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The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Beware of Meganya! - by Hénock Gugsa

Beware of Meganya!
Hénock Gugsa

One thing is obvious, uncomplicated, and most common about humans … and that is their capacity for fear. It is both instinctive (natural) and learned. Go to any country, any culture … and there you’ll find at least one or two mythical personifications of fear. Bogeymen, vampires, wolfmen, demons, and a myriad of horrible creatures are the stuff of literature and folklore everywhere. In Ethiopia, however, there is also the mysterious and enigmatic Meganya!

We cannot be perfectly unequivocal in explaining the phenomenon - Meganya cannot be put in any clear or defined category of fear. One may say that Meganya is the single embodiment of all the fears and ills that are manifested in a society. By and large, the terror itself is certainly psychologically propagated. What’s more, Meganya is generally used to explain away both the unreal (the supernatural, the imagined) and the real or day-to-day personal catastrophes.

Examples abound …

People with skewed chins, for example, got that way because they probably crossed paths with Meganya. It is an irascible being that detests any rude surprises. Let me explain. A house or a room that has been shut up and left unlit and unaired for a long time is Meganya’s favorite resting place. If humans suddenly opened that place up and just barged in, that would startle and anger Meganya. And it would react by slapping the first person it encounters so hard in the face that it will be cruelly twisted up and frozen for life. But, believe me: the person has gotten off easy this time ... Meganya could have taken away the person's sight or caused other serious bodily damage. Worst of all, the shock of such an encounter could even cause instant death.

Often, people warn you not to be out and about in the dead of night or even in the early hours of the morning before sunrise. Meganya has been known to loiter in dark streets and alleys or in places where refuse is kept. Fiercely territorial and aggressive, Meganya would attack you even if you were armed with holy water. Should you be outside at an ungodly hour, you are advised to cover your face and look at the ground and nothing else as you walk. And should you hear your name called out from any direction, do not look up or respond in any way. Meganya could be trying to trick you to let your guard down. And when you do, end of story.

To this day, people in Ethiopia still believe that epilepsy and some forms of madness are the work of Meganya. And when people are really angry and resentful about something, it is not uncommon to hear them wish for Meganya to strike down the object of their wrath. And this wish or curse cannot be undone unless immediately followed by spitting at the ground. This is similar to what people do to avert the evil eye, their own, from hurting other people.

The interesting thing about Meganya is that no one knows what it is exactly or what it looks like. Those that have encountered it and survived are too shocked out of their wits to tell any tales. Thus, we are all left to our own conjectures. Some say it is a huge dark entity with mighty arms, and others say it has to be a black smelly cloud of heavy air that leaves telltale misty tracks when it is gone. I guess that is why when people first open their doors in the morning, they usually douse their front steps with water to wash away Meganya’s remnants.

To be sure, there are other demons and terrifying beings out there. But for Ethiopians, no one or no thing is as fearsome as Meganya. An old country such as Ethiopia has a lot of stories to tell. So perk up your ears and listen well when Ethiopians caution you to “Beware of Meganya!” 

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"To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners."
Lawrence Sterne (1713 - 1768)