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African Myths and Legends

Introduction to African Culture and the structure of their myths and legends

M Bokano

on 22 October 2012

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Transcript of African Myths and Legends

An Introduction African Myths and Legends *Although no two African cultures are the same, some cultures share similarities between their myths and legends.
*Africa is a diverse continent with around a thousand languages
*These myths reflect their beliefs and values
*Still a meaningful part of everyday life
*Some have universal themes and others are specific to the continent's settings, conditions, and history
*line between history and fiction blurred in some myths African Culture Roots of the African Culture *Mass migrations influenced the development of myths and legends
~Such migrations caused myths and legends to spread from group to group and led to a mixing of myths and legends
~migrations also gave rise to new stories about events in the history of those peoples.
For instance, as Bantu groups settled in new homelands, they developed legends to explain the origins of their ruling families and the structure of their societies.
*passed from generation to generation through speech and storytelling traditions
~not written down until the early 1800's Influences *Myths included supernatural beings who influenced human life (called deities)
*most traditional African religions worship multiple gods
*nearly every religion supports the belief that there is a supreme god (usually associated with the sky)
~a distant being no longer involved in day-to-day human life
~not called upon-address smaller gods
~number of gods varies
*invisible beings for powers of good and evil
*Spirits are less grand, less powerful, and less like humans than the gods (who often have weaknesses and emotions)
*associated with physical features such as mountains, rivers, wells, trees, and springs.
*All humans, animals, and plants have spirits, as do elements such as water and fire.
*some spirits helpful, others harmful
*some try to control spirits through magical means usually with the aid of a skilled practitioner (medicine man, witch doctor) Main gods and spirits *human spirits exist after death
*some feel they dwell upside down underground, others believe they become stars after death
*dead souls, particularly of old men, may return as snakes
*ancestors may remain close to relatives if relatives perform necessary rituals Ancestral Spirits *Fables, folklore, and legends about tricksters and animals are found in nearly all African cultures.
*Many myths explain how the world came into existence
~others deal with ancestry and origins of social institutions
*Tell how death came into the world
~The supreme god meant for humans to be immortal, but through an unlucky mistake, they received death instead of eternal life (some stories relate that the god told a cautious chameleon to carry the news of eternal life to earth, but a faster lizard with news of death arrived first)
*African peoples regard twins as special, almost sacred, beings. Twins represent the duality (the tension or balance between paired or opposing forces)that is basic to life. Main Types of Myths and Legends *The Sahara runs from east to west across the widest part of Africa dividing the continent into two main regions.
~North Africa consists of the Mediterranean coast from Morocco to Egypt and includes the valley of the Nile River as far south as Ethiopia.
*Had strong ties to the Mediterranean and Arab worlds
*felt the influence of Christianity by the A.D. 300S, and in the 700s, much of the area came under the influence of Islam.

*South of the Sahara before the modern era, had relatively little contact with the rest of the world.
~Islam entered Africa south of the Sahara very slowly, and Christian missionaries were not very active there until the 1800s.
~Since then, the spread of Islam and Christianity has weakened the indigenous religions, myths, and legends of sub-Saharan Africa.
~traditional beliefs have not disappeared. some places have blended with new religions from other cultures Tricksters and Animal Fables *Usually male
*delight in breaking rules, boasting, and playing tricks on both humans and gods
*Most tricksters are shape-changers who can take any form, though they often appear as animals.
*often small and helpless creatures
*A popular form of entertainment is the animal fable
~story about talking animals with human characteristics
~Many fables offer imaginative explanations of features of the natural world, such as why bats hang with their heads downward or why leopards have spots. Read more: African Mythology - Myth Encyclopedia - god, story, legend, ancient, animal, snake, war, world, flower, creation http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/A-Am/African-Mythology.html#ixzz2A3lGNxCz
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