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Myth / Hausa Mythology

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Baobob Tree, considered home to many Isoki

The Hausa are the single largest ethnic group in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike most their neighbors who speak Niger-Congo or Nilo-Saharan languages Hausa is actually an Afro-Asiatic language of the Chadic branch. Their greatest concentration is in Northern Nigeria and southern Niger. Hausa is also the most commonly spoken Sub-Saharan African language on earth. It is a trade language across much of Western Africa.

The Hausa people were historically feudal and organized into powerful rival city states defended by high walls and heavy cavalrymen. The city of Kano in particular stood out not only for its size but trade as well. European explorers believed it to house the largest individual marketplace in Africa or even the world at the time. The original religion of the Hausa is known as Bori. Islam was nominally practiced by the elites until the 18th and 19th centuries when the Fulani jihadists like Karamokho Alfa, Al-Hajji Umar Tall, and Usman Dan Fodio declared holy war across West Africa against all pagans and impure muslims. The Fulani succeeded in establishing themselves as the new ruling class in Hausaland to the point that the two ethnicities are indistinguishable in many places and almost stomping out paganism. Still, some tribes of pagan Hausas continued to persist and were called “Maguzawa” pejoratively as those who fled from Islam.


Hausa religion traditionally concerned itself with the worship of the “Isoki” or winds as they called the spirits. The line between paganism and Islam is extremely blurred even now. Pagans will give praise to Allah the most merciful and benevolent while devout muslims can insist on the existence of nature spirits while emphasizing the importance of revering them. Even the cosmology has become very blended over time.

Hausa belief is ultimately monotheistic in that one spiritual being is responsible for the creation and animation of the universe. Once upon a time this was thought to be Sarki Aljin or in other places Tsumburbura. Sarki meaning “Lord” in Hausa and Aljan “the Djinn” being an adoption from Arabic. Below this omnipotent creator god is the class of Isoki spirits divided into the Daji black bush spirits and Gona white farm spirits. Gona were associated with Islam while Daji were more closely tied to Bori. While this invention existed to emphasize the benevolence of Islamic spirits over Bori spirits the distinction was muddled on the individual. Gona could be considered Daji and vice versa depending on their immediate benefit to the believer.


Jangare: The Spirit world

Jangare was the mythical city of the Isoki. Few if any mortals have been said to return from this moving kingdom. Jangare is organized like a traditional Hausa city state. Sarkin Aljan reigns with the aid of his royal court just like a mortal king. The people of Kano viewed Sarkin Aljan as the absolute ruler while the people of Ningi and other cities saw him as a first among other equal houses. Jangare is divided into twelve houses.

  • House One: The house of Sarkin Aljan Solemanu.
    • It contains the three cadet houses of the Makafi (Blind spirits), Dogarai (Royal guard spirits), Makera (Blacksmith spirits)
  • House Two: The house of Sarkin Aljan Biddarene who is the younger brother of Sarkin Aljan Solemanu.
  • House Three: The house of the Malamai or Quranic scholars. Led by Malam Al-Hajji “the pilgrim” in Arabic who is a younger brother to Sarkin Aljan.
  • House Four: The house of the Kutare or Lepers. It is led by Kuge or his son Kuturu who is the top advisor for Sarkin Aljan.
    • Their cadet house is Macizai or the serpents.
  • House Five: The house of the Filani tribe or as they are called in English the Fulani. Led by Sarkin Filani Dukko.
  • House Six: The house of Sarkin Aljan Zurkalene, little brother of Sarkin Filani Dukko.
    • Cadet houses are Mahauka (butchers) and Maroka (musicians).
  • House Seven: The house of Sarkin Aljan Shekaratafe, king of the water spirits.
  • House Eight: The house of the Maharba (hunters). Led by Mai Dawa.
    • Cadet house is Buzaye (Serfs of the Tuaregs).
  • House Nine: The house of Sarkin Arna, leader of the pagan spirits.
  • House Ten: The house of Sarkin Gwarri, leader of the Gwarri tribe spirits.
  • House Eleven: The house of Tuwara (the Berber spirits).
  • House Twelve: The house of Mayu (the sorceror spirits). Led by Batoyi.

Jangare means “Red City” and was known to be in the red country or “Jankasa” somewhere in the Sahara desert.

Tropes from Hausa mythology include:

  • The Alcoholic: Sarkin Arna is a raging alcoholic who turns humans into alcoholics when they annoy him.
  • Archer Archetype: Sarkin Gwarri was able to shoot an owl directly in the anus mid-flight.
  • Cock Fight: Kuturu and Kure the hyena constantly compete for the affections of Inna.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Sarkin Aljan was chosen to be king of Jangare by Allah himself, and King Solomon gave him his royal turban.
  • Deal with the Devil: Danko the water snake god once visited a woman near his hill at night. She was initially scared of the stranger but he told her he’d make her rich if she prepared a room in her home to his liking. The woman obeyed and he made her rich beyond her wildest dreams. But suddenly nobody wanted to be around her and everyone questioned the source of her wealth. The lady begged Danko to undo everything, but it was already too late. She died alone and miserable despite being surrounded by luxury.
  • Demonization: Dodo was once the weather god and lord of the four directions. He controlled both the dry season and the rainy season. He protected humans from harm and was associated with the dead. When he embraced his wife Damina it would rain and bring new life to the earth. Over the centuries and especially under Abrahamic influence he came to be seen as a monstrous flesh eating demon or witch. Nowadays he’s basically just a generic boogeyman in Hausa folktales. Even a comically stupid buffoon that the quick witted can not only evade but humiliate.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Averted like in most African lores. Gajimari was the two headed rainbow serpent and quite dangerous. While sometimes considered a storm god, he was usually seen as the one preventing precious rains or ending it. He liked giving people stomach aches if they offended him.
  • Insane = Violent: Sarkin Rafi is violently insane. People suffering from mental illness pray to him for cures. He once found three boys fighting and broke one’s back, threw another down a well, and scraped out the eye of the third for fun. During his ritual possessions people give him the widest berth to avoid him attacking them out of nowhere.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The Yan Dawa are the “children of the forest”. Guardians of nature and shepherds of the beasts, their lord is called Ganjere. He sometimes shoots people with his poisoned arrows.
  • The Pigpen: Mai Gizo was the son of Sarkin Arna and absolutely filthy. He refuses to wash or comb his hair. His beard & hair are great matted disasters. Most of his teeth are gone, and the teeth he does have are black with rot. He is described as smelling like a rotting horse carcass.
  • Pyromaniac: Sarkin Arna loves fire. Once a stranger asked him for a drink of water and against Hausa custom, Sarkin Arna said no. In fact he gave the traveler the opposite of water and burned down the man’s village.
    • Sarkin Arna’s wife once accidentally set their home on fire while cooking beans and he refused to let anyone put it out. In fact he did everything in his power to ensure the fire destroyed his whole compound.
  • Ritual Magic: King Kanajeji of Kano was defeated in battle by the people of Zaria and renounced Islam in a fury. He determined to return to the gods of his fathers and invoked Sarkin Tsibiri. He was told to cut a tree branch, find a red snake, and make slippers from the snake. He made twelve drums from the branch and threw them in the water. Forty days later he removed the drums from the water and used the remaining snakeskin to finish the drums. Sarkin Tsibiri told him to walk around a tree forty times while singing the praises of Barbushe. A year later Kano crushed Zaria.
  • The Trickster: Nakada is an obscene spirit who causes people to eat their own feces and act out sexually. People possessed by him wiggle their butts a lot.
  • Turtle Island: The earth is a disc sitting on the horns of a giant bull named Sa Na Duniya. When he gets tired he tosses the disc from one horn to
the other, explaining earthquakes.

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