Perhaps you are of African descent and are struggling to find authentic African names for your newborn, or perhaps you went to Africa and fell in love with it, and so you want to give your newborn an African name? Or do you just want to know a little more about African gods and goddesses, and the meaning behind their names? Whatever the reason, here is a list names inspired by African gods and goddesses.
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African Names: Bumba
Bumba is the supreme god amongst the Bushongo tribe in the modern day Congo region of Africa. He is actually known as the creator god of vomit…And yes, that sounds a little sordid to say the least! However, when you dig deeper, this ‘vomit’ is merely a metaphor in a creation myth that is both emotionally touching and powerful. Legend has it, that at the beginning of time, the universe was simply darkness. Then out of the darkness came Bumba: Interestingly, he is described as being a pale-skinned giant. However, Bumba was feeling sick and ill. He felt sick and ill for the next few million years, and it was all because he was desperately lonely in the dark, empty universe. His stomach was said to have swelled as he stomach hurt more and more each year, until eventually, staggering and groaning, he vomited up the Sun. Thus, light burst forth and illuminated the universe, and began to give it energy and light. Bumba then choked out the Moon. Then after the Moon, the stars followed, before finally, with one last gasp, he threw up the planet Earth itself. But it doesn’t quite stop there. Although Bumba was feeling slightly better, for the universe was now illuminated by the sun and stars, he vomited up 9 animals, humans and…a pile of diced carrots! Finally Bumba – exhausted from his sickness, but feeling much better now – sat and watched the 9 different animals and humans he had vomited up from his loneliness: Over time he watched them evolve into billions of different species comprising every living thing on Earth, which is a view that mixes both Creationism and Evolution. Happily, all his creations were friendly and respected him, aside from a goddess called Tsetse-Bumba, who stole fire and made a home for her in the sky. She would irritate Bumba and all his creations by wreaking havoc, firing lighting from the sky, just because she was a trickster and was obsessed with the fire element. Eventually Bumba told her she had to have permission to come down to the Earth as lightning, or face destruction. But still, from time to time, she still cannot resist setting fire to things when she feels particularly mischievous! Aside from Tsetse however, Bumba was finally happy that he was no longer alone in the universe, and all his other creations were respectful towards him. After a time, Bumba had 3 sons appear, called Nyonye-Ngana, Chonganda and Chedi-Bumba. Together, they added the finishing touches to the universe and planet Earth, and it’s creation was complete. Bumba had one final friendly discussion with his human creations, before he decided to ascend to heaven forever, never to be seen on the Earthly realm again. Bumba is also known as Mbombo, which is simply an alternative name.
African Names: Olorun and Obatala
The supreme god of the Yoruba people, who make up much of the Nigerian and Benin population today, is seen as the king of the universe, as well as the God of peace and justice. He is actually assumed to be a combination of 3 gods – like a holy trinity – comprised of Olorun the lord of heaven, Olodumare, the Ultimate Creator, and Olofi, the messenger. In his Olodumare form, he created the blueprints for creating the planet Earth. However, he decided that he would get someone else to do the actual building, so he created a son called Obatala (the greatest of the ‘Orishas’ – who are essentially demi-gods) to do the dirty work. Olodumare handed Obatala the “chicken of Creation”, and told him to create the Earth to his designs. However, this did not go exactly as planned… Obatala made a bit of a mess of things. Whilst on his way to carry out the great task and building the Earth, Obatala was invited to a party being held by the Gods. Obatala was known for liking a drink or two, so he happily obliged. He spent the rest of the night getting incredibly drunk on palm wine, and eventually passed out. So his sibling, Oduduwa, suddenly thought to himself “I can get all the fame and glory and build the world, instead of my elder brother!”. So he stole the plans Olorun had made and all the building materials, and built the Earth to how it is today. As it happens, he did a great job, and Olorun was so pleased that Oduduwa – and enraged by Obatala’s drunken incompetence – was promoted to God of the Earth. Obatala on the other hand, was punished by being set to work on creating men and women. However, eventually Olorun forgave him, and gave him dominion over the men and women he had created, but only the heads. He was said to have mended his ways and transform himself into a Great White God that now represents purity, clean living and clarity of thought – the opposite to what he used to be before he sobered up! Today, this phenomenal creation mythology from Olorun has spread as far away as the Caribbean, whilst Obatala is considered one of the highest Orishas, with roles now covering fertility, childbirth and fortune. All over the world he is worshipped, from Africa to Brazil, even mixed with Catholicism, Hinduism and Vodou in the Caribbean.
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African Names: Shango
Another god within the Yoruba pantheon, legend has it that he was originally the great fourth warrior king of the Yoruba people, who was elevated to the Orishas. He is known as the god of thunder, drums and dance, and it is said that whenever you hear thunder, you should pay homage to him by reciting the phrase “Cabio Sile Shango”. Shango is a party animal, and the other Orishas love to hire him to parties where he is a great drummer and dancer. However, whenever he dances and drums, it causes thunder storms. He has a special day when people gather to feast in his honour: December 4th of each year. And during this time he has a piper employed to play all his latest songs. His sacred number is the 6, and his colours are red and white. He is fond of animals, and in particular, dogs, but he also favours roosters and turtles. When Shango is invoked in celebration and tribute, bananas, apples, cornmeal, okra, red wine and rum are offered. Shango does not have a good relationship with his brother – Ogun – and he isn’t afraid to have a punch up with him from time to time. But Shango – despite his fierce some reputation and being god of thunder – is considered a loyal and protective deity to worship and invite into your life.
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African Names: Anansi
Anansi is a trickster god (similar to “Loki” in the Norse pantheon) in a spiders form, worshipped by the Ashanti people in modern day Ghana, as well as many areas of the Caribbean, where he is one of the most important characters in their folklore. In the southern United States he has evolved into “Aunt Nancy” by followers of Voudu, particularly in Louisiana. The story of his origin is interesting to say the least. It goes that once there were no stories in the world to be told, because the Sky-God Nyame had them all and would not share them with anyone. So Anansi went to him and asked him “how much would it cost me to buy them from you?” Nyame said Anansi must bring back Onini the Python, Osebo the Leopard and the Mboro Hornets. These were considered the fiercest of all the animals, so Anansi would have to devise a scheme to catch them all. Anansi first went to where the Python lived. He purposely spoke out loud, taunting the python out by saying he didn’t think the Python was as long as a palm branch, as his wife claimed. The Python fell for the trick, and he agreed he would lie upon the palm branch, but because he could not make himself truly straight, he said it would be fairer if he was tied to the branch, to show his true length. When he was completely tied, he was trapped! Anansi took him to Nyame as the first of the gifts. Next, he went to try and catch the leopard. He dug a deep hole in the ground, and the leopard fell in. Anansi offered to help him out of the ground with his spider webs. However, once the leopard was out of the hole, he was trapped in Anansi’s webs and was carried away to Nyame. Finally, he set about to catch the hornets: He filled a calabash with water and poured some over a banana leaf and held it over his head, pouring some over himself, and called out: “It’s raining!” He suggested to the hornets that they get into the empty calabash for shelter, but when they did, he quickly sealed the opening, and caught all of them inside. So, when Anansi handed over the hornets to Nyame as the last of the gifts, Nyame was delighted. He stood true to his word and rewarded him by making him the god of all stories. Today this folklore tale is so popular, it has made it’s way into numerous illustrated children’s books. There are some variations on the story, but the main point is that Anansi is depicted as spider because he weaves his stories like a beautiful web, but he is also a trickster who is a metaphor for the many illusions in life we as humans come across. He is however, considered a benevolent god in general, and in some belief systems he is said to have also created the sun, moon and stars, and teaching humans agriculture, as well as performing tasks for Nyame, such as bringing rain to stop forest fires. Anansi is a folklore legend revered throughout much of Africa and the Caribbean, especially amongst the Ashanti people.
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African Names: Khuzwane
The God of populating the Earth amongst the Lovedu and VhaVenda people of Transvaal (in modern day South Africa), legend has it that when the Earth was young still, it was squidgy just like wet clay. So Khuzwane used it to mould the first humans into being. It is said that the Limpopop River bears the imprint of Khuzwane’s bare feet as he walked around moulding people. There are actually now a number of sacred sites in this region of Africa now that persists to this day. Once a year, in a secretive ceremony, locally made beer is poured into them in thanks. Lake Fundudzi is a very special place to the VahVenda people too, as they believe that Khuzwane uses it as his private swimming pool. It is said that occasionally he will come down to Earth to use it to bathe in. Unsurprisingly, no one is allowed to visit the lake without permission first from elders. It is also Africa’s only natural freshwater lake, and in myths is said to be home to a giant snake of fertility and a white crocodile who loves beer. It is also a scared burial ground for the VahVenda people, and they believe that beneath the lake lies an underwater village populated by spirits of the dead, and apparently, sometimes you can hear them singing their underwater laments. Khuzwane’s lake is so sacred that the Tshivha clan of the VhaVenda are guardians of the Lake and they go to great lengths to keep it clean and pure.
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African Names: Ala
Ala is considered to be the goddess of the earth, morality, fertility, death and creativity in the Odinani religion, which is the traditional belief system of the Igbo people of Nigeria. Ala rules over the Igbo version of the underworld, which is said to be her womb, where she holds all the deceased ancestors of the world. Ala literately means “Ground” in the Igbo language, which is symbolic of her powers over earth as well as the ground itself. She is considered so important, that she is the highest Alusi in the Igbo pantheon. Ala is married to Amadioha (or Chuku), who being the god of the Sun, she found irresistibly bright and sunny. Being a goddess of morality too means that if anyone commits a crime or injustice in Igbo communities, they are considered to have also committed a crime or insult against Ala, as she is considered the Earth herself. This is also why the Igbo consider all of the land on Earth holy and sacred. When it comes to fertility, Ala is credited for the productivity of the land, and the bounty of the harvests. Ala is often seen represented to this day as a regal figure seated upon a throne, surrounded by her family, often using mud and clay to create life-size sculptures of them all. Her symbols are considered to be the crescent moon, which represents the dead she carries within her womb, and the Python, who is considered her messenger on Earth, an dis thus revered by the Igbo people. She has an annual festival in Nigeria called the Yam Festival.
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African Names: Oshun
Considered the Goddess of Love, Creativity and Sensuality in the Yoruba pantheon (modern day Nigeria and Benin), she is also known as the protective deity of the River Oshun. She has many different aspects to her which makes her a very popular goddess, so popular in fact that she is actually worshipped by a significant number of modern day Neopagans in Europe and North America, as well as Nigeria and Benin and the Caribbean. People turn to Oshun so frequently because she can cure sickness, increase fertility both in humans and the earth, and strengthen love and sexual energy. Oshun is said to be a bit of a hedonist: She loves to savour all the pleasures of the senses in life, and blesses all forms of love, intimacy and sexuality. But she also loves art, cooking and gardening: basically, anything creative which gives a her a profound feeling of satisfaction. Despite this intensity, however, she is known to rather bashful and delicate. She is known to consort with Shango – the great god of thunder and dancing – from time to time, though they are not married. Aside from this, she is known to practice divination with sea shells, and loves to take make herself look as pretty as possible with beautiful beads in her hair and sea shells fashioned into necklaces and bracelets.
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African Names: Mbaba Mwana Waresa
Although her name is a bit of a mouthful, Mbaba is the fertility goddess of the Zulu religion in South Africa. But she is also quite a fun goddess, because other than ruling over agriculture, water, the earth and harvests, she also rules over rainbows, beer and merriment! A bit like the female version of Dionysus in the Greek pantheon. She taught her people everything they needed to know about reaping and sowing crops, and also taught them how to ferment beer. Naturally, this has made her one of the most revered goddesses amongst the Zulu people. She is said to live in the clouds, in a round hut made of rainbow arches, which explains why she is considered the goddess of the rainbows too. But aside from the rainbows and beer, people love her because she is the rain goddess, and they are considered blessed by her when it rains and brings life to their crops, especially in times of drought. Interestingly, she is also considered to be able to come down to Earth occasionally and shape-shift into animals, which is where her alternative name comes from, “Nomkhubulwane”, meaning “she who chooses the state of the animal”. She is married to a mortal man (whose name is unknown), which went against the rules at the time which said gods and goddesses were not allowed to marry humans. But as she could not find a suitable husband in the heavens, she scoured the Earth and came across this mortal man who she fell in love with. But to test him and to see if his love was true, she sent a beautiful bride to try and tempt him away. However, he did not fall for this trick, and to this day they remained married, living in her rainbow hut in the sky. To this day, whenever Zulu people (who still follow the Zulu religion) see a rainbow in the sky, they see it as a sign from Mbaba to celebrate and drink beer!
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African Names: Elusu
An Orisha (demi-god) of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin, Elusu is the goddess of water, who is married to Olokun, who is the god of the sea (like Africa’s version of Neptune). Elusu lives with Olokun at the harbour bar at Lagos. She is described as being white in colour, but has an appearance akin to that of a mermaid: She is covered with fish-scales from below the breasts to the hips. The fish in the waters of the bar are sacred to her, and so should anyone catch them, she will take a swift vengeance upon them, even going to such lengths as to capsizing boats and canoes and drowning the offenders! Some still take this deadly seriously, and so anyone caught fishing on the bar may come under attack and being thrown overboard by over sailors! Elusu is a true sea-goddess, and she symbolises the sacredness of oceans and rivers, and tells us that we should command respect for the bounties they give us. Although she can seem like a bit of a malicious goddess, this is only true if you fish in her sacred bars off of Lagos, or if you disrespect her river-ways and ocean. Otherwise, showing respect for her and her rivers and ocean will bring you good catches of fish, and safety from storms and other nautical mishaps!