The Woman and the ogre – A Tale of Deliverance

The Woman and the ogre

A long long time ago before the age of Ndemi and Mathathi, a man dwelt with his newly married wife on the edge of the forest. The man was a member of the Smith Guild, Aturi, a group in Gikuyu Society whose profession was extracting iron from the eath, smelting it and fashioning it into such implements as spears, swords, knifes, blacelets, and such. This was a highly protected craft and one had to be inducted through a long and expensive apprenticeship as well as complicated esoteric rituals. The smiths, Aturi, usually conducted their work in a consecrated place, Kiganda, far away from their homes. This place was given a wide berth by ordinary mortals and no one could approach it without requisite purifications. It was out of bounds to women and un-initiated men

Our newly married smith left his young wife alone and pregnant at home and went to join his fellow smiths a long way from home. In due time his wife was delivered of a baby. The manner of Gikuyu maternity services then was for a professional midwife to be called and together with some chosen assistants, she would perfom the deliverly inside the woman’s hut, Nyumba. Once a woman was delivered of a baby, she was nursed for several weeks so that she could get her strength back. It was not uncommon for the happy father to slaughter a goat for the woman. The soup was believed to be very ideal for quickly reviving the woman. This was called “warming up” kūhiūhīria. This particular poor woman was delivered and nursed by an ogre. Every time the ogre came back from collecting firewood from the forest it would let the firewood drop from its back and say, “newly delivered, (Wagaciairi) may you fall with that sound!” Wagaciairi ūrogwa na mūgambo ucio! After heating some leftovers the ogre would pass some to the woman saying, “Wagaciairi have some” but before she could reach it the ogre would snap it back saying, “Ahh! You have refused? Let me eat it for you.” This went on until the woman became so frail that she was about to die.

A dove used to perch on a tree just ouside the woman’s Nyumba and could observe all this. This dove used to be fed with choise castor oil seeds by the woman before she became bedridden. The dove after deciding enough was enough flew off all the way to the distant smithy where the man was working. It perched on a tree near the smithy and began to sing:
Mūturi ūgūtura-ī – Cangarara-īca

Tura tura narua-ī – Cangarara-īca

Mūkaguo anaciara-ī – Cangarara-īca

Aciarithio nī irimù-ī – Cangarara-īca

Akerwo ndūke tūhiūhio-ī – Cangarara-īca

Na warega Ngarīa-ī – Cangarara-īca

Smith that smith smith – too comfy, Oh! no.

Smith faster faster – too comfy, Oh! no.

Your wife has been delivered – too comfy, Oh! no.

Delivered by an ogre – too comfy, Oh! no.

Been told take these leftovers – too comfy, Oh! no.

You have refused, I eat – too comfy, Oh! no.

The smiths all looked at one another and enquired who among them had left a pregnant wife home alone. The culprit owned up and left the others at once to go check out the dove’s message. When the smith arrived at home the homestead was in a pathetic state. The gate was unsecured, the hedge broken, the granary was empty and nearly eaten through by termites and the Nyumba’s grass roof had such holes that you could see the sky from inside. The woman narrated her ordeal. The man then climbed up and hid in the firewood rack above the fireplace, itara, and waited.

By and by the ogre arrived with a load of firewood and as he dropped it said as usual, “Wagaciairī may you fall with that sound!” The woman replied, “May you fall with that sound too!” The ogre was surprised by the woman’s brave retort and it asked, “Wagaciairī how you answer with bravado or have those who left for the smithy come back?” The woman replied, “They will come back one day.” The ogre then warmed some food and as usual passed some to the woman saying, “Wagaciairī have some leftovers, but since you have refused let me eat them.” The man was so furious at this and aimed his spear straight at the open mouth of the ogre who died instantly. The man came down and embraced his wife and child and they stood thus in the centre of the Nyumba. You can still see them to this day, there, at the centre with the fire burning in between them? The All-seeing, All-knowing dove is still perched on a Mwariki tree nearby.


Oftentimes our expectation of good is like the woman’s pregnancy. An idea is nurtured and developed before it comes to fruition. Sometimes the farmer plants seeds in the garden and forgets or neglects to take care of them. Sometimes the excuse is that he is in a far country in search of riches. Sometimes the distance is a matter of conciousness and not a matter of miles. Sometimes we let our better half and better judgement be taken over by evil until, until we come home. Until a messager from higher than the I comes to remind us that we ought to come back home. We are all smiths fashioning our lives from the ore and refining and fashioning ourselves into beautiful beings. In the Hebrew Bible, in a similar story it is narrated that this particular smith was also in a far country “And when he came to himself ….” It is then that he came home. (Luke 15:11-32)

When we come home we rescue our lives from the vultures, hyenas and ogres who sit at our hearth. We kill the Buddha, the pastor, the doctor, the priest, the politician, the trainer and we take charge of our lives. We kill the so-called social media and come home. We kill the TV and listen to the cooing of the dove. We listen to that inner voice. We perform a major house cleaning and throw out all these hangers-on eating our lives away and eating even the leftovers. We reconcile the masculine ego with the creative feminine. The results are wholeness and health. Let him or her come home for no two stones can support a pot, so says the Dove. The tri-unity of Father, Mother and Child shall then meet at the Centre, the Hearth, the Origin. The Three will be One and the One will be resting on the Three stones nourishing the All.

The nourishing One on the Three-in-One

11 thoughts on “The Woman and the ogre – A Tale of Deliverance

  1. Well done. I truly appreciate the interpretation. Such richness in an otherwise ordinary story from my childhood.
    Keep up.


  2. Brings back many good memories and reminds of some parts that I forgot especially where he would drop.I never knew the deeper meaning and teachings in the story. Thank you for that.


  3. This is just good. Gìkùyù wisdom is of the highest degree. Where can I get hard copies of Gìkùyù literature in Nairobi?


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