Tag Archives: African mythology


Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of an epic myth of the Nyanga people of Africa.


MwindoMwindo is yet another semi-divine hero from global mythology. This epic will explore his unusual birth, his heroic deeds and victories over various monsters and hostile gods.

Many of the myths from Africa survived mostly in oral form until comparatively recent decades, so there are even more variations of African epics than readers may be used to. To cite just one example: Mwindo himself is usually referred to by the epithet Kabutwa-kenda, “the little one just born yet walking”. However there are a few versions of the myth in which Mwindo and Kabutwa-kenda are TWO SEPARATE FIGURES and are half-brothers.

masc graveyard smallerIn the versions where they are two separate entities Mwindo is a villainous figure while Kabutwa-kenda is the main hero of the epic. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will be reminded of the Navajo twin gods Nayanazgeni and Thobadzistsini. Nayanazgeni was usually the hero of the epic about the defeat of the evil gods called the Anaye but in the Apache version of the myth his brother Thobadzistsini is the hero and Nayanazgeni is reduced to being a comic relief coward. 

To stay in the area of comparative mythology for a moment Mwindo also shares qualities with the Sumerian demigod Gilgamesh. Like Gilgamesh, Mwindo goes from being brashly overconfident about his own supernatural powers to becoming a more humble hero and more capable ruler as the tale goes on.

The Mwindo Epic begins in the village of Tubondo, surrounded by raphia trees and located on a high hill. The founder and Chief of the village was named Shemwindo and he had seven wives because the Nyanga considered seven to be the number of perfection. Nyanga villages had seven separate kinship halls even if there were not seven separate kinship groups in the village. This was done out of deference to the sheer perfection of the number seven.  Continue reading


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The French who first came into contact with the people of Madagascar mistook Tompondrano for Leviathan from Christian mythology.

TOMPONDRANO – “Lord of the waters.” The supreme snake deity in Merina mythology. Not only were all other serpents subordinate to Tompondrano but he often acted as an ambassador between snakes and human beings, negotiating the end to conflicts between the two groups. 

A major myth about this deity includes its role in advising the Vazimba how to use sacrifices to appease gods and demons. The Vazimba were little people who were previously the dominant race of Madagascar. They are similar to the Menehune in Hawaiian myths and to “little people” who figure into mythology and folklore from around the world.  

One day a Vazimba boy was playing with a seven-headed serpent monster. That serpent decided to keep him and make him live with him under the water. The Vazimba prayed to Tompondrano to save him. Tompondrano advised the Vazimba boy to be patient, then sent the Kingfisher bird to the Vazimba’s parents with word that sacrificing a chicken and a sheep to the seven- headed serpent would appease it and get it to release their son. Continue reading


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The year 2020 will see plenty of Top Twenty lists here at Balladeer’s Blog. Here’s a look at 20 Bunyoro Gods. Bunyoro was located in and around present-day Uganda. The people had an elaborate pantheon of deities. For the top gods of the Nyanga people instead, click HERE

UgandaRUHANGAThe supreme god of the Bunyoro pantheon. The creator and initiator of the world after he separated the Earth from the sky and adorned the sky with stars. Ruhanga stayed remote and, though omnipotent, was seldom invoked or prayed to. He provided the Banyoro people (Bunyoro for the place, Banyoro for the people) with children, animals and the harvest, but also was the author of disease, sickness and death.  

On the freshly-created Earth Ruhanga put three seeds into the ground and in 1 day 3 calabashes had grown. all on one stem. He took a man/woman couple out of the first 2 calabashes but found just a lone man in the third.  Ruhanga named the men KAKAMA, KAHIMA and KAIRU.  

After subjecting the men to tests to determine their worth, Kakama was judged the most worthy and Ruhanga decreed his descendants would be the ruling class. He further decreed that Kahima’s descendants would be the cattlemen class and Kairu’s descendants would be the farmer class. (No the myth doesn’t say who Kairu has the children with.) Continue reading


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LiberiaBalladeer’s Blog presents another neglected epic myth from around the world. In this case, Liberia’s Woi Epic of the Kpelle people.

The Woi Epic is often studied for its use of music, dance, singing and audience participation to reflect the action in the story. Think of it as a combination opera, ballet, live drama and Rocky Horror Picture Show screening.

The order of the episodes in the epic is not set in stone and a performance may include only a few of the episodes, all of them or just one. The finish of each episode is marked by the performer(s) announcing “Dried millet, wese” to which the audience repeats simply “wese.”  

ONE – Woi, a culture deity and master of ritual magic, and his wife Gelengol are the only living things that exist. After Woi impregnates his wife she eventually gives birth to human beings, chickens, goats, cows, sheep and, after all other life-forms, spiders. (Plenty of African myths feature a female deity giving birth to multiple living creatures and many feature the woman also giving birth to tools and weapons and utensils.)    

TWO – Woi notes that the demonic figure Yele-Walo has stolen one of his bulls by sneaking up on it in the form of a rattan plant. Yele-Walo took the bull with him to his hideaway “behind the sky.” Woi prepares for battle and is aided by squirrel-monkeys, tsetse flies and horse-flies. Yele-Walo also steels himself for the upcoming fight. Continue reading


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Nyanga territoryNKUBA – The god of lightning. Nkuba was known and feared for his quick temper and his great power. Powerful Chiefs and shamans could call on Nkuba to kill their enemies with his deadly lightning bolts.

The lightning god was immune to cold and heat and lived a nomadic existence on clouds in the sky. He could solidify lightning to use it as a makeshift staircase between the heavens and the Earth.

Nkuba admired anyone who killed with the same merciless swiftness that he himself demonstrated. The god even became a blood brother to the seven-headed monster Kirimu because of the creature’s prowess at killing. Continue reading


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Nyanga territoryAfter Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the Mwindo Epic many readers expressed an interest in Nyanga mythology. I’m all about giving readers what they want so here are brief looks at the deities of the Nyanga people.

KATEE – The god of hedgehogs. Katee spoke through one of his animal avatars to warn the semidivine hero Mwindo about some of Kasiyembe’s death traps.

MWERI – The moon goddess. Her domain is the moon itself and is  composed of alternate hot, sandy wasteland and lush blue waters. Mweri sees everything that happens at night and therefore has ties to lovemaking, fertility, sleeping, thievery and assassinations. She can send dreams or nightmares as well as prophetic messages in those dreams. Visitors to Mweri’s domain can be left wandering in the hot wasteland or even set on fire by her, depending on the goddess’ whim.  Continue reading


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Balladeer’s Blog concludes its examination of this epic myth of the Nyanga people.


MwindoThe lightning god Nkuba looked down from the sky and prepared to attack the semidivine hero Mwindo in order to avenge his (Nkuba’s) friend, the monster Kirimu. That seven- headed creature had been slain, cooked and served as a meal by Chief Mwindo for killing three of his devoted corps of Pygmies. 

The morning after the village of Tubondo had feasted upon the remains of Kirimu, Mwindo had a premonition of impending danger. He announced to his people that his supernatural senses had revealed to him that the bad-tempered god Nkuba had taken offense at his actions against the monster Kirimu. The lightning god was coming for revenge. Continue reading


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Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this epic myth of the Nyanga people.


Film, 'Jason And the Argonauts', (1963) Todd Armstrong as Jason fighting the seven-headed Hydra.

The semidivine Chief Mwindo set out to find and battle Kirimu, the seven-headed monster terrorizing his domain. Mwindo was guided by Nkurongo, the sole remaining Pygmy from the foursome who had encountered the creature while hunting a wild boar for the Chief.   

Mwindo carried with him his signature weapon – his conga-scepter, a riding-crop sized staff made of antelope tail. When the Pygmy had led the hero to where Kirimu had slain his comrades the pair saw that the creature was lying in wait in the jungle, ready to strike at anyone who attempted to retrieve the boar slain by the Pygmies. Continue reading


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Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this epic myth of the Nyanga people.




This part of the Mwindo Epic picks up with the semidivine hero having been the chief of the village of Tubondo for an unspecified amount of time. One day he was in the mood for a meal of pork so he sent four of his loyal Pygmies out into the jungle to catch a wild boar for him. They set out with their hunting dogs on leashes.

The four Pygmies traveled far off into the jungle but could not find any wild boars or other large game. They began to suspect some supernatural predator of having whittled down the game population in the area. After a few days of searching fruitlessly for a wild boar the four Pygmies at last spotted and speared a boar. 

While the quartet of hunters were slicing off the meat they were attacked by Kirimu, a huge monster with a tough black hide, seven heads with one large eye each, a horn on each head, teeth like a dog and a swollen belly with room for plenty of victims.  Continue reading


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Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this epic myth of the Nyanga people.


Nyanga ChiefIn the restored village of Tubondo, with all the dead brought back to life by Mwindo it was at last time to pass judgment on the captured Shemwindo. In some versions of the Mwindo Epic the semidivine hero sits upon a throne made of spears as if deciding the fate of prisoners of war. Other versions claim Mwindo’s friend Nkuba the lightning god sent down copper chairs for Mwindo and his Aunt Iyangura to sit on while judging the former Chief Shemwindo. 

Still other versions depict Iyangura’s husband Mukiti the river god sitting alongside Mwindo and Iyangura as they decide Shemwindo’s fate. Some versions claim the trio floated in the air in the copper chairs provided by Nkuba.   Continue reading


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