Dragons in African folklore have evolved independantly from the dragons in European and Asian folklore and religions, and therefore do not share too many similarities with them. However, myths of giant, supernatural serpentine or reptilian creatures persevere even in environments where real 'dragons' exist (pythons and crocodiles) and so this page will serve as a brief overview of dragons found throughout the continent of Africa.


Egyptian Dragons

The most notable dragon in Egyptian mythology is the serpent Apep or Apophis, enemy of Ra. When the sun sets in the evening, it must travel under the earth throughout the night: this underworld is home to a vast dark sea where Apep waits to leap out and swallow the sun, along with Ra (guardian of the sun). Every night Ra must evade and vanquish Apep for the sun to rise the next morning.

The African Rainbow Serpent

West African Vodun traditions include worship of rainbow serpents, specifically Aido-Hwedo. Aido-Hwedo has many roles in many different versions of vodunism; for example, in Dahomean religion (precursor to modern Vodun) she carried the creator spirit Mawu-Lisa (formed by the energies of Mawu and Lisa, twins born from Nana-Buluku, the greater goddess) in her mouth. Mawu-Lisa populated the land with life while Aido-Hwedo carved out valleys in the landscape with her sinous serpentine movements, forming mountains and hills with her dung. In Fon religion, Aido-Hwedo was made to serve Nana-Buluku by holding up the sky.

Aido-Hwedo also appears in Hatian Vodou, a religion related to Vodun.

European Bestiaries

Many European Bestiaries and Geographies place dragons in Africa and India: these dragons are large, elephant eating serpents. Some maps also mark Ethiopia with a small green wyvern, and the wyverns in Edward Topsell's 'History of Serpents' are called 'Draco aethiopicus' (dragon of Ethiopia) - the winged serpents and dragon-eating serpents do not match any African mythology closely, and it is likely that the authors were just placing dragons from European mythology (wyverns and wyrms) in Africa as it was an exotic location.


In the Congo Basin there are many descriptions from western explorers of 'dinosaur like' animals, such as Mokele-Mbembe (a semi-aquatic sauropod) or emela-ntouka (reptilian rhino): as these are mysterious reptiles associated with water, stories of the Congo crytpids are modern dragon legends.

The Grootslang

The great snake or Grootslang is believed to live under the earth in South Africa, deep in caves.