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Kwoth and the Cutting of the Link between Heaven and Earth

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God, the supreme being, is Kwoth, Spirit; God is Kwoth Nhial, Spirit of the Sky. There are other and lesser spirits, Kuth Nhial, spirits of the sky or of the above, and Kuth Piny, spirits of the earth or of the below. The name Kwoth suggests both the intangible quality of air and the breathing or blowing out of air. Nhial is the sky, and is also associated with rain and thunder. Though the sky is not God, and although God is everywhere, he is thought of as being in the sky. Anything connected with the firmament has associations with him. Nuer sometimes speak of him as falling in the rain and as being in lightning and thunder. The rainbow is called the necklace of God. The sun belongs to God, and the moon and the stars also. God is spirit, which, like wind and air, is invisible and ubiquitous. But though God is not these things, he is in them in the sense that he reveals himself through them. He is in the sky, falls in the rain, shines in the sun and moon, blows in the wind.

There was once a rope between heaven and earth. When a human became old, he would climb the rope to God in heaven; there he would be rejuvenated, then returned to earth. One day, a hyena and a weaver-bird entered heaven by this means. God gave instructions that they should be watched, that they should not be allowed to return to earth, where they would surely cause trouble. But they escaped one night and climbed down the rope. When they were near the earth, the hyena cut the rope and the upper part was drawn into heaven. So it was that the connection between heaven and earth was cut, and those humans who grow old must now die. Above all else, God is thought of as the giver and sustainer of life. He also brings death.

Subjects: Religion

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