The legend of teff told by our Ethiopian ancestors

Once upon an Ethiopian moon, many dawn and sunrises ago, before the land had a name, before Christmas or any holiday, there lived a great queen who reigned these lands. She was called Sheba but the name given to her by her people was Itiya. A fair and just queen she was, among all the women in all the world, she was the most beautiful and kind. From the Red Sea coasts to all ends of Africa and beyond, she without misfortune, trouble, or any equal ruled the known world.

In her dominion, there was a tale passed down from generation to generation about a great king who would come from the east and be crowned as the son of God to her ancestors. One fine day, as custom dictates, she gathered all the wise among her people and asked if the time was right for her to head to the eastern lands and see about the birth of this great king. And her council of elders made a grave mistake and advised her to go forth as they believed it was the time written in the ancient holy books. Misinformed, Itiya sent out a call to all her kin and her regents to accompany her on a great pilgrimage to the foretold birthplace of the One True King. 

Everyone under her rule, the young and the old came together and ascended to the capital. 

Who can blame them? You see, they were eager to meet the King of Kings. Thus, rejoicing, singing and ululating, they gathered awaiting the sound of the marching troops and drums. However, no sound was heard. As time passed, they lost hope as they were too many in number and Itiya had a hard time feeding everyone. Soon, there wasn’t anything left to eat and the people starved. On top of that, when they learned that the great council of elders had made a mistake, chaos ensued. 

When Itiya saw the misfortune of her people, she was heartbroken. She retreated to her old praying place in the shade of a tree where her ancestors laid silent. Her sadness was so deep that she started crying. She lamented her terrible quandary. She pleaded and pleaded to the God of her ancestors, the one whom they called Ell, for a miracle and for the deliverance of her people. Suddenly, a holy spirit in a hallowed body of a great Python stood in front of Itiya and pointed her to a thin golden grass in the fields in front of her. The Python instructed Itiya to go and feed the seeds of this grass to her people. 

As instructed by the great Python, she fed this seed to her people. This miraculous grain was called Teff. The people made the teff into injera, katenga, derkosh, genfo, atmit, absit and many other varieties of food. For the teff grain was a gift from their God, it gave them great strength and good health. What was once hunger was soon turned to satiation and happiness all over the country. 

Saron Mechale