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Gu Makes the World Habitable


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(Fon/Benin)

After Mawu and Lisa, the ranking deity in the sky pantheon is Gu, god of metal and god of war, representing one of the principal forces in the world that is helpful to humans. He is not conceived of in the way that others in the sky pantheon are viewed; he is seen as a person or an instrument in the hands of Mawu-Lisa, a godly force with a body of stone and a head of iron. As a person, he is the heavenly blacksmith, patron of the blacksmiths of the earth and inventor of all crafts, and is identified with iron.

When Lisa came to earth, he brought Gu with him to educate humans in the use of tools, home building, and agriculture. (For the story of Lisa and Gu and the journey to the earth, see: Lisa.) Some think that Gu existed even before Lisa, that his trip to the earth with Lisa was not his first, that he was with Mawu when Mawu created the world at the beginning. It was later when the creator, in his character as Lisa, was again accompanied by his helper or instrument, Gu, who traveled over the earth. He gave man tools and taught him the art of the smith. Lisa helped humans to surmount any obstacle they encountered, then re-ascended to the sky and returned the wand to his father. Mawu said that gold and other metals were costly, that iron must serve all mankind. Pleased with what Lisa had accomplished, Mawu gave him the sun from which he could keep watch over the realms of the universe. When Lisa went to the sun, he took Gu with him. Gu is also spoken of as a smith, and, because he is thought of as always at work in his smithy, he is conceived of as living only in the open. At the same time, Hevioso caused the first fall of rain, and Mawu, source of fertility, set down the first seeds that were sown in the fields prepared by Lisa and Gu. See also: Hevioso, Lisa, Mawu, Mawu-Lisa, Ogun.

Subjects: Religion.


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