Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Berber mythology

    The traditional beliefs of the Berber people of North Africa have been influenced over time by contact with Ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Judaism, and Hellenistic religion during antiquity, and notably by Islam during the medieval period.

 Beliefs concerning death

Berber beliefs concerning death changed over time, as evidenced by differing burial customs, pyramids, and tomb types. Funerary practices
Archaeological research on pre-historic tombs in Northwestern Africa shows that the body of the dead were painted with red ochre. While this practice was known to the Ibero-maurussians, this culture seems to have been primarily a Capsian culture. The dead were also sometimes buried with shells of ostrich eggs, jewelry, and weapons. Bodies were sometimes placed on one side and folder, while others where buried in a fetal position.
Unlike the Berbers, the Guanches mummified the dead. Additionally, Fabrizio Mori discovered a Libyan mummy older than any comparable Ancient Egyptian mummy in 1958.

 Cult of the dead

The authors of the book The Berbers stated that the cult of the death was one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Berbers in antiquity.[3] Pomponius Mela reported that the Augelae (Modern Awjila in Libya) considered the spirits of their ancestors to be gods. They swore by them and consulted them. After making requests, they slept in their tombs to await responses in dreams.
Herodotus (484 BC–ca.425 BC) noted the same practice among the Nasamones who inhabited the deserts around Siwa and Augila. He wrote:
[..]They swear by the men among themselves who are reported to have been the most righteous and brave, by these, I say, laying hands upon their tombs; and they divine by visiting the sepulchral mounds of their ancestors and lying down to sleep upon them after having prayed; and whatsoever thing the man sees in his dream, this he accepts.
The worship of saints still exists among the modern Berbers in the form of Maraboutism, which is wide spread in northwest Africa, especially in Morocco. The Berbers worshipped their kings, too.The tombs of the Numidian kings are among the most notable monuments left by the Classical Berbers.

   Ancient Berber Tombs

The tombs of the early Berbers and their ancestors indicate that the Berbers and their ancestors (the Ibero-Mauresians and Capsians) believed in life after death. The prehistoric men of northwest Africa buried bodies in little holes. When they realized that bodies buried in unsecured holes were dug up by wild animals, they began to bury them in deeper ones. Later, they buried the dead in caves, tumuli, tombs in rocks, mounds, and other types of tombs.
These tombs evolved from primitive structures to much more elaborate ones, such as the pyramidal tombs spread throughout Northern Africa. The honor of being buried in such a tomb appears to have been reserved for those who were most important to their communities.
These pyramid tombs have attracted the attention of some scholars, such as Mohammed Chafik who wrote a book discussing the history of several of the tombs that have survived into modern times. He tried to relate the pyramidal Berber tombs with the great Egyptian pyramids on the basis of the etymological and historical data.[7] The best known Berber pyramids are the 19-meter pre-Roman Numidian pyramid of Medracen and the 30-meter ancient Mauretanian pyramid.The Mauretanian pyramid is also known as "Kbour-er-Roumia" or "Tomb of the Roman Woman" mistranslated by the French colonizer as "Tomb of the Christian Woman".

 Megalithic culture

Saint Augustine mentioned that the polytheistic Africans worshipped the rocks.Apuleius stated as well that rocks were worshipped in the second century A.D. The megalithic culture may have been part of a cult of the dead or of star-worship.
The monument of Mzora (also spelled as Msoura) is the best known megalithic monument in northwest Africa. It is composed of a circle of megaliths surrounding a tumulus. The highest megalith is longer than 5 meters. According to legend, it is the sepulchre of the mythic Libyan king Antaeus.Another megalithic monument was discovered in 1926 to south of Casablanca. The monument was engraved with funerary inscriptions in the Libyco-Berber script known as Tifinagh.
 Solar and lunar worship
The moon is called Ayyur in the Berber language, a name shared with the Berber moon god.
Herodotus mentioned that the ancient Berbers (known to him as Libyans) worshipped the moon and sun and sacrificed to them. He reported:
They begin with the ear of the victim, which they cut off and throw over their house: this done, they kill the animal by twisting the neck. They sacrifice to the Sun and Moon, but not to any other god. This worship is common to all the LibyansTullius Cicero (105-43 BCE) also reported the same cult in On the Republic (Scipio's Dream):
When I (Scipio) was introduced to him, the old man (Massinissa, king of Numidia) embraced me, shed tears, and then, looking up to heaven, exclaimed I thank thee, O supreme Sun, and you also, you other celestial beings, that before I departed from this life I behold in my kingdom, and in my palace, Publius Cornelius Scipio ....There were some Latin inscriptions found in Northwest Africa dedicated to the sun-god. An example is the inscription found in Souk Ahras (the birthplace of Saint Augustine; Tagaste in Algeria) written as: Solo Deo Invicto.[14] Samuel the Confessor appears to have suffered from the sun-worshiping Berbers who tried unsuccessfully to obligate him worshiping the sun.
    In Awelimmiden Tuareg, the name Amanai is believed to have the meaning of "God". The Ancient Libyans may have worshipped the setting sun, which was impersonated by Amon, who was represented by the ram's horns.The sun was worshipped besides the mountains (e.g.: Atlas) rocks, caves, and rivers.[Egyptian-Berber beliefs
The Ancient Egyptians were the neighbors of the Berbers. They may even have had an ancient common central saharan origin. Therefore, it is sometimes supposed that some deities were originally worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians, and the Ancient Libyans (Berbers) as well. The Egyptian-Berber deities can be distinguished according to their origin.