A-D, Mythology

Ashanti Mythology

Today I will look at the mythology of the Ashanti tribe of Ghana.

Ring with two pearls

As I mentioned before the Anansi stories are traced back to the Ashanti. If you want to know more about Anansi see the blog post Anansi of June 12th.

The animist side of the ancient Ashanti religion is a belief that all trees and animals have souls.

The supernatural side of the same tradition believes in witches and monsters.

The Ashanti also practice ancestor worship known as Nsamanfo.

Spirits receive their power from the supreme god Nyame and are usually a part of nature such as trees, streams, ocean sprites etc.

Nyame “the one who knows and sees everything” is the Supreme Being in the Ashanti pantheon.

Nyame is not only omniscient, but is also an omnipotent sky god. Despite his omnipotence he suffered some misuse in human hands and he now remains aloof and lets the lower gods assist humans on earth.

Nyame is married to an earth goddess by the name of Asase Ya. She is a goddess of earth and fertility. They have two children: Bia and Anansi. The eldest son, Bia, is overshadowed by his younger brother Anansi.

Anansi the spider and trickster god is well-known around the world. Does anyone have information on what Bia does in the Ashanti pantheon?

I will come back to the Ashanti in future posts.


A brief history of the Ashanti people http://buzzghana.com/ashanti/
Another historical resource http://www.lotusmasks.com/category/ashanti-tribe-ghana.html
An overview of all the tribes of Ghana and religion from traditional to present day http://easytrackghana.com/cultural-overview-ghana_tribes-rastas-religions.php

Besides the Ashanti majority, Ghana is also home to tribes such as Ewe, Fante, Ga, and Dagomba. I am ambitious enough to think that perhaps someday I will be able to cover and do justice to the mythologies of all the tribes

A-D, Mythology


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Anansi is perhaps the best known mythological figure out of Africa. He is a spider trickster god who can appear in any form he wishes, but most often his alternate form is that of a man.

His origins are said to be in the Ashanti tribe of West Africa in what is now Ghana, but he has become a common figure of folklore anywhere connected to where the slave trade went.

If you now hear a rapidly beating heart, and shallow breathing that is simply me trying to get through my Arachnophobia.

I’m not alone for it is one of the most common phobias, but knowing I’m one of a crowd doesn’t make it any easier.

Arachnophobia is an irrational and persistent fear of spiders, or in my case pictures of spiders, or mention of spiders or…

As I was saying Anansi is the most well-known figure of African folktales and myths. I cannot skip him.

Unfortunately, most cultures seem to have spider myths so I will be repeating this exercise in the future with Aunt Nancy, Spider Woman, Anasazi, Arachne, Nareau, Neith, Tsuchigumo, and Jorōgumo.

There are also giant fictional spiders such as Shelob (Tolkien) and Aragog (Rowling) and a number of these creatures in other popular stories such as Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web and the spider from Little Miss Muffet.

Attentive Bengal Sorry, there will be spider pictures in this post.

Back to Anansi.

In this post I’m only writing about the Ashanti Anansi. The stories of the Ashanti oral tradition are known as Anansesem or “Spider Tales”.

Once there were no stories in the world. Anansi’s father the Sky-God Nyame had them all of them. When Anansi asked for them, he was set the task of capturing 4 dangerous and elusive creatures (python, leopard, hornet, and dwarf).

Anansi tricked all of four and brought them to the Nyame. Nyame rewarded him by making him the god of all stories. Since then all stories have been dubbed “Spider Tales”.

Anansi is also known for trying to keep all of the wisdom of the world sealed in a pot, but he worried it was not safe enough so he tried to take it up a tree. He was not having much success and his son made fun of him and told Anansi how to actually get his hoard of wisdom up the tree.

Anansi dropped the pot and it shattered and spilt the wisdom into a stream and the stream took it to the sea. From the sea, the wisdom spread all around the world, so that there is now a little of it in everyone. I like that sentiment – “a little bit of wisdom in everyone”.

While he is an unpredictable trickster, Anansi is also responsible for creating the sun, the stars and the moon, as well as teaching mankind the techniques of agriculture.

The best one paragraph description of Anansi I have found is from Myths Encyclopedia – “West Africans originally considered Anansi to be the creator of the world. He often acted as a go-between for humans in their dealings with the sky god Nyame, and he supposedly persuaded Nyame to give both rain and the night to people. In most stories, however, Anansi is a crafty and cunning trickster who makes life more enjoyable for himself (or more difficult for others) by fooling humans, other animals, and even the gods themselves, often using his cleverness and knowledge of his victims’ ways of thinking to trick them and achieve his purpose.”http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Am-Ar/Anansi.html

One of my all-time favorite sources for Anansi and his tales (and you know it’s good if I can appreciate reading about a spider) http://www.angelfire.com/planet/mythguide/anansi.html

So next time you hear a good story remember to thank Anansi.

A thorough look at Anansi http://www.digplanet.com/wiki/Anansi
African Cultural Center folktales http://www.africanculturalcenter.org/5_4_3folktales.html
A great set of Anansi stories for kids http://anansistories.com/index.html

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the Spider to the Fly.

A random fact to keep everyone with arachnophobia up at night: There are nearly 40,000 species of spiders worldwide.

“The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web.” – Edwin Way Teale

Kuri Headshot

A-D, Cryptozoology, Mythology

African Mythology Intro

Tokoloshe, Abada, Biloko, Anansi, Impundulu, Ninki Nanka, Bultungin

These are just a few of the creatures we will be looking at over the next month.140529 -  - medium-10

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.