Mawu is the supreme and creator god according to the Ewe/Fon people of Abomey/ Dahomey (Republic of Benin). Mawu represents the moon that brings the night and cooler temperature in the African world. She is depicted as an old mother who dwells in the West. Coolness is an expression of wisdom and age for the Fon people. Mawu has a partner called Liza that is associated with the sun. Liza is regarded by African people as fierce and harsh. Mawu and Liza are described as an unseparable unity at the basis of the universe. They are also regarded as twins. Their unity representes the order of the universe. Liza is said to dwell in the East, and Mawu in the West. When there is an eclipse of the sun or the moon, the Fon people think that Mawu and Liza are making love. Mawu and Liza are the parents of seven pairs of twins. These twins are gods with different domains. Mawu and Liza were born from Nana Buluku, who created the world.
In ancient times Mawu sent a messenger to earth daily to travel from sunrise to sunset.1 He did this all the time; every year. One day, while on his errands, he reached Adjala, and in Adjala it was already night. He could go no more and so he went into a house. There was a man who was also on the road. As night fell, he, too, went into this house. They gave them a place in the same house, the two strangers together. Mawu's messenger asked the other, "Where are you going? He said, "I am going where the sun sets. Good. Mawu's messenger said, "It is life that gives a companion. I myself am going to the same place. The following nlorning, at first cockcrow, in a house beside theirs where a sick child slept, the parents were crying.
Mawu's messenger went to ask them, "Why haven't you slept all night? They said, "We have a child here who is very sick. Very well. Now, Mawu's messenger had a sack in which he carried some powder. He gave some of that powder to a man to give to the sick child.
And he went back quickly to the man who was sleeping in his house, and said, "Wake up! Wake up! We are leaving. They took but a few steps away from the house, when all at once the people in the house began to shout, "Where is the stranger? Where is the stranger? The child was dead.
So they went away. They went till . . . they came to Savalou. There in Savalou they spent the night. They took shelter in a house beside the road. At first cockcrow, Mawu's messenger took some flint and made a fire. And this fire he put to the straw of the house where he had slept. He said, now, to the other man, "Wake up, wake up! We must be going.
After they left, the house took fire. The people asked, "Where are the strangers? Where are the strangers? But they were gone. They ran away and continued their journey. As Mawu's messenger did that, his companion, who was a human being, was astonished. He did not know that the other was a vodun. So they reached Badahwedji where the sun sets. That is, they were almost there.
Now, there was a river that separated Badahwedji from where the two travelers were. In order to cross the river, one must put down a raft and pass on it. There was an old man from Badahwedji who was in the habit of coming to the river bank for leaves. He gathered them and went back. Now he was crossing the river for the second time. So Mawu s messenger followed the old man. The old man went ahead. 1-Ie went slowly, cautiously. Mawu's messenger came behind him and pushed him, so that he fell into the watcr.
When he did this, the man who came with Mawu's messenger ran away. Mawu s messenger saw him run and he called him back. "Come, come here, he said. He said, "That's not where you are going. You are going to this place. Here it is. The other said, "What I saw on the road here is too much. I am running away from it.
Mawu's messenger said, "Now, I'm not a man. I know you are astonished at all I did. But I'm not a human being. In the house where I killed the child, if that child had not died, its mother and father would have died when it took its first step. It is Mawu who sent me to destroy that child. He said, "In that house this mother and father have borne many children, and this one child could not be allowed to spoil their lives.
He said, "The family where I burned the house has rich relatives among them. But they buried all their money and their children are poor. So I burned the house, so that when they break the walls to make them anew and begin to dig the foundation, they will find the money.~~
He said, "I had the man fall into the river, because the king of Badahwedji is dead. To replace this king, a young man should be named. If that old man were alive, a young man could not be named. That is why Mawu sent me to throw him into the water. The people still think the old man will be their king. But if that man became king, there would be no more goats, no more cattle, no more children in that kingdom. Sagbata would come to their kingdom and kill them, because Mawu had ordained that one could not be king. With a young king, they will have goats, pigs and children also.
Then he said, "I, I look into the hearts of men,2 and Mawu sends me to look at things. You must not be astonished. Year after year, if I do not change into a man, I change into headache and kill men. I change into serpents and burn houses. And when, in the course of life, you see such things, you will know that it is Mawu who sends them.
1. This is idiomatic for "from east to west.
2. Lit., "into men's stomachs.
Dahhomean Narrative: A Cross-Cultural Analysis; Melville J Herskovits & Frances S. Herskovits. 1958, Northwestern University Press
Source:Traditions Togolaises: Annales de L'Universite Du Benin. No. Special 1979, Serie Lettres