chapter  5
45 Pages

God and the Rain Deities

WithBrian Morris

In acknowledging the existence of a divine being who is the origin and sustenance of all things, including humans, as well as in the existence of various other spiritual or superhuman agencies, African religious culture, Mbiti contends, cannot be adequately described as either ‘animism’ or ‘pantheism’. Malawian religious ontology exemplifies that characteristic of Africa more generally, in postulating a hierarchy of existences. Mbiti has argued that the belief in creation ex nihilo is common in many African societies, but it is also worth mentioning that all the metaphors associated with the original act of creation - potter, carver, mother, architect - all presuppose the existence of a material world. Two Malawian creation myths are worth relating: both indicate an original unity between god, humans and animal life. The importance of the annual bush fires in Malawi was often remarked upon by early European observers.