Bubi

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The word Bubi is found among the Luba people of the Congo. In Luba religion and worldview, the term Bubi refers to the notion of evil or ugliness. When the word Bubi is used, it is intended to mean that which is contrary to the best and most ethical. It is the opposite of Buya (goodness or the beauty of character). The word Buya is significant because, as the opposite of Bubi, it shows the power of Bubi. When one speaks of Bubi, one is talking about that which is fundamentally in opposition to the goodness of sound character. No one wants to experience Bubi because it means that the worst ugliness has come on the person. Within the Luba culture, the aim is to hold back Bubi, to render it ineffective within the society.
The question that arises is what, from a Luba ethical standard, is considered evil and what are the criteria that distinguish good conduct from abject behavior? In the Luba worldview, evil is defined in relation to the fundamental concept of life (Bumi). That element or concept that destroys life or diminishes life is regarded as evil.
Four major categories emerge in the expression of evil. The first category involves evil thought or evil heart, mucima mubi. This means that a person does not have to carry out evil actions to be considered having demonstrated mucima mubi (evil thoughts). Just thinking about diminishing life, one's own life as well as the life of another, is enough to place the thinking in the category of Bubi.
Second, evil can be committed by way of evil tongue or evil speech, ludimi lubi. The idea here is that speaking words that destroy or are meant to diminish someone's life is evil. The Luba philosophers understand that words can kill. Then there is the evil eye, which can convey harmful behavior toward other human beings. Thus, the Baluba speak of the evil eye, diso dibi. Looking at someone with eyes that suggest you wish them dead is considered evil; this is the origin of the evil eye concept. Finally, there is evil committed by way of evil actions, bilongwa bibi. These actions involve, among others, incest, murder, theft, lies, hatred (musbikwa, nsbikani), and adultery (busekese).

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Further Reading

  • Asante, M. K., and Nwadiora, E. (2007). Spear Masters: Introduction to African Religion. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.