The scenic hill that overlooks the Miseni Retreat is named after the tree belonging to the Albizia species and is abundant in the surrounding area. The tree is called Miseni in Kiswahili and the same name was given to the hill by locals, decades ago. The Miseni hill used to be a ritual place. It is still considered a sacred piece of land by the local population.
A solution to every problem
For Gongo villagers, Miseni always meant solutions to their problems. Whenever they faced issues in the community, like drought or internal conflicts, they used to climb the hill to follow traditional rituals on top. That’s why we consider Miseni a deeply spiritual place that deserves our respect and protection.
Before climbing Miseni, locals were welcomed by the “msingili”, the guardian of the hill. They used to take off their sandals to wash their hands and feet from a water filled bowl. When they reached the top they washed their face from another bowl. Everyone had to pay respect to the area and avoid inappropriate actions on top, like satisfying personal needs or making noise.
For individual problems, after the basic procedures, locals felt free to pray in any of their ways. They could speak out about their problem and as a donation they left money - whatever amount they wanted. Before the adoption of local currency people were bringing “wele” - a drink made of “mtama” (millet) - and left it there. Money donations were adopted only after World War II.
Relief for the Community
For any issue the village faced, its leaders used to meet on Miseni to sacrifice a red coloured goat. They would divide the goat among them and each one bring his own piece of meat back home. The animal’s blood was left on the hill. The rituals stopped talking place after the 1960’s thanks to “utandawazi” - the globalisation in Kiswahili. As a result very few people still practice traditional rituals at Miseni hill.
The "Msingili" (Leader)
An elderly person - a “mzee” was appointed by fellow village elders to protect the hill. The guardian was selected from a special clan - the “mdoe”. They were the descendants of the kings. He was considered a “msingili”, which means “leader” in Kiswahili. Mzee Sefu is the current msingili of the Miseni hill. Many people in the village fear that bad things might happen in the area if he wasn’t here.
Nyeusi, Nyekundu and Kijani
The msingili lead the rituals on the hill. He wore a black outfit - the “wotitu” - a white head scarf tied by a headband in black, red and green color combination. “Nyeusi” (black) represents the rituals, Nyekundu (red) symbolizes the problems and Kijani (green) symbolizes the faith. The guardian of the hill usually held a wooden stick.
A tale from Mzee Sefu
The rituals on Miseni were gradually abandoned in the 60’s. Mzee Sefu, a qualified, traditional healer is still the guardian of Miseni today. Sefu participated in a ritual when he was young and he tells us the story:
“I remember a year when there was a long drought in the area of “Mtungura” - the Gongo forest. There was a sacred Amarula tree there named Mgongo”.
“Together with other young men I took “togwa” - a traditional, non alcoholic spirit - to the tree, sacrificed a black chicken to call for the rain and asked for permission from the spirits to climb Miseni. Permission was given, so we climbed the hill and we slaughtered another black chicken on top. Two days later the rain arrived”.