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Sango and the Lightning Charm


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(Yoruba/Nigeria)

Sango is the solar and thunder divinity, the lightning god. His wives were the rivers Awya (the Niger), Oshun, and Obba, who perhaps represented the tornado, the darkness, and the storm clouds. Among his servants were the wind, Afefe, and the rainbow, Oshumare, whose duty it was to carry up water from the earth to his palace. He is also the god of the chase.

Sango, the storm god, was the fourth king of Oyo. He was a tyrannical and powerful man, and so flamboyant that he is said to have sent out clouds of fire and smoke from his mouth. One version of the myth says that Sango discovered a charm by means of which he could call down lightning from heaven, and he went up a hill near the city to try its effect. The charm worked too well: a storm blew up at once, but the lightning descended on Sango's own palace and destroyed it. Most of his wives and children perished in the fire, and Sango was so broken in spirit that he hanged himself on an ayan tree of which wood the axes are made.

Another version says that Sango ascended to heaven during a storm, or that he disappeared into the earth on a long chain.

Sango's consort is Oya, the Niger River. In one story, he is said to have chased her across the sky, rising like the sun and following her all day until he reached the place where heaven and earth meet, and she hid in the sea. Oya has some storm characteristics; she is fierce and bearded, her face so terrible that no one can look at it, and her anger is greatly feared. She is said to strike down houses, and is often identified with the wind that blows when no rain follows.

Subjects: Religion.


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