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Legends and Monsters of West Africa

Updated: Feb 4

This week, once again we will feature an addition to the Legends + Monsters series, this time focusing on tales from West Africa. There will be fairies from the forests of Nigeria, and a firefly vampire from Togo and Ghana.

The Adze

Togo and Ghana

This vampire originates from the folklore of the Ewe people of Togo and Ghana. In the wild, an Adze is said to be in the form of a firefly. This seemingly innocent insect then sneaks through keyholes, or under doors into people’s houses. Once inside, it selects its victim. Though it prefers to prey upon the innocent, and children, the Adze isn’t very picky. It chooses hastily, sucks the victim’s blood. Those bitten are said to fall sick soon after. But the Adze doesn’t stick around to see. It sneaks back out and flies away, into the darkness of the night. 

If captured, an Adze will take the form of a human, and from this form it can possess people. This curse would negatively affect the victim’s family, or people the victim was jealous of. Some say there is no cure for this possession, but others claim vigorous prayer, or perhaps a certain complex ritual, might expel the Adze. 

A firefly, or an Adze in disguise?

If the ritual is successful or the prayers answered, the Adze will leave the person, and take the form of a hunchbacked, not-quite-human creature. This monster has jet-black skin, and long talons. Now, to truly save the victim, the Adze must be killed while it is in this hideous form. 

Today, some claim this legend would have arisen to explain the mysterious maladies caused by mosquitoes, and other unseen insects. However, the Adze remains very real to many of the Ewe. 

The Aziza

Nigeria and Benin

The Aziza are a species of benevolent fairy said to dwell in anthills and cotton silk trees deep in the forests of Nigeria and Benin. These tiny humanoid creatures give good magic and fortune to those who respect and honor them. It is also said that they gave practical and spiritual knowledge (maybe even the gift of fire) to humanity.

Forests of Nigeria

These ancient and powerful beings were created by Olodumare, a supreme deity of the Yoruba faith. The Aziza were intended to serve as guardians of the forest. To accomplish this, they have powers of healing, elemental control, teleportation, and communication with plants and forest animals. According to some, they also have the ability to shapeshift, so they can move easily through the forest. They are also very strong and tough, although they may appear delicate and fragile. They have smooth, hairless skin that shimmers in the sunlight, and they are far smaller than humans. 

The Aziza continue today to be honored in music, dance, and art, and are often invoked in important ceremonies and rituals, such as rituals and funerals. 

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

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