We cannot overemphasize the beauty of our heritage. What fascinates me to the marrow is the area of religion in Africa, which is generally refer to as tradition. It’s always thrilling and informative whenever the topic of African myths and legends pops up; the culture in Africa is so vast that it is almost impossible to have a dull moment if you’re the curious one.
African mythologies cover supernatural beings influencing human life, some of which include deities and gods and spirit of ancestors. African traditional religion is characterized with so many gods which are normally grouped together in family relationships. Every culture recognizes a supreme god/powerful creator that is connected to the sky. Different West-African communities refer to their gods as Amma or Olorun, East Africans use the name, Mulungu.
Supreme beings in African religion are often known to be distant beings that do not live with us anymore and are not involved in day-to-day activities of man and since this is the case, they then resort to calling on lesser gods which have different roles and functions. In the Southwest of Nigeria the Supreme Being is Olorun/Eledumare. They worship other lesser gods e.g., a storm god called Sango, in charge of thunder and lightning.
For the Igbos they refer to their gods as Alushi, Arushi or Arusi, depending on the dialect. At the top of the pantheon of Igbo gods is Chukwu, then there are lesser gods like Amadioha, Ala, Ikenga, Anyanwu, Ekwensu, Njoku Ji, Idemili and Agwu. These gods vary in different cultures. Going on, the Buganda of East Central Africa has one of the largest pantheons with 20 or more deities, in Congo River region which is the most densely wooded part of Africa, the forest is a deity.
African mythology is filled with spirits, invisible beings with powers for good or evil. Spirits are less grand, less powerful, and less like humans than the gods, who often have weaknesses and emotions. Many spirits are associated with physical features such as mountains, rivers, wells, trees, and springs. Nations, peoples, and even small communities may honour local spirits unknown outside their borders; deity gods or goddesses. All humans, animals, and plants have spirits, as do elements such as water and fire. Some spirits are helpful, others are harmful. People may worship spirits and may also try to control them through magical means, usually with the aid of a skilled practitioner who is sometimes called the medicine man or woman or the witch doctor leading the rituals. People thought to have evil spirits are considered dangerous witches.
Many Africans believe that human spirits exist after death. According to some groups, these spirits dwell underground in a world much like that of the living—but upside down. The spirits sleep during the day and come out at night. Other groups place the realm of the dead in the sky. The Bushmen of southern Africa say that the dead become stars.
Many African groups believe that the spirits of dead ancestors remain near their living descendants to help and protect them—as long as these relatives perform certain ceremonies and pay them due respect. Believing that the spirits of chieftains and other important characters offer strong protection, the Zulu hold special ceremonies to bring them into the community. In some cultures, it is said that the soul of a dead relative can be reborn in a new baby boy. Another common belief is that dead souls, particularly those of old men, may return as snakes, which many Africans regard with respect.
Ancestor cults play a leading role in the mythologies/deities of some peoples, especially in East and South Africa. The honoured dead—whether of the immediate family, the larger clan or kinship group, the community, or the entire culture—become objects of worship and subjects of tales and legends. An example occurs among the Songhai, who live along the Niger River. They honour Zoa, a wise and protective ancestor who long ago made his son chieftain. Many groups trace their origins, or the origins of all humans, to first ancestors. The Buganda say that the first ancestor was Kintu, who came from the land of the gods and married Nambe, daughter of the king of heaven. The Dinkas of the Sudan speak of Garang and Abuk, the first man and woman, whom God created as tiny clay figures in a pot.
Ancestral kings and heroes may be transformed into minor deities for communities or entire nations. The line between legend and history is often blurred. Some mythic ancestors began as real-life personages whose deeds were exaggerated over time, while others are purely fictional. The Yoruba storm god Shango, for example, may originally have been a mighty warrior king. The Shilluk, who lived along the Nile in the Sudan, trace their ancestry to Nyikang, their first king. Later kings were thought to have been Nyikang reborn into new bodies, and the well-being of the nation depended on their health and vigour. The first king of the Zulu was supposed to have been a son of the supreme god.
Many African peoples traditionally regarded their rulers as divine or semi divine. Other legends involve culture heroes who performed great feats or embodied important values. The Soninke people of Ghana in West Africa have an epic song cycle called Dausi. In part of it, Gassire’s Lute, a hero must choose between his own desires and his duty to society.The Mandingo people built a large empire in Mali. Their griots recited tales of kings and heroes. Sunjata, a story of magic, warfare, kingship, and fate is known in most places in West-Africa.
It is a lot of marvel at the wonders and heritage of Africa that connect to us directly as an ethnic and how much of it do we know or even care to know. It isn’t important we do. Thus, we don’t get to loose ourselves in the abyss of alien culture which no one is also sure of their truth that we are modelled to feel at default is the truth.