Posted by: karensimpson | May 22, 2010

The Origins of African American Heros

During the Coyote Con session about mythic fiction, questions came up about where writers could find more information about the mythologies of Africa. My own work  pulls deeply from the African American myths, magic and stories,  so I thought I would share one of my favorite sources. I have read my copy of  The Hero with An African Face by Dr. Clyde W. Ford down to its gluey spine because it is as rich with passion for the subject matter as it is with scholarly research.

The Rites of Passage Organization said of Fords work

The Hero With An African Face identifies and explores the connection between humanity and divinity found throughout traditional mythologies of Africa. In the book, Ford takes readers on a journey into the mythologies of sub-Saharan Africa, presenting timeless insights into the human spirit that reveal the power and importance of ancient African myth. He places it among the great mythological traditions of ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans. It is also the first book to show the similarity between African spiritual traditions and their counterparts in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American spirituality, and other spiritual traditions worldwide.

Mythology was traditionally a means of healing self and society by helping people baring the circumstances of their lives into harmony with larger concerns. As Ford writes, “Myths bring us into accord with the eternal mysteries of being, help us manage the inevitable passages of our lives, and give us templates for our relationship with the societies in which we live.” In the book, Ford explores how African myths convey the perennial wisdom of humanity: the creation of the world, the hero’s journey, our relationship with nature, death, and resurrection. Ford shows how many myths reveal the intimacy of human and animal spirits, and explores the arhetypal forces of the orishas – the West African deities that were carried to the Americas in the African Diaspora. Ultimately, Ford points out that these myths enable us to see the history of African Americans in a new light – as a hero’ journey, a courageous passage to a hard won victory.

Dr. Ford  is also a wonderful novelist , dedicated to bringing back the nautical novel. Please check out his  literary work on his web site.


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