Gor Mahia: The Story of the Powerful Luo Magician
Gor Mahia son of Ogada and grandson of Ogallo was a Luo hero born on the idyllic shores of Lake Victoria in the late 18th century.
Gor was raised as a normal child alongside his siblings. His birth name was Gor Obunga, inherited from his forefathers. Gor’s father was called Ogada from Kanyamwa and his mother was Atoka Nyokado from Kanyada. Gor was the only son of Atoka in Ogada’s polygamous family.
It is said that it was difficult to distinguish whether Gor was a spirit or a human being. Legend has it that he inherited his supernatural powers from his grandfather Ogallo. Gor’s mother died early. One day, his grandfather summoned all the children of Ogada to bless them. Gor was only five years old.
A ceremonial bull was slaughtered and Ogallo started blessing each child with the meat from the bull. When it was Gor’s turn, Ogallo did something different, choosing instead to give him his mother’s ashes to bury in her hut. This experience became the origin of Gor’s powers. He became an enigma even to Ogallo, the grandfather who had blessed him. His prodigious accomplishments earned him the name Mahia meaning mysterious .
Growing up, Gor possessed magical powers as well as powers of prophecy. His most notable prophecy was manifested in a vision where he saw ‘baby-like’ creatures, who were as unstoppable as locusts.
With this, he travelled to Karungu to caution warriors against confronting these creatures, despite the fact that the warriors were famous for conquering all enemies. Gor warned them that should they attempt to do so, they would all be defeated because these creatures had sticks that spit fire.
This was just one of the myriad powers which Gor Mahia possessed. The extent of his magic was so powerful that today herbalists visit his grave to partake of them.
However, people are warned against picking leaves of the plants and even stones around his grave without permission from Gor’s living descendants. Any contact with Gor’s grave is rumoured to disturb his spirits and those who do so, are rumoured to fall sick and sometimes die.
Today, the great Gor Mahia is still celebrated in the form of Kenya’s very successful Gor Mahia Football Club. This is just one of the ways in which his memory lives on.
Gor's legacy lives on
Wetlands have powers that seem magical – like Gor Mahia. Papyrus wetlands protect the shore from erosion and filter out silt and chemicals. They store carbon dioxide – one of the “greenhouse gases” that cause climate change.
Papyrus swamps like Koguta Swamp, Yala Swamp Complex, Dunga Swamp, Sio Port Swamp are recognized as Key Biodiversity Areas. These wetlands provide habitats for birds like the Papyrus gonolek that live only in papyrus swamps.
Gor Mahia: The Powerful Magician (Luo community) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Research field work was undertaken in Samburu and Marsabit (for Gabbra, Samburu, Rendille, Saakuye, Dasanach, Elmolo, Waayu a.k.a Waata, and Burji superheroes/heroines), Embu and Tharaka (for Aembu, Tharaka, Ameru and Mbeere superheroes/heroines), Mombasa ( for Boni, Swahili, Pokomo, Segeju and Bajuni superheroes/heroines)and Taita-Taveta/Voi (for Taveta superheroes/heroines) capturing all information about the heroes from the 40 selected ethnic groups/communities by Museum’s research team. The illustrations were done using digital media by Shujaa Stories Limited.
National Museums of Kenya - Contributors
Mzalendo Kibunjia (PhD) - Director General
Purity Kiura (PhD) - Director Antiquities, Sites & Monuments
Julias Juma Ogega - Senior Curator/Research Scientist
Njuguna Gichere - Research Scientist
Lydia Gatundu - Art of Curator
Emmanuel Kariuki - Exhibit Designer
Philemon Nyamanga - Curator/Research Scientist
Mercy Gakii - Curator/Research Scientist
Imelda Muoti - Curator/Archivist
Innocent Nyaga - Marketing Officer
Suzanne Wanjaria - Exhibits Designer
Ray Balongo Khaemba - Senior Collection Manager
Raphael Igombo - Education Officer
Eddy Ochieng – Photographer/Videographer
Shujaa Stories Ltd
Tatu Creatives Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd – Contributors
Masidza Sande Galavu - Illustrator
Jeff Muchina- Editing
Martha Shavuya Galavu - Illustrator
Brian Kiraga – Research and Writing
Daisy Okoti - Editing
Shani Mutarura - Editing
Juelz Laval – Photography/Videographer
Linda Tambo - Photography
Nature Kenya- The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)