Mythological Creature Archive, West African Folklore

Mythological Creature; the Anansi SPIDER of West Africa and the African Diaspora

The Ghanaian Anansi spider is believed to be a god, responsible for creating the sun, the stars and the moon, as well as teaching mankind the techniques of agriculture and were passed down in the oral tradition over the span of hundreds of years. The stories have survived a lot.

According to wilderutopia.com the Anansi stories are popular in the US because they came here during the African Diaspora.

The African Diaspora is the term commonly used to describe the mass dispersion of people from Africa during the Transatlantic Slave Trades, from the 1500s to the 1800s. As we know, this Diaspora took millions of people from Western and Central Africa to many different regions throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

African food, culture and stories

These African ancestors landed in regions that featured local foods and cuisines, as well as other cultural influences, that shaped their unique cooking styles.

The overall pattern of a plant-based, colorful diet based on vegetables, fruits, tubers and grains, nuts, healthy oils and seafood (where available) was shared throughout these regions. Their tastes can be shared and tried by people everywhere. Here are the top ten Ghanaian specific dishes according to theculturetrip.com.

The stories came and then spread during the Diaspora too. The Anansi stories come from Ghana and are credited as being passed down from the Ashanti people (Twi). The tales spread to other Akan people too and then to the West Indies, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles.

Aunt Nancy

Anansi means spider in Akan and the creature is usually depicted of course, as a spider. On Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire he is known as Nanzi, and his wife as Shi Maria. He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, Anancy, and in the southern US, Aunt Nancy.

Anansi is also thought to be a trickster and the West African spirit of all ‘knowledge of stories.’ He is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. For the story of how he gained the ‘knowledge of stories,” click here– because once…there were no stories in the world. 😦

According to wilderutopia. com, Anansi shares similarities with the trickster figure of Br’er Rabbit, who originated from the folklore of the Bantu-speaking peoples of south and central Africa.

Brer Rabbit and Disney (1946)

Br’er Rabbit (Brother Rabbit), also spelled Bre’r Rabbit or Brer Rabbit, according to Wikipedia, is a central figure in the Uncle Remus tells stories of the Southern United States series. Br’er Rabbit is also a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn, provoking authority figures and bending social taboos as he sees fit.

The character was first written down and recorded by Joel Chandler Harris after hearing the stories in the 19th century, and then later The Walt Disney Company adapted Brer Rabbit for its 1946 animated motion picture Song of the South. There is also a Brer Rabbit Molasses. You can get the Brer Rabbit Molasses cookie recipe here.

Anansi in Modern Literature

Anansi Boys is a fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman.

According to Wikipedia, in the novel, “Mr. Nancy” — an incarnation of our West African trickster god Anansi — dies, leaving two sons, who in turn discover each other. The novel follows their adventures as they explore their common heritage.

Although it is not a sequel to Gaiman’s previous novel American Gods, the character of Mr. Nancy appears in both books.

The spider outsmarts the sky gods

Anansi and the Sky Kingdom is a folk tale that explains why we have light here on earth. It is a wonderful story and I am posting the video below. Kids will especially love the story and if you want to read it, it can be read for free, here.

If you find this article fun and interesting and you decide to expand on this story, using the Anansi in your work- let me know about it in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!

This is a West African Folk tale of how the gods gave the gift of light to the earth.
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