The following story sounds like it could have been part of the book Eternity in their hearts! I really suggest you take the time to read the book.

For us the interesting point to notice is that in some of their religious beliefs these Unyamwezi people resembled the Israelites. Like the Israelites they believed in one Supreme Creator and Sustainer of life; like the Israelites, they said that man, originally immortal, lost his immortality through the sin of a woman; and further, like the Israelites, they had their own story of the Tower of Babel.

The story of the loss of immortality was remarkable. In the beginning, said the people, Sheda Mahinda, the Creator, after creating the world and all the animals, created two women; each of these women he married and loved; and, when the one he loved the more dearly died, he was inconsolable, buried her body in a hut, watched by her graveside, watered the grave daily, and forbade his surviving wife to enter the hut. In due time Sheda Mahinda’s fidelity received a strange reward.

There, on his dead wife’s grave, sprang up and bloomed the Tree of Life, and that tree was a sign that the men whom he created were immortal. At this point, however, his surviving wife intervened. In the hut, apparently, it was cold; one day Sheda Mahinda went to fetch some firewood; and his wife, seizing her opportunity, entered the hut, seized an axe, and chopped the Tree of Life to pieces. Thus did an inquisitive woman rob man of his immortality.

The other story, however, bore a still closer resemblance to the scripture narrative. At first, said the Unyamwezi people, all men lived in one town and spoke one language; then certain ambitious schemers, desiring to obtain water from the sky, built a high tower; and lo! just at the last moment, just when the builders were laying the last stones, just when they had nearly reached the sky, a terrible hurricane began to blow. The tower fell, all the builders were killed, and the rest of the people, fleeing in terror, were scattered far and wide.

Thus did man’s impious ambition lead, as in the Bible narrative, to the confusion of tongues.† In spite, however, of the first woman’s sin, men, though not immortal on earth, might be so in the next world. “We all hope,” said a native to one of the missionaries, “to go to a beautiful place, where there is no work to do and plenty to eat.”

In these religious beliefs, it is clear, there was nothing (except, perhaps, the gross conception of heaven) exceptionally degrading.

Hutton, J. E. (1922). A History of Moravian Missions (pp. 455–456). London: Moravian Publication Office.

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