The constellation Aquilae was very important to my great-great-great grandfather Rumbas, an astrologer and a diviner. There are four major stars in the constellation-Altair, Alshain, Tarazed and Agl. Back then in my grandfather’s time, when the entire rim of the Kerio valley was covered by forest, providing a rich canopy for leopards and the mysterious Nandi bear to carry on their silent lives, the stars had other names.
Altair was the warrior Lantje, the First Man, who brought all of our clan from the planet Venus on a large skin hide, with all our cows, sheep, goats and seeds of millet, and settled us along the Kerio valley. Alshain was his lovely wife Syakwei, whose breath was the cool breeze that kept the land from parching, whose breasts were the rain that nurtured the fields, and whose swelling womb ensured that cows gave milk, to feed the people. The other two stars, Tarzed and Agl, were their children, Chessesir and Chemeri. Chessesir taught our clan how to derive iron from earth and Chemeri taught our clan how to make furrows from the rivers that trickled down the escarpment.
Whenever Syakwei would drift alone to the west, leaving Lantje alone in the east with his son Chessesir, it meant that she had gone to borrow food from the tribes of the west, and that was a sign that great hunger was to come to the land. In the olden days this would call for great fasting and praying. When Syakwei would be in the east, holding Chemeri under her arm, it would mean that either the Nandi or the Karamojong were planning an invasion and spies would be sent to Sergoit hill to be on the look out. Only when the full family was in the east, the children bouncing and laughing across the sky, without being shielded by their parents, was it safe enough for men to drink and tell stories of old, for teenagers to be circumcised and put in isolation, and for weddings to be planned.
It is said, that these four stars loved Rumbas so much, endowing him with great beauty. There was such a radiance in his smile that it sent shivers down the spines of old women who were supposed to be done with such feelings. A story is told of how one day Rumbas went to seek work among the Pokot so that he could be paid with cows to add to his dwindling stock. He began tending the cows for a rich Pokot man with a young wife. The sight of Rumbas’s smile put the young wife in a craze, that in the darkness of her hut, she held a sharp knife and plunged it into her husband’s heart as he was sleeping. She then ran off to Rumbas telling him that she was now free and ready to follow him to the ends of the earth.
That woman was my great-great-great grandmother Kaarie.