The Sacred Village

Deep in the African savannah there is a village called Maisha. In this village there lived a little boy called Mwanafunzi. Maisha was a sacred village and it had taught Mwanafunzi’s mother a lot. She wanted her son to be a student of the village and to learn all that the village taught, so she saw it apt to name her son Mwanafunzi wa Maisha.

 

Maisha was blessed. In the rainy season it rained well and so when the harvesting season came, there were plenty of fruits, vegetables and grains for all the villagers and its guests to devour. The village had never, even once, experienced a drought. It was a sacred village. A blessed village.

 

The rain poured on the plants and nurtured them. The sun shone on the plants and ripened them. The goats, sheep and cattle drank from the village dam. The villagers of Maisha swam in the village stream and collected water from the village well. The chickens of the village fed on the abundant insects and grains that decorated the village streets. Every type of life flourished in Maisha. It was said that the village was very blessed because in the middle of the village, there was a huge, revered mango tree. The villagers called this tree Mwembe Mkuu. But this tree was not just any normal tree. It was a sacred tree. It was the only tree in Maisha that you could not climb. You could only eat a mango from this tree if the mango had dropped onto the ground on its own accord. You could not throw stones into the tree or climb the tree to taste one or more of its fruits.

 

Mwanafunzi had heard of this tree and he liked to stand under it, his head tilted upwards gazing at its enormity. Whenever a villager passed the tree and saw Mwanafunzi standing there gazing up into Mwembe Mkuu, the villager would warn Mwanafunzi not to climb the sacred tree. Mwanafunzi always wondered why people were not allowed to climb Mwembe Mkuu. Of course, deep inside his heart, he wanted to climb the sacred tree and perhaps gain from its sacredness, because the tree had more than just leaves and fruits. The sacred tree had honey!

 

There was a beehive hanging from one of the branches of the tree, high up, hidden by the many leaves. It was forbidden to climb up Mwembe Mkuu and interfere with the beehive. Villagers could salvage honey from any tree within and outside the village, but they could not taste the honey of this specific beehive. After all, Mwembe Mkuu was a sacred tree. Legend had it that if you were ever to climb the tree, a calamity would befall you.

 

But Mwanafunzi always dreamed of climbing the tree and tasting its honey. Every day, he would go to the tree and stare at the gigantic beehive that was hidden amongst the green leaves of the sacred mango tree. Mwanafunzi wanted to climb the sacred tree and taste the sacred honey of the sacred beehive.

 

One day, Mwanafunzi decided that he would defy all the warnings and climb this sacred tree. He began climbing the tree every day. On the first day he climbed only the trunk. On the following day he climbed up to the nearest branch. Every day he would climb higher until one day he reached the highest branch, which had the sacred beehive hanging from it. Looking at it, he decided that on the next day he would climb Mwembe Mkuu and examine the beehive to see whether he could taste the honey.

The next day, as he was standing under the tree, about to climb it and taste the honey, he felt a heavy gentle hand tapping his shoulder. Mwanafunzi turned around and saw a tall, old man. He had a long white beard and a large white afro. He wore a bright white kanzu; a majestic white robe that made him stand out like a dove amongst crows. The old man looked into Mwanafunzi’s eyes, and placed his hand on Mwanafunzi’s shoulder. He shook his head, smiled, and said to the boy: “Don’t go up that tree, don’t mess with the beehive.”

 

These firm, gentle and deep words rang loud in Mwanafunzi’s ear but he ignored the old man and climbed up the tree anyway.

 

As he climbed the sacred village tree, villagers stopped below the tree and shouted: “Mwanafunzi! What are you doing? A curse will befall you, get down from that tree!” But Mwanafunzi did not listen. He climbed the branches of the tree and managed to get up close to the beehive. He poked his finger into a crevice of the beehive, to dip his fingers into the sacred honeycombs. He then licked his finger and tasted the honey. It was the sweetest and most delicious honey he had ever tasted. Sweet, delicious honey.

 

Every day, for two weeks, Mwanafunzi climbed the tree and harvested honey from the sacred beehive. Every day, as he climbed the sacred tree, he remembered the words of the old man: “Don’t go up that tree, don’t mess with the beehive”.

 

By the end of the two weeks, he could climb to the beehive and fill a little gourd with honey. Word had spread round the village that Mwanafunzi was climbing the sacred tree and tasting its sacred honey.

 

And so it happened that one fateful and unfateful day, all the village people and elders gathered under the sacred tree as Mwanafunzi devoured the sacred honey. They all wailed at Mwanafunzi to get off the tree. “He has broken the sacred rule”, they said, “He has climbed the sacred tree and he is tasting forbidden honey!”

 

When Mwanafunzi saw the masses of villagers below him shouting at him to get down, he realised what he was doing was wrong. Perched above the beehive, he panicked and rushed to climb down so he could avoid the wrath of the sacred tree. As he began to hurriedly climb down the mango tree, he slipped, swung into the hive and shrieked – holding onto the branch that the beehive was hanging onto. Suddenly…

 

SNAP!

 

The branch broke.

 

Mwanafunzi, the branch and the beehive all fell down to the ground.

 

THUD!

 

Mwanafunzi crashed onto the ground, together with the beehive and the tree’s branch. Luckily, he landed on the beehive and the branches, which absorbed the impact, and so he suffered only a few bruises. Luckily too, none of the villagers were standing under the branch and so they were not hit by the wrath of the sacred tree. But unfortunately, the beehive had broken into pieces and all the angry bees buzzed out of the hive and began to sting Mwanafunzi. All the villagers ran to safety whilst Mwanafunzi was furiously stung by the bees.

 

An hour later, the bees had disappeared into the savannah and Mwanafunzi lay on the ground unconscious. His mother came rushing as soon as she heard the news. Mwanafunzi was never going to forget the day he was stung by the furious bees of the sacred beehive.

 

Mwanafunzi’s whole body swelled as a result of the hundreds of bee stings. He was lucky to survive. It took a whole week to pick out the bee stings which were spread all over his body. He had learnt his lesson. “That’s what happens when you ignore sacred rules”, he would say for the rest of his life, “Never break any sacred rules”.

 

After the incident, Mwanafunzi had nightmares of that traumatic day. In his dreams, he would see the old man with a long white beard, a large afro and a bright white kanzu; a robe that was so bright it blinded your eyes just looking at it. In Mwanafunzi’s recurring dream, the old man would always put his gentle giant arm on his little shoulder and say: “Don’t go up that tree, don’t mess with the beehive”.

 

Mwanafunzi went on to grow up into an adult and when he became a young man, he travelled far away from his home and married a beautiful woman from another village. He lived in the bride’s village for many years to come. They had children together and became parents. Their children then went on to marry too, and when they bore children, Mwanafunzi and his wife became grandparents.

 

Then one fine day, in his old age, Mwanafunzi decided to visit his childhood village. He had never been to the village since he married, but he never forgot the wrath that the sacred tree unleashed onto him. He never forgot the painful stings he got from the sacred bees of the sacred beehive. And he also never forgot the words of the old man who warned him not to climb the sacred tree.  “Don’t go up that tree”, the old man had said, “Don’t mess with the beehive.”

 

And so it was, that in his old age, he packed his bags and traveled to Maisha, the village of his childhood days.

 

When Mwanafunzi arrived at Maisha, he was reminded of how blessed this village was. In the rainy season it rained well and so when the harvesting season came, there were plenty of fruits, vegetables and grains for all the villagers and its guests to devour. The village had never, even once, experienced a drought. It was a sacred village. A blessed village.

 

The rain poured on the plants and nurtured them. The sun shone on the plants and ripened them. The goats, sheep and cattle drank from the village dam. The villagers of Maisha swam in the village stream and collected water from the village well. The chickens of the village fed on the abundant insects and grains that decorated the village streets. Every type of life flourished in Maisha. It was said that the village was very blessed because in the middle of the village there was a huge, revered mango tree. But this tree was not just any normal tree. It was a sacred tree. It was the only tree in Maisha that you could not climb. You could only eat a mango from this tree if the mango had dropped onto the ground on its own accord. You could not throw stones into the tree or climb the tree to taste one or more of its fruits.

 

And there was a humongous beehive hanging from one of the branches of the tree, high up, hidden by the many leaves. It was forbidden to climb up the tree and interfere with the beehive. Villagers could salvage honey from any tree within and outside the village, but they could not taste the honey of this specific beehive. After all, this tree was a sacred tree with sacred honey that was forbidden for anyone’s tongue to taste. If you were ever to climb this tree, a huge calamity would befall you.

 

And so when old Mwanafunzi reached the village of his childhood days, he walked straight to the sacred mango tree, Mwembe Mkuu, which was as big as it was when he was a little boy. There was now another beehive in the tree. After the old beehive fell and broke, the bees came back and built up a new beehive, just as big as the one before. As Mwanafunzi approached the sacred mango tree, he noticed a little boy. The little boy reminded Mwanafunzi of his younger self. The boy stood under the tree gazing into the lush green leaves of the mango tree. The boy was staring at the beehive, as if he wanted to climb the tree and taste the sacred honey of the sacred beehive. Mwanafunzi, now very old, had a long white beard and a large white afro. He wore a bright white robe that made him stand out.

 

He walked towards the little boy and tapped the boy’s shoulder with his gentle, giant hand. The little boy turned around and saw a very tall, old man. The old Mwanafunzi looked into the little boy’s eyes, placing his hand on the boy’s little shoulder. He shook his head, smiled, and said to the boy: “Don’t go up that tree, don’t mess with the beehive.”

THE END

 

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