Legends of Africa


With regard to conscious beings more advanced than humans, the African perceptions of these were similar to those of the early Americas. The first ones, in order of appearance, came from the heavens and traveled between Earth and the stars. The Dogon of Mali believed the gods who created humans came to Earth from the region of the star Sirius. The Nommo twins who arrived first on Earth were the sons of Amma who remained at home in the heavens. For the Ugandans, the working on Earth known as Kintu sent reports to his father Katonda who was also the parent of other gods living in the heavens. The Liberians called the senior god who sent his sons to work on Earth Sno-Nysoa. He eventually ordered them home in the skies. (Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

…an Ashanti myth says a male being and female being from the sky created human offspring with the help of a snake (think of the double helix). The Bantu of Kenya say the god Wele had two AB assistants who "on the fifth day" created the first man (Mwambu) and the first woman (Sela). Later a human female married a god from the sky/sun. Multiple male and female gods were involved in the creation of humans according to several African accounts (remember the plural gods in Genesis who "made man in their own image"). (Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

The Dan tribe of the Ivory Coast has a more descriptive memory of the angels who walked with their ancestors: attractive human-like birds who knew all the sciences given to mankind. (Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

In Africa, the god Juok gave the Shilluk tribe cattle, millet, and fish for their sustenance. (Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

In Africa, the Shilluk people of the Upper Nile believe that the first kings were the sons of the supreme ruler who flew away from Earth ("went up" and "became like the wind") and occupied the "divine throne." Bushman mythology makes the same point, that the first kings (chiefs) were the sons (Cogaz and Gewi) of Kaang who left Earth to go to their abode at "the top of the sky."(Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

The Bible gives no reason for the gods' withdrawal, but accounts from other cultures suggest one. A myth from what is now Liberia says the human creator god, after a period of quarrels on Earth, wanted his sons to return to their sky home. The Mende tribe says its god Ngewo returned to a place far away that he made for himself, after humans became too dependent on him. Bushman tales suggest the god Kang deserted his terrestrial home after battles among gods on Earth. (Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

This concept does not encompass a separate supernatural, divine realm; the gods and any other Advanced Beings, including spirits, belong with humans in a natural system. This pre-supernatural notion of god as the "ultimate source" can be seen in some African peoples: Chiuta the self-creator in Malawi, Chuku in Eastern Nigeria, Imana in Rwanda, the Bantu Khuzwene, Jok in Uganda and Zaire, the Bushman's Kang, and many others. (Gods, Genes, and Consciousness)

)I listened to the Xingu Indians some more. What else did they have to say about these lamuricuma women? They are nomads, they went around from village to village robbing men, they always sang when they walked, and "they use bows and arrows and do not have a right breast, so they can pull back their bowstrings more easily." I reread the last line… In the sixteenth century, two different missionaries in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) had written similar reports about a matriarchal African society in which the women burned off their right breasts so they could have full martial use of their right arms…(Gods of the Cataclysm)

Of old, such customs were known to many peoples not only of the Upper Nile but of other parts of the Sudan as well; also in Mozambique, Angola, and Rhodesia. India and Indonesia too knew the rites... "The essential motif lies in the timing of the death of the god," writes Frobenius in his summary discussion of the archetype of the sacral regicide. "The great god must die; forfeit his life and be shut up in the underworld, within the mountain. The goddess (and let us call her Ishtar, using her later Babylonian title) follows him into the underworld and after the consummation of his self-immolation, releases him. The supreme mystery was celebrated not only in renowned songs, but also in the ancient new-year festivals, where it was presented dramatically: and this dramatic presentation can be said to represent the acme of the manifestation of the grammar and logic of mythology in the history of the world." "The whole idea was realized, furthermore, in a corresponding organization of the social institutions; the best preserved vestiges and echoes of which are to be found in Africa. Indeed, the ideas have been found preserved to this day in fact, in the South African "Eritrean" zone [Mozambique, Angola, and Rhodesia]. There, the king representing the great god­head even bore the name "Moon"; while his second wife was the Moon's beloved, the planet Venus. And when the time arrived for the death of the god, the king and his Venus-spouse were strangled and their remains placed in a burial cave in a mountain, from which they were supposed then to be resurrected as the new, or "renewed," heavenly spheres. And this, surely, must represent the earliest form of the mythological and ritual context. Already in ancient Babylon it had been weakened, in as much as the king at the New Year Festival in the temple was only stripped of his garments, humiliated, and struck, while in the marketplace a substitute, who had been ceremonially installed in all glory, was delivered to death by the noose..."(Primitive Mythology)

The fragments of mythology and ritual that have come to light in southeast Africa, in the nuclear zone of the southern part of the Eritrean sphere, compel us to reconstruct an image that resembles that of the Sumerian and the Indian Dravidian lore of life and the gods as closely as one egg resembles another. The moon-god imaged as a great bull; his wife, the planet Venus; the goddess offers her life for her spouse; and everywhere, this goddess, as the Morning Star, is the goddess of war, as Evening Star a goddess of illicit love, and a universal mother besides; in all three zones (Africa, Dravidian India, and Sumer) the drama of the astral sky is the model and very destiny of all life, and when projected as such upon earth gave rise to what may have been the very earliest form and concept of the state - namely, that of a sacred, cosmic, priestly image. Is it too bold, given these circumstances, to speak of a Great Eritrean Culture Zone, which in ancient times comprised the shores of the Indian Ocean? (Primitive Mythology)

The practice of self-laceration, of being prepared to offer up their own blood, was common to the zealous of both Mexico and Phoenicia. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

Corresponding to the Phoenician rain-god, Hadad, the Mexicans worshipped an equivalent deity called Tlaloc. Both figures carried a thunderbolt in the right hand, and both were robed and bearded, although Mexican Indians do not grow beards. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

The gold weights of Ashanti, placed alongside each other, can be photographed to look like the skyline at Memphis. A fairly similar system of weights was in use at Baoule in the Ivory Coast. I purchased part of a set from a Hausa trader who had spent two months collecting them in the bush in Ashanti. I pushed a small brass cube of three-quarter-inch dimension tapering in three steps or stages, in front of him and asked him what it represented. 'I t is where big man climbed up to the top to speak to the people.' In this one sentence, he summoned up the political function of this building as it most affected the crowd and passed on after some four or five thousand years its impact on the popular imagination. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

But there have never been ziggurats in West Africa: there were scarcely ziggurats in Egypt. It is virtually unknown that this is an ancient system of weights imposed throughout a trading empire. It is an example of how, in the isolation of the African rain-forest, a tradition has been maintained millennia after it had been destroyed and totally forgotten in its country of origin and thus is on a par with the Indus Valley script of Easter Island, preserved by the comparative isolation of America and then by Pacific seas.

I asked my Hausa friend the meaning of the spiral. 'It is the snake,' he said, 'it means chief's property. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

Other Ashanti gold weight reproduce the swastika, the saltire, the cross, the Maltese cross, the spiral, semi-circles and what looks like a number system not unlike signs on Indus seals.

The weights themselves are checked against a fixed number of the tiny red seeds of the tree abrus precatorius. A French research worker, M. Henri Abel, noted that a system of weights based on the abrus seed is also used in India. From that and other evidence he proposed that the system had diffused from India to the Ashanti.

Similar weights are used at Baoule, the gold reefs in the Ivory Coast. From there and from Upper Volta, the country of the fabulous Wangara gold, come brasses of extraordinary variety, marked with our Bronze Age religious symbols. When they are portraits, they are, as in early Mexico, mostly portraits of foreigners, Europeans with handlebar moustaches, and Semites. (The God-Kings & the Titans)

An African tribe called Dan, who live close to the village of Man on the Ivory Coast, say that at the beginning of time, in the days of their first ancestors, a race of 'attractive human birds appeared, possessing all the sciences which they handed on to mankind'. Even today the tribal artists make copper representations of these bird-men, who are shown with human bodies and heads supporting long beaks, like those of birds of prey. (From the Ashes of Angels)

The Barotse (or Lozi) people of Zambia tell of a harmonious and sacred beginning when the creator Nyambi lived on earth with his wife and made all things. Because of man's transgression - he murdered other creatures - Nyambi first banished him from his sacred realm; later he forgave his errant creature and presented him with land to till, but Kamonu reverted to his old ways. Finally, in despair, Nyambi retreated from the world. (Primal Myths)

The Yao agree with other Africans in their estimation of human character. Peoples' "progress" in controlling their environment, their ability to hunt successfully and to make fires, is seen from the perspective of the rest of nature and its creator as destructive and cruel. Having violated the sacred harmony of the world, people force God to retreat to the sky. "Spirits do not fall from Heaven except in anger or because they are expelled."  (Primal Myths)

The Nummo Pair had received the transformed eight in Heaven. But though they were all of the same essence, the Pair had the rights of the elder generation in relation to the newcomers, on whom they imposed an organization with a network of rules, of which the most onerous was the one which separated them from one another and forbade them to visit one another. The fact was that, like human societies in which numbers are a source of trouble, the celestial society would have been heading for disorder, if all its members had gathered together. Though this rule was their security, the new generation of Nummo, however, proceeded to break it and thereby overthrew their destiny; and this was how it came about.  (Primal Myths)

God had given the eight a collection of eight different grains intended for their food, and for these the first ancestor was responsible. Of the eight, the last was the Digitaria, which had been publicly rejected by the first ancestor when it was given to him, on the pretext that it was so small and so difficult to prepare. He even went so far as to swear he would never eat it. There came, however, a critical period when all the grains were nearly exhausted except the last. The first and second ancestors, who incidentally had already broken the rule about separation, met together to eat this last food. Their action was the crowning breach of order, confirming as it did their first offence by a breach of faith. The two ancestors thereby became unclean - that is to say of an essence incompatible with life in the celestial world. They resolved to quit that region, where they felt themselves to be strangers, and the six other ancestors threw in their lot with them and made the same decision. Moreover" they proposed to take with them when they left anything that might be of use to the men they were going to rejoin. It was then that the first ancestor, no doubt with the approval and perhaps with the help of God, began to make preparations for his own departure.  (Primal Myths)

He took a woven basket with a circular opening and a square base in which to carry the earth and puddled clay required for the construction of a world-system, of which he was to be one of the counsellors. This basket served as a model for a basket-work structure of considerable size which he built upside down, as it were, with the opening, twenty cubits in diameter, on the ground, the square base, with sides eight cubits long, formed a flat roof, and the height was ten cubits. This framework he covered with puddled clay made of the earth from heaven, and in the thickness of the clay, starting from the centre of each side of the square, he made stairways of ten steps each facing towards one of the cardinal points. At the sixth step of the north staircase he put a door giving access to the interior in which were eight chambers arranged on two floors. The symbolic significance of this structure was as follows:

The circular base represented the sun.
The square roof represented the sky.
A circle in the centre of the roof represented the moon.
The tread of each step being female and the rise of each step male, the four stairways of ten steps together prefigured the eight tens of families, off- spring of the eight ancestors.

Each stairway held one kind of creature, and was associated with a constellation, as follows:
The north stairway, associated with the Pleiades, was for men and fishes;
The south stairway, associated with Orion's Belt, was for domestic animals.
The east stairway, associated with Venus, was for birds.
The west stairway, associated with the so-called "Long-Tailed Star," was for wild animals, vegetables, and insects. (Primal Myths

"When the ancestor came down from Heaven," he said at first, "he was standing on a square piece of Heaven, not a very big piece, about the size of a sleeping-mat, or perhaps a bit bigger." The west stairway was occupied by wild animals. From the top stair to the bottom stair it was given up to antelopes, hyenas, cats (two stairs for these), reptiles and saurians, apes, gazelles, marmots, the lion, and the elephant. After the sixth step came the trees from the baobab to the Lannea acida, and on each of them were the insects commonly found there today. On the south stairway were the domestic animals, beginning with fowls,then sheep, goats, cattle, horses, dogs and cats. On the eighth and ninth steps were the chelonians, the giant tortoises, which today in each family take the place of the family heads, while these are ab- sent, and the small tortoises, which are slowly done to death in the regional purification sacrifices. On the tenth step were mice and rats (house and field). The east stairway was occupied by birds. On the first step were the larger birds of prey and the horn bills; on the second were ostriches and storks; on the third, the small bustards and lapwings; on the fourth, vultures. Then came the . smaller birds of prey, and then the herons. On the seventh step were the pigeons; on the eighth, turtle-doves; on the ninth, ducks; and last of all, the great bustards, white and black. The north stairway was that of men and fish. On each of the first two steps stood a male Bozo with a fish attached to his navel and hanging between his legs. The man's navel was nipped between the fins of the fish: that is to say, the fish was quite clear of the man's belly. On the other hand, the name that the Dogon gave to the Bozo was thought by Ogotemmeli to indicate that the fish was in process of passing into the body of the man.  (Primal Myths)

This name sologonon or sorogonon, from which is derived Sorko, another name for the Bozo, does in fact mean "which has not completely passed." It would apply therefore primarily to the fish, but ultimately to the Bozo himself, the two (i.e., the man and the fish) being twin brothers, as indicated by the umbilical connection. On each of the next two steps was a Bozo woman, also attached to a fish. On the fifth step was a Bozo woman standing alone. The five last steps were empty. "Each of those mentioned was as it were a file-leader. All the others of his kind were behind him. The antelope on the first step of the west stairway is the walbanu, the red antelope. After him come the white, the black and the ka antelopes. So too on the first step of the south stairway, where the poultry stand, the guinea-fowl, the partridge and the rock-fowl behind."  (Primal Myths)

"All this had to be said in words," said Ogotemmeli, "but everything on the steps is a symbol, symbolic antelopes, symbolic vultures, symbolic hyenas." "The whole thing," he said, "with its stairways is called the 'Granary of the Master of Pure Earth.' It is divided into eight compartments, four below and four above. The door opens to the north on the sixth stair. It is as it were the mouth, and the granary is the belly, that is the interior, of the world."  (Primal Myths)

The four lower compartments in a Dogon granary are separated by two intersecting partitions, the junction of which forms a cup-like depression in the earth big enough to hold a round jar. This jar, containing grain or valuable objects, is the centre of the whole building. The door opens above these compartments, and is only just wide enough to admit the passage of a man's body. Above the door is the upper storey comprising four other compartments, two of them in a line along the back wall and the other two along the side walls. They form a sort of ledge round the three sides, leaving the space at the entry free so that if a: man crouched on the top of the lower compartments his shoulders would be level with the balcony. In the celestial granary these compartments had a numbered order. The first was to the right of the entry on the lower floor; the second was the one on the right at the back, and so on round the building. The fifth was on the upper floor on the right, and so on to the eighth, which was to the left on the upper floor. Each of these compartments contained one of the eight seeds given by God to the eight ancestors in the following order: little millet, white millet, dark millet, female millet, beans, sorrel, rice and Digitaria. With each of these seeds were all the varieties of the same species.  (Primal Myths)

But the eight compartments were not merely receptacles for the seeds which were to be introduced to human use. They also represented the eight principal organs of the Spirit of water, which are comparable to the organs of men with the addition of the gizzard, for the Spirit has the speed of birds. These organs were disposed in the following order: stomach, gizzard, heart, small liver, spleen, intestines, great liver, gallbladder. A round jar in the centre symbolized the womb; a second smaller jar closed the first; it contained oil of Lannea acida, and represented the foetus. On top of it again was a still smaller jar containing perfume, and on the top of this last was a double cup. All the eight organs were held in place by the outer walls and the inner partitions which symbolized the skeleton. The four uprights ending in the corners of the square roof were the arms and legs. Thus the granary was like a woman, lying on her back (representing the sun) with her arms and legs raised and Supporting the roof (representing the sky). The two legs were on the north side, and the door at the sixth step marked the sexual parts. The granary and all it contained was therefore a picture of the world-system of the new order, and the way in which this system worked was represented by the functioning of the internal organs. These organs absorbed symbolic nourishment which passed along the usual channels of the digestion and the circulation of the blood. From compartments 1 and 2 (stomach and gizzard) the symbolical food passed into compartment 6 (the intestines) and from there into all the others in the form of blood and lastly breath, ending in the liver and the gallbladder. The breath is a vapour, a form of water, which maintains and is indeed the principle of life. "What is eaten," he said, "is the sunlight. What is excreted is the dark night. The breath of life is the clouds, and the blood is the rain that falls on the world."   (Primal Myths)

Polar opposition is also stressed in this retold myth from the Mande-speaking peoples of Mali. God's first attempt to create a single seed ended in failure; thereafter he made everything balanced and twinned. The eight seeds and the two pairs of archetypical twins in the "egg of God" or "egg of the world" eventually contained all the forces that gave rise to people, the world, and nature: Evil resulted from disruptions of this carefully established balance: in prematurely separating himself from his twin, Pemba violated the sacred order and eventually committed incest by planting seeds in the womb of his mother, earth. Only after the other primordial male twin, Faro, atoned for this infraction was fertility restored to the world.  (Primal Myths)

A fragment of a tale from the Krachi people of Togo envisages a primordial unity between sky and earth, god and man. Because of people's disrespect, the god Wulbari eventually retreated from earth and rose to the sky "where one can admire him but not reach him." (Primal Myths)

In the information disclosed to the French anthropologists, the Dogon referred to asmall and super-dense companion of Sirius they said was made of matter "heavier thar anything on Earth." They also said this "tiny star went around Sirius every 50 years." Although the Dogon legends are said to be thousancs of years old (based on markings of tribal masks retired every sixty years), they seemed here to have ancient knowledge of a White Dwarf that itself wasn't discovered until 1862, or even seen until the 1970s long after the legends were formed. Moreover, they were absolutely correct about Sirius B and its orbit period of fifty years. 

In addition to their techincal knowledge about the star's size, density and orbit periocidy, Dogon mythologies also state that Sirius is the source of culture, and both the Dogon and the Sumerians believed Sirius to be the determiner of time and the calendar. (Lost Star of Myth and Time