110 terms

African Gods


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Mother of the Forest Spirits." A goddess of nature among the Maguzawa (Hausa) people of Nigeria. They sacrifice a childless red she-goat to her to cure paralysis.
The creator god of the Efik (Nigeria), Abassi was instructed by his wife, Atai, to allow a human couple to settle on the Earth, but forbade them to procreate or work, for fear that they might excel Abassi in wisdom. For some time the humans observed this rule, but eventually they began to work and have children, for which Atai slew the man and his wife, and caused strife and discord between their children.
In Dinka mythology (south Sudan), the first woman. She is the patron goddess of women and gardens. Her emblem is a little snake. She is the mother of Deng (Danka).
The son of the Itherther and Thamuatz, the first living creatures on the earth. He was a wild and adventurous animal and left his parents. He came upon a village that was built by the first human beings, and they almost caught him. The wise bee told him that it was better for an animal to serve humans because they would provide them with steady meals and protect them from lions. Achimi, however, was determined to remain independent and control his own fate. He returned to the land where his parents grazed with their new-born daughter. In a fit of rage Achimi expelled his father and mated with his mother and his sister.
The God of the Lugbara, who dwell in the area between Zaire and Uganda. Adroa had two aspects: good and evil. He was looked on as the creator of heaven and Earth, and was said to appear to a person who was about to die. Adroa was represented as tall and white, with only half a body --- one eye, one ear, one arm, one leg. His children are the Adroanzi.
The children of Adroa who frequented streams, large trees and rocks. They were fond of following people at night. Provided the person followed did not look back, they would be safe. But if they glanced over their shoulder, the Adroanzi would kill them.
The son of Obatala and Odudua. He marries his sister Yemaja and they produce a son named Orungan ("air").
Mother of the sea. She is affectionate and nurturing to humans who honor her
The patron god of hunters of the Dahomey (Fon). He is in charge of the wilderness and uninhabited bush and the animals therein.
Aha Njoku
This popular goddess is worshipped by the Ibo people of Nigeria. She is responsible for yams (sweet potatoes), a central ingredient in the Ibo diet, and the women who care for them.
In Khoikhoi mythology, the Aigamuxa are a fabulous people who have eyes in the back of their feet. They eat human beings, ripping them apart with the long teeth. Many Aigamuxa stories contain elements of clever victims escaping these savage but stupid ogres. In one of these stories, the trickster Jackal strew tobacco dust on the ground and it got into their eyes, thus enabling him to escape.
This forest goddess is honored by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. She teaches her faithful the use of medicinal herbs found in the African forests.
The god of the Lotuko, a Sudanese people. It was believed that he was benevolent, but only if men chose to keep him so. Family strife was seen to be the cue for death to enter the family, and indeed a story is told of a Lotuko mother who implored Ajok to restore her dead child to life. The god obliged, but the woman's husband was angry, and berated his wife, killing the child. Ajok, annoyed, declared that never again would he raise a Lotuko, and that from this on, death would be permanent for his people.
The supreme god of the Ngombe who live in the Congo area. He is the creator and as such he bears the epithet 'he who forms', meaning that it was he who gave the world its shape.
Ala is the Ibo (Nigeria) goddess of the earth. She is the daughter of the supreme god Chukwu and is considered to be the mother of all things. She is both the goddess of fertility and the goddess of death. She gives birth in the beginning and welcomes the dead back to her womb.In Nigeria, where she is still worshipped, she has temples situated in the center of the villages, where she has a statue surrounded by the images of other gods and animals. Amongst the Ibo people, she is one of the most popular divinities
The ancestors of the Zulus. Humans can invoke the help of the spirit world by calling upon these ancestors.
Literally, spider stories. It is a generic title of a class of folktales told by the Akan-speaking people of the old Gold Coast, so called whether the spider takes part in the story or not. These stories are told for group entertainment and are definitevely distinguished from the myths. They are also known as "words of a sky god", Nyankomsem.
The Ashanti trickster/culture hero, also called 'the Spider'. He is the intermediary of the sky god Nyame, his father, on whose command Anansi brings rain to quench the forest fires and determines the borders of oceans and rivers during floods. Later Anansi's place as representative was usurped by the chameleon. His mother is Asase Ya. Anansi is sometimes regarded as the creator of the sun and the moon and the stars, as well as the one who instituted the succession of day and night. It is also believed that he created the first man, into which Nyame breathed life. A typical trickster, he is crafty, sly, villainous, but he also taught mankind how to sow grain and how to use the shovel on the fields. He set himself up as the first king of the human beings and even managed to marry Nyame's daughter. He was beaten only in his encounter with the wax girl, to whom he stuck fast, having struck her with his legs when she refused to talk to him. The people then rushed forwards and beat the tricky Anansi. Anansi is one of the most popular characters in West African mythology.
"Queen of Heaven." The Madagascan mother-goddess. When the gods created humans, she gave them flesh and form, while the others gave them bones, blood, and breath. The gods later asked the new humans what kind of death they wanted, and gave them two choices. The first was to be like the banana tree and send forth shoots that would live on after they themselves had died. Or, to have no children but to be like the moon which dies each month and is reborn the next month, thus living forever. They chose to be like the banana tree.
The sky and moon god of the pygmies of Zaire. Arebati, who is addressed as afa, "Father", created the first human from clay. He covered the clay with a skin, and poured blood into it, thus bringing it to life.
The god of the Akamba people of Kenya. He is 'the strong lord', above the spirits, but also a merciful one. As god of consolation and sustenance, he intervenes when human help is slow or ineffective. He is supposed to have said, "It is I who made the people; whom I love, he will thrive; and whom I refuse, he will die."Asa is also known as Mwatuangi, "distributor", Mulungu, "creator", and Mumbi, "fashioner".
Asase Ya
The Ashanti earth goddess and a goddess of fertility. She is the mother of the gods and wife of Nyame. Their son is the famous trickster Anansi.
The supreme deity of the Wabendu of Congo.
The Ethiopian sky god. He forms a triad of gods with the sea god Beher and the warrior god Mahrem. Astar is third in rank.
A goddess of the Efik (Nigeria), wife of Abassi. She convinced her husband to allow two humans to settle on the Earth provided they did not procreate and work, so that they would not exceed Abassi in wisdom. When the humans eventually broke Atai's rule, she killed them both.
In Dahomey myth, the sister of Loko.
The first man, made by the Creator out of clay, which he covered with skin and filled with blood. Then was made a woman, name unknown, with whom Baatsi was commanded to make children.
The god of clear waters of the Ngbandi of northern Zaire.
A fish-god venerated in Dahomey (Benin, western Africa).
The Ethiopian god of the sea. In the triad of gods (with Astar and Mahrem), he is the first in rank.
An ancestral deity of the Bushongo and other peoples of the Congo.
He who knows and sees all'. The supreme god of the Akan people of Ghana.
A West-African god of the sky.
The supreme god and creator of the Boshongo, a people in Zaire. In the beginning there was only darkness and water, and Bumba, racked with stomach pain, vomited up first the sun, than the moon, the earth, and all living creatures, the last of whom was mankind.
The chief god of the Bushmen of South Africa. Cagn was the first being, at whose command all things rose. He created the animals to serve man.
The morning star who lives in the east and who is the wife of the moon whom she does not feed well so he fades away. The other wife, Puikani, feeds him well and causes him to grow.
The Chiruwi ("mysterious creature") is a Central African half-man, with one leg, one arm and one side. Seen from the missing side he is invisible. He will challenge all those he encounters to a fight. If he is defeated he will beg not to be killed and in return he will offer the knowledge of many medicine. The victor will then became a very successful medicine-man. Should the Chiruwi win, however, he will kill his victim.
'Great bow in the heaves'. The supreme god of the Tumbuka in Malawi, he is a powerful god, self-created and omniscient. He is also the rain god of the Tumbuka.
The supreme deity of the Ibo (the Calabar district, eastern Nigeria), Chuku is the creator, and the Ibo believe that all good comes from him. He is the creator and brings the rains that makes the plants grow. Certain trees are dedicated to him, and in bushes and under trees sacrifices are made to him. His wife is Ala, who is also given as his daughter. The sun is his symbol.Once he sent a dog messenger to men, advising them that, should anyone die, they should be lain on the ground and strewn with ashes, after which they would return to life. The dog, however, was tired and delayed, so Chuku sent a sheep with the same message. It too got delayed, stopping to eat on the way, and on arriving had forgotten the wording of the message it had brought. Guessing, the sheep told men that they should bury a corpse in the earth. When the dog arrived later with the correct message, it was not believed, and so death was established on the Earth.
One of the two sons of Kaang, the creator deity of the Bushmen of Africa.
The great serpent power of the mythology of the Fon, of Dahomey, Da is a son of Mawu, and he assists in the ordering of the cosmos. Above the earth Da has 3, 500 coils, and the same number below; together they support Mawu's creation.
The omnipotent, all-seeing, and beneficent supreme being of the Dinka (Sudan).
The creator and sky god, as well as a god of rain and fertility, among the Dinka people in Africa. He is the son of the goddess Abuk.
The god of water, rain and wind of the Kurumba people in Africa. He gave the first food-bearing seeds to humans.
The god of thunder of the Songhai (upper Niger river).
Dziva is the generally benevolent creatrix goddess of the Shona people of Zimbabwe --but there is also an awful aspect to her nature.
An African tree goddess.
The supreme being of the Basonge, and others of the Baluba family (Zaire), is also creator of the world and all in it. He is invoked in oaths.
A category of Yoruban "little people" of the forest.
Another form of the Yoruba goddess of divination.
In the religion of the Oromo of Ethiopia, the afterworld. Life after death is lived theree as a shadowlike existence.
The name the Tuareg of West-Central Sudan use for God. It means "my lord." Similarly, Emeli-neneg means "our lord" and Emeli n terna means "lord of power."
The rain-god of the Maasai in East Africa. En-kai, a remote deity, is Parsai, "the one who is worshipped", and Emayian, "the one who blesses". All Masaai can address En-Kai in prayer, but only the iloibonok (the medicine-men) are in daily communication with him through dreams, trances, and signs. His sanction, through them, must be obtained for any important action.
Goddess of the family and guardian of destiny. One story relates that when she saw that her tribe was losing a battle, she offered herself as a sacrifice to save her people, and was buried alive on the battlefield; her tribe was saved.
An earth goddess married to the sky god, Ebore.
Eshu, also known as Exu (Brazil), Eleggua (Cuba), and Esu (West Africa), is the owner of every road of life. His is the first place among the Orisha - lit. "Owners of the Head" - of the Yoruba of West Africa. Eshu must be given his offering at the beginning of every ritual or the ritual will fail or worse. His is the realm of opportunity and potentiality and the concomitant risks and perils involved in such situations. As such, his residence is at the crossroads when he is not hiding behind the front door of the home, watching all who enter and exit. A powerful ally and a hard teacher, Eshu should always be cared for and respected.
The sky and water god of the Bambara (Mali; West Africa). He became pregnant by the rocking of the universe, and he gave birth to various twins, the ancestors of the human race. Faro gives water to all living creatures, and taught mankind the use of words, tools, agriculture, and fishing. The omni-present spirits serve as his messengers and representatives. He is continually reorganizing the cosmos, and every four hundred years he returns to the earth to verify that everything is still in harmony.
The mythical blacksmith of the Fjort people (French Congo) in Africa. He appears in their mythology subsequent to the stories about the gift of fire, which the Fjort received from a river deity. The moment they had fire, Funzi appeared and taught them how to work in iron and copper. They also accredit him for making the lightning.
A monster of the Khoikhoi, the 'thrower down'. The creature sat on the edge of a great pit and dared passers-by to throw stones at him. The stone always rebounded and killed the thrower, who then fell into the pit. When the legendary hero Heitsi-eibib approached it, he wisefully declined to aim a stone until he had diverted the monster's gaze. He then struck Ga-gorib under the ear and tumbled it into its own trap. Another version of this legend tells of how Heitsi-eibib was chased around the pit before he slipped and fell in it. He managed to escape but had to wrestle with the monster for a long before he succeeded in pushing Ga-gorib in the pit.
The supreme deity of the Haukoin people of southern Africa. He lives in a high heaven, even above the heaven of the stars. He shoots arrows at humans and who gets hit must die. That makes him a god of fate, the master of life and death. The bushmen call him Gauna and among the Khoikhoi he is known as Gaunab.
A sky deity associated with the sun and with "certain heated conditions of the human body" -- illness. His emblems are giraffes and snakes.
Among the Khoi-Khoi, a god of evil, the destroyer, who was associated with solar and lunar eclipses.
Gbadu is the daughter of Mawu. She is the goddess of fate of the Fon (or Dahomey) people of modern Benin, who is saddened by the fighting among her mother's mortal children.
One of the two sons of Kaang, the creator deity of the Bushmen of Africa.
The supreme being and creator of all things, the giver of life and death, provided medicinal herbs for the use of the healers (Zaire).
The thunderer. In Pygmy lore, the mythical elephant through which Khonvoum occasionally contacts humans.
The Fon (Africa) god of iron and of war. He is a son of Mahu and Lisa, and the twin of Xevioso.
The Khoikhoi god of evil.
One of the principal deities of the Nupe of Northern Nigeria. He has been retained in the New World, where he figures in the African cults of Brazil.
The Kagoro (Katab) god of the universe. The beneficent supreme god is helpful against evil spirits and is invoked for rain during drought, for health and luck at the time of the new moon, and for children and wealth.
A Khoikhoi monster who transports itself by jumping over bushes and shrubbery in stead of walking around it. It has one leg, one arm, one side, and is semi-invisible. Despite that, he is surprisingly agile when pursuing human prey. It is similar to the Zulu Tikdoshe and the Chiruwi of Central Africa.
Legendary hero of the Khoikhoi (Hottentots). He is the son of a cow and some miraculous grass, eaten by the cow. Heitsi-eibib is a great magician, a patron of hunters, and a superb fighter. One of his feats was defeating the monstrous Ga-gorib. According to legend, he was killed on numerous occasions, after which he always resurrected himself (his cairns are found all over the Khoikhoi lands).
The beneficent supreme being and creator among the Igbira people of Nigeria. He is the source of sunshine and rain, but also of illness as punishment for evil.
The great self-created god who then created the lesser god, the earth, mankind, wild animals and vegetation. His divine names -- Hishe, Huwe, Kxo, Gara, Gani ga, Gaishi Gai, Gauwa -- he also gave to the lesser god, but retained his earthly name Gao!na for himself. His elder wife is Khwova!na. His younger wife is Gow, who is also the wife of the lesser god.
Honsi and Honsu are a pair of mythical twins who figure in the enfants terribles category of Dahomean folktales. In these stories, the magical exploits of these twins is always the point of a given tale.
See: Honsi.
A culture hero/ancestor god who created the world and the heavens which he then abandoned (Botswana).
In the beliefs of the Witoto people of South Africa, the Hunessai are a group of guardian spirits of freshwater and its plant life.
The northern Dahomean word of cult-initiate, that has been carried over into Haitian usage. The word, originally Fon, means literally deity-wife (hu, deity; si, wife). In Haiti, it is used to denote any devotee on an African deity.
A Xhosa tree spirit.
The supreme god of the Bushmen of Africa.
The beneficent supreme being and creator of all things was invoked for food and for health. Among the northern Bushmen he is a deity of the forest.
The Yoruban term for the divining cult, believed to have come from the Nigerian town of Ife.
The Yoruba word for the earth, name by the creator Obatala.
Among the Burji-Konso tribes of Ethiopia, the supreme being and creator and the "father of men." He is also called Waq.
The supreme god of the Pimbwe of Tanzania, who is identified with the sun and who created the earth and brings life and prosperity.
In Banyarwanda mythology, Imana was the creator and the supporter of all the Banyarwanda people. The Banyarwanda people lived in the old districts of Ankole and Kigezi bordering Rwanda. Their land is very mountainous and cool. Imana was seen as almighty and gracious, intervening as in one of the legends of those people in an altercation between a man who has always borrowed beans from different people but wriggled out of repaying the debt. He ruled all living things and gave them immortality by hunting an animal known as Death. Death was a savage wild animal who represented the state of death. While Imana was hunting, everybody was told to stay hidden so that Death would have nobody to kill or take refuge to. But one day while he was hunting, an old woman crept out into her vegetable garden to get vegetables. Death quickly hid under her skirt and was taken inside the house with her. She died because of Death. Three days after the funeral of the old woman, the old woman's daughter-in-law, who hated her, saw cracks where she was buried as if she would arise and live again. She filled the cracks with dirt and pounded the earth with a heavy pestle and cried, "Stay dead!" Two days later she did the same thing when she saw more cracks by the grave. Three days later there were no cracks left for her to pound dirt into. This signified the end of man's chances of coming back to life. Death had become endemic, or constantly present. Another legend says that Imana punished the woman by letting Death live with man.
Ancestral spirits of Zulu religion, who whistle as the speak (hence the name, which literally means whistlers).
A female spirit of the Zulus who makes the maize grow. The deity of agriculture, she is venerated in springtime.
In Zulu tradition, a lizard-like creature with human characteristics.
In the mythology of the Kabyles of Algeria, Itherther, a buffalo, and Thamuatz, a buffalo cow, were the first living beings on earth. They emerged from Tlam, a dark place under earth. They did not wish to return there and so roamed the earth. Thamuatz gave birth to a young buffalo which they named Achimi. When Achimi later expelled him, Itherther wandered through the lonely mountains, unable to forget his beloved Thamuatz. Each time that he thought of her, he stopped and his semen would flow. The sun would warm the semen and from it sprang forth various other animals, and Itherther took them under his care.The Kabyles believed that all the animals were engendered in this fashion, except for the lions, which are the offspring of a human cannibal.
The Zulu diviner, in touch with the itongo, or ancestral spirits. He learns his magical incantations (in couplet form) from them.
The name for myths, traditions, or histories used by the Yoruba people. They are regarded as historically true and are quoted by the Yoruba to settle disputes, rituals, or politics. They are also recited by by the diviners as a part of the Ifa verses.
The god of the Alur tribesmen of Uganda and Zaire. The Alur believe that the world is full of spirits, djok, and consider that their ancestors manifest themselves in snake forms or in large rocks. When there is a draught or when the Alur are in need of rain, they sacrifice a black goat to Jok.The literal meaning of the word is "creator". He is also known as Jok Odudu, "god of birth".
Ka Tyeleo
The supreme god of the Senufo (Ivory Coast). It is said that he created animals on the fifth day of creation, and fruit-bearing trees on the seventh.
The creator god of the African Bushmen, Kaang is said to have made all things, but met with such opposition in the world that he went away. He is regarded as the god of natural phenomena, present in all things, but especially the mantis and caterpillar. Receiving disobedience from the first men he had created, Kaang sent fire and destruction to Earth, and removed his abode into the top of the sky. Kaang has many myths attached to him, and is almost figured as an epic hero himself. One of the myths concerns his being eaten by an ogre, who then vomited him back up. Another relates to the occasion that he was killed by thorns. The ants picked his bones clean, but Kaang reassembled his skeleton and rose again. The Bushmen say he created the moon from an old shoe. With his wife Coti he had two sons: Cogaz and Gewi.
Among the Baule Negroes of the Ivory Coast (Africa) the spirit who presides over funerals and who escorts the souls to the afterlife. He also ensures the preponderance of men over women. Kaka-Guie is represented as a long buffalo mask which may not be seen by women on punishment of death.
Originally the ancestral god of the Lunda people of Angola, Zaire and Zambia. Later he became the supreme being, a god of the sky and of creation. He is all-knowing and all-seeing, and a righteous judge of the dead whose decisions are characterized by wisdom and compassion. As the god of the dead he is associated with the underworld and the sea (which is regarded as the realm of the dead). Kalunga is the father of the popular patron god(dess) Musisi. Kalunga is also the name of the god of the sea in the pantheon of African deities worshipped in the Congo-Angola cult of Bahia, Brazil.
A malevolent river-goddess of the Ashanti and Tshi of Ghana. She is the wife of the river-god Tando. In the past, people used to sacrifice women to her.
A demonic being in the popular belief of the Nyamwezi people of Tanzania. He is reputed to be the chief of the water-spirits, but he also haunts the barren lands and deserts.
The first human being of Banyarwandan mythology. He was created by the supreme deity Imana. Kazikamuntu had many children but strife arose between his sons, and this accounts for the dispersal of men into different tribes.
Khonvoum is the supreme god and creator of the Pygmy people in central Africa. He is the 'great hunter', god of the hunt, and carries a bow made of two snake which appears to mortals as a rainbow. He rules the heavens and when the sun sets, he gathers pieces of the stars and throws it at the sun so that it may rise the next day in its full splendor. He contacts people by means of the mythical elephant Gor (the thunderer) or through a chameleon. Khonvoum created black and white people from black and white clay, and the Pygmies from red clay. For them he also created the jungle with its lush vegetation and animal life.
The Firmament to whom, with others, libations are offered for protection from "an unjust war by an enemy."
An African god of creation.
Kuba Earth Mother.
The earth mother of the Kuba (Bushongo) of DR Congo. She and her husband, Heaven, were created by the creator deity Mbomba. The couple used to live together, closely joined, but after a terrible fight Heaven left Earth and they have been apart ever since.
The all-powerful supreme god of the Temne (Sierra Leone) who is associated with the sky.
The supreme god of the Nuer (South Sudan) who manifests himself in natural phenomena. They believe he is benign god who protects the poor and the unhappy. With the power of his will he created and controls the cosmos.
Legba, a god of West Africa and Voodooism, is the child of the Sky Pantheon. He is allied with destiny, but has no particular domain. Legba is very intelligent and cunning, despite the fact that he is a trickster. Although Legba appears as a weak poorly dressed old man, he is really very strong. He understands all languages of humans and of the gods. In Voodoo ceremonies, Legba is always the first to be invoked. No Loa, a spirit of the dead, is allowed to enter into the worshippers unless he has Legba's permission. This is because he holds the key to the gate separating the humans' world and the world of the gods.
Leza, the supreme god of the Central African people, gave the humans their customs. He created the world and ruled the sky. He created rain and when he blew, it became windy, and it thundered when he beat his rugs. Because he was growing old, he could not hear the people's prayers very well.
A goddess of the Dahomey of Benin. She is the sister of Ayaba.