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10 strict taboos that governed a Kikuyu traditional homestead

Ndung'u Wa Gathua.
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A Kikuyu traditional hut. [Source/ gounesco.com]

In the Gikuyu traditional culture there existed many taboos (thahu) and prohibitions (migiro) that governed the day-to-day to lives of societal members.

Breaking any of these set taboos attracted various punishments (gutahikio) and sometimes purification and sacrifice for the taboo breakers. This, however, depended on the severity of the broken taboo as Gikuyu Centre for Cultural Studies (GCCS) notes.

Below we list 10 taboos that governed a Kikuyu traditional homestead as documented by GCCS.

1. The door of a hut must always be opened on the side that a man’s father and grandfather opened it. If anyone opened it from the wrong side, he must go out again, shut the door and re-open it correctly failure to which he/she may not eat any food in the hut.

2. No one may close the door other than the owner of the hut. A visitor could only open the door to enter but not close it. This was left to the woman of the house or her sons.

3. A husband was forbidden from shutting the door of his hut apart from the day he got married.

4. Standing inside a hut was forbidden. If you do not want to sit then you must go and stand outside.

5. It was a taboo for young children to swing with the door lintel as it was equivalent to wishing the death of their parents.

6. It was 'thahu' for a man to sleep on the side by the outer wall of his wife’s bed.

7. It was forbidden to relocate a woman’s hut to a new site while she was menstruating.

8. If a cooking pot cracked while food was cooking in it, that food was not supposed to be eaten by anyone except by women past childbearing.

9. If anyone deliberately broke a cooking pot or a gourd in a homestead, seven goats and sheep had to be slaughtered to purify the culprit.

10. A circumcised man was in no circumstance allowed to approach the side of his mother’s side of the kitchen or touch her bed.

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