I'm having a lot of conversations with folks about world building, especially with me working on the world for my YA LGBTQ novel, Path of the Huntress. This week I started heavily working on the pantheon for the gods and goddesses of this world, focusing specifically on the main setting, Njoziakti, which is the homeland of the main character, a continent based on pre-colonized Africa. Here’s a peek at five of the goddesses from that pantheon.
Mamsa Koywe (Ancient Mother)… (Mistress of the Veil, Midwife of the Dead, Goddess of Magic, Grandmother/Elder/Crone) Mamsa Koywe appears as a woman so old she looks as if she should have long ago crumbled to dust. She has existed since the beginning and will be there at the end of all things. Mamasa Koywe can be as cruel as she is loving, but even her cruelty has a purpose. She is never spiteful or petty. She has a lesson to teach, a story to tell, and secrets to keep or to share but only if you are worthy. She challenges those who seek her council and punishes those who displease her. Mamasa Koywe is the master of all magic and the midwife of the dead. Her mastery of magic is so complete that Mamasa Koywe needed no mate to plant the seed of life within her. She used the magic threads to fill her womb with her children and birthed them full-grown. Her children that make up the elder gods are Mamai Taktifu; the mother of all life, Haba Umri; the keeper of time, Eki Kifouku; the caretaker of the dead, and Sahib Mnjozi; the shaper of dreams. Mamasa Koywe is the Crone figure of the Sacred “Trinity” of goddesses.
Mamai Taktifu appears as a middle-aged and abundantly proportioned woman, belly filled with life. She is the goddess who birthed all life, from plant, to animal, to people. Her domains encompass the land and the sea, all places with life begins and ends. With her part time love, The First Man, Mamai Taktifu has birthed many of the other goddesses and gods. Her first children were the twins Seli Windaji; the great huntress, and Binti Inaka, the Grain Daughter. People debate which sister is the maiden of the Sacred Trinity, Seti Windaji or Binti Inaka. To the hunter/gather cultures it is Seti Windaji and to the cultures who prize agriculture above all it is Binti Inaka. Some cultures say the sisters serve in the maiden role together, but most say it is one sister or the other. Mamai Taktifu has three other children by The First Man. Anana Oruba; goddess of weather, Njenhaki; Lady Justice, and Umeli Msafiri; protector of travelors. Fuma Ungaane; weaver of madness and his sister Mga’moto are also children of Mamai Taktifu, but believed to be half-siblings of her other children (for more on the read Mamai Taktifu’s origin story). Mamai Taktifu is the mother figure of the Sacred “Trinity” of goddesses.
Seli Windaji (Sister Huntress) …(Huntress, Sister Moon, natural law, balance, protector of children and women, wilds-fertility, patron of the Unbuwindaji, twin sister of Binti Inaka) Seli Windaji has black skin covering her muscular form and waist length hair that glows luminescent white that she lets flow wild, never braided. When she wears clothing at all it is made of leather, bones and other natural adornments, and she is always barefoot.
The first of Mamai Taktifu’s children, Seli Windaji is a wild spirit, one who runs with the creatures of land and grants light to all who sleep under the Moon’s visage. She is favored niece of Analeta Kifo, Bringer of death, for her skill as a huntress and her understanding of the need to balance life and death. Seli Windaji presides over the natural balance of all natural things, and punishes those who desecrate wild places. Much like her twin Binti Inaka, she was born with a natural glow, but Seli Windaji never shone as brightly as her younger twin. Because of this many cultures focus on Binti Inaka as the favored sister, and fear Seli Windaji for her wildness and her link to the night. She is patron goddess of the Unbuwindaji, a group of highly trained hunters whose chosen mission is to wipe out all corruption from the chaos beyond the Void, and his favored son, Fuma Ungaane. Another of Seli Windaji’s favored groups of people are the Tershain. forest elves, tribes of which live far outside the territories of their city and country bred kin, and rarely if ever come in contact with humans at all. To the hunters of the world, Seli Windaji is the daughter/sister figure in the sacred “trinity” of goddesses.
Binti Inaka (Grain Daughter) … (Gentle Maiden, Sister Sun, agriculture, farmers-fertility, twin sister of Seli Widaji) Binti Inaka’s skin and hair is golden and glows with heat and light. She wears clothing of the sheerest whites and gold trim, and wear gold strapped shoes on her feet. Where she steps golden flowers the shape of the sun grow, with yellow petals and orange centers filled with pollen. The name of the flower are the zwajua, and these rare flowers have great healing properties when ingested as a tea or inhaled in a dried and smoke for.
Binti Inaka is the second born of Mamai Taktifu’s children, and greatly loved among the agricultural peoples of the world. She is the patron of farmers and even has some followers among the country elves. She is known as a gentle goddess, not wrathful or cruel. She is a timid goddess, easily hurt and offended, though more likely to turn her back and pout then last out like her twin Seli Windaji. Not a farmers home would be caught without a well cared for shrine to Binti Inaka, and it is not uncommon for the families to choose to go without rather then let an offering time pass to the grain goddess unobserved. She is often called upon as emissary to plead with Anana Oruba; goddess of weather, for a much needed rain or a repute from bad storms. To the farmers of the world, Binti Inaka is the daughter/sister figure in the sacred “trinity” of goddesses.
Eki Kifouku (she who brings death)… (Death Bringer, caretaker of the dead, guardian of the lands of the dead) Eki Kifouku has many faces, and comes to those who must move onto the afterlife as they have lived in the world. If the person is a good, just person, she is a loving guide, gentle and kind. If a person has done wrong, has been selfish or cruel Eki Kifouku is a frightening sight to behold. No living person is said to know what Eki Kifouku looks like until she comes for them.
As her eldest daughter created all that swam, flew, and crawled, Mamasa Koywe in her wisdom knew that with life must also come death to keep the balance. She weaved magic to create the Veil where Mamasa Koywe gave birth to Eki Kifouku; the caretaker of the dead.
Mamai Taktifu urged her creatures to reproduce as fast as they could, and Eki Kifouku would cull them all just as quickly. Finally both goddesses grew so weary they collapsed beside each other on one of the largest islands. For a long time neither said a word until suddenly Mamai Taktifu began to laugh. At first her sister was cross, but soon the laughter of the creatrix of life infected Eki Kifouku. Both sisters laughed until all trace of spite and discord was washed away, and only understanding remained. Since that time Eki Kifouku and Mamai Taktifu work in balance, displeased when outside forces threaten that careful balance, tipping the scales of life and death.