Africa is the cradle of humanity, the place where the first hominids evolved and from which departed species like ours, Homo sapiens, to colonize the rest of the world. A land of great wealth and history that however today is the one with the highest levels of poverty and hunger in the world.
There are many countries that are part of that continent, many tribes and many stories that all of them have been telling since ancient times to explain their world. That is why throughout this article we will see this cultural richness, making a small selection of ten African myths and legends from different regions and tribes.
6 great African legends
Then we leave you with a series of ten of the stories, myths and legends that can be found throughout the extensive African geography, many of them referring to elements of nature, the stars and geographical elements.
1. The creation of the world
Almost all the cultures of the earth have imagined in some occasion some possible explanation based on their beliefs that try to make sense of how the world appeared. The different cultures present in Africa are not the exception. In fact, there are many legends that different tribes and local cultures have been developing in this regard, among which in this article we will see one: the Boshongo.
Legend has it that at first there was only darkness and water, in addition to the creator god Bumba. The latter was in the strictest solitude. One day the god noticed a great pain in his stomach and enough nausea, after which he vomited. Said vomit was the Sun, and from it came light. Likewise from its heat arose areas of dry land. The great Bumba returned to suffer nausea, expelling in this occasion the moon and the stars. In a third discomfort vomited the leopard, the crocodile, the ray, the heron, the kid, the beetle, the turtle, the eagle, the fish and the human being.
After that, the gods, children of Bumba and of him born, committed themselves to finish the work of their father, helping to form the rest of the things of the universe. Only the beam was problematic and erratic, something that caused the deity to decide to lock him up and send him to heaven. Since his lack left the human being without being able to make fire, the god himself taught humanity to generate it through the use of wood.
2. The appearance of man at the hands of Mukulu
The human being has often asked himself how the world he lives in has appeared, but he has also asked himself more specifically how he has come to this. In this sense, there are legends that speak more concretely about their creation, in a way that in fact reminds us in some sense of our evolution. This is the case of the myth or legend of Muluku, god of the Makua and the Banayi, and the creation of man.
The legend says that the great god Muluku, after creating the world, decided to create a species that could enjoy and take care of his work. The deity dug two holes in the earth, from which the first man and the first woman would be born. Being Muluku also a god of agriculture, he taught them to cultivate and take care of the fields so that they could feed and live independently. But although initially they followed the indications of the god, the pair finished ignoring them and leaving the care of the world.
Little by little the plants died, to the point that the fields became deserted. Thoughtful, the god called a couple of monkeys and gave them the same knowledge. While the first pair of humans had been dedicated to waste time, the apes were dedicated to caring for and building a house and a field planted.
Before this the God made a decision: to remove the tail to the monkeys to put it to the pair, that would become simians. In turn, the monkeys, now without a tail, would become human. And it is from these last ones that the rest of humanity are descendants.
3. The legend of Lake Antañavo
A third African legend, this time from the ancient Antankarana of Madagascar, tells us about how one of the lakes of his region appeared, the Antañavo, which is considered sacred and whose waters should never touch the body.
Legend has it that at first Lake Antañavo did not exist, but instead there was a prosperous town. In that place lived a couple who a few months ago had had a baby. One day, at nightfall, the baby burst into tears inconsolably. His mother tried to calm him down by all means, but nothing had any effect. Finally he decided to go for a walk with the child, reaching a tree under which the women ground rice during the day. Once seated and under the breeze of the night, the baby calmed down and fell asleep.
The woman tried to return home with the child, but on the way the child broke again to mourn. The mother returned to the same place as before, under the tree, and again her son became calm again. When trying to return home again, the same situation was repeated. And this happened several more times. Finally the young mother, tired, made the decision to sleep under the tree. But just as he was about to do it all of a sudden, the whole village disappeared, the whole land sinking into the water until the mother and her baby were there.
After that the mother ran to tell what happened to the neighboring towns, which began to consider the place as sacred. They say that the crocodiles that inhabit Lake Antañavo are the souls of the old inhabitants of the town.
4. The legend of Seetetelané
Another traditional African story is that of Seetetelané, which is a small story that offers us a moral that indicates the need to respect others and the contributions they make to our lives. It is also a warning to avoid drunkenness and in order to avoid throwing away everything we have achieved by mere arrogance.
Once upon a time there was a man of great poverty who had to hunt mice to survive and who lacked practically everything, his clothes being woven from the skin of the animals he hunted and often going cold and hungry. He had no family or partner, and spent his time hunting or drinking.
One day, while hunting mice, he found a huge ostrich egg that he thought of eating later. He took it to his house and hid it there before returning to look for more food. When he returned, having gotten only two rodents, he found something truly unexpected: he had a table set and prepared with lamb meat and bread. The man, seeing the food, wondered if he had married without knowing it.
At that moment the ostrich egg came out a beautiful woman, who introduced herself as Seetetelané. The woman told him that she would remain with him as his wife, but warned him never to call her daughter of the ostrich egg or to vanish never to return. The hunter promised not to drink again to avoid calling her that way.
They spent the days together and happy, until one day the woman asked him if he would like to be tribal chief and possess all kinds of wealth, slaves and animals. The hunter asked him if he could provide them, to which Seetetelané laughed and with a blow of his foot opened the floor, leaving a large caravan with all kinds of goods, servants, slaves and animals.
In addition, the woman made him see that he had become young that his clothes were warm and valuable. The house had also been transformed into another, from a hut to a stone hearth full of furs.
Time passed and the hunter became leader for his people for a time, until in a celebration the man began to drink. Because of that, he began to behave aggressively, to which Seetetelané tried to calm him down. But he pushed her and insulted her, calling her the daughter of an ostrich egg.
That same night, the hunter felt cold, and when he woke up he saw that there was nothing left but his old hut. He was no longer a leader, he had no animals or servants, and his clothes were not warm. And he no longer had Seetetelané. The man regretted what he had done and said. A few days later, in part because he had become accustomed to a better standard of living, the man became ill and died.
5. The legend of the story tree
Some of the African legends tell us events like disappearances, attributed in some occasion to trips in the time. We have an example in Tanzania, where the Chagga tell the legend of the tree of history.
Legend has it that once a young girl left with her friends in order to collect herbs. Trying to access an area where there seemed to be a large quantity, the girl fell into an area full of mud, in which she ended up sinking completely despite the attempts of her companions to get her out of there. After that, they ran to the village in order to bring the news to the parents.
They, desperate, asked for help from the rest of the people, all going to the place where the girl had disappeared. There they followed the recommendation of a wise old man who recommended that they sacrifice a sheep and a cow. This resulted in everyone being able to hear the voice of the girl, more and more distant, until they stopped being able to listen to her.
Some time later, in that same place, a large tree would begin to grow, which was often used by cattle keepers to protect themselves from the sun’s heat. Two young men climbed one day one day, and before they disappeared they shouted to his classmates that took them to a world before the present. That is why the tree is known as the Tree of History.
6. The legend about Anansi and the expansion of wisdom
Knowledge and experience have been in most cultures deeply respected elements that are linked to leadership and respect, as well as knowing what to do in times of need. In this sense there is a character of legend called Anansi, which is responsible for the fact that wisdom is part of the whole world and that no one has it in their entire property.
Legend has it that there once was a spider-like sage who observed that humanity was at least irresponsible and cruel. Seeing this, the sage made the decision to gather all the wisdom in a single jar and keep it in a safe place. For this he decided to enclose this knowledge in the highest treetop in the world. However, climbing was very difficult to have the being to hold the jar while walking through the tree.
Anansi was increasingly frustrated, unable to climb the tree with the jug on his head as it hindered him. However, his son, seeing his situation, asked him why he was not tied in the back. Anansi realized that his son was right, and with the surprise of finding more wisdom than he had accumulated he dropped the jar. It crashed and broke on the ground, from which a storm spread it to the rest of the world.
Wisdom spread throughout the whole world, reaching all humanity. That is why no one is capable of absolute wisdom but all of us have the capacity to recognize and exercise it.