The African Sun Myths and Legends


The rising sun has always been a symbol of life and hope.  It provides the warmth that draws us from the cool night, and awakens the day.  From the first nomadic tribes of Africa, to the modern-day farmer, each has celebrated the new day for all its wonder, and for giving the lifeblood to the fertile plains of Africa that provide the fruit of our labour.  The sun is a constant guide through time, and in African tradition, each new day is celebrated for its wonder and uniqueness.  There are many African tales told of the sun.


Some stories say that the sun was once a man from whose armpits shone rays of light.  He dwelt alone in a hut and his light shone only for himself. But as he grew old and slept too long, the people grew cold.  Some children belonging to the first Bushmen were sent to throw the sleeping sun up into the sky, from where he now shines upon all.  In the evening, he draws his blanket of darkness over himself to keep warm.  But the blanket is old and has many little holes in it and at night the sun still sparkles through them to make stars.  Others believed that after sunset the sun travelled back to the east over the top of the sky, and that the stars are small holes which let the light through.  Some said that the sun is eaten each night by a crocodile, and that it emerges from the crocodile each morning.  According to a Naron bushman, the Sun turned into a rhinoceros at sunset, which was killed and eaten by the people in the west.  They then throw the shoulder blade towards the east, where it turns into an animal again and starts to rise.


A few of the Bushmen say the moon is really an old shoe belonging to Mantis, who threw it up in the air to guide himself.  As it rises, it is red with the red dust of Bushmanland, and cold like old leather.  They say the sun is jealous of the moon when it is full as it is a challenge to the sun’s brightness.  So with its sharp rays the sun cuts bits off the moon until there is just a little left and the old moon cries, ‘Oh! Oh! leave a little backbone for the children!’ Then the sun goes away, and soon the moon starts growing back, little by little, to its normal size and the process starts all over again.  The Boshongo from Congo believed that in the beginning there was only darkness, water, and the great god Bumba.  One day Bumba, in pain from a stomach ache, vomited up the sun.  The sun dried up some of the water, leaving land.  Still in pain, Bumba vomited up the moon, the stars, and then some animals: the leopard, the crocodile, the turtle, and, finally, some men.

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