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Message-Id: <v01530502ad12dbf398a1@[]>
Date: Fri, 05 Jan 1996 09:49:42 -0400
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From: M_Bastian@ACAD.FANDM.EDU (Misty Bastian)
To: "NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List" <nuafrica@listserv.acns.nwu.edu>
Subject: Congolese Water Spirits

Congolese Water Spirits

By Misty Bastian, 5 January 1996

Hi, Nuafricanists. I was just looking at this book I found in a D. C. used book store on _Myths and Legends of the Congo_ by Jan Knappert. (Heinemann 1971) It has a wonderful myth of the origin of female water spirits' white skin in it. Here it is, in its entirety:

"Four spirits resided in the water beneath the rapids in the Congo River, in the form of four serpents, Kuitikuiti the Waving one, his wife Mboze the Fertile one, and their children Makanga and Mbatilanda. They lived in the Infernal Cauldron, as the white men call it, the maelstrom where the powerful current of the Congo meets the rising tide at every noon. The people say that Kuitikuiti has been seen in many other parts of the river as well.

Long ago there was only the earth with the bushes on it. Then Kuitikuiti rose out of the water and created all the tail-less animals, and Mbatilanda created all the animals with tails. When they came home they found that Mboze was pregnant. She had committed incest with her son, Makanga. Furious, Kuitikuiti siezed a club and beat her to death. Dying, she gave birth to a serpent daughter, called Bunzi. Bunzi is the goddess of rain and fertility. She gave birth to another water spirit called Lusunzi, who comes to visit his mother regularly, and whenever he does, there is -kalema-, springtide, in the vast estuary of the Congo.

Kuitikuiti resuscitated his wife Mboze, but now her skin was white instead of black, so he also exchanged his black skin for a white one. Kuitikuiti also lay with his granddaughter, Bunzi, and the issue of this union was a daughter, Kambizi the Storm, who floods the low lands of the delta and drags the sailors and bathers down so that they drown. On the bottom of the sea she makes love with them, like the princesses of the old days who had the right to pick any man they fancied to satisfy their desires."

(pp. 138-9)

Do any of you *out there* have a better context for this myth that you can tell me about? Knappert tells us that it comes from the Woyo people, and that these are rainbow serpents. I'm particularly interested in the section where Mboze returns from the dead with white skin and where Kambizi acts "like the princesses of the old days" as well as like the European siren.

Thanks, Misty

Misty L. Bastian
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Anthropology
Franklin & Marshall College
PO Box 3003
Lancaster, PA 17604-3003