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Category Archives: Crocodile

Nana Miriam

Nana Miriam

This one took me a while to be satisfied with sources that were beyond just one or two sources.

Basically, Nana Miriam is who helps the hero Fara Maka to defeat a monstrous hippopotamus.

Parentage and Family

This one can get a little odd and confusing as it depends upon the narrative and who’s telling the story.

Parents

Fara Maka – When the story is told by the Soroko, he is the father of Nana Miriam.

Consort

Faran Maka – Or Fara Maka, among the Mali people, he is Nana Miriam’s spouse.

What’s In A Name?

This is a tidbit I found interesting. The name Nana Miriam is an Islamicized version of the original name. In addition, the name Nana is used as a title for older women. During the African Diaspora, Nana became a name for grandmothers.

Fara Maka And Mali

Among the people of Mali, Fara Maka is a hero who slew a monstrous hippopotamus known as Mali. But he doesn’t do it without help!

The short version –

Mali had eaten all of Fara Maka’s crops. Fara Maka tried to kill the monster hippo using his spear and sending out as many 120 black hounds to attack the beast. Fara Maka failed and was eaten in the process by some accounts. His wife, Nana Miriam used a spell to paralyze the monster Mali and finally defeated it.

The long version –

As told by the Soroko of Niger, a long time ago there was a monstrous hippopotamus by the name of Mali that would eat all of the crops before they could be harvested.

The Soroko banded together to attack and take out this monster. To their dismay, none of their spears could hurt the giant hippo. The spears would fall away harmlessly or fall into fiery pots hanging around the Mali’s neck.

To make matters worse, Mali was also a shapeshifter and would change into the forms of a crocodile, manatee or other creatures to get away.

Even the greatest hunter among them, Fara Maka was unable to defeat Mali. Fara Maka went after Mali with seven spears and all of those melted in the hippo’s fire pots.

Not giving up, Fara Maka went to get the help of a fellow hunter, Kara-Digi-Mao-Fosi-Fasi (sometimes he’s just called: Karadigi). Kara-Digi brought 120 hunting dogs with him to help take down the monster hippo. Each dog was chained to the other and as big as a horse.

In the Soroko story, Mali is able to talk, which makes sense given its supernatural nature with shape-shifting and being so huge; seeing Fara Maka with Kara-Digi and his dogs, the monster hippo laughed and taunted them, stating that a rat couldn’t make a cat accountable. At which, Mali then proceeded to eat all 120 dogs.

Crushed and thoroughly defeated, the two men returned to Fara Maka’s home where they were met by Fara Maka’s daughter, Nana Miriam. Now it is said, that for as ugly as Fara Maka was, Nana Miriam was just that beautiful. Like her father, who taught her of course, Nana Miriam knew magic and her abilities far out striped Fara Maka’s magic. Seeing the despair on her father and his friend’s face, Nana Miriam decided to take matter into her own hands to do something about stopping Mali.

Like any parent who loves their child and there’s a vicious monster out there, Fara Maka is understandably upset that his daughter wants to go out and face off with Mali. No, just no. Kara-Digi takes the approach of telling Nana Miriam that she’s just a girl and should listen to her father. Of course, from Nana Miriam’s perspective, what Kara-Digi likely sounds condescending, that she’s weak and can’t do it and with her father, that need for independence and showing that, yes, she can do this.

So, grab the spear and a juju (magic) bag and off, out the door Nana Miriam goes in search of this monstrous hippo, Mali. It doesn’t take our heroine long to find Mali and the two get into a verbal spat wherein Mali taunts Nana Miriam that she can’t hurt him.

A magical battle follows, first Mali creates a giant wall of fire around himself that Nana Miriam counters with some powder from her juju bag that turns the flames to water. Next, Mali lets out a loud shout, creating a great iron wall to separate them. This, Nana Miriam counters by pulling a hammer from her bag and breaks through the wall.

Worried that he may have met his match, Mali transforms into a river and starts to flow towards the larger Niger river. Nana Miriam pulls a bottle of lotion from her juju bag that she flings at the river to dry it up, forcing Mali to retake his animal form.

Around this time, Fara Maka and Kara-Digi return to see Nana Miriam kill the monstrous hippopotamus. When the two arrived, Mali charged towards Fara Maka. Seeing the hippo barreling towards her father, Nana Miriam leapt in front of Mali. She proceeded to grab the monster’s leg and with enough force and momentum; Nana Miriam swung Mali up over her head, hurling him off into the distance.

Now, depending on the version of the story told, Nana Miriam either threw hard enough that he circled the earth three times or that it would take ten years of marching to reach where Mali finally landed. Either way, Mali was dead.

Nana Miriam wasn’t stopping there, she next told the villagers to leave their hunting gear home and to get ready for a vast quantity of food to arrive soon. Taking a magical egg from her juju bag, Nana Miriam threw it into the Niger river. Once the egg hit the water, it caused every hippo within it to die and the villagers had food a plenty to eat for a while.

Well, there was still one hippo left after all this, one who was pregnant. As Nana Miriam prepared to make short work of this one like she had all the others, Fara Maka intervened. He stepped in front of his daughter and said that if Nana Miriam killed all of the hippos, that there would be none left later for people to eat. Nana Miriam relented and allowed the last hippo to live. This hippo would go on to become known as the Mother of Hippos.

Variations to the story –

Some variations have Nana Miriam getting the egg she tosses from her father, Fara Maka.

Another variation has her using a spell to paralyze Mali before killing him. In this version, Fara Maka is her husband, not father.

Hunting Charm

Among the Soroko, whenever people go hunting hippopotamuses, they will chant Nana Miriam’s name over the charm as they make it.

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Shilluk Pantheon

shilluk-pantheon

I came across a few of the gods or ancestral deities for the Shilluk people. However, the information is sparse enough, I decided to combine all the deities into one article in order to expand this post. Plus, it feels more worthwhile writing it up.

First up is that Shilluk is a corruption of the word Chollo, so a lot of my research did center around looking up Shilluk and not just Chollo.

The Shilluk or Chollo people are a large, native or Luo Nilotic people living along the Nile River of modern, Southern Sudan.

Legend and traditions hold that sometime during the 15th century C.E., Nyikango, the mythical ancestor and founder of the Shilluk or Chollo nation had an argument with Dimo and other Luo groups in a place known as Bahr el Ghazel.

Taking a group of his closest family and friends, Nykango led them northwards up along the Nile in rafts and canoes until they found the place of Otango Dirum to settle. Through the use of war and diplomacy, Nykango managed to conquer over time the entire area of Otango Dirum. For each of the tribes, Nykango granted a name and ritual they were to perform. Legends and tradition hold that Nykango’s son, Dak was the most influential in establishing the Shilluk Kingdom.

Today though, the Shilluk as a nation is recognized by the Sudanese state as only part of native administrations. Since 1837, the Shilluk have never truly free except for a brief period from 1881 and 1898 during the Mahdiya. The Shilluk still have a common territory, language, tribal authority they listen to and their customs and traditions they hold to.

Diang

Diang is a cow goddess, she lived along the west bank of the Nile river. She is seen as the wife of the first human Omara that had been sent by the Creator God, Juok.

Diang and Omara have a son, Okwa who grows up and marries the crocodile goddess Nyakaya.

In Shilluk religion and beliefs, this shows a connection of the three major elements of life. Men or humans for the sky, cattle for the earth and crocodiles for water.

Juok

Juok is known by a number of other names: Jo-Uk, Joagh, Joghi, jok, Joogi, Jouk, Jok Odudu, Ju-Ok, or Jwok

He is the main Creator God of the Shilluk and other tribes along the upper areas of the Nile river. It is generally believed that Juok controls the destinies of all living creatures. The legendary Shilluk king, Nyikang is often seen as being Juok’s earthly representative or avatar much like the Egyptian pharaohs were often seen as the living god Ra in earthly form. Other tribes such as the Acholi and Lango use the name Jok to refer to local or ancestor spirits.

Nyakaya

A crocodile goddess, she is the wife of Okwa and the mother of Nyikang.

Nyikang

Also known as Nyakango.

He is a fertility god and the mythical ancestor from whom all the kings of the Shilluk are descended from. Being an immortal and the avatar of Juok, Nyikang is believed not to have died, but instead, to have vanished in a whirlwind. The later kings of the Shilluk are seen as the reincarnations of Nyikang. The vitality and well-being of the tribe is closely connected to the health of Nyikang.

Okwa

The son of Omara and Diang, he is the husband of Nyakaya and the father of Nyikang.

Omara

The husband of Diang, he is the first man in the mythology of the Shilluk. Omara and Diang fathered Okwa who would eventually found the lineage of Nyikang.