Fall of sacred tree sparks fears of bad omen in Central Kenya

Residents at the site where a three-century-old sacred tree fell in Nyeri yesterday. The Kikuyu believe the fall is a sign that something will befall the country or the community. [PHOTO: KIBATA KIHU/STANDARD]
A sacred tree thought to be about 300 years old came crashing down in Nyeri Monday, prompting talk of a bad omen among residents.

While other communities may not be bothered when such a tree falls, to the Kikuyu, the falling of the Mugumo (fig tree), which was considered sacred in the past, is a bad omen for the community.

Already, some wags have it that it could mean that political dynamics in the region are about to change, and that a new leader from the community is about to take over.

The fall of a mugumo tree is shrouded in myth.

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“When it fell we thought that maybe it had been struck by lightning because it was about to rain and was very windy,” said Charles Gikandi.

However, opinion is divided as to why the tree fell.

Some say it was a normal occurrence. Others associate the fall with the passing of Nyeri’s first Governor Nderitu Gachagua.

Others felt it had something to do with delayed rains in the area.

The final jury will be a team of elders who are expected to inspect the tree, conduct rituals to ward off evil and seek a clear message from the ancestors on what its falling portends.

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Luckily, the tree did not destroy any property when it fell.

Fig trees carry with them an aura of traditional faith among the Kikuyu.

Residents say this particular one was sacred and that in 1972, when a villager unknowingly pruned it, his skin turned white and a cleansing ceremony had to be performed.

Locals say the site was popular with pilgrims who came pray in its sacred shade.

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