From the freaky show-stoppers that give more chills than the finest horror movies, to lighter and funny legends passed from time immemorial, Africa has the most diverse stories to tell.
Forget Hercules for a moment and allow African mythology to blow your mind. From the freaky show-stoppers that give more chills than the finest Horror movies, to lighter and funny legends passed from time immemorial, Africa has the most diverse stories to tell. Prepare to be wowed out of your boots by the following larger than life myths.
1) Nyami nyami
The Zambezi River God, better known as the Nyami nyami is said to be the lone author of some of the Kariba area's strangest of occurrences. The serpentine god is the central point of Batonga mythology and one needs to be prepared for a showdown with Nyami nyami if he plans to disturb the peace. The Kariba dam project, which had its fair share of tragedies was a paradigm shift in the lives of the Batonga and they did not like it at all. They were convinced Nyami nyami would have none of it and indeed, several workers died (and disappeared) in a mysterious flood. They only resurfaced after a sacrifice was offered to appease the raging god. Nobody messes with the giant serpentine's people and gets away with it.
2) The Human Eating Tree of Madagascar
From the treacherous waters of the Zambezi, one probably now wants to walk on solid ground. However, from this ground grows another monster of epic proportions in Madagascar: The Human-Eating Tree. This tree will catch people with its branches and open its bark to swallow them whole. All the people are left to hear is a dirge from inside the trunk. Only the Woodpecker's magical powers are said to be able to save the victim but the services of the bird come at a fee. Seems like the bird found its entrepreneurial nichè and is reaping profits.
3) The Spirits of the Kikuyu
There is no worse crime than murder and the spirits of the Kikuyu people know how to make murderers pay. It is said that the spirit of the victim hangs around as a ghost and pursues the murderer. The spirit is referred to as the "Ngoma". The Ngoma only rests when the murderer turns himself in to the police. However, in Zimbabwe, the Shona people have what they call "Ngozi". This is a curse one attracts after murdering another. Only a sacrifice of cattle can appease the vengeful spirits of the murdered. Moral? Stay away from murder if you do not have cattle!
4) Anansi the trickster god
One of Africa's favourite mythological characters is this almost cunning and almost good enough trickster who always almost succeeds but never does. Who is a better wright of epic hoaxes than Anansi, the West African god? He is usually in the form of a spider and he always has a new trick up his sleeve. If the world ever wakes up and finds all the wisdom or gold gone, it might just be Anansi who took it. Thankfully, this is highly unlikely since Anansi's plans always fail. That is quite a relief!
5) The Queen of Sheba
After the never-ending tricks of a conniving deity, who better to return some sanity and class to the world than the mysterious yet fascinating Queen of Sheba? Her full name is never mentioned; she is just the Queen of Sheba. Scholars believe her kingdom was in the Ethiopian region and the royalty thereof claims to be descendants of the child born unto the Queen and King Solomon. They call her Makeda in Ethiopian legend. She is that Makeda who visited King Solomon and made him vow not to touch her. She is the same Makeda who the King said was not to take a thing from him if he was not to touch her. Makeda took some water to quench her thirst and the rest is history. The King could now touch her and he did.
6) The Lovedu Rain Queen
Ever heard of Queens who make it rain? Forget modern pop culture that has people who claim to make it rain (figuratively), the Lovedu Rain Queens (Mudjadji) literally make a splash. The Mudjadji is said to be the embodiment of the rain goddess and even her state of mind can change the weather. She can send storms to punish enemies or gentle rain to nurture friends. Every year, the Queen exhibits her rain-making powers at Ga-Modjadji in Mpumalanga South Africa, while people watch on. All Queens commit suicide at 60 to make way for new blood. The cycle of the Mudjadji is therefore perpetual. If one is looking for enemies, better find those that do not send storms when they are mad.
7) The Biloko
According to legend, the Bilolo are restless ancestral spirits that harbor resentment towards the living. They are dwarf-like beings believed to roam the thickest areas of the rainforest in Zaire (DRC). The Biloko are a wild and violent lot with a fitting appearance that is as ugly as their intent. They have no hair, long sharp claws, sharp teeth and spectacular mouths that can swallow a human being whole. You might want to take a raincheck on that rainforest trip after all!
8) The origin of elephants
The Kamba tribe of Kenya believes that elephants originated from man because of their intelligence. They believe a poor man was given ointment that would make his wife's canines grow and he would take them out and sell them. He amassed great wealth but only until the wife refused to let him take out her teeth. She then grew thick and grey skin and went into the wild where she gave birth to the first herd of elephants. Is there any explanation more intriguing than this one? Highly unlikely!
9) The hippopotamus
The female hippopotamus is almost always a goddess in African mythology. She was known as Tawaret, the goddess of fertility and childbirth in ancient Egypt. The Ronga of Mozambique tell the legend of a mother who gave a hippo her baby to protect it from a foe. The mother hippo would come with the baby to suckle from its mother every night. Gone are the good old days; you can not trust a hippo with a baby in 2015, not in Mozambique and not anywhere else.
10) The beginning
Akan mythology says the first man to emerge on the surface of the earth was Adu Ogyinae. All humans used to live deep within the earth until one day, seven men, five women, a leopard and a dog crawled out of a giant hole burrowed by a massive worm. They were terrified but Adu calmed them down and organised them to build the world's first shelter. Adu was unfortunately crushed and killed by a tree he was cutting. Maybe he should have stayed underground.
African myths continue to form an integral part of culture as they give an idea of where everything came from, what happened after and what might happen in the future. The myths are so intertwined with reality that it is usually hard to even separate the two.
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