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9 Most Important African Gods of Healing

Africa is a continent with many different cultures and traditions.

Known all over the world is the African belief in traditional healing. Africans use locally available plants, herbs, and animal parts to cure many ailments.

However, found deep in their mythological beliefs are supernatural beings they look to for quick recovery.

Christianity was introduced in most regions of Africa by the 20th century. Nevertheless, for decades Africans had put their faith in the divine intervention of deities and spirits who once lived and walked amongst them.

 Since old habits die hard, some cultures could not simply set aside beliefs they had cultivated since the 18th century, especially people in the West and Central Africa regions.

Worshipping beings visible to them seemed easier than a higher spiritual being in the heavens.

Therefore, they held on to their mythological deities, passing down the beliefs from one generation to the next.

The following are the African deities of healing, some of which are still worshipped today.

  • Osanyin
  • Babalu Aye
  • Aja
  • Xu
  • Jengu
  • Erinle
  • Mami Wata
  • Sonzwaphi
  • Agwu – Nsi

These gods are worshipped in different regions of the African continent. Some of the deities only heal specific ailments. Let us discuss each one of them and the role they play in society.

1. Osanyin

Osanyin is the spirit of plants, the orisha that facilitates medicine preparation from herbs and roots.

He is the younger brother of Orunmila. He learned how to prepare herbs at a young age.

 His knowledge made him arrogant, and when he denied a ‘diviner’ medicinal help, a divine intervention caused him to lose an eye, an arm, and one leg, thus becoming disabled.

Osanyin fought battles with other deities and was enslaved in his lifetime, experiences that cultivated humility within him.

Osanyin is highly respected in the Yoruba region due to his advanced knowledge of herbs.

2. Babalu Aye

Also known as Sopona, Babalu Aye is the Yoruba spirit of the earth.

He promotes the cure for infectious diseases and illnesses.

His other name, Sopona, comes from his infliction of smallpox upon humans.

Babalu Aye cures all kinds of conditions, including those with the potential to cause epidemics.

He is said to be close to the force that takes a person’s life since he has the ability to heal people who are close to their death.

3. Aja

Translated to mean ‘Wild Wind’, Aja is the spirit of the forest, animals that reside in it, and herbal healers.

She resides in the forest, where she willingly shares her wisdom with those seeking knowledge of medicinal plants.

She expertly guides them in discovering plants with valuable healing properties and assists in blending them to create potent cures.

Other than other deities, Aja reveals herself to humans.

4. Xu

Pronounced as Zoo, Xu is the sky god of the Bushmen of South Africa.

He is the main god of the South African San community.

They believe he is their creator and seek his mighty healing powers during health distress.

Magicians also seek him as the source of their supernatural powers.

It is said that the souls of the dead go to him after they breathe their last.

5. Jengu

Jengu is a Sawabantu (coastal Bantu people) water spirit.

In plural, they are referred to as Miengu.

They are mermaid-like spirits who reside in the river.

As intermediaries between their worshippers and the spirit world, they not only bring good fortune but also cure diseases.

6. Erinle

Also known as Inle, he is the god of the natural forces of the universe.

 Inle resides at the point where freshwater rivers meet saltwater bodies.

He can take both the masculine and feminine forms, thus representing the homosexual and transgender communities.

Erinle is the orisha of health and medicinal healing. He is also the physician of other deities.

7. Mami Wata

Mami Wata are water spirits who can take both male and female forms.

The Yoruba people of West Africa worship them for good luck, divination, success, and healing.

She is known to afflict people with illnesses that only she can cure.

Due to her feminine form, she is believed to be barren.

As a result, healing an infertile woman and granting her the ability to have a child may lead the woman to be distanced from the Mami Wata spirits.

8. Sonzwaphi

The Zulu people believe in a Prime Creator, uMenzi.

 Since the name Zulu means interplanetary space, the Zulu people believe they originated from space.

Their Prime Creator, uMenzi, was assisted by eight other deities in helping their ancestors help humans who lived on Earth long before they arrived from space.

One of those deities is Sonzwaphi, who is the Zulu god of healing.

9. Agwu – Nsi

Agwu is the most active spirit in the Igbo land.

 There are four forms of the Agwu spirit, namely Nne Agwu, Oke Agwu, Agwu Ukwu, and Agwu Nsi.

Agwu Nsi is the Igbo god of poets, healing, and divination.

 He is regarded as the god who gave the knowledge of making medicine from herbs and roots to humans right after he brought them to earth.

Wrap Up

Interestingly, despite many believing in Christianity and the above deities being purely mythological, different cultures believe in their actual healing power.

People worship them in sanctuaries and holy places, offering sacrifices to have their wishes granted.

When pestilence strikes, some groups believe they have done something to irritate their gods.

Also check:

12 Most Important African Gods of Wealth

12 Most Revered African Gods of War

8 Famous African Earth Goddesses and Gods

Faith Zion

Faith Zion is a passionate expert in African culture, history, and mythology, with a focus on ancient African history. As a PhD candidate in History, she has dedicated her academic journey to unraveling the mysteries of African art, religion, and mythology, particularly during the Predynastic period. With years of experience in the field, Faith's extensive research has enriched her knowledge in various mythological traditions, including African, Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Mesoamerican, Japanese, and more.

Faith Zion
Faith Zion is a passionate expert in African culture, history, and mythology, with a focus on ancient African history. As a PhD candidate in History, she has dedicated her academic journey to unraveling the mysteries of African art, religion, and mythology, particularly during the Predynastic period. With years of experience in the field, Faith's extensive research has enriched her knowledge in various mythological traditions, including African, Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Mesoamerican, Japanese, and more.
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