Saturday, 1 March 2014

Omurembe (Red Hot Poker Tree): - Traditional Belief Among the Luhya

Omurembe is traditionally a Medicinal Plant Found in Western Kenya and Nyanza. The story is about Omurembe in local language of Luhya, sub-tribe from (KISA) Western Kenya

The local Luhya people used Omurembe in various ways, i.e. making of the Isukuti, the famous Luhya drum was curved from the trunk and this was sold to the local music makers for entertaining people during festivals, football activities, wrestling and even funeral activities to make people cheer up.
Boats/Canoes were also curved from bigger trunks and given that the trunks are also to remain afloat on water. The curved product encouraged cross river transportation within the local peoples, fishing industry and was promoted within the locals which boosted their income, especially those living along the rivers like Nzoia and River Yala where navigation was applicable.

It was used to cure mumps in both children and adults alike from the community(s) residing around. The Luo also used the tree as a cure for similar diseases.
Activities carried out during curation included: The concerned patient would wake up very early in the morning around 5.00a.m, and walk to the site of the (Omurembe) tree; and one must carry along a piece of slept-over ugali known as (Obuchieni) or in Kiswahili ‘Kiporo’ once at the site, the affected person would be required to go run round the tree singing and eating the slept-over ugali ‘Obuchieni’ at the same time for the remedy to be effective.

The song would go like this:
Tsindeindei wera khu murembe                (mumps remain on Red Hot Poker Tree)
Tsindeindei wera khu murembe                (mumps remain on Red Hot Poker Tree)
Tsindeindei wera khu murembe                (mumps remain on Red Hot Poker Tree)
This exercise is repeated until one feels relieved, and then they would leave the site quietly and go home without uttering a word nor without looking behind until you reach the House/home.
The remedy would take like two days before they Mumps disappear.

If there was a notorious petty thief fond of stealing other people’s goods/items, money etc., the affected person would get a twig/branch from ‘Omurembe’ tree/plant, then would strike the twig on the spot where the stolen item was lying or had been placed before the act, after a day or two, the thief would complain of stomach swelling/headaches and then the thief would come out to reveal the act of stealing.  Traditionally the thief would then be required to compensate the affected owner before the remedy can be administered by medicinal Man to reverse the situation. Failure to do that, the suspected thief would easily die from that act. If the thief agrees to compensate the owner then the tree was then uprooted with all its roots.  This vice at that time contributed to near extinction of the tree where this was practice i.e. 
Western and Nyanza regions. This act kept people away from unnecessary theft activities in society for fear of what would befall them. However, in the recent past, one would walk far and wide without finding this tree that was very common. It is sad to say that this plant that was common in parts of Western and Nyanza is near extinction. One can walk far and wide without coming across this tree. In other words this should be declared endangered species. Where it can be found it should be preserved for indigenous knowledge for the future generation to learn from the past.

Story Prepared by:  
John Amulaku, Librarian – NMK Main Library

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