Nambi: A Maasai Goddess
I grew up on a farm in Puerto Rico where I experienced the full cycle of life. My days were filled with domestic dogs, cats, goats, pigs, hens, and rabbits. As I took care of these animals, I learned to love them. In particular, I welcomed the miracle of life with every new litter of animals. I also encountered grief as I mourned the creatures when they died. Amazingly, my nights were filled with different entities. Lions, cheetahs, giraffes, leopards, elephants, monkeys, and many other exotic animals visited my dreams. Since childhood, I have been dreaming about the African wildlife. Until now.
I was fortunate to visit Tanzania during this summer. Through the eye of my camera I captured African animals, not to mention a multitude of bright colored birds. Besides the magnificent wildlife and spectacular Tanzanian vistas, something unexpected captured my attention: A tree. Not a regular tree, but instead, a wish tree. This beautiful tree had a large opening in its center. “People come here and pray to the wish tree,” a Tanzanian man told me. “Women who desire to become pregnant climb up the tree and enter its trunk,” he said with a mysterious smile. “The sacred tree always grants females their wish. “
When my women fellow travelers heard this story, they laughed. After a while they turned pensive. The younger women decided to climb up the tree. The older ones opted to stay put. I remained with the older group.
However, the longer I looked at the magnificent tree, the more mesmerized I became. For an unknown reason, I was compelled to enter the tree. It felt like a calling. I climbed up the tree and found myself inside its trunk. Light filtered down through the tree’s upper branches. Different colors—white, yellow, green, blue ---illuminated the center. I suddenly sensed a presence. Surprised by this feeling, I forgot to make my wish.
“If you want to become pregnant you also need to invoke Nambi,” the Tanzanian man told me, as he helped me get out of the tree. “Who?” I asked. “ Nambi is the goddess of love and fertility,” replied the man. “More than that, she is our mother,” he added.
Nambi’s mytherstory identifies her as a Maasai goddess who visited the earth and fell in love with Kintu, the first man. When she announced to Gulu, her father, that she wanted to marry the mortal man, Gulu became enraged. “My divine daughter marrying a human?” Gulu agreed to give his consent only with the condition that Kintu prove himself through several trails. Of course, Kintu cleverly passed all tests, but only with the help of African animals. Finally, Gulu blessed the union and presented the couple with numerous gifts.
I decided to make my own interpretation of Nambi’s story. To me, she is a feminist heroine who challenged the status quo. She dared to love a mortal man. Nambi achieved her wish by soliciting the help of African animals.
What does Nambi have to do with the wish I forgot to ask? I believe that Nambi’s presence was inside the wish tree. Her essence was so strong that I forgot to make a wish. Today I know that I could not wish something that had been previously granted. I went to Africa because of my love of animals. Like Nambi, I visited Tanzania and fell love with its people.
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