Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dragons in Africa: Aido-Hwedo

The Rainbow Dragon:
Aido-Hwedo of the Fon People of Dahomey





http://www.susanneiles.com/aido.html
African Dragons are more like serpents or giant snakes but they permeate the myths of the African tribes and even appear in the Egyptian pantheon as Apep (Apophis). The most accessible of the African Dragons is Aido-Hwedo of Dahomey in West Africa. Aido-Hwedo, a rainbow-coloured Dragon that is both male and female, was brought into being by the Creator God Nana-Buluku to serve as his companion and instrument in his Creation of the World. The Rainbow Dragon was the only being capable of travelling between Heaven and Earth and it carried the Creator God in its mouth as it passed between the two realms. It represents the link between the Sacred and the Secular.
While it was in the Heavens it bent across the sky as a rainbow arch and its droppings became mountains and fertile soil and its writhing passage formed the rivers and valleys.



Aido-Hwedo and the Red Monkeys by ~Flame-Shadow on deviantART
 Aido-Hwedo was so large it could hold up the entire world, but once the multitude of creation was done Nana-Buluku asked Aido-Hwedo to coil up beneath the land to cushion it. Aido-Hwedo cannot stand heat so the Creator made the ocean for the Dragon to live in (like the Midgard Serpent in Teutonic legend). Inhabiting the undersea with the Rainbow Dragon is a troop of red monkeys who forge the iron bars that are Aido-Hwedo’s food.











When the iron runs out and Aido-Hwedo grows hungry it will start to chew on its own tail. The earth above will become unbalanced, be struck by repeated earthquakes and eventually slide off the Dragon’s back into the sea.


The Aido-Hwedo myth still carries the resonance of its transcendent meaning into modern times, as can be seen by the poem by Audre Lorde:

Call
 But I must recover my spirit first…
Holy ghost woman
stolen out of your name
Rainbow Serpent
whose faces have been forgotten
Mother loosen my tongue or adorn me
with a lighter burden
Aido Hwedo is coming.

On worn kitchen stools and tables
we are piercing our weapons together
scraps of different histories
do not let us shatter
any altar
she who scrubs the capitol toilets, listening
is out sister’s youngest daughter
gnarled Harriet’s anointed
you have not been without honor
even the young guerilla has chosen
yells as she fires into the thicket
Aido Hwedo is coming.

I have written your names on my cheekbones
Dreamed your eyes flesh my epiphany
Most ancient goddesses hear me
enter
I have not forgotten your worship
nor my sisters
nor the sons of my daughters
my children watch your print
in their labors
and they say Aido Hwedo is coming.

I am a Black woman turning
mouthing your name as a password
through seductions self-slaughter
and I believe in the holy ghost
mother
in your flames beyond our vision
blown light through fingers of women
enduring warring
sometimes outside your name
we do not choose all our rituals
Thandi Modise winged girl of Soweto
brought fire back home in the snout of a mortar
and passes the word from her prison cell whispering
Aido Hwedo is coming.

We are learning by heart
what has never been taught
you are my given fire-tongued
Oya Seboulisa Mawu Afrekete
and now we are mourning our sisters
lost to the false hush of sorrow
to hardness and hatchets and childbirth
and we are shouting
Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer
Assata Shakur and Yaa Asantewa
my mother and Winnie Mandela are signing
in my throat
the holy ghosts’ linguist
one iron silence broken
Aido Hwedo is calling
calling
your daughters are named
and conceiving
Mother loosen my tongue
or adorn me
with a lighter burden
Aido Hwedo is coming.

Aido Hwedo is coming.

Aido Hwedo is coming.



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