Wednesday, December 23, 2015

African Monkey Gods


African Monkeys – From Divine to Disparaging:
A Traditional African Perspective on Monkeys Prior to Slavery and Colonization

If I were to call you an “African Lion,” you would probably take this comment as a compliment, as a metaphor symbolizing bravery, courage, and ferocity.  If I were to call you an "African Rhino", you would probably take it as a compliment about your size and strength.  I have heard of women who are supermodels referred to as “African Gazelles” as a way to compliment their grace and beauty.  I have heard “Conscious” people refer to themselves as “Nagas” and embrace the qualities and characteristics of African snakes and reptiles.  Even the qualities of the “African Elephant” such as size, strength, and excellent memory, are viewed fondly, so much so that even the South African King Shaka Zulu would refer to himself as the "Great Elephant”.  But, if I were to call you an “African Monkey”, this remark would most likely be perceived as a derogatory insult, and taken as a sign of disrespect.

However, the disdain and contempt that many African-Americans have towards African Monkeys seems to be the result of slavery, colonization, and socialization at the hands of other than "self and kind".  Since African-Americans were disparagingly compared to Apes and Monkeys in America and Europe, Black people have now grown to hate the monkey.  However, in traditional African cultures which existed prior to the influence of white people, Apes and monkeys were held in high esteem.  Observing all the creatures in Nature, Apes and Monkeys were seen as one of the most intelligent animals, and so Apes and Monkeys became anthropomorphic symbols of wisdom. 
 
This is why in the Disney film “The Lion King”, the character who was the symbol of wisdom was that of Rafiki, the baboon.  In Swahili, the word “Rafiki” means friend, and the wise baboon Rafiki in the Lion King movie, was based on the baboon depiction of the Ancient Egyptian god of wisdom Djehuti, Tehuti, or Thoth
Rafiki from the Lion King Movie
Many people know Djehuti to be depicted with the head of an Ibis bird, but another frequent depiction of Djehuti is in the form of a Baboon because the Ancient Africans in Egypt saw the Baboon as a very intelligent animal.
Djehuti Depicted with the Head of an Ibis Bird and as a Baboon
Despite slavery and colonization, the traditional African stories which used Monkeys as Nature symbols of wisdom and intelligence made it into African-American folk tales such as the story of the “Signifying Monkey” made popular by Rudy Raymore from the movie Dolemite.  The story of the “Signifying Monkey” tales of how a Monkey was able to use his intelligence to manipulate and outsmart a lion and an elephant.  However, many people do not know that the story of the “Signifying Monkey” is derived from the trickster figure of Yoruba mythology, Eshu, Elegba, or Eleggua, the God of the crossroads who is an intermediary between man and the Orisha ancestors.  Eshu is mentioned in the Yoruba Chant “Bara suayo” in the line “Obbara suayo eke eshu oddara


The role of Monkeys as guardians of the crossroads or gateways to the Ancestors can also be found in the God Ghekre or Gbekre of the Baule people of the Ivory Coast
Different forms of Ghekre or Gbekre, the African Monkey God of the Baule people of the Ivory Coast
 The Ivory Coast Monkey God Ghekre is said to be a judge of the souls of the dead, and is connected in appearance and function to the Ancient Egyptian God A'ani, the god of equilibrium, who is depicted as a monkey and can be seen on top of the scales of ma’at in the famous “weighing of the heart” scene from the “papyrus of ani”. 
 
In addition to Thoth and A’ani, other important Monkey Gods in Ancient Egypt include Hapi, as son of Heru depicted with the head of a Baboon.  And also Babi, Baba, or Bebon, the “Alpha Male” baboon god of virility. 
Babi or Baba - "The Alpha Male" Ancient Egyptian Monkey God of Virility
 The name of Baba is suggested to be the etymological origin of the English word Baboon and the Arabic word “Baba” which means father.  Which is why it should not be surprising that the first Pharaoh of Egypt, King Narmer, the Baba or Father of the First Ancient Egyptian Dynasty, was depicted as a Baboon known as Hez-Ur as part of his rejuvenation festival.
Ancient Egyptian Baboon Divity Bearing the Name Of Pharaoh Narmer On Base
In EA Wallis Budge’s Hieroglyphic Dictionary, there are over 40 different Monkey or Primate Gods mentioned by Name.   In Ancient Egypt, Monkeys were both Solar and Lunar deities.    Remember, The root of the word Primate, is Prime, which means first, chief, excellent, and best.  So like your African Ancestors, it is important to embrace all of nature’s qualities, characteristics, and creatures. 

List of Ancient Egyptian Ape or Monkey Gods mentioned is EA Wallis Budge’s Hieroglyphic Dictionary:
01.    Aani - the ape-god (page 2)
02.    Aaanu - the Ape-god Thoth (page 2)
03.    Aasten - one of the 8 ape-gods of the company of Thoth, chief of the other seven  (page 25)
04.    Aaau - the ape gods who prased Ra (page 28)
05.    Aanait - ape-goddess (page 29)
06.    Auf - a dog-headed ape-god (page 34)
07.    Afa - an ape-god gatekeeper (page 43)
08.    Af-ermen-ari-f - an ape-headed associated of Thoth (page 43)
09.    Afu-heri-khent-f - an ape-headed god with a knife-shaped phallus (page 43)
10.    Amiu-hetut - the apes that sing to the rising sun (page 47)
11.    Ami-kar - a singing ape-god (page 48)
12.    Anhetut - the singing ape-gods (page 63)
13.    Aa - and ape-god who slew Apep (page 113)
14.    Aanau - the four ape-gods who judged the dead (page 114)
15.    Asheb - an ape-headed warrior-goddess (page 138)
16.    Uatch-au-mut-f - an ape-headed keeper of the 9th hour of the night (page 151)
17.    Up - an ape-god of Edfu (page 162)
18.    Usten - an ape-god (page 184)
19.    Utennu - an ape-god, "the copyist" of Thoth (page 191)
20.    Baiu-aabtiu - the ape gods who sang at dawn when the sun had risen; (page 198)
21.    Ba-ta - an ape-god (page 199)
22.    Banti - a dog headed ape-god (page 213)
23.    Benti - a singing ape-god (page 219)
24.    Benti-ari-ahe-t-f - an ape-god (page 219)
25.    Benti - Isis and Nephthys in ape form (page 219)
26.    Besi - a singing ape-god (page 222)
27.    Betnu - dog-headed apes (page 227)
28.    Patheth - a singing ape-god (page 233)
29.    Peri-em-thet-f - an ape-headed warrior god (page 241)
30.    Maa-en-Ra - an ape-god door-keeper (page 267)
31.    Maa-tef-f - an ape-headed god, a grandson of Horus; (page 268)
32.    Mbentiu - the apes in the 1st division of the Tuat (page 296)
33.    Mhettut - the ape-gods who sang to Ra at dawn (page 316)
34.    Mesen - an ape-headed fire-god (page 325)
35.    Nether Rethnu - an ape-god with a star (page 408)
36.    hit - a dog-headed ape (page 444)
37.    Hethti - one of the 9 singing ape-gods (page 452)
38.    Hett - one of the 4 ape-gods who slew Apep (page 452)
39.    Heri-sha-f - an ape-god (page 498)
40.    Heru-Neb-Au-Ab - an ape-god (page 502)
41.    Heken-em-benf - a singing ape-god (page 516)
42.    Khensu-sa-Tekhit - an ape-god, a form of Thoth (page 553)
43.    Khenti-she-f - an ape god (page 557)
44.    Sa - an ape-god, a foe of Apep (page 586)

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