Black Women Goddesses in African Mythology Part I
Unlike Christian teachings is it not uncommon in African religion and mythology for black women to play a great and powerful role in both the origins and orientation of creation and elements within. In this first series we look at five of the most well-known goddess in African mythology and religion.
For the most part most of us are knowledgeable in Greek and Roman mythology and know little of that of our own culture. Despite your religious beliefs mythology is a means of understanding the fame of mind of ancient people and the order in their society. We can see from the high presence of black women as goddess that in African mythology, the high esteem and respect there is for black women as an integral source of creation, love, order and protection.
Aja (Lady of the Forest Herbs) is the forest goddess honored by the Yoruba of Nigeria. She teaches her followers how to use medicinal herbs found in the African forests. The word Aja means wild wind and it is said that is someone is carried away by Aja and then returns then s/he becomes a powerful jujuman.
Ala is the Ibo Fertility Goddess of the earth. The Ibo people of Nigeria call her the mother of all things, but she is both the fertile earth and the empty field after the harvest. She is present at the beginning of the cycle of life, making children grow in their mother’s womb, and she is there at the end of the cycle, to receive the souls of the dead into her own womb. Ala also gives laws to the people, emphasizing the importance of honesty and respect.
The Yoruba warrior goddess of the wind, the primeval mother of chaos, she creates change of fortune, and her power is associated with lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes and other storms, cemeteries and death. Her motherly strength inspires us to embrace change and learn from it.
Using her machete, or sword of truth, she clears the way for new growth. She is also the queen of the marketplace and a shrewd businesswoman who is adept with horses. Oya is the one who carries the spirits of the dead to the other world. She is tall, stately, and fierce in battle.
One of the great goddesses of the Nigerian Yoruba. The goddess of the Ocean, Motherhood and Protectress during the middle passage of slavery. She was said to be the daughter of the sea into whose waters she empties. The first time she walked on earth, fountains that later became rivers sprang up wherever she set foot. Sea shells, through which the priestesses and priests could hear the voice of the universe, were among her first gifts to the people. The river Ogun is associated with her, because the water of this river is considered to be a remedy for infertility.
A water-spirit, sometimes described as a mermaid figure, who can found throughout the western coastal regions and into central Africa. Mami Wata is described as having long dark hair, very fair skin and compelling eyes. She may appear in dreams and visions to her devotees as a beautiful mermaid and is also said to walk the streets of modern African cities in the guise of a gorgeous but elusive woman. She is interested in all things contemporary and her colors are red and white. Mami Wata may give wealth to her devotees, her “daughters” or to her (male) spouses, but she is never known to give fertility.