West African Pantheon

By: keari Howard

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Introduction to Early West African Culture:


The partial history of west africa can be divided into five major periods
  1. Its prehistory, in which the first human settlers arrived, agriculture developed, and contact made with the meddateranian civilizations to the north.
  2. The iron empires that consolidated trade and developed centralized states.
  3. The slave-trading kingdoms, jihads, and colonial invaders of the 18th and 19th centuries.
  4. The colonial period, in which France and Great Britain controlled nearly the whole of the region.
  5. The post-independence , in which the current nations were formed.
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African mythology covers a large area. There are so many countries, regions, languages, tribes and cultures that the sheer diversity of prevailing Gods would seem overwhelming if there weren't a few handy shortcuts.

Traditional African belief is monotheistic, meaning there is only one god. There may be spirits and ancestors floating around, but there's only one God. Early missionaries made a complete pig's ear of their research in this respect and seem to have delighted in cataloging as many 'heathen' Gods as they could possibly get away with.

African Creator Gods seem to follow a pattern they are all extremely dissatisfied with their creations. There is much shaking of heads, turning away in sorrow and avoidance of contact. The humans are left to fend for themselves. Attempts to regain contact with their God by building a heavenly ladder are the subject of many an unhappy legend. On the whole, African Gods don't like to be bothered.

But while God sits in Heaven wringing his hands in despair, the ancestral spirits are very willing to take an active part in Earth life. These are mostly into hunting and other practical subjects.

There is a remarkable innocence about the Gods of Africa. They seem naive and unworldly, believing the best of everyone and optimistically giving the benefit of the doubt to all and sundry. No wonder they are rudely disappointed when it turns out their badly-chosen favorites are up to no good.

Even communicating with their creation is full of problems. Vital messages of life and death are entrusted to whichever farm yard animal happens to be passing, and the resulting garble is likely to have profoundly unforeseen.


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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_West_Africaexternal image eg57.jpg