Attitude towards sexual fidelity 

In a previous post I wrote there was no case brought against a man who killed his wife’s lover if he found them in the act. What I failed to mention is that the Luo feared killing believing it would bring bad omen. 

In the event one was so unfortunate to find the wife in such a compromising situation, you were to pretend you didn’t see. Give the man an opportunity to get away and don’t embarrass the wife by bringing the issue up. Cheating on one’s spouse was not ground for separation.

What I also found strange is what appears to be a contradiction. They had a set out way on returning bride wealth in the event a marriage broke down but a woman who eloped with someone else would still return to her position after several years and be welcomed back. One wonders why have laws or rules on returning bride wealth while at the same time look at marriage as permanent? 

On how to treat women 

My good friend roughseas wrote this post about women in the news. Since I have been writing about Africa or my ancestors, I think this might be relevant.  It is from Luo customs and practices by Shadrack Malo. He writes about division of labour thus

The man builds and establishes a home. He puts up the fences. He constructs the houses, tends the cattle, makes the ropes for tying cows and goats. He milks the cows and goes after cattle raiders.

The woman cooks, plasters the house and floor, keeps the house clean, churns the milk, collects firewood and fetches water.

In cooking, a woman serves the food anyway she wants. The man eats whatever he is served.

The woman has exclusive rights over the house. Matters in the home or homestead are in the hands of the woman. There is nothing a man can do without consulting his wife. 

Things have not been like this for a while now. As far as I can tell, the rain started beating us when the white man came to civilize the African! What a shame. 

Paul Mboya’s Luo kitgi gi timbegi

A translation by Jane Achieng.

The title of this post is in Luo and stands for Luo customs, beliefs and traditions.

I promised to write about some of the customs of my ancestors before the coming of the white man. Sadly most, if not all, of these are no longer practiced. The bigger tragedy is that as the generation of our grandparents die out, they are dying with the knowledge of our customs and traditions. Our tradition being mostly oral, it means there are hardly any records of the past. This present book does not give an explanation for the various customs. The author’s intent to was to note them down as he knew them or from the discussions with elders. It is not conclusive. It is however a good place to begin for students of anthropology.

I think the author would be very sad if he rose from his slumber today. In his preface he wrote

I have written this book as a collection of our beliefs, practices, customs and laws so that current generation and future generations will have access to them and may not lose them.

We have all but lost them.

It should not be believed that my ancestors were savage and that it is the colonialist who rescued us from savagery. On the contrary, let the record be clear that whereas the customs were different, these old women and men were not savages. They were a very organised lot.

It should be noted the Europeans first came to Kisumu in 1896 and went to war with people of Uyoma [my next door neighbours] in 1899. They raided cattle near Karachuonyo in 1904.

Having said the above, I will share a few things that I learnt from the book.

The largest geopolitical unit was chiefdom, headed by a chief. There was a standing force, clan elders, peacemaker, medicine man, chief warrior and so forth. A bastard, an unmarried man, one whose mother was not a Luo, people whose mothers were separated from their husbands were not eligible for leadership positions in the community. Whenever a matter affected the whole community, a national assembly was called. In attendance were the various clan elders.

Law regarding insult and lack of respect

A young person should not insult an elder person nor should he correct him openly. A young person should offer his chair to one older than him.

Law regarding homicide/ accidental killing

When one killed another unintentionally, there was no case. The elders required the person who killed to bury the dead and to stay for all the funeral ceremonies.

Laws which allowed one to kill

If one caught his wife with a lover, he was free to kill the lover, there was no case held against him. One was free to kill an enemy at war.

Law regarding sex and adultery

Sexually immoral persons were considered unfit to bring up children. Attempting to/ seducing someone’s wife was ground enough for battle.

Traditional courts

These included the tribunal, clan meetings and the national assembly.

Gods worshiped.

They believed god flowed in the human body. They did not know where God lived, that’s why they thought he lived in the human body.

There is a story that we are suffering today because some bride failed to heed instructions from God when she was told to go cut the ground once with a hoe and leave it there, for the land will dig itself. She didn’t do this. God was displeased and condemned us to dig till we sweat as the only condition for getting food.

Wars and the warriors.

It was forbidden to kill a person who had surrendered by climbing a tree, entering a house, carrying a baby or carrying soil or grass to take an oath. One should never kill a woman, a child or a traveller.

Oath taking and swearing

The Luo did not like taking oaths believing they retarded the development of homes.

Matters of the seasons and days of rest

If there was a death in the village during land preparation, the people rested; 4 days for a man and 3 days for a woman.

If a dead body was carried through the village, the people rested

The people rested after a cleansing ceremony.

Matters of marriage

When a father considered his son ready for marriage, he advised him  to propose to a girl from a good family. There was a go-between. All information was passed through the go-between. The girl and boy each had a go-between. The son of the first wife was the first to marry.

The following were grounds for dissolution of marriage

  1. proof that wife was a food thief
  2. a witch or extremely lazy

a woman could leave the husband if

  1. he was a thief
  2. impotent
  3. a wizard
  4. interfered in the kitchen or served himself from the pot

Twins married at the same time and all that was done to the boy was done to the girl. The treatment was similar/ equal?

Mothers and their children.

If a mother had twins, the day the children were taken out, the village rested.

When a woman gave birth, she was given a baby sitter.

When a woman was 6 months pregnant, she got a tattoo.

Feeding children

The first food fed to the baby after delivery and even before breast-feeding was milk from a sheep.

Naming children

Children were named, and still are, according to time of birth, memorable events, a new proverb that has come into fashion, death of a great man and a big man passing through the country at the time of birth.

The death of an old man

If an old man died in the daytime, there would be no mourning till sunset. The wives stripped off their clothes in mourning. Everyone stripped; married sons, brothers, sisters, in laws. If the man didn’t respect his wife, she refused to strip. No one could strip if the woman hadn’t.

The third day after burial, was the day for community celebrations. People came from the community to celebrate. There were plays by each group. Everyone wore their best attire. The villagers brought the food to be eaten. This celebrations could go for a minimum of 4 days.

Some bad deaths

  1. death of a virgin woman
  2. a widow dies while still wearing the funeral dress
  3. a bride dies before she is confirmed
  4. a woman dies without giving birth
  5. death of a pregnant woman
  6. death of a person with abdominal swelling
  7. the death of a hunchback
  8. the death of a newly married man
  9. a man died leaving a pregnant wife
  10. a widow conceives whilst wearing the funeral dress
  11. a married man dies in his father’s house

Communal celebrations

As I have mentioned above, there were celebrations after a funeral.

Taking bhang

This was taken by senior boys in the boys’ simba. The elders took theirs in their huts. Bhang taking started in the middle of the morning till evening. These people loved their weed!

Playing the game of ajua

Pipe smoking

Playing hockey

The game of ndiga [Marksmanship]


Luo music-

Wooing or befriending girls

Here, I will note that sex before marriage was highly discouraged. It was not a burden to be a virgin. Boys who tried to solicit sex from girls before marriage would end up being beaten.

Luo brew.

I think almost everyone drank alcohol.

Playing the bassoon

Social status and leaders

The rich were well respected. They were seen as the backbone or strength of society. The poor were not liked. This is because it is the physically weak, lazy idlers and gossipers who do no work who became poor.


It is sufficient to mention they knew how to count.  Numbers which involve millions are incomprehensible.

The above summary is not comprehensive of the scope covered by the book but was intended to shine some light on the practices as they were before the coming of the Europeans.

If you have read up to this point, I think you will find the link below an interesting read.

Luo origin of civilization.


Authority to interpret religious texts

This post brings to focus this comment


Let each person decide for themselves whether the religions conforms to their natural reason and to believe as they so wish or rather as they are convinced. (sic)

~~~~~~  I cannot agree with this assessment.

Natural reason and the mind of mere, fallible, and finite human thinking, with evolving standards of humanity and their supporting solutions is out of the picture when compared with Almighty God’s omniscience and supernatural power.  That would be like the pot telling the potter what to do.

There is a necessity to follow rational convention when interpreting Scripture.

HERMENEUTICS :   principles and methods of Bible interpretation.

Historically, the most common approaches to Bible interpretation have been the

ALLEGORICAL [which  errantly sees symbolic language just about everywhere in the Bible text];   A story that has a deeper or more general meaning in addition to its surface meaning. Allegories are composed of several symbols or metaphors.

LITERALISTIC [which prefers to take the words of the text as they are given and fails to appreciate picture language symbolic use of words to the degree that literal interpreters do];  and

LITERAL [ the method which takes the words of the text in their ordinary sense but allows for the use of symbolic and poetic language IF, and only IF other parts of the Bible endorse it].

Just as import, is the proper EXEGESIS [exposition, explanation; especially : an explanation or critical interpretation of a text in Scripture]  which includes using the context around the passage of Scripture, comparing it with other parts of the Bible, and applying an understanding of the language at the time of the writing, in an attempt to understand clearly what the original writer, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, was conveying.

 In other words, it is trying to pull out of the passage the meaning inherent in it.

 The opposite of exegesis, which is called EISEGES, uses an approach to interpreting a Bible passage by reading into it a meaning that is not evident at all by the passage or by how one “feels” what it means to make it fit into a preconceived notion to satisfy the “itching ears” of those who want God’s word to exonerate them.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:  Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:2

Which, yours truly, thought was quite odd. The fellow has dismissed the human mind in the first paragraph and then asks me to take as authority systems designed by other minds in their attempt to interpret the historical fiction that has come down to us as the Bible.

What is makes it relevant to SB’s post above is it appeared in this post where the author argues for tolerance and freedom of thought in treating of religious texts.

Now, that I think of it, what deity would communicate in a manner requiring so many interpretations to understand? If, for example, one day is like 1000 god years, are we allowed to interpret this to mean we haven’t reached the day of the Sabbath, that is, day of rest? Could this explain why our lives is mostly toil?

It seems we are required to forgo our reason and listen to the divine interpreter to tell us what god says and in turn we tell them what we want god to know. This way, their power is maintained for all time. Not luck with me!