The BANTU MYTHOLOGY is the system of myths and legends of the Bantu
All Bantus traditionally believe in a supreme
There are several Bantu myths that are intended to explain, or that
elaborate on, the distance between
In traditional Bantu religions, anyway,
It can be noted that, as is the case with many mythologies, Bantu mythologies about the creation of man are often limited to describing the origin of certain human groups, rather than all of humanity. For example, most Bantu peoples that coexist with bushmen do not include these in their creation myths (i.e., bushmen are considered a part of the eternal universe rather than a part of mankind).
The chameleon is a herald of eternal life in many Bantu mythologies
Most Bantu cultures share a common myth about the origin of death ,
involving a chameleon . According to this myth,
Depending on local traditions, there are different explanations for
the "double message" of the chameleon and lizard. In some cases, God
sends both the chameleon and the lizard, with their respective omens,
intentionally committing mankind's destiny to the outcome of their
race. In some other cases, the lizard eavesdrops the orders
In most African cultures, including Bantu cultures, veneration of the dead plays a prominent role. The spirits of the dead are believed to linger around and influence the world of the living. This spiritual existence is usually not considered eternal; the spirits of the dead live on as long as there is someone who remembers them. As a consequence, kings and heroes, who are celebrated by oral tradition , live for centuries, while the spirit of common people may vanish in the turn of a few generations.
The dead communicate with the living in different ways; for example, they talk to them in dreams , send omens , or can be addressed by specially gifted seers . If they take any visible shape, it is often that of some animal (most likely a snake , a bird or a mantis ).
The living, through clairvoyants and seers, may address the dead in order to receive advice or ask for favours. If a spirit takes offence in something done by a living person, he may cause illness or misfortune to that person; in that case, a clairvoyant may help that person to amend his mistake and pacify the angry dead. Catastrophes , such as famine or war , may be the consequence of serious misbehavior of the whole community.
As is the case with other mythologies, Bantu cultures often locate the world of the dead underground. Many Bantu cultures have myths and legends about living people that somehow manages to enter the world of the dead (kuzimi in Swahili ); this may happen by chance to someone who is trying to hunt a porcupine or other animal inside its burrow . Some legends are about heroes who willingly enter the underground world in some kind of quest ; examples are Mpobe (in Baganda mythology) and Uncama (Zulu mythology).
While Bantu cultures also believe in other spirits than those of the dead (for example, spirits of nature such as "Mwenembago", "the lord of the forest", in Zaramo mythology), these play a much lesser role. In many cases, they were originally spirit of dead people.
One finds here and there traces of belief in a race of Heaven dwellers distinct from ordinary mortals. For instance, they are sometimes said to have tails.
Bantu mythologies often include monsters , referred to as amazimu in isiZulu and madimo, madimu, zimwi in other languages. In English translations of Bantu legends these words are often translated into "ogre ", as one of the most distinctive traits of such monsters is that of being man-eaters . They can sometimes take on the appearance of men or animals (for example, the Chaga living by the Kilimanjaro have tales of a monster with leopard looks) and sometimes can cast spells on men and transform them into animals. A specific type of monsters is that of raised, mutilated dead (bearing a surface resemblance to western culture's zombies ) such as the umkovu of Zulu tradition and the ndondocha of the Yao people .
The traditional culture of most Bantu peoples includes several fables about personified, talking animals.
The prominent character of Bantu fables is the hare , a symbol of
skill and cunning. Its main antagonist is the sneaky and deceptive
* ^ See Werner, chapt. 1
* ^ See Lynch, p. xi
* ^ Mungu is in fact the standard translation of "God" used in
Swahili ; for example, in Swahili
* Patricia Ann Lynch, African Mythology A to Z, Infobase Publishing. * Alice Werner, Myths and Legends of the Bantu (1933). Available online here .
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