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African Mythology (Part 1): In The Beginning
Mythology is generally understood as a collection of tales or folkore which belong to a particular religion or cultural tradition.
We can go as far as to suggest that the very essence of individual and collective identity is founded on the collection of myths individuals and groups of individuals believe in.
Whilst Eastern and Western Mythologies have been preserved and passed in time through the written word ensuring that the world is acquainted with the Heroes of Old like Gilgamesh, Prometheus and Hercules, African mythology was passed down primarily using an Oral Griot Tradition in which stories of the Heroes of Old were passed down from generation to generation by specially elected and trained Oracles.
It is from such Oracles that Ancient Epics like Mali’s Ancient Epic Of Sundiata Keita were passed down.
However, outside of the inscriptions on the Temples of Ancient Egypt, the Cosmic beliefs of Africa on ultimate questions such as the Oigins of the Universe, the creation of Mankind and the purpose of Creation itself are not widely known or told.
In the African Mythology Series based on Dr Credo Mutwa’s crtically acclaimed Book Indaba My Children, we will explore the beliefs and ideas of Ancient Africa on ultimate questions like the Origins of the Universe, the Creation Of Man, Plant and Animal Life.
We will start our journey by revealing the secrets of Africa’s long lost version of Genesis.
May Dr Credo Mutwa’s soul Rest in Peace, and we will attempt to spread the Knowledge contained in the precious timeless work he left.
Origins Of The Universe
In the beginning, there were no Stars, Sun, Moon nor Earth.
Nothing existed except darkness itself which was neither Hot nor Cold, Dead or Alive.
A nothingness frightening in its utter nothingness.
This Nothingness floated for many eons upon the invisible Waters Of Time which itself had no beginning or end.
Then Time and Nothingness mated and gave birth to a tiny invisible spark of Fire.
Surrounded in Nothingness, the lonely Spark did not want to be consumed by the Nothingness so it grew in size to equal Nothingness until it eventually consumed the Nothingness.
However, the River Time was upset at this development and so it sent a Cold Spirit to quench the Spark.
The eternal battle between Fire and Cold Spirits thus began and it still rages today.
The Universe is kept in balance because neither the Fire or Cold Spirit wins this ferocious battle otherwise the Universe would be destroyed, either consumed by Fire or completely Frozen by the Spirit of the Cold.
All life thus depends on this enternal contest.
From the Ashes or wounds of The Fire formed in its battle with the Cold Spirit arose the Great Mother, Ma.
Ma the All-Knowing and Omniscient was the very first Self-created Goddess of Human Shape brought into existence by the Great Spirit’s Will who was angered by the destructive War between the Flame and The Cold, and so sent Ma from the Gates Of Eternity to bring Order to the Universe.
Ma was brought into existence by Nkulunkulu, the Great Spirit so she could execute its commands.
The Great Mother, Ma then created the Heavans as she crafted the Stars, the Sun and the Earth.
When she was finished, she sat atop the Great Mountain to rest and await The Great Spirit’s further instructions.
This story is similar to other Ancient Creation Epics, particularly Ancient Mesopotamia’s Enuma Elish and Ancient Egypt’s creation Myth which tells the story of how for countless years, the Creator-God had drifted asleep in the primordial sea the Egyptians called Nun until he awoke and willed existence into being starting with a group of Gods that represented the 4 creative Elements of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water.
Ultimately, these tales deal with two questions:
i) How existence emerged from Nothingness;
ii) How chaotic existence was shaped into the Ordered Universe once it emerged from Nothingness.
The conquest or defeat of Chaos by the Gods was a common motif and formed the foundation of many Ancient Religions starting with the first known Religion in Sumer in Ancient Mesopotamia with the defeat of Tiamat by the God Marduk, and appears to have spread in different iterations across time and Cultures.
Today, with the assistance of Quantum Physics we can perhaps begin to comprehend the Mystery of how existence could come out of Nothingness.
Quantum Theory provides possible solutions if we consider the primordial Universe as Waves of potentiality that coalesced into the Universe when an Observer or The Great Spirit expressed its will.
This explanation is a possible interpretation based on the famous Double Slit Experiment whose outcome suggested that the simple act of Observation turned Waves into Particles suggesting that Reality itself is made up of waves of potentiality rather than actual physical matter.
Thus the Ancient African Myth of how Existence or the Flame (Matter) came to be from Nothingness due to the Will Of The Great Spirit may suggest that an Act of Observation of Primordial Forces by The Great Spirit is what brought the Physical Universe of Matter into existence since according to one of the most famous experiments in Physics, the Double Slit Experiment, all that is required to turn Waves of Potentiality into Particles or Matter is to Observe them.
Join us for Part 2 as we continue with the African version of Genesis to reveal the secrets of the Ancient African Tradition on the Creation of Man, Plants and Animals.
If you can’t wait or would like to read along, you can get a copy of Dr Credo Mutwa’s Indaba My Children on Amazon.
If you would also be interested in Futurism based on African Mythology, Realities and Technology, join our New Facebook Group Afrifuturism Connect to share your creations and discuss African Futurism and Afroturism.
Art Credit: Jahbu Art