In the Luo community of Kenya, from where former U.S. President Barack Obama’s father comes, there was a warrior who was known and revered for his prowess in war and for his ability to defeat any army.
His name was Lwanda (or Luanda) Magere and his body was made of stone, according to legends. No spear, arrow or other weapons could hurt his body, making him one of the most invincible warriors from the community. ‘Lwanda’ in Luo means ‘rock’ and Magere refers to ‘one that builds’ or ‘upon which something is built’. Thus the name Lwanda Magere could mean “the rock that builds” or “the rock on which I shall build”.
Born into the Sibho clan of Kano plains in today’s Kisumu County, Magere grew up with the knowledge that the Nandi community were their greatest enemies. The Luo were defeated numerous times by the Nandi until Magere grew up and became a warrior. Then things started changing. He kept on leading the Luo to victory to the disconcertion of the Nandi.
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Accordingly, the Nandi held a meeting to discuss this turn of events and come up with a solution to discover the secret of Magere’s prowess. The solution was marriage.
The Nandi, in the guise of forging peace and friendship between the two communities, presented Magere with a beautiful girl as a wife with a mission to spy and report to her people. Magere accepted her as his wife even though the other Luo elders had pleaded with him not to.
After the marriage ceremony was complete, Magere and his new wife lived without any hiccup, until one day when Magere fell sick and his first wife, who usually tended to him, was away. His pain became unbearable that he had to seek the help of his new wife.
After preparing the herbs, the new wife was ready to apply it on her husband body, only for him to tell her to apply the herbs on his shadow instead.
According to reports, “He told his wife that his strength in battle was in his shadow; no arrow or spear aimed at his body could harm him, even if it penetrated his shield. To protect his shadow, he always chose to fight his battles in the evening or at night.”
Armed with the information, the wife ran back to her people and soon the Nandi community launched a battle against the Luo. They made sure it was during daylight and even got on of their sharpest spearman to spear at Magere’s shadow.
Magere was cautioned against going to war as the elders believed it would be the end of him. However, he felt that his pride was wounded and he must, therefore, carry out his revenge. He led the warriors and in the peak of the battle, a Nandi warrior thrust a spear in his shadow and he fell down, dead.
In a different version of the myth, the Nandi attacked the Luo in the latter’s home because it was against the Luo tradition to attack a kinsman and since Magere married a Nandi girl, they were kinfolk. When the Nandi approached the Luo, they were beaten and were forced to retreat.
It was at this moment that one of the warriors remembered Magere’s weakness. He went up a hill and threw his spear at Magere’s shadow and watched as he fell down and died.
What was more fascinating about Magere is that his body turned into a rock upon his death.
It is said when he died, a strong wind swept the plains of Kano and Nandi, then a two-year drought followed before his body (now rock) could be found. He apparently appeared to the elders in a dream and showed them his location. When they found him, it rained heavily for three consecutive days, and the people offered sacrifices for this blessing.
To date, the rock is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Kenya. People come from far and wide to pay their respects and seek blessings from the mythical man.
Considered a sacred site by the people in the region, it is protected by the spear and shield that Magere used back in the day. On a tree above the site is a smoking pipe that Magere used when he deliberated war against the community’s enemies.
Many villagers believe that visiting the site would not only bring abundance to the visitors but also bring rain and prosperity to the region: the snakes and white butterflies surrounding the stone is a sign of good luck, so they say. They also believe pregnant women should not go to the site because they would miscarry.
Until today, Magere is celebrated in the Luo community through song and dance.