Luo religion [along lake Nyanza (Victoria) in Kenya], Part 2, Chapter 3

p. 49 "Bilo means magic power". {cognate with Polynesian /filo/ ‘twist’, with possible allusion to Tsalagi clan of named ‘Twist’?}

pp. 49-51, 57-61, etc. categories of religious practitioners (/ja-/ ‘person’)





further details




"can ... help the community against drought, plague, and ... They alone conduct public sacrifice to the god Nyasaye."

p. 58 "No sacrifices or events of any significance in the community can occur without prior consultation with the jabilo, whose orders must be heeded.’




"conducts family (not public) sacrifices to the dead (jachien)".

p. 61 "cut a slit in the body of the patient and remove some blood".




"specialist in foreseeing the future."

p. 57 "soothsayer or prophet. He can foretell the future".




"can cure certain illnesses."

p. 57 "Sumba is the name of a disease believed to come from water".




"is hired by people to conduct sacrifices to a particular jachien ... . Dolo means ‘sacrifice’."

p. 79 "is often asked to perform a sacrifice to a jachien which has demanded that an animal be slaughtered for him."




"can drive away a jachien by using special drugs. Dilo means ‘to quieten’."

p. 56 "If ... a person dreams of the dead person trying to strangle or throttle him, he goes to a jadil".




"has more effective drugs for driving away a jachien if a jadil has failed. Pomo also means ‘to quieten’."

p. 57 "has medicine which the sufferer may occasionally take whenever he feels that the jachien is coming to trouble him."




"is resorted to when a person is afflicted by certain spirits bringing disease, called juogi."

p. 86 "Juogi is a spirit which can have a bad or good effect depending on the treatment given for it."




"cures those who are possessed by juogi. A jayietho has not been possessed by the juogi spirits, which a jajuogi has."

p. 86 could praedict that a person possessed by juogi "that there was nothing evil about ... would become a soothsayer."




"with a special knowledge of how to cure stomach-ache. Tak means ‘to take away’."

p. 68 "Stomach-ache is ... cured" with "a horn containing a cobweb".




"can break spells that have been cast upon a man. Luoko means ‘to wash’ ".

p. 60 "takes an empty basket or pot and places it upside down on the floor." This causeth bewitching items [which may be bundled (p. 69)] to appear, teleported thither, under it.



ja-yad c^ira

"specialized in curing an illness called chira. Yadh means ‘medicine’."

p. 70 "Chira is ... a wasting away ... . Only small children and babies get this".




"finding thieves or other wrong-doers. Wiro means ‘to return’ ".

p. 59 "When a man has had something stolen from him, he consults a muruwiri, who is able to name the thief. he uses a stick of wood with a ring around it, which he moves up and down the stick".




"is able to create friendliness between people."

p. 57 "is able to make a person well liked."




"is able to create hatred between people."

p. 57 "Sasia causes hatred".




"is known to do much harm. He is often hired to harm a particular person. Nawi means ‘black magic’ ... ."

p. 57 "Nawi means harmful magic which takes effect if certain words are spoke over some drugs kept in a horn which at the same time is pointed at the victim."




"can harm people, often unintentionally".

p. 58 "runs around naked at night, ... always tries to get hold of some article belonging to a particular person, for instance a small piece of clothing or a strand of hair, which he takes in order to harm that person."




"malevolent medicine-man."

p. 58 "mostly women. They possess the evil eye".




"an expert in several fields of magic".

p. 57 "A mikori who ... tries to mix up ... skills in his activities ... is usually referred to as a jandagla."




"merely knows ... how to obtain drugs from certain palnts used for curing sick people. Nya means ‘small’. Rerua may mean ... ‘to wonder at’."

p. 61 "does not possess bilo, but ... knows how to treat sick people and how to make certain plant medicines."

p. 61 "If the nyamrerua is a woman, she is usually sent for to help pregnant women. She boils the roots of the yago plant and gives the extract to the pregnant woman to drink twice a day ... until delivery."

pp. 51-53, 75-76 sacrifices (other than to ancestors); holy bough of sacred tree

p. 51

"a god called Nyasaye {cf. the name of lake /NYASA/ at Malawi} ... dwells in the sky. When a sacrifice (liswa) is made to the god, an animal is slaughtered and parts of it eaten in the open air under a big tree (libaga) on top of a hill. Sometimes the sacrificial animal is skinned while still alive, ... and allowed to walk or run".

p. 52

"In almost every location there is ... a sacred tree called libaga, under which sacrifices are conducted. ... In cases where a disaster is believe to have been caused an enemy {bewitcher}, a jabilo may advise the victim to cut off a branch from the libaga in the enemy’s {bewitcher’s} location, which the jabilo casts a spell upon. The branch is then tied beneath the ceiling in the victim’s {bewitched’s} house and as long as it remains there the enemy is powerless to do any harm. {cf. the "golden bough" of Aineas, which protected him from witchcraft in the Netherworld} ... The libaga was usually stolen {from the ceiling of the bewitched’s house, by the bewitcher} at night".

p. 53

"If anyone is haunted by the jachien of the suicide, the jabilo can give him for protection a branch of the tree after he has worked magically on it."

p. 75

"Nyasaye ... lives in the sky near the sun or the moon. ... Sacrifices to Nyasaye ... were always carried out on top of a hill, under a big tree."

p. 76

sacrificial feast for Nyasaye : "None of the meat was allowed to be taken home. Everything had to be consumed on the hill."

pp. 52-53, 68, 79 ancestor-worship

p. 52

"Ancestors are worshipped by the Luo. ... Sacrifices to the dead are often made at home on the grave. In such cases the dead man appears in a dream and indicates what he wants."

p. 53

"In the case of an epidemic a jabilo is consulted in order to ascertain its cause and to prescribe curative measures. If he says that the disease is the result of a disgruntled ancestor. a ... quail, or a cock must be sacrificed to the jachien in order to placate him. ... Then the jabilo orders the whole group standing by to eat [the meat]. It is roasted and must be eaten up completely."

p. 68

"If a jajuok intends to bewitch a person, he gathers the leaves of a certain wild plant and ... goes to a crossroads where he knows his enemy often passes and ... he prays to a particular ancestor from whom he received his bilo, for success in performing his magic."

p. 79

"The jadolos usually perform sacrifices for single families or a group of related families who have been struck down by some disaster. The sacrifice is made to the latest deceased person of the family, in order to satisfy him or her."

pp. 53-54 redirectings of a potential calamity

p. 53

"Ndagla is ... the process whereby a foreseeable calamity is averted by a jandagla. ... a jandagla ... as to be consulted before sunrise and it is his duty to tell his client what ails the sufferer, not vice versa. ... The client usually has to get hold of various objects such as the skull of a dog, an infertile egg, etc., which form the ingredients of the ndagla ... and which the client has to mix together {thus coating the hound’s skull with raw egg}. The jandagla then directs him where to leave the mixture. Whoever finds it will divert the calamity to himself ... . However, the finder can go to an

p. 54

ajuoga ... who will then enable him to redirect the bad ndagla to the original sufferer."

pp. 54, 61, 86 divination by means of sea-shells

p. 54

"The ajuoga arranges the ingredients of his magic and utters some words to Nyasaye, saying ... ‘You shine upon the good as well as one the bad {"your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Euangelion of Matthaios 5:45)}; ... reveal your secrets to me ... revealing these hidden secrets that you have ...’ He then sits down and consults his gagi (sea shells) ... . If he uses gagi, he may only throw them on the floor or on a small carpet. By looking at them and at their positions relative to each other, he will be able to tell his client what kind of trouble he [the client] is in."

p. 61

"An ajuoga ... will throw sea shells on a blanket or on the floor. By the way they fall, how far apart they are and so on, the ajuoga can tell".

p. 86

"Gagi is the Luo word for the small white shells used by almost all medicine men for divining."

{According to the Veda, the sun was the head of Vis.n.u, flung into heaven by his bow’s suddenly unflexing when its bow-string was bitten through by emmets; but in Hellenic myth, the bow-strings were chewed through by mice (GM 158.a), cf. the Sioux Mouse-god who voluntarily gave (LJM) his two eyen ["if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out" (Euangelion of Matthaios 5:29)], one eye to the Buffalo-god and one eye to the Wolf-god. The substitution of emmets for mice may the connected with the eyen of the sage Valmiki, which were poked (according to the Maha-bharata) while he abode in a termite-nest; for, it was an emmet-hill that Narada had stayed within (according to the Rama-ayana) while tied up by Ratna-kara (Valmiki). The Frog-god encountered first by the Mouse-god in the Sioux myth may reflect the frogs among whom Agni stayed while in hiding underwater, since (according to the Puran.a) the mouth of Agni received the semen which begat Skanda, who afterwards circumambulated the dvipa (ring-continent) Krau~ca (‘Curlew’), the copulating by curlews being witnessed by Narada while the male one was shot as (if by the arrow of Kama-deva) : Kama-deva is Ero[t]s, whose name is etymologically aequivalent to <ibri^ /Re>S/ ‘head’ (cf. that of Vis.n.u).] Ero[t]s supplanted (as paramour of Aphrodite) the Scallop-god (cf. the Luo gagi).}

pp. 55-59, 68-69, 80 acquisition & transmission of spiritual power

p. 55

"When a jabilo dies, his bilo is transferred to someone else, as a rule to his son or grandson. ...

p. 56

One night the dead grandfather visited ... in a dream and told him that from now on he had got his bilo and become a jabilo, which his family and neighbors accepted as a sign."

p. 57

sumba disease : "The jasumba must have suffered from this disease himself and have been cured. This then gives him the power to cure others, a power which is also referred to as sumba. Not everyone, however, who has suffered from this disease can become a jasumba. ... a jasumba may remain in water for some time, and he is said to be a friend of water animals. His medicine for curing those affected by sumba is usually water plants. ...

p. 58

Minor branches of sumba are lango or sepe."

p. 59

"Juok (the magic power ...) can be imposed on someone by another person, e.g. a wife or husband, who places a stone in the victim’s hand at night. If the victim wakes up and throws the stone away, he become a jajuok."

p. 68

"Some ... are born with bilo, others have inherited their bilo from their fathers or grandfathers, and some have bought their bilo".

p. 69

"Jajuok otieno or jajuok mudho means a ‘nightrunner’, and he is a man who runs about naked at night. He is either a victim of a spell or she has inherited his disposition from a father or mother who was also a nightrunner."

p. 80

"ajuoga with very strong bilo" : "He learned the magic from his grandfather, who after death appeared ... in dreams telling him that he had inherited his bilo and where to find his bilo objects. He had hidden them at the top of a certain hill. The next day [the seeker] found the hidden bilo objects. Just then a juogi (a spirit) entered him, and when he reached home he had gone completely mad. A jabilo was sent for, and [the juogi-possessed] was soon cured. The same day the jachien of one of his ancestors also entered him."

p. 81

"in a line of ajuogas, ... the first one was the greatest. This ancestor’s spirit (his jachien) often comes to [the praesent ajuoga] to help him foretell the future. It enters ... and talks to him through his own mouth. The juogi, on the other hand, is always inside him and, unlike the jachien, never leaves him."

p. 77 "Spirits of people drowned in lakes can talk, and many people have heard them talking from lakes."

pp. 61, 69 sorcery with a person’s hair or with a person’s footprints

p. 61

"Hair that has been cut off ... is always hidden, since ... if anyone happens to burn it, its original owner may go mad."


"If a bean is planted in a person’s footprint, the person’s foot will grow larger as the bean grows.

Soil can also be taken from a footprint and given to a medicine-man, who mixes it with some drug prepared from plants or animals. Some calamity will then befall the victim."

p. 69

"The jajuok will then ask the client to bring him some dust from his enemy’s footprint or a portion of his excrement. ... Instead of dust or excrement the jajuok may use strands of hair taken from the person whom he wishes to harm."


A sorcery-bundle may contain, from a bewitched person, "piece of his clothing and some soil from his footprint, which ... had been bewitched by an ill-wisher, a janawi or a jajuok."

pp. 59, 62-63 charms buried in gateway, buried just outside house, or left inside former residence

p. 59

"taken from ... the flesh of ... ndukulu, a water animal ... (... a seal-like animal. {dugong?}) ... medicine is dried and turned into powder, which is put into a horn. The janawi will then advise his client to take the horn containing the drug to his enemy’s house and bury it ... in the gateway ... without the enemy’s knowledge. ... within a short time his cattle or his children will die."

p. 62

"The afterbirth is buried on the same day outside the hut. If a girl as been born, the afterbirth is buried on the right side ... . Thus the neighbours know immediately whether a girl or a boy has been born."

p. 63

"As soon as a woman has given birth to twins, a messenger (he may be a brother of the child’s father) is sent to the mother’s former home. ... He carries with him a digging implement, which he leaves secretly inside the woman’s former home. On his arrival, he tells the woman’s parents that their daughter has given birth to twins. As soon as he has told them this he runs back as fast as he can. ... The belief behind this action is that the next set of twins will be born to the family who gets the digging implement".

pp. 63, 75 the naming of a baby

p. 63

"The jachien of a dead relative appears in a dream to one of the parents of a newborn baby and tells him to give its name to the child. The child will then have the same character as its dead relative had. ... A baby must never be named after a living member of the family, since this would be tantamount to desiring the death of the person."

p. 75

"The spirits of the dead (jochiende) often appear in dreams of one of their descendants. The spirit might come to say that a newly born babe must be named after him".

pp. 63-64 omens from animals

p. 63

"A squirrel running towards one ... at the start of a journey means bad luck, particularly if the squirrel continues running in the opposite direction."


"A certain kind of wild cat, however, is always a bad omen."

p. 64

woodpecker : "It a traveller hears one pecking near his road and then after a while hears the same bird pecking again, it means very bad luck and he had better return home."

pp. 64-65 belief and practice associating animals with dreams

p. 64

"If a girl or woman dreams about snakes, she can suspect herself to be pregnant."

p. 65

"a jachien ... always comes to a person in his dreams and disturbs him. In order to avoid being harmed by a jachien, ... A sheep must be skinned alive. Next day ..., ... grey ashes (buru) are placed in its mouth."

p. 64 association of urination with frogs



told to young children : "if anyone urinates in such a pool ["pools ... from which people draw their water ... for drinking"] ..., the frog will drink the solution and

"Frogs and toads will urinate when frightened." (HCF) Tlinit myth : "he threw the urine among a number of frogs sitting there and they jumped into the water." (TM&T, p. 53) C^umas^ cosmology : "And the water in the springs and streams of this earth is the urine of the many frogs who live in it." (ChSS)

his mother’s teats

Victoria, Australia myth : "their mother, the frog, ... accordingly pressed milk from her breasts" (OM, p. 297)

will be cut off at once."

western Kenya : "every young boy in the village is restrained from killing frogs, fearing that his mother’s breasts will disintegrate if he does." (NC:K)


TM&T = John R. Swanton : Tlingit Myths and Tales. SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY, Bulletin 39.

ChSS =

OM = Roland B. Dixon : Oceanian Mythology. 1916.

MC:K =,%20Birds%20and%20Insects

pp. 65-67, 78 magical uses for plants

p. 65

Powdered dried mbalka ("a large red bean seed") can keep a man "safe from harm."

p. 66

Powdered dried migomra-tree wood can make a man "lucky in business and popular with his customers."


"If a person has a lawsuit against someone or is being sued, he can be sure of winning the case is ... the client licks" a mixture of powdered "dry twigs from two different trees ... . The two trees are called otho and bongu, and the magic power is only effective if the bongu tree swallows the otho tree, i.e. if its trunk grows around the other tree."

p. 67

"For those who wish to become attractive to women ... yadhnyiri, which means medicine for girls. This is ... from a plant called olandorabuor. It is a low-growing plant, only ... leaves ... while they are still fresh ... will make him very popular with women."

p. 78

"The ajuoga also brings ... various drugs, ... which ... consist of certain wild plants ... . Some ajuogas are able to protect against theft. The ajuoga brings a drug to the house. If a thief tries to steal anything it that house, he will stick fast to the floor ... until the owner comes and finds him."

pp. 68, 70-71, 77 miscellaneous activities & sites for sorcery (intentional or unintentional)

p. 68

"It is usually women who possess the evil eye. If one passes a house and looks through the window and catches sight of the owner or especially, it will be dangerous to eat the food ... . ... A woman with the evil eye is believed to spoil a person’s work if she looks at it. A potter therefore keeps her pots in the backyard, so that people passing by her home will not be able to see them."

p. 70

C^ira "is caused by, e.g. a quarrel between the child’s mother and her mother-in-law. In such a case the little baby will automatically get chira. ...

A baby will also get chira if its father has committed adultery. ... A ... method of averting chira is that a man who has committed adultery obtains some leaves of a certain plant. He is told to place these leaves in the roof over the front door of his hut". The jayad c^ira "will give the medicine to the child in secret to prevent the man’s wife knowing about it."


"A man ... who is ... becoming richer, will attract envy. Those envy him may bewitch him ...

p. 71

or bring some calamity on him. To protect himself from witchcraft of this kind, he has to go to a medicine man. The medicine-man ... finds a thick, hollow tree-trunk, one end of which he blocks. ... The client then steps onto the hollow trunk or, if it is big enough, into it. While he is standing there, the medicine-man takes his horn filled with buru and moves it around the man’s head in all directions ... . The next step it to dig a grave about a metre deep, into which the client creeps while the medicine man covers him with earth. There he remains lying for some time."


"Some medicine-men can create wild cats ... . These cats are never born, they are created, and they cannot give birth to any young. The cats can be heard outside one’s hut at night. They can talk in human language and ... there is more danger and greater risk ... if one answers the cats."

p. 77

"The possessors of the evil eye cannot help having it; it is present at birth. ... Rongo is the name of the medicine against the bad effects of the evil eye."

pp. 72-73 herbal remedies against ailments






"seeds from a certain wild plant"



"root of a certain wild plant"


"vomiting blood"

"leaves from a wild plant" manyasi. "This manyasi ... placed in a bowl of fresh water ... turns red."



"root of a special wild plant"


eye pains

"leaves of a wild plant ... rabuor."

pp. 81-82 se’ance & other divination-performances by an ajuoga

p. 81

"He took a gourd containing some seeds in one hand and shook it, ... so that it made a loud rattling sound. He was now calling on the jachien of his great ancestor. After a few minutes he stopped shaking the gourd because the spirit had entered into him, and he began talking to it. Suddenly his voice changed as if another being was talking from his stomach. It was the spirit giving him secret information."

"After his performance he showed me another one. He placed a drum on the floor and on it he placed a small figure of a human being, balanced on a pivot. He gave the figure a slight knock and it started wavering."

"Suddenly he showed me another technique. He laid a gourd on the carpet

p. 82

and tried to place an earthenware pot on the top of this gourd, which appeared to be impossible, since the gourd did not have a flat top. He then took some powder from hone of his horns containing bilo and rubbed it on the top of the gourd. The pot then balanced neatly on it."

"Finally [he] stretched a string from the floor to a horizontal beam ... above the floor. Attached to this string was a box full of shells, which could slide up and down. After it had reached the top of the string, it started sliding downwards."

Hans-Egil Hauge : Luo Religion and Folklore. Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1974.

books later authored by Hans-Egil Hauge were :

Maasai Religion and Folklore. Nairobi, Kenya : City Print. Works, 1979.

Iraqw Religion and Folklore. Fjellhamar, Norway : World Folklore Society, 1981.

Turkana Religion and Folklore. Stockholm : Universitet Stockholm, 1986.