African Mythologies

The African Supreme Being and Creation

Are there African flood myths?

There are many African flood myths. A Yoruba myth tells how, when the god Olorun ruled the sky and the goddess Olokun ruled the earth, the god Obatala gained permission to descend to earth to create dry land and creatures to live on it. After creating the land, he became bored and drank too much wine from the palm tree he had created. Then, while drunk, he created new creatures in his general image, some of whom were understandably imperfect. The new humans built villages and a great city, and the gods were happy with Obatala’s work—all the gods, that is, but Olokun, who resented what she saw as Obatala’s intrusion into her territory. While Obatala was away on a visit to the sky, Olokun used her oceans to flood the land, killing many people and ruining their settlements. The people begged the trickster Eshu (Legba) to go up to heaven to tell the gods what was happening and to beg for help. Eshu agreed, but only if sacrifices were made to him and to Obatala. When this was done, Eshu carried the message to the sky and soon Olorun’s son, Orunmila, came down and used spells to put an end to the deluge.

A ritual Dogon container from Mali includes carvings of the spirit children called the Nummo.


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