African Mythology: Anansi

African Mythology: Anansi

Anansi is a West African folk tale character that originated from the Akan people of Ghana. Anansi means spider in Akan. He is known as a spirit who acts on behalf of the sky father, Nyame, who is also his father. Anansi is commonly known for stopping fires by causing rain to fall. He is depicted at times as a spider or a human with spider elements. He is also known as Kwaku Ananse.


The tales of Anansi spread to the Caribbean , Latin America and parts of the West through the Transatlantic slave trade. He is celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance in the Caribbean. He is known as a trickster and the slaves would use this  model to manipulate the power structures on the plantations for their benefit. Anansi’s tales inspired the slaves and helped them in plotting strategies for resistance, he gave them hope. They found a sense of identity outside captivity, this made them pass on the stories to their children.

Jamaican versions of the Anansi stories are well preserved because Jamaica had the largest concentration of enslaved Asante people. Some stories state that Anansi created the Sun, Moon and teaches his children about agriculture. Stories of Anansi can be found in Marvel and DC Comics, as well as the novel American Gods. Anansi stories are also shown on children’s cartoons including Sesame Street. He is portrayed by Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy in the television adaptation of the American Gods novel.

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