African Mythology You Should Study for Your Tabletop Lore
In our last post dedicated solely to Black History Month 2021, we’re exploring the rich and fascinating mythology based in Africa. While many tabletop adventures typically use mythology and tropes centered around Western Europe, you’re only doing yourself a disservice by relying on the myth and lore from that world alone. Africa has just as many interesting myths and legends that can create a unique basis for your tabletop game, novel, or even your video game. Here are a few African myths you should study to inspire your next campaign.
Several African religions place a focus on twin divinities. These twin divinities are either responsible for the creation of the world or are somehow linked to the superior creator that they follow. In Ghana, for example, the Asante people consider twins to have a divine status. They’re often treated as living shrines.
You can use this concept for your own lore. Perhaps in a world where twins are rare, your characters or the great event of the particular continent surrounds the birth of a set of twins. In a tabletop setting, the twins may be player characters. Those who only have one or two players in their campaign can have an interesting and unique world if the rest of the country sees them as a kind of deity or some sort of special sign.
Just as there are people who may worship or obey the twins, there are likely just as many actively out to remove them. Perhaps there’s another set of twins whose prophecy was taken from them because of the emergence of a new set of twins. Perhaps there’s a cult that opposes the ideals the twins embody.
If none of your players or characters are the twins, then you can always use the birth of a pair of twins in the world as the main conflict of the story. Perhaps a war emerges because of the birth. Maybe it literally starts to rip the world apart. There are tons of different storylines and adventures that you can utilize the concept of twin divinity for.
In almost every religion there is always a trickster. In Christianity, it’s the Devil or Satan. In Norse mythology, it’s Loki. In African mythology, there are also an abundance of tricksters. The interesting thing about African tricksters, however, is that they’re not simply causing chaos for chaos’s sake. It’s done with a purpose. The trickster of the Fon people is known as Legba. He goes around the world and causes havoc and turmoil. Yet the Fon people don’t consider Legba evil.
This is because Legba also serves another purple. He takes the cryptic messages from their Superior Being, Mawu, and translates them for the Legba people. The idea behind the mythos is that the world is always in change. While divine order is something everyone wishes to experience, the reality is that mortals exist in a plane of constant change. Legba is only doing his part to maintain the divine order by causing change.
This idea that tricksters aren’t always evil can also influence your campaign or story. Everyone has villains that they hate to love and love to hate. Those individuals are typically given a lot of life and three-dimensional character development. All villains believe that what they’re doing is right, either for themselves or for their cause. Using the African idea of what a trickster is, you can create some interesting and original villains.
Those who play Dungeons and Dragons may even find that a Trickster could be a great Patron for the Warlock class. If a Party Patron is something you’re interested in, then a Trickster could also be an interesting entity that guides your adventurers in your campaign.
Develop Your Lore!
This general overlook of African myths and religious beliefs is just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of legends, gods, goddesses, lesser spirits, and beliefs that are worth investigating and exploring. Not only can they give you a closer insight to African culture, but they can help inspire you to create your own lore for your tabletop game, book, video game, or other creative project. Let us know how these concepts inspire you in the comments!