The Gods of Africa
African mythology covers a vast area. The African continent includes so many countries, regions, languages, tribes, cultures and crossovers that the sheer diversity of prevailing Gods would seem overwhelming if there weren’t a few handy shortcuts.
Traditional African belief is overwhelmingly monotheistic.
There may be spirits and ancestors floating around, but there’s only one God. Early missionaries made a complete pig’s ear of their research in this respect and seem to have delighted in cataloging as many ‘heathen’ Gods as they could possibly get away with.
African Creator Gods seem to follow a distinctive pattern — they are all extremely dissatisfied with their creations. There is much shaking of heads, turning away in sorrow and avoidance of contact. The humans are left to fend for themselves. Attempts to regain contact with their God by building a heavenly ladder are the subject of many an unhappy legend. On the whole, African Gods don’t like to be pestered, and humans have to learn to be content with their lot.
But while God sits in Heaven wringing his hands in despair, the ancestral spirits are very willing to take an active part in Earthly life. These are mostly into hunting and other practical subjects — with food, sex and booze as popular as always.
There is a remarkable innocence about the Gods of Africa. They seem naive and unworldly, believing the best of everyone and optimistically giving the benefit of the doubt to all and sundry. No wonder they are rudely disappointed when it turns out their badly-chosen favorites are up to no good.
Even communicating with their creation is full of problems. Vital messages of life and death are entrusted to whichever farmyard animal happens to be passing, and the resulting garble is likely to have profoundly unforeseen — and usually disastrous — consequences...
COUNTRIES AND REGIONS COVERED: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo, East Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kilimanjaro, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Savannah, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, Transvaal, Tunisia, Uganda, Upper Nile, Upper Zambesi, West Africa, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Many Gods are spread across different regions, cultures and tribes. We’ve tried to pin them down to a particular area if possible. But amendments and corrections are always welcome, especially from people with first-hand knowledge. So if you live in the region and would like to comment, we’d love to hear from you.
TRIBES, CULTURES AND PEOPLES COVERED: Abalyia, Agni, Akamba, Alur, Ankore, Asante (Ashanti), Baga, Baila, Bambara, Bantu, Banyarwanda, Banyoro, Barotse, Basuto, Baule, Baventa, Benin, Botswana Bushmen, Bushoong, Dagamba, Damara, Dinka, Djaga, Dogon, Efik, Fon, Hausa, Ibo, Ijaw, Isoko, Kalahari Bushmen, Kalyl, Kaonde, Kavango, Koko, Lele, Lotuko, Lugbara, Lumba, Luo, Luveda, Makeni, Masai, Mbunda, Mende, Nama, Ngombe, Nbandi, Nuer, Nupe, Pygmy, Shilluk, Shona, Shongon, Songhai, Tonga, Tunbuka, Upoto, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zambesi, Zulu.