This week, from our Great Mother Africa, we welcome the Great Creator Mother Goddess, Mawu.
Riding on an elephant’s back, pregnant with all life, She brings bounty, fertility, creativity, and the cool, cleansing energy of the Moon. Her beautiful planet Earth is held up by the great Serpent, Aido Hwedo.
Mawu is the daughter of the supreme Goddess, Nana Buluku, who created the world. Mawu is She who gives birth to all forms and who created humanity
Goddess scholar Patricia Monaghan writes, “At first She used clay mixed with water, but running short of materials, Mawu began to enliven the bodies of dead people, which explains why people sometimes look like their forebears.”
But then, things got a little chaotic.
In one story, humanity became arrogant. “Annoyed with Her earthly creation,” Patricia writes, “Mawu retreated to Her home in the sky.
“Things did not go well on Earth after Her departure, so Mawu sent Her son Lisa [also spelled Liza] to teach useful arts to humanity, then instructed Him to watch the people each day to ensure obedience to Her rules.”
He is associated with the Sun, while Mawu is the Moon. In some places, they are also husband and wife, or two sides of the same androgynous being.
Mawu is beloved to the Ewe (“yev-eh”) and Fon people of the present-day Republic of Benin (formerly the Abomey/Dahomey region). Benin is in western Africa, between Togo to its west, Nigeria to its east, and south of Burkina Faso and Niger.
After gaining its freedom from centuries of monarchy, French rule, and a disastrous Marxist communist dictatorship, Benin is now a democracy and in 1996, Vodoun was recognized as its official religion (although freedom of religion is granted by constitutional law).
According to Mama Zogbé, who is a Chief Hounon-Amengansie African-American High-Priestess of the Mami Wata, Mama Tchamba, and Yeveh Vodoun ancestral traditions, “Mawu represents the Moon that brings the night and cooler temperatures in the African world.”
For a region that lies between 5 and 13 degrees north of the Equator, coolness is a rare and treasured commodity. It is also associated with the most revered elders.
Mama Zogbé explains that Mawu “is depicted as an old mother who dwells in the West. Coolness is an expression of wisdom and age for the Fon people.
“Mawu has a partner called Liza that is associated with the Sun. Liza is regarded by African people as fierce and harsh. Mawu and Liza are described as an inseparable unity at the basis of the universe. They are also regarded as twins.
“Their unity represents the order of the universe. Liza is said to dwell in the East, and Mawu in the West. When there is an eclipse of the Sun or the Moon, the Fon people think that Mawu and Liza are making love.
As a Goddess of fertility, it is not surprising that Mawu and Lisa gave birth to seven pairs of twins, all Gods in the Voudon traditions, including the thunder God, Xevioso (alternately: Xewioso, Heviosso).
All agree that Mawu is a generous, nurturing Goddess. She is not afraid to ask for help when She needs it, and so she welcomes our heartfelt requests, when made with respect.
Above all, She loves Her children. When we are in need of balance and harmony, Mawu is there to guide us.
May She be a blessed provider of plenty for us all.
With gratitude to these resources:
365 Goddess, by Patricia Telesco
The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, by Patricia Monaghan
Religious Traditions of Africa and the African Diaspora, African American Studies Program, The College of New Jersey Honors program © Spring 1997 and 1999.
The Goddess in World Mythology
West African Diaspora Mami Wata Vodoun © Mama Zogbé.