TaLeS FrOm ThE HeArT Of AfRiCa

Explaining the Unexplainable

In Africa, there are numerous cultures with in a single country, and with over 40 countries, the variety is great. Each culture has their own beliefs, religions, and myths. Myths may just be common story, such as Three Witches or may serve the purpose of explaining the unexplainable; they provide answers to the questions that have been around since the first generation of humans, but have yet to be fully answered. These stories often are based around a food, person, ritual, or other traditions of importance to various African ethnic groups, such as rice or milk. One such story is from a culture where dairy plays a distinct role in the general economy of their culture, describes how life began, begining with a large drop of milk. Rice is important to many Africans, and there is another myth that is about how man came to be, and it also says that rice is the food of the Gods. Creation myths describe how man and woman came to earth, while explaining why man ans animals fight, and other such things. Many stories and myths are false stories, that are told purely for the sake of entertainment. Others are still believed to be true and are often used as advice. African cultures have these myths and stories as any other culture. They are kept alive to remind Africans of their past and their heritage; of hardships and of beliefs. Myths provide reconciliation for the unexplained existance of people, foods, animals... who knows? - They could be true.....

Myths From Africa

Three Witches
Once there was a man with three wives, and all of them had magical powers, but only the first two wives were witches. One night, they were dancing and chanting a magical witchcraft dance, and asked the third wifer to join them. She said she couldnot because she first needed a piece of cloth from their husband. She went to their husband, and told him of the witchcraft dance that his other two wives were doing. He pretended to go on a journey, but instead hid, silently, in a rolled up map. When the first two wives began the witchcraft dance, they offered their husband as a sacrifice, promising his heart and liver. The man then jumped up and attacked the first wife, beating her until she ran away forever. The second wife he tied to a tree, and he lived peacefully with the third, faithful wife.

Milk Myth
At the begining, there was a huge drop of milk. Doondari came and created stone, which created iron, which created fire, which created water, which created air. Then Doondari descended a second time and took the five elements and shaped them into a Man. But Man was very proud, so Doondari created a Blindness to defeat the man. When the Blindness became too proud, Doodari created Sleep, and Sleep defeated the Blindness. When Sleep became too proud, Doondari created Worry, and Worry defeated the Sleep. When the Worry becacme too proud, Doondari created Death, and Death defeated Worry. When Death became too proud, Doondari descended a third time, appearing as Gueno, and Gueno defeated Death.

Creation Myths
People didn't always live on the surface of Earth. At one time, people and animals lived together peacefully underneath the surface with Kaang, the Great Master of All Life. They all understood each other, and no one ever wanted anything and it was always light, even without a sun. During this time of blissful harmony, Kaang began to plan the worldabove.
First, Kaang created a wounderous tree, with numerous branches stretching over an entire country. At the base of the tree, he dug a great hole that reached all the way down into the world below. After he had finished created the world, he brought the first man up and into thenew world. He sat on the edge of the world and and soon the first woman came out, followed by all the other people and animals. They continued emerging from below, until all the people and animals were on the surface.
Kaang gathered all the poeple under the tree and instructed them to live together peacefully. Then he told all the men and women that they couldn't build any fires or a grerat evil wopuld befall them. They gave their word and KAang left to where he could observe them in secrecy.
As evening approached, the sun began to sink and the people and animals stood, watching. But when the sun sank beneith the earth, fear entered the hearts of the people. They could no longer see one another, because they lacked the eyes of animals which could see in the dark. They also lasked the fur of the animals, and they soon grew cold, forgetting their promise. They decided to build a fire, and were somn warm and able to see each other.
The fire frightened the animals, and they fled to the caves and mountains and ever since, people and animals have not been able to communticate. Now fear has replaced the friendship between the two groups.

African Mythological Commonalities
Myths vary among African ethnic groups, highlighting similarities and differances in beliefs and societies' constuctions. There are many factors that contribute to creation myths for an individual group. Survival issues dominate many myths, suggesting the origins of land, the abilities to cultivate that land, and the benefits of existing off the land. Questions of where land came from, the existance of man, and the relationship between the cerator(s) and the created are evaluated. The important issues of each African ethnic group became the focal point of most creation and origin myths.
A predominant theme among African creation myth is the people's relation to the land, as ameans of survival and origin. The shilluk myth, "An African Story of the Creation of Man" and the Yoruba people's myth, "The Creation of the Universe and Life" state that man was first made of clay. Both creation myths indicate an awareness and a need for explanation of the physical differences among human beings. The Shilluk myth claims that there are different colored people because of the varying colors of clay that Joak(the creator in this myth) encountered as he wandered the world. The Yoruba people's myth explains the differences in the shapes of people as a result of the god Obatala being drunk when he shaped man out of clay. In both myths, the action of the creating go caused the variation in man's physical characteristics.
The Shilluk myth attempts to explain why man's body is designed the way it is. Each part of the body is designed, according to the myth, to fulfill a purpose related to survival. The legs, arms, eyes, and mouth all work towards man being able to survive off the land by growing crops and eating what he has grown. The ability to dance, speak, sing, and shout, through the use of a tongues, is provided after man can survive off the land. The order of creation indicates te importance of certain aspects of the body to societal standards of importance.

-Christel Wiener

Wanna Myth?

Is there something unexplained in your life, or a question you can't answer? First, do just a little bit of background info. on your topic, or just use what you know! Think of what you thought about that very same question when you were young, and make a myth of your own! It can be very minute or very detailed, humorous or goofy just remember to make sure the readers of your myths know it isn't real!
Why is cottage cheese called cottage cheese? Because when it was first created, it was made in cottages!
Why is ketchup called ketchup? Well, it used to be refereed to as "the red soupy stuff," but then these two friends were in a real hurry, and one stopped to get some ketchup, and the other friend was running down the street yelling "catch up, catch up!" and it just sort of stuck.

Some Links To Other Sources On African Myths
Teller Table of Contents Page
Legends from a small country - Beliefs
Terry Chan's Main Urban Folklore Page
Period 2 African Home Page
Meghan and Lindsays African Myths Page

Questions? Comments?
Nikkibecca@yahoo.com can get you answers!

African Mythology, Geoffry Parrinder..."Witches & Monsters" p92
Ancient History World Source Book(internet)
African Area Studies, mythology packet