Kithiri: The dreaded oath that kills entire families

kithiri

If you are Meru from Meru, you might have heard about KITHIRI… mostly because of it’s intensity in wiping out, not only a wrong doer, but the entire family. Mostly all the male members of a family.

So, what’s the big deal with KITHIRI? What is it?

Well, KIthiri is a Meru oath. A very dreaded oath.

Kithiri would be taken, still is, as the last resort to solving the most difficult cases – those beyond the Njuri Ncheke. It’s like Supreme Court where judges are ancestors.

It can only be taken with the consent of the families of both the accuser (muthitangi) and the accused (muthitangwa). Of course, I wouldn’t let a family member put my life on the line by taking part in that oath unless I am 167% he’s on the right.

The other condition is that the partakers MUST be members of Njuri Ncheke. If not, they either get initiated or nominate relatives who are already Njuri Ncheke to take the oath on their behalf.

Why all these conditions again? You have to be very sure you want to risk your family for the sake of, say, a moved land boundary.

Literally, Kithiri means a pot used for brewing nainchu (honey wine).

The Kithiri process

A bull is slaughtered, the blood and the stomach body parts are put into the pot; and the elders roast and eat the meat. As they feast, the party taking the oath is asked, one final time, whether he’s really really sure he wants to do that thing. An he-goat is then held by a close relative of the person taking the oath.

Short sticks are broken and brought to the site where the oath is to be taken. (Note that the wording of the oath is decided by the number of sticks). The person taking the oath starts by cutting the testicles of the he-goat. He takes these round that the niniies of the opponent (who is naked) uttering the agreed wording of the oath. He drops the he-goat’s balls in the pot and his opponent drops the stick representing the word used. The guy taking the oath repeats this with several parts of the he-goat like the nose, anus, tongue etc. and eventually stabs the goat to death.

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Don’t get it? Here’s an example of a KIthiri oath.

Let’s say M’Mwenda and M’Njagi have a land dispute and it’s getting to the point of KIthiri. On the day, They both walk around the boundary of the disputed land with Njuri Ncheke elders before the oath is taken; each stating where they believe the boundary should be. M’njagi here is the person who has been allowed to keep the land. So he’s the one to take the oath. Kithiri will be like:

M’Njagi asks M’Mwenda to pick the first stick, cuts the goat’s testicles and takes it around M’Mwenda’s testicles saying, “If the disputed land that I have shown to the Meru elders does not belong to me and my ancestors let me die like this goat.” M’Mwenda drops the stick in the pot and M’Njagi drops the goat’s testicles into the pot. This continues, matching each part of the goat with M’Mwenda’s body part (nose for nose, tongue for tongue, etc.) till all the agreed wordings of the oath are exhausted.

The elders break the pot with the contents saying “May the wish of M’jagi and M’Njagi and his opponent be fulfilled.” Then they light a big fire and burn the pot pieces into ashes which are then hidden.

And just like that, if on the wrong, the person who took the oath and his family start dying pole pole, plus their property.

Cleansing

All is not lost, though. The family can be cleansed, if they inform Njuri Ncheke and the oath opponent. Of course, paying a huge price called Mirongo Ithatu.

The cleansing is simply (well …) taking out the pot ashes from where they were hidden. A living goat is smeared with the soil from the place where the ashes had been hidden (rising from the dead); and elders bless the place and the families involved with honey and milk.

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Scary stuff!

Yet it’s not the worst… One of these days, we’ll write about the Nthenge Oath.


10 thoughts on “Kithiri: The dreaded oath that kills entire families”

  1. Very important work!! These are the kinds of oaths that politicians should be taking, instead of swearing by the Bible and then robbing the public blind, and not doing anything to serve the public at all.

  2. Interesting read.
    Now, suppose all the males in a family have died hence no way of knowing where the oath takers hind the pot, what happens?

    1. It was not the male members of the family who hide the pot… it is the elders. Actually, the families involved and the general public MUST NOT know where the pot is hidden.

      What if the elders have all died? Well, the Njuri Ncheke keeps their records.

  3. This an amazing story, I have heard it mentioned but have never known the detailed process about Kithiri thing. Thank you for the enlightenment Frank.

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