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Meaning of the two headed serpent in Bamum (baa-MOOM)

Jul 12, 2020
Meaning of the two headed serpent in Bamum (baa-MOOM)

Two headed serpent in Bamum: The Bamum (baa-MOOM) are a group of people who have lived for centuries in the Grassfields region of western Cameroon. Before European colonialization, the Bamum had their own kingdom; today, they are citizens of the republic of Cameroon.

The new Bamoun Palace museum is designed in the form of a two headed serpent. It is often said that the Bamoun man is “a two headed snake”. As if to mean that he is hypocritical, and you should be wary. Failing that, he could stab you in the back.

Actually, the two-headed snake is a highly valued symbol for the Bamoun people. “The double headed serpent  is the symbol of the dual power of king Mbuembue”, highlights  Dr Njiassa Njoya, historian, who died in 2014, while he was serving as third deputy to the actual sultan Mbombo Njoya.

This is a clear show of the dignity of the Bamum people. They are proud of their history, its rich cultural and artistic heritage. The serpent with two heads, according to legend is a strong symbol of the Bamoum people. It means, that it can attack on two fronts and bring back the victories.

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What did king Mbuembue, distant ancestor of the Bamoun people, do. He won a long war which opposed him to the Pou people who occupied extensive lands guarded by a giant monster. It had the appearance of the unattainable serpent called Sânumpût.

Having obtained the secret of his adversary, king Mbuembue finally overcame the Pou people. Later, he had a two-headed serpent built to signify that he was unassailable on all fronts, on the left and on the right.

This symbol was sculpted on beds, seats and other royal objects exclusively, explained Dr Njiassadans in one of his notes.

This symbol still continues  today. And to treat a Bamoun pejoratively as a two-headed snake is an insult which, in a sense, is really not one.

Indeed, as the late Dr. Njiassé Njoya Aboubakar so brilliantly said, ′′ the two-legged snake finds birth of the MAPOU war which took place around the beginning of the th century between King MBUEMBUE on the one hand and the POU on the other who occupied the whole area between the Malentuen shopping centre and the right bank of the Mbam River to Ripa in the area facing the so-called Ngambé Tikar city.

The Bamouns had been fighting the POU for the past few years. But these resisted fiercely. In addition, they had a scary monster designed to sow terror in the opposing camp whenever these invaders acceded to Indigenous people in their final entrenchment. The monster was called Sânumpût (high to bite the sky). As its name suggests, it was a giant artificial reptile that was used so that it passed its head beyond the branches to come down threaten Bamoun warriors.

As we can imagine, the beast of the POU saved them from a debacle many times. But one day, MANCHOU, the servant of the king of MAPOU who had conceived the infernal gear was severely reprimanded by his king because of a wave of meal at the palace.

MANCHOU, vexed and broken in his self-esteem defection and passed one day in without the camp of King MBUEMBUE to whom he revealed the secret of the Sânumpût and demonstrated him before the warriors at the Palais de Foumban.

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The following year, when the rains stopped, King MBUEMBUE resumed his campaign against the MAPU. This time no Bamoun striker went back when the Sânumpût was taken out. The PUs were defeated. As a reward, MANCHOU became a great notable of Bamoun Palace. King MBUEMBUE installed it in the MANKA district a few hundred meters from the current site of Hotel Beauregard. Every time the king nominate a new Tupânka, leader of the traditional army, it is at MANCHOU’s place to celebrate and offer a big feast to the population. The name of MANCHOU was also introduced into the war music called MBANSIE whose bells ′′ talk ′′ in these terms MANCHOU fairy Nguon ne? MANCHOU of the countryside “.

As the MAPOU were about to lose this war, King MBUEMBUE came to announce that other peoples had attacked him on the western border on the edge of NOUN. These were the Mgbètnka ‘ backed by the Mothers. The king sent a contingent to stabilize the situation. When in beat the king Pou who crossed the Mbam in a canoe to settle beyond the left bank, the King carried himself on the banks of the Noun with the bulk of the forces and beat the Mgbetnka and Mother alliance. This gave birth to the Bamoun proverb that says Mgbétnka ka fè nza Mother ′′ (the two peoples who were defeated) ′′

It was following this double victory that King Mbuembu had the idea of celebrating his triumph with a symbol that would represent his double victory.

Sânumpût’s reptile inspired the idea of a two-headed snake rather than a lion or a two-headed panther.

We now sculpted this symbol on beds, seats and other royal objects exclusively.

The two-legged snake is the symbol of King MBUEMBUE’s double power. “