General Information about Item:
- Customary Lore: Family Superstition
- Language: English
- Country of Origin: Kenya
- Informant: Brian Muleri
- Date Collected: May 22, 2019
- Brian is a sophomore at Dartmouth College. His family is from Kenya and moved to the U.S. when Brian was in elementary school. Brian grew up learning the customs of Kenya from his parents, yet he was also influenced by American culture throughout his childhood.
- Cultural Context: Family plays an important role in Kenyan culture. A village is a community in which all members must respect the elders and their neighbors. While it is permissible to have multiple wives, the village must take part in assimilating the children with a father’s new family. This assimilation occurs within an elder’s home, as the elders of the village are the authority for all matters.
- Social Context: The interview was conducted in-person. Brian does not remember specifically learning the traditional ceremony, but he believes he learned it from his parents speaking of Kenyan culture.
- When a man has children with two different wives, the first wife’s child must be integrated into the father’s new family through a ceremony. It is considered bad luck if the child of the first wife meets the second wife’s children before the ceremony has taken place.
Brian Muleri 1
Brian Muleri 2
B: Brian Muleri
S: All right. So if you can just start with your name and a little bit about yourself and background.
B: Yeah, my name is Brian Muleri. I’m a ’21, so a sophomore. I was born in Kenya and so is the rest of my family. We’ve been there for generations, moved here to America very recently, like probably elementary school.
S: So do you guys, do you have any folklore or you know specifically superstitions, you know that having to do with like evil spirits by any chance, you know, in Kenya that you might have, you know brought back to Dartmouth or not?
B: Yeah. So, definitely there’s a lot. My family is Christian, but there’s still a lot of folklore and like traditional tribal things involving spirits that we have to deal with. It’s like a major one is if the kids of your current wife meet the kids of your past wife, your ex-wife, before like a whole ceremony, is done at home. This is like Marigola and Luhya tradition. If it isn’t done, then your firstborn child will die, and it’s just generally a bad luck, even though like you can have multiple wives. It’s generally just bad luck to have an involvement of the kids around multiple wives.
S: Back to the first thing about the children. Is there a name for that ritual or that superstition?
B: I don’t know the name. I do it, it’s something in traditionals Luhya, which is like a sub-dialect of Swahili, but I forget the name, but it is ceremony. So yeah, the ceremony involves all of your current kids from one wife and the child which you are trying to introduce to the family, meeting up at the local Village and generally in the household of Elder. The elders have to speak on a lot of these issues. It’s like very traditional, even marriage and name changing, and then they have to slaughter a chicken together. So, it’s just considered good luck and dispels the demons if you’re sacrificing this other life in order to bring someone else in to meeting your Other life. Because after divorce, it’s sort of considered separation.
S: Let’s say like they never did the ceremony. Is there any way to avoid the curse from being carried out any precautions you can take or something like that?
B: Yeah, so generally it has to be done before. I don’t know of any instances where it’s like… obviously like, this is very, if you believe in the tribal Heritage and a lot of things like that, then for you it carries more weight. I know some people who have met them and it’s just been fine, but it’s generally just brought along with this, and like a lot of people are firm believers of it happening.
- Brian said the dissolution of a marriage is an act of separation. Therefore, the children have to be brought back into the new family by a ceremony in which the connection is reestablished and recognized.
- The requirement of sacrifice in order to introduce one child to the other is telling of human intervention and evil spirits. The sacrifice of a chicken demonstrates that evil must be appeased through some offering, which then allows a child to transition and integrate into the new family. This can be viewed through Arnold van Gennep’s rituals, where a divorce first separates the child from the father. The child transitions to the new family by meeting the others within the Elder’s house and is incorporated when the ‘unnatural’ separation has been negated through a sacrifice. This grants meaning to the child in light of their family ties.
Collector’s Name: Saif Malley
- Customary Lore
- Family Superstition