The myths of Africa differ from country to country, but they play a significant role in the African psyche throughout the continent, being passed down through the generations through strong oral traditions.

Did you know?

Queen Modjadji was at one time the most powerful rainmaker in southern Africa.

Though African mythology is seeded in the esoteric realm, it also links into practical day to day life, helping to adapt human behaviour to the demands and offerings of the environment. As such, mythology still plays a role in rural African communities.

The baobab tree, for instance, symbolises endurance, tolerance, community and longevity, while providing bark for cloth and rope, fruit, fuel and other useful products. It has also been used for centuries as a meeting place for communities.

Animals play a central role in African mythical stories; for instance, in the Sacred Forest in the Soutpansberg mountains near Louis Trichardt, two mythical creatures keep guard, namely the white lion (the spirit of Nethathe an important chief) and the thunder and lightning bird called Ndadzi, which it's believed flies on the wings of thunder .

Elephants have always symbolised strength, leadership and greatness in African myths, the mole snake is symbolic of friendship, protection and active support, and the walking stick is symbolic of support and commitment.

Among the most mythical places in South Africa are the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape, steeped in Xhosa history, and the Wolkberg mountains, where the future Rain Queen Modjadji resides.

Sangomas, the mediums of African ancestors, manifest the power of many of these myths in African societies, and in their consulations the parts of various different animals are used for their believed potency in altering health and destinies.

In many parts of South Africa it's possible to consult a sangoma for a deeper understanding of how African mythology informs people's lives, the most common being in the traditional cultural villages, though you can also take tours to sangomas off the beaten track who lead large communities, embodying their collective consciousness in wise counsel.