Nyabingi (she who has or brings wealth) is a fertility goddess and a spirit. She was the basis of the ideology of resistance before and during colonial conquest.
Nyabingi belongs to female earth energy and is concerned with fertility (particularly covering women, livestock and crops), health, prosperity and success. It complements and is interdependent with male earth energy that is concerned with the forces of nature and power (especially focused on the political power of divine kingship).
It is a mistake to view Nyabingi as a homogenous set of beliefs and practices or a specific religion with a hierarchy of leader mediums, officers and disciples. The relationship between Nyabingi and its practitioners varied with the person and his or her social circumstances, and could focus on health, spirituality or military action.
In their individual capacity Nyabingi mediums solved problems that could not be resolved by other spirit mediums. The procedure was that a supplicant would approach a medium and explain their problem and would be told what to bring as offerings.
The main issues for Nyabingi used to be barrenness among women, childhood illnesses, cattle mortality, crop failures and problems with malevolent spirits and ancestors. While they were common in the 19th century, in the 20th century they were used infrequently and somewhat reluctantly. Then it was regarded as dangerous and only used as a last resort in times of extreme crisis; afterwards most people would have nothing more to do with it.
Nyabingi mediums were expensive and demanded high fees for their services including livestock, food, honey beer, young girls, labour and other services.
Photo: Muhumuza, a rebel Nyabingi medium at her capture in 1911
This Travel Guide is based on the the Gorilla Highlands Interactive eBook, an award-winning labout of love that gives you a comprehensive insight into the cultures, languages, people and nature that make our area so special. By purchasing the ebook you will contribute to an ambitious initiative that aims to transform southwestern Uganda.
Gorilla Highlands blog essentials: