Owl's  Involvement in Human Death Owl's Involvement in Human Death

In Imenti ethos, the Provident Father is never thought to be the cause of human mortality. He is distanced from what happens to mortals on earth. The earth is the dominion of man who has the freedom to decide his destiny and that of others. Dr William Luijpen, in his book, "Existential Phenomenology" states that freedom destines man to bring love and happiness to others. The earth ought to be a haven of peace and prosperity.

Thee causes of human mortality are attributed to other agents. The obviously known causes are the following: advanced old age, sickness, witchcraft, homicide, natural catastrophes, suicide, wicked spirits, and the Owl. The last two are greatly loathed by the community. Wicked spirits are condemned for the mortality of infants. When an infant dies the next born infant is given an animal name e.g. elephant or hyena. The motive is to deceive the wicked spirits. When the child is called by the animal name, the wicked spirits will not recognize the infant to be a human being. The animal name therefore, spares the infants their vengeance.

Groves and woods are sources of streams. Traditionally, restrictions were enforced on them. The main reasons being protection of trees and sources of streams. The areas are equally reserved as the limbo domain of the owl and the wicked spirits of the dead. The retribution of notoriously unethical persons is misery and unhappiness in the afterlife. Envy, mischief and malice are exclusively targeted to the living. Sadism is best enjoyed in inflicting psychological torture on the living by terminating the life of infants.

Demon is a biblical mythical entity. The idea of Sigmud Freud on demons agrees with that of the Imenti people living in the Eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya. He says:

"The concept of demons is derived from the important relationship between the living and the dead". He then asserts more emphatically: "They are always regarded as the spirits of those who have died."

Remarking on the same concept of "demons", Wilhelm Wundt says:

"Among the activities attributed by myths all over the world to "demons", the harmful predominate"! He agrees with the Imenti people that the wicked spirits are subtly harmful to the living.

The owl is a bird of prey. The winged and bipedal bird is popularly known for its diurnality and nocturnality. The day is spent sleeping. Hunting is the nocturnal activity. In the known classification of birds, the owl is the only one that features prominently in music, taboos, myths and superstitions of the Imenti ethos. The owl is a migrant from one wood to another. Migration is influenced by either search of food or climate change in the habitat. The behavioral characteristics of the owl have a social and psychological impact on the people. It portends death for the living. It is reminiscent of the funereal mood experienced by the living after the demise of a loved one.

The annual migration brings into memory the last rite of passage. Death and the aftermath. During the nocturnal flight, the bird lands on a tree in the village. After, infants and elderly persons are reported dead. The owl described as the "bird of omen" is believed to be the cause of human mortality. The "outsider", bluffs and snubs this claim to be sheer synchronicity. The "primitive man" was a conscious subject who lived in the age of imagination and fantasy.

The faculty of imagination and fantasy were predominantly active in the "primitive man". He created myths and superstitious to give meaning and understanding to the experiences and reality in the world he called "mine world" the "mine world" is not the "mine world" of the man in the twenty first century. Myths and superstitions are true in giving meaning to reality. Biblical inspired authors used taboos, myths, superstitions and cultural practices as a foundation for their religion and faith in one God.

The behavioral characteristics of the owl include the following: eternal melancholy, mourningful hooting, shedding milky tears and solitude. These constitute a pattern that is parallel to the funereal mood that follows in the aftermath of human death. The somber mood, grief and mourning are not exclusively confined in the family of the deceased. The entire community mourns, wails and sheds tears for the departure of their loved ones. The mourning time is determined by the waxing and waning of the moon.

The hunting activities of the owl take place in the night .The same is predicated of witches.

Agents of evil execute their diabolical schemes in darkness. Blood thirst witches; manipulate the supernatural power to plot death of their neighbours.

The "burial" ritual of some individuals is conducted at dawn . Those disposed at this hour of the night are : infants ,children ,adolescents ,childless-impotents and the yet to be great grandparents. Custom demands that the disposal be exclusively private .This privacy requires one person who is either the bereaved or a public ritual cleanser .The dead bodies were not buried in pre –colonial days .Corpses were carried to the bushes and devoured by greedy hyenas.

The only personalities buried were those who died at advanced old age. Longevity enabled them to see the children of their children. The few of these are the great grand parents – "Biujuju". The community never mourned, wailed or shed tears for these celebrities. "Biujuju" – the ancestors were buried in a place called "Kiara" – a heap of animal waste feeds. Feasting and dancing graced the burial ceremony that ideally befits an ancestor. On the first death anniversary, a symbolic ritual is performed to resurrect the ancestor. The resurrected ancestor enjoys the quasi immortality now physically perpetuated by the offsprings.

The owl lives withdrawn and solitary life. It is tabooed for its behavioural characteristics. According to the taboo, a corpse is ritually defiling. The bereaved handling the corpse for disposal becomes ritually unclean. The bereaved is ostracized. Like the melancholy and solitary owl, one is stigmatized until one goes through three prescribed cleansing rituals. These are: sexual act, bathing in river and shaving the head.

Parents perform the sexual act after the death of a child. In the event of loosing a spouse, the surviving spouse performs the act with a publicly ostracized ritual cleanser, "Mutheria", a male or a female. The elder son disposing the remains of a parent performs the act with his wife. The ritual of coitus symbolizes the hope of fathering another life. Sex is "Sacred" ordained and reserved only for fathering children but never for pleasure.

The copulating couple proceeds to the river for bathing. Water cleanses ritual defilement. The defilement is carried by the flowing river to the Eastern horizons. The distanced place where the living would like to see the owl confined eternally.

Conclusively, the two shave their heads bare. Bare head is a sign that the cleansing ritual has come to an end. The cleansed person is hence reintegrated into the community life.

Red ochre possesses supernatural power. The people smear the substance round the trunks of the trees to prevent the owl from ever revisiting the village. The efficaciousness of the ritual is realized in course of time. The owls confine themselves in the woods.