Ngirani: The Cursed Girls of the Meru – Marry Them and you Die.

Ngirani Meru girls
A young African girl. Ngirani wa and is still a huge thing in Meru

Growing up, I heard stories from other boys about ladies that were to be avoided by all means. The boys said that these beautiful ladies were “deadly”. Not in their killer looks, but in their killer ways. Stories of young men who died because of these ladies were rife in my childhood. A young man dying was almost immediately attributed to a curse on the wife. So I grew up avoiding unbelievably beautiful ladies, for the love of my life. These killer ladies had a name, they were called Ngirani.

Ngirani were a particular set of women in Meru history who were believed to be cursed. As accursed people, it was decided that they were not fit to be married to young men. Unsurprisingly, Meru culture, like most cultures then, was steeped in superstition and myth. And the Ngirani were the human manifestation of bad omen to the community. As such, the Meru believed such women should not have been joined to young men in fear of bringing a curse to the community and future generations. They were therefore married off to old men as second or third wives.

So how did one become Ngirani?

There are many theories that have been conferred to the creation of Ngirani.

Some people say that Ngirani were the offspring of a father-daughter copulation. Such a heinous coupling meant the offspring were to be ostracised by the community. But only if they were girls.Other ways one became a ngirani was if they were born with a deformity. Such deformities included breech births; that is girls who were born feet first instead of head first; girls whose upper teeth grew before the lower teeth and twin girls.

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Other ways one became a Ngirani was if they were born with a deformity. Such deformities included breech births; that is girls who were born feet first instead of head first, girls whose upper teeth grew before the lower teeth and twin girls. There were also ngirani clans/families. These were families where girls were known to not take care of their husbands and families where child mortality was high.

There were also Ngirani clans/families. These were families where girls were known to not take care of their husbands and families where child mortality was high. But here is the most ridiculous path for a girl to join the Ngirani: if a girl’s fiancé was obstructed by a hyena or fell into any other misfortune while going to court her, this girl was immediately subscribed to the Ngirani roll of honours. You can imagine how girls had sleepless nights wishing calamity free journeys to their fiancés.

There are two conspiracy theories associated with the Ngirani.

The first conspiracy theory is that there was once a young, beautiful girl who had her eyes set on a young handsome warrior.  The two had planned to marry and were deeply in Meru love; going to the river together, feeding each other miraa and dancing kĩrarĩĩre together. But the girl was forced to marry an old man. In her anger and heartbreak she cursed her sisters and her entire lineage, they were all to be married to old men.

The second conspiracy theory, which sounds more plausible these days, is that the Ngirani were an invention of sex-depraved old men. The old men decided that the best way to get young, firm ladies was to invent a curse that would lead a section of younglings to their beds. And thus, the ngirani were manufactured to serve that purpose.

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The jury is out on the Ngirani. Or should I say the Njũri is out?

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