Beliefs and ways of Worship in Ancient Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom

Ruhanga – The supreme god of the Bunyoro pantheon. The creator and initiator of the world after he separated the Earth from the sky and adorned the sky with stars. Ruhanga stayed remote and though omnipotent was seldom invoked or prayed to. He provided the Banyoro with children, animals and the harvest, but also was the author of disease, sickness and death. On the freshly-created Earth Ruhanga put three seeds into the ground and in 1 day 3 calabashes had grown. all on one stem. He took a man/woman couple out of the first 2 calabashes but found just a lone man in the third.  Ruhanga named the men KakamaKahima and Kairu. After subjecting the men to tests to determine their worth, Kakama was judged the most worthy and Ruhanga decreed his descendants would be the ruling class. He further decreed that Kahima’s descendants would be the cattlemen class and Kairu’s descendants would be the farmer class.

Nyamiyonga – The god who ruled over the underworld. He sometimes meddled in the affairs of the world, as in the myth of Isaza, whom he tricked into becoming trapped in the underworld her world so Nyamiyonga could position Bukuku the Usurper on Isaza’s throne. Nyamiyonga had sent a messenger to Isaza proposing a blood pact, but Isaza, rightfully wary that Nyamiyonga was planning treachery that would enable him to rule over the land of the living as well as the land of the dead, sent the blood of his gatekeeper Bukuku instead. When Nyamiyonga found out he had been tricked, he resolved to lure Isaza to the underworld forever. First he sent his daughter Nyamata  to lure Isaza into his clutches. Not knowing who this beautiful woman was, Isaza fell in love with her and married her. He resisted all her entreaties to visit her mysterious home since he couldn’t bear to be parted from his beloved cattle. So, using this fondness for cattle, Nyamiyonga caused two of his most handsome cattle to be discovered near Isaza’s kraal. They were taken to the king, who soon loved them the most of all. One day Nyamiyonga summoned the cattle home and the inconsolable Isaza went in search of them and thus was lured into Nyamiyonga’s realm. The ruler of the underworld refused to let Isaza leave and to repay the insulting trick he had played on him with the substituted blood, placed the source of that blood, the commoner Bukuku, on Isaza’s throne.

Mulindwa – The goddess who protected the royal clan. Each of the 46 clans of Bunyoro had its own protective deity. They each also have their own totem-name. No one is allowed to marry a member of their own clan except the royal clan. Kings are allowed to marry their own cousins and it is known that several married their sisters. Mulindwa was said to be a half-sister to the god Ndahura.

Isaza – Moon god and early ruler of the Banyoro people of Bunyoro. The moon was considered one of his possessions (or, in alternate myths part of his empire and therefore subject to his will). The last king of the Batembuzi Dynasty. After Nyamiyonga trapped him in the underworld (see above) he placed Bukuku the Usurper on Isaza’s throne. Bukuku’s reign was marked by its cruelty.

Muhingo – The god of war. Every general had to sacrifice to Muhingo before marching off to battle. If he returned victorious sheep had to be sacrificed to Muhingo.

Ndahura – The god of epidemics. His main temple was on the frontier so that offerings could be brought to him when a disease raged over the border in the hope of keeping it outside the country. He was the founder of the Bachwezi Dynasty and the first of its members to incarnate as a god.

Nyakakaikuru – Sun goddess. She was depicted as an old woman who held up the sun so it would not fall on the Earth. She carried it across the sky to the west, where, at the end of each day she devoured most of the sun. She tossed a piece of the “sun meat” to the supreme god Ruhanga, who overnight crafted a new sun, which was always ready by morning.

Mugizi – God of the body of water called Lake Mwitanzige (Later renamed Lake Albert). His medium wore garlands of shells. Anyone wanting to travel by boat across the lake had to bring offerings to Mugizi for a safe voyage.

Nyinamwiru – The daughter of Bukuku the Usurper. When she was born the diviners foretold that the son who would be born of her would kill Bukuku and assume the throne. To prevent this, Bukuku had her locked away in a plush section of the royal household. Eventually Isimbwa, son of Isaza and Nyamata,  penetrated his way into her room and after spending three months with her, left her pregnant with his son Ndahura.

Kigare – God of cattle. His priest would advise the king regarding negligent herdsmen.

Kaikare – Goddess of the harvest. Her medium was a woman. People would bring her offerings of millet before harvesting their crops.

Isimbwa – Son of the moon god Isaza and Nyamata, daughter of Nyamiyonga, the god who ruled the underworld. Isimbwa was born in the underworld where his mother and father were being held by Nyamiyonga so he could put Bukuku the Usurper on the throne. Isimbwa was not bound in the world of the dead like his father so he left the underworld and entered Bukuku’s capital. Bukuku had been warned by a seer that he had reason to fear any child his daughter Nyinamweru would bear so he had imprisoned her in a plush prison that could only be entered through his own well-guarded palace. Intrigued by this, Isimbwa sent messages to Nyinamweru through her maid. Encouraged in his attentions Isimbwa infiltrated the palace and entered Nyinamweru’s prison where the myth says he spent 3 months with her, undetected by her father and his guards. Once Isimbwa knew he had impregnated Nyinamweru he left and returned to the underworld where he took another wife and fathered the god Kyomya, who established the Bito Dynasty.

Rubanga – God of health. His temple had to be surrounded by rows of living trees. Prayers for good health to the god had to be accompanied by offerings of banana beer for blessings.

Kyomya – Coming Soon!

Munume – Weather-god. He was invoked in time of drought or conversely when there was too much rain. The king would send a sacrifice of an ox, while the people would send sheep and fowls which would be sacrificed and eaten as a sacred meal at the temple door for the priests and the people, after the priests had sprinkled the blood in the temple.

Wamara– The god of plenty who could help to increase the number of children, calves, crops and all other living beings. He was the son of the god Ndahura. He had his temple near the royal palace where his medium, who was dressed in a special costume, gave oracles. The king and the nobles of the realm would come with cows and bull calves as offerings when they wished to consult the oracle. The cows would be milked and the milk would be placed in the temple, after which the god would possess the medium. This medium would go into a trance and afterwards deliver the god’s message regarding the sickness of the cattle or the failure of the crops (or the airing of the grievances). The sacrificial meal would be eaten by the priests and the people with the medium receiving special portions. After this the people would light fires and spend the night singing and dancing. Before incarnating as a god Wamara, was the last ruler of the supposedly divine Bachwezi Dynasty. Some myths say the Bachwezi all left Earth for the underworld and others say they all vanished into Lake Wamara.