The Meru Calendar, before the white man brought Years

ameru calendar years

Hey you “civilised people”… Happy New Year! 🙂

To the traditional Meru, this is definitely not a new year. There were no years in Meru before the white man brought his years, and the calendar we use currently –  The Gregorian calendar. Instead, they used references to the passage of time.

The counting of moons

Typical months for the Ameru were the appearances of the moon. So, mweri (month) was literally mweri (moon). So, let’s say you are planning a wedding after some time, you could say, “We will come for the bride after two moons.” Then you literally count two moon appearances.

Droughts and Rainy Seasons

Counting months would have been a very tasking exercise, given they were not being written anywhere. If I asked you where you were when you were 87 moons old, what would you say? So, they had to have more solid ways – seasons.

You must have heard older people make reference to mpara e 84 (the Drought of 1984). If not, just ask them where they were in 1984 and they will tell you vividly. Because that was a major drought that is a cornerstone of the Ameru calendar.

This reference to seasons was actually the major calendar for The Ameru. So, “see you next rainy season”, “I built this hut during the last harvest” and “mpara e ndaakua ngwete (the famine where people died even when they had stuff to exchange because there was no food – yes, droughts, floods and locust attacks used to have names), etc, was how people counted the passage of time.

Age groups (nthuki)

When we covered age groups, it was clear that they were phased in typical years, one after the other, and divided into 3 sub groups (Ndinguri, Kobia and Kaberia). So, this is the most consistent method the Meru would refer to “years”. “I was born during Miriti e Ndinguri.” Or, the “first white man was seen shortly after the old Ratanya e Kaberia.” So, things like, “how old are you?” Would be responded to like “I am an Ithalii-Kobia” and that would be a very accurate answer.

Image: Answers Africa

But since we have the calendar, The Ameru wishes you a Happy 2018. Challenge us to be better this year, to grow Meru and the Kimeru culture.

Our prayer for you the year is that, ugakuria. Thaai!

9 Comments to “The Meru Calendar, before the white man brought Years”

    1. Hi Kendi. It is true, seasons played a great part, still do, to the African calendar. And what the Agikuyu have, the Ameru have. (April/December – Rain, Feb/Sep – Dry)

      Dry season – let’s till the land
      Just before the Rainy season – Let’s plant
      Rainy season – Let’s weed and observe the crops
      Drying season – Let’s harvest.

      It’s like winter to summer. 🙂

  1. Lydia

    Great job for enlightening us about our Culture, my grandmother once told me months were also named according to the weather appearance at that time eg. August – thaano, September – Thaano mukungugu. please research for the rest it seems i forgot.


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