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TThough 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. According to Venda belief 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 is believed to fly on the wings of thunder.
EElephants have always symbolised strength, leadership and greatness in African myths. A few other symbols include the mole snake, which is symbolic of friendship, protection and active support and the walking stick, which 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 consultations 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. You’ll find sangomas in traditional cultural villages, though you can also take tours off the beaten track to sangomas who lead large communities, embodying their collective consciousness in wise counsel.