Ancient African Gods

A majority of the ancient African cultures and communities had a belief in a Supreme creator and sometimes lesser gods.

The lesser gods were created by the supreme creator and took care of a lot of the jobs such as caring for the earth and even dealing with some of the problems of people.

The many deities were supposed to have the ability to answer prayers as well as act on the part of the supreme being.

Communication with the supreme being and the lesser spirits and gods is dependent on the specific African tribe or village and their belief system.
Symbol of the Ndut initiation rite

Basic African Beliefs:

Many of the African tribes believe that the Earth was created in four days, with the fifth day set aside for the worship of Orisha Nla (Chief of the Deities) who did the creating through instruction by the supreme being.

Orisha Nla also took clay and made human being bodies and it was the supreme creator that put the spark of life into the bodies.

The “breath” of the supreme being is called by many names: Mulungu in East Africa, Leza in Central Africa, Nyambe in the West Tropics, Nyame in Ghana.  The supreme creator is known as the Molder, Giver of Breath and Souls, God of Destiny, One Who Exists of Himself, God of Pity and Comfort, the Inexplicable, Ancient of Days, the One Who Bends Even Kings, and the One You Meet Everywhere.

The continent of Africa is so vast and large, and has made languages, tribes, cultures, and regions. Many of the religious traditions and values have crossed over into each other.

Some of the most common patterns of the various religions is that the Creator God of Africa is unhappy with his creations and human beings are often left alone to take care of themselves.

African religions try to regain communication with their God in many ways, including through prophets and mediums.

Sharing Religious Stories:

Since ancient African tribes didn’t have any method of writing, the only way that they transmitted their stories was through their griots, or storytellers. Other villages and cultures had shamans or witchdoctors that maintained the knowledge of their religious beliefs.

The shamans only shared their abilities with the next generation of shamans and were therefore considered to be mysterious. Griots were also thought to be magical as they played musical instruments and could sing to tell the stories.

African Tribes:

Other than Egyptian, the list of known tribes and cultures of ancient Africa included: Abalyia, Agni, Akamba, Alur, Ankore, Asante (Ashanti), Baga, Baila, Bambara, Bantu, Banyarwanda, Banyoro, Barotse, Basuto, Baule, Baventa, Benin, Botswana Bushmen, Bushoong, Dagamba, Damara, Dinka, Djaga, Dogon, Efik, Fon, Hausa, Ibo, Ijaw, Isoko, Kalahari Bushmen, Kalyl, Kaonde, Kavango, Koko, Lele, Lotuko, Lugbara, Lumba, Luo, Luveda, Makeni, Masai, Mbunda, Mende, Nama, Ngombe, Nbandi, Nuer, Nupe, Pygmy, Shilluk, Shona, Shongon, Songhai, Tonga, Tunbuka, Upoto, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zambesi, Zulu.

The sheer volume of lesser gods is incredible. Ancient African religions had lesser deities to cover just about everything including nature, life, children, farming, rain and weather, hunting, and wars.

Egyptian Beliefs:

Due to the ability to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs, we know the most about Egyptian gods and goddesses. The Egyptians believed that their pharaoh was a direct descendent from the gods and had power over the earth and nature.

The Egyptian philosophy of life was one that was dedicated to having a positive life as they believed that having a good afterlife was dependent upon their behavior. They therefore devoted a majority of living to appeasing their gods.

A majority of the African religions also had beliefs in mythological spirits or invisible beings. These spirits could be good or bad, and were also less powerful than the lesser gods.

The spirits could be associated with natural features such as rivers, trees, springs, wells, or mountains. Entire villages and communities would often honor their known local spirits.


According to African religious beliefs, who took care of many of the duties of everyday life for the supreme creator?

lesser deities

Most African religions believe that the Earth was created in how many days?


What is the name of the Chief of the Dieties?

Orisha Nla

After the creation of the Earth, what purpose was the next day set aside for?

worship of Orisha Nla

What ancient African culture do we know the most about their religious beliefs and practices?


Were the spirits as powerful as the lesser gods?