Monday, April 28, 2014

The Best Gods You've Never Heard Of: Africa's Orisha Pantheon

Roleplaying games have used world mythology as a free idea bucket for decades. Most editions of Dungeons and Dragons have Norse gods in them (speaking of, there's a build for Thor here, and Loki here), White Wolf's Scion offers a number of world pantheons including Egyptian, Greek, and Japanese, and even H.P. Lovecraft's Old Ones have been drawn up and statted out for their own game. Despite this obsession with the divine though, most of our games come from a uniquely Western view. What I mean is that we're more likely to include completely made-up gods like Cthulhu and Hastur (say that three times fast if you dare!) than we are to take inspiration from African gods.

This series by photographer James C. Lewis might change your tune, though.

The Gods

According to the original post on Buzzfeed here, this project was born out of discovery and a touch of frustration. Lewis had been reading about mythology in school since he was young, but found that most of the pantheons taught in America tend to exclude African folklore. Lewis didn't find anything on the Orishas, an ancient African pantheon from whom the modern day loa of Voodoo are descended, until he really looked for them. When he completed his research he decided to portray them in a way that showed their youth, strength, and power that would catch the attention and hold the imagination of audiences not familiar with these gods. The names he used are spelled in the Yoruba language, common to Nigeria and surrounding regions

It looks like Lewis hit the nail right on the head!

Why Not Spice Up Your Game a Bit?

There's no reason to cut out the gods your game already has... but take a moment and ask yourself how much richer the world would be if you had additional gods and cultures. Haven't we had enough Celtic knock offs and tongue-in-cheek Greek references to last for a bit?

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