Tokoloshe, Abada, Biloko, Anansi, Impundulu, Ninki Nanka, Bultungin
As I said in my June 1 post I will be looking at African Mythologies over the three summer months (June, July, and August).
Little did I know at that time how large a task that would be even with purposely leaving out all Egyptian and Arabian mythology. Africa is the world’s second largest continent and, even looking only at the mythologies of what are considered the indigenous tribes, it is an incredible undertaking.
Not that I’m planning on backing away from it. To the contrary, I love the richness and diversity of the myths.
Most of the African mythology known today is what has been recorded recently from long oral traditions. Many of it is fragmentary, many of the tribes cross borders and diverse neighboring tribes sometimes share the same myths.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous and well-known myth from Africa is that of Anansi. Due to the slave trade the myth of Anansi is also claimed in the “New” World. I will devote the blog post of June sixth to the trickster spider god.
Tokoloshe and Biloko (Eloko singular) are dwarf-like demons.
Biloko inhabit the rain forest of central Zaire. These dwarf-like creatures are said to be spirits of ancestors with a grudge to settle against the living. The Biloko guard the treasures of the forest.
Tokoloshe are dwarf-like demons found in Zulu mythology. These bogey-men are often called upon to frighten children into behaving. The problem with Tokoloshe is that they become invisible by drinking water. The good news is that if a cat sees the tokoloshe it will howl and chase the demon away.
Other somewhat familiar creatures include:
The Abada, native to Kurdufan, has two crooked horns instead of the one of a unicorn, but has many of the same magical powers including the horn’s power to act as an antidote to poison.
Vampire creatures are well-known in African mythology. Tribes of Southern Africa (Zulu, Pondo, and Xhosa) have the Impundulu, the lightning bird. The Impundulu is a black and white bird the size of a human that summons thunder and lightning with its wings and talons. It is a vampire that can also be the familiar of a witch or witch doctor.
The West African Ninki Nanka is another bogey-man type creature with which children are threatened into behaving. It is a huge, dangerous snake-like, dragon-like creature that lives in the swamps.
Finally there is the more ubiquitous idea of the Bultangin or Bouda, the were-hyenas.
The bultangin are hyenas that can turn into men. In the Lake Chad region it was believed that there were villages comprised completely of Bultangin. In Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzia, and Morocco it is believed that the bouda is a human that at night goes from being in its powerful human form (blacksmith, healer, woodcutter) into a cannibalistic monster with a hairy body, red, gleaming eyes and a nasal voice.
While I’m trying to explore only the indigenous myths of Africa, I must add the caveat that defining indigenous Africa is a problem worked on by far greater minds than mine.
Defining which tribes in Africa are indigenous is somewhat problematic as all the tribes can be described as “First Peoples”. If I make mistakes please forgive my ignorance and send me the corrections. I will be sure to post your comments. Thank you.