarity recorded on the Torah, which is considered an exoteric text for the Kabbalah by some, (Samuel Chapt. 24) on the issue of our ancestors’ reluctance to enumerate people to the full number.
    King David is recorded as having commuted a big sin when he counted the men in his army.
    I’m of the opinion that any such similarity of myths is not just a mere fun fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Kabbalah tree of life has ten devine names and is a study in human characteristics and their interconnections. When you study closely the ten Kikuyu clans characteristics and how they interact then you can’t fail to see they have a common source. Plus all the other elements lime you have mentioned, not numbering, sacrifices etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Mukuyu for creating this platform where we can convene to elevate consciousness. The concepts in Kabbalah and Gikuyu tradition do share a lot in common. In fact, I have the novel concept that Gikuyu Culture and other African traditions are re-inventing themselves in such a way that they are consistent with the paradigm shift that is upon us. The interpretation of colonialism as an Initiation into a Higher Order could be what we are facing currently.(Open for discussion of course)


  4. Your comment couldn’t be any more synchronous! Just about a day ago talking with a friend on how the tree of life with all its components, the divine names, the sephirots etc., can be demystified and made useful in the life of an individual by applying it physio-psychologically, which admittedly is not an easy task.
    Your point about relating the tree of life with the ten Kikuyu clans is quite new to me and makes a lot of sense.


  5. Do the Kikuyu, both regard this two tree sacred first 1.Mukuyu 2.Mugumo ? I said this because in the begining Kikuyu got his wife Mumbi under Mukuyu tree while he was asleep resting after a long tired day with Ngai when wake up he saw his wife Mumbi next when Kikuyu geting husband for his nine daughters he sacrifice under mugumo tree and found nine men who later marry his daughters, so which one most regard to be Holy is it, Mugumo or Mukuyu?


  6. I am expecting a first born baby boy soon and the so father does not want baby named after his family….is it a must I name baby after my dad or can I give my baby any other name? can I use my 2nd name Muthoni as my baby’s surname?


    1. If you are truly married to the man then he will insist, expect, and demand that the boy be named after your father in law. If this is not happening, the so-called marriage is in serious trouble. If there is no marriage but there is a child, name him after your father. Do the necessary rites to your brother so that he can become the acting father to his nephew. If your brother’s name is for example, munene, the boy will be Mwangi Munene. Not Mwangi Muthoni.


        1. Saying that the Surname should not be female is disregarding children like us who our fathers never wanted any association with us, but ran as far as they could, I am proud of My Mother’s name as Sir Name. Period


  7. I think the myth is clear on the number of men, they were nine because wamuyu was not of age to marry when Gikuyu sort men to marry his daughters


  8. Aghekoyo maraherithyo everywhere you go ! darehiro ne mothogo ghoko majuu, digesoka mosie. am under surveillance 24/7. eno ne bara ya kooragha aghekoyo othe ! matiraherithia ado age ta jaruo,ikaba kana kafira ege ! ne aghekoyo tu maraherithio wherever you go ! by the matter of fact, kafira isio ige nesio maratwedia ithue siana sia mobi ! niko psychiatrie in south holland bavo Europoort where the most abuse have taken place, first in Germany then i had to run away geoka ghoko holland ghothie ate ICC Korea medagha kooragha uthamaki wito “out of the frying pan to the fire” deraherithio otuko na mothenya. MWATHANI, GAI WA NYAGHA AGHOSWO, ITHUE NE ITHUE SIANA SIAKE TOMENETO NE ADO OTHE !


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