A considerable amount of the traditional lore of the matriarchal Berbers is
still based on the worship of the Ancestors and the Dead. Most of the Berbers'
ancestral doctrines also form an integral part of the jinn lore. Westermarck
had pointed out that many of the Berber religious and mythological principles
were practiced mostly by Berber women under the disguise of Tomb Worship, where
women regularly visit the tombs and perform various rituals in association with
the ancient ancestors and the dead, such as receiving sacred prophecy through
dreams obtained by sleeping in tombs of holy ancestors. This current practice,
according to Herodotus, goes back to the ancient Libyan Nasamon Berbers, and
it may even go back much farther in time since sacred traditions are indeed carried
forward from previous generations. The ancient Libyan Nasamons took oath at the
graves of persons who were reputed for justice and transparency. In addition
to tomb-worship, complete traditions from the Berbers' previous mythology remain
alive in various traditions and festivals. Saharan prehistoric art, Berber jewellery, Berber
folklore and music have all preserved other fragmented elements of Berber belief
and mythology. In addition to that, we also have Egyptian and Greek mythologies
as a documented source, in which various references to Libyan mythology were
preserved for generations to come, such as the worship of Amon, Ament,
Antaeus, Bast, Nit, Poseidon and Shu.
List of Berber Mythological Goddesses & Gods
The Berber Pantheon:
Afri, Afrika: a Berber goddess of fortune and fertility
Ancestors: a relationship similar to that existing
between the totem and the worshipper
Ashaman: God: among the ancient Berber Canary Islanders
Atlas: Libyan Mountain-God
Auliswa: worshipped at Pomaria (Tlemcen)
Awessu: Sea-God (?)
Bacax: (cf. Bacchus: Grape-God): dedications found
in a grotto of Taia near Calama (Guelma)
Froarangan: Canarian God of men
Genius of Africa (genius Africae): a female
Guraya: name of a saint in Kabylie
Gurzil: Libyan Sun-God, also god of war, in Syrtes (Sirte)
Idir: name of a divinity; also found in Baliddir
Iguc: god of the rain, among the Berghwata of Morocco
Sinifere: a war god among the Luguata, identified with Mars
Tannit: the Libyan Goddess of Weaving, worshipped by the Phoenicians
There is no doubt that the Athena of Herodotus, whom the Amazon worshipped
around Lake Tritonis, was none other than the Libyan Goddess Tannit, as shown
by the two spears she carries in various depictions, and sometimes by the weaving
The Libyan Goddess Tannit (Neith)
at Assaraya Alhamra
Museum, Tripoli, Libya. The Arabic text, displayed under the stone, describes
the above symbol of Tannit:
Temehu.com's translation of the Arabic text at the Museum:
"The Goddess Tannit. Tannit is regarded as one of
the most famous and important Punic goddesses in Tripolitania. She is the wife
of the Punic god Bal Hamon. She was the goddess of sowing, harvest and fertility,
and a sky goddess essentially associated with the moon. Her symbol, known as
the symbol of Tannit, is a triangle representing the human body, surmounted by
a circle representing the head, and separated by a horizontal line which represents
the hands. The worship of the goddess Tannit emerged after the 5th century BC.
She appears to be of Libyan origin. This piece is from the 2nd century BC.
[End of translation.]
A commanding statue of the Goddess Athena, the Libyan Goddess
Neith, the Egyptian Nit.
The Libyan Amazons
According to several historical records, the Libyan birthplace of the Goddess
Neith was also the traditional homeland of the warrior women known as the Libyan
Amazons, in the western parts of Libya, particularly around the legendary Lake
Tritonis (southern Tunisia today). The etymology of the name "Amazon" is
still undecided, with European enthusiasts deriving the name from Greek Muse,
and Berberists linking it with Amazigh and Tamezyant.
The purely matriarchal world of the Amazons was ruled by women warrior-priestesses,
in which they followed a manner of life unlike those that which prevailed among
other races at the time or those that followed. There were a number of fake
tales about removing one of their breasts in order to be able to shoot better
(using the arrow & bow) and about abandoning their sons, without presenting
any evidence; leading to careful mythographers to suggest that these were no
more than mere patriarchal allegations to discredit matriarchy; and hence the
whole existence of the Amazons itself was dismissed as "myth".
The Libyan Gorgon Medusa, who often led the Libyans of Lake Tritonis
in battle, against her enemies, was said to have once been a beautiful maiden
until Poseidon lay with her and incurred the enmity of the goddess Athena, who
turned Medusa's lovely hair into serpents and made her face so hideous that a
glimpse of it would instantly turn man into stone. Jealous Athena helped brave
Perseus, who was coming from Argos with an army, to behead Medusa; and the drops
of blood that fell from Medusa's severed head onto the Libyan sand were transformed
A sarcophagus fragment showing the Libyan Amazons in action.
It was found in Wadi (Valley) Khamish, west of Tolmeita, Cyrenaica, Libya. From
the 2nd century AD.
In Greek mythology, Antaeus was said to be a Libyan giant, son of Poseidon
and mother-earth Gaia, and the husband of Tinga, a name often linked with Tangier
in Morocco. According to Oric Bates, the above painting was not then recognised
as a representation of Libyan Antaeus, who was depicted with typical Berber characters,
such as the aquiline nose, dark long hair (projecting over the brow), strongly
marked supra-orbital ridges, and the pointed beard. The savage-like teeth were
meant to stress the nature of Antaeus, in contrast to the usual soft profile
given to Greek characters. The above reproduction (drawn by Oric Bates) does
not show the hair detail of Heracles, which he says is darker than the hair of
Antaeus. The story goes that during the fight between Antaeus and Heracles, Antaeus
draws his energy from the earth on which he stands, and so to defeat him Heracles
lifted Antaeus from the ground and held him high above it as to deprive him of
recharging his strength, until Antaeus lost all his energy and thus the flame
of his life was starved of its motherly source.
Libyan god of the Laguatans on the Syrtes (Sirte), one of the nomadic tribes
of Tripolitania. He was said to be the son of the Berber Siwan God Ammon. The
Laguatans personified Gurzil in a magical bull (taurus), which they let loose
in battle, and thus he was associated with "War". This same god is
taken by Dihya (the Berber Kahina of the Auras Mountains) in her battles against
the Arabs of the 7th Century.
The Goddess "Libya" had three sons by the Libyan Sea-God Poseidon:
Belus, Agenor and Lelex. King Belus ruled at Chemmis or Chamesis of
Leo Africanus, Agenor migrated to Cana'an (the Middle East), and Lelex
became king of Megara. The myth relates an interesting "deception
tale" in which Danaus was sent to rule Libya where he had fifty daughters,
and Aegyptus, who had fifty sons, ruled over Egypt.
King Belus, who ruled at Chemmis, was the son of the Goddess Libya by Poseidon,
and the twin brother of Agenor and Lelex. His wife Anchinoe, daughter
of the Nile-god, Nilus, bore him the twins Aegyptus and Danaus and a third son
Cepheus, and one daughter: Lamia, the Libyan Snake-goddess. See
Robert Graves (The Greek Myths: I, 200 - 202.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Greeks obtained their knowledge
of the Sea-God Poseidon from the Libyans (meaning the Berbers), whose cult
was in high repute among the coastwise Libyans, and was especially worshipped
about Lake Tritonis; while Plato says Poseidon was the chief God of Atlantis;
arguably located near the Atlas Mountain in North Africa. Poseidon's son Triton
was also worshipped around the Lake, and, according to Ibid, his
female counterpart "Tritonis" bore the Goddess "Athena". Poseidon's
wife, Libya, was made the daughter of Zeus's son Epaphus, the divine bull, the
Awessu was originally a sea ceremony held in the town of Zuwarah, in west
Libya, during the period between the end of July and the beginning of August
- a name which some linguists mistakenly see as the source of the name Awessu
itself. The name could have been a name of a sea deity of some sort, since the
associated rite is clearly a religious ceremony to attract the good and banish
the bad. The Berbers of Zuwarah take
into the sea before sunrise, during the hot summer mornings, purify themselves
and their animals too, their wool garments and blankets, obtain the blessing
of the sea, and release some of the accumulated sins into the salt. Then they
leave the sea and feast by the beach for the remaining of the day. The rite was
practiced until the 1980s, after which it began to slowly disappear after the
Libyan government and government scholars declared it a pagan festival during
which people take to the sea beneath the full moon (of Berber St. Augustine -
one of the founding theologians of Christian thought). The festival nowadays
is no more than a commercial festivity and musical propaganda, as was the fate
of so many feats the Berbers created at the dawn of time. By all means the festival
of Awessu is still alive today, not in Libya, but in nearby Tunisia where the
inhabitants of Sousa (cf. Awessu) take to the sacred sea only once a year: in
the Awessu day, the only magical day of the whole year where the sea takes the
shape of a black mirror reflecting the dazzling stars of the Sky.
Libyan Mythology Books & Resources
Il Berbero Nefusi di Fassato, by Francesco Beguinot, Roma: a collection of
Libyan Berber myths and tales in Berber, with Italian translation.
Kitab as-Siar, by ash-Shamakhi, Cairo.
Essai sur la religion des Libyens, by L. Bertholon (in Revue Tunisienne),
Triton und Euphemos, by Vater, St. Petersburg, 1849.
L’Afrique Chretienne, by H. Leclercq, 1904: vol. I (paganism).
Poesies Populaires de la Kabylie du Jurjura: Texte Kabyle et Traduction,
by Louis Adolphe Hanoteau, 1867.
Les Religions de l’Afrique Antique, by Gilbert Charles-Picard, 1954.
Spirit Possession And Personhood Among The Kel Ewey Tuareg, by Susan J. Rasmussen.
Folklore Twareg, by F. Nicolas, (Bull. Inst. Fr. d'Afrique Noire, t. 6,
p. 463, 1944).
Poesies Touaregues, by Charles Eugene de Foucauld, ed. Andre basset, 1925.
Hoggar: Chants, Fables, Legends, by Angele Maraval Berthoin, 1954.
Ritual And Belief In Morocco, by Westermarck.
Moorish Literature, the Colonial Press, introduction by Rene Basset: Berber
ballads, Poems and Popular Tales.
The Folklore of Morocco, by Francoise Legey, translated from French by Lucy
An Anthology of Tashelhiyt Berber Folktales, by Harry Stroomer, 2001.
Amthal wa-Hikayat Amazighiyah Muarrabah, by Muhammad Mistawi, 1985.
Chants Berberes de Kabylie, by Jean Amrouche, 1947.
The Unwritten Song, by Willard R. Trask, vol. 1:
Merrakech, by Edmond Doutte, 1905.
Magie et religion dans l’Afrique du Nord, by E. Doutte, 1909.
Antiguedades de las Islas Afortunadas, by Viana, 1883.
The History of the Canary Islands, by Glas, 1764.
The Guanches of Tenerife, by Alonso de Espinosa.
L’Ennair chez les Beni Snous, by Destaing, Algiers, 1905.
Les fetes saisonnieres chez les Beni Snous, Algiers, 1907.
Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. ii, 1909: a study of Berber religion
and mythology, by R. Basset.
Loqman Berbere, by R. Basset, Paris, 1890.
Les Sanctuaires du Djebel Nefousa, by R. Basset, Paris, 1897.
Recherches sur la religion des Berbers, by R. Basset,1910.
The Eastern Libyans, by Oric Bates, 1914.
A Desert God, by Oric Bates, (in CSJ, vol. iv. No. 51).
Siwan Superstitions, by Oric Bates, (in CSJ, vol. v. No. 55). [CSJ: Cairo
The Golden Bough, by J.G. Frazer: an enjoyable 12 volumes to read.
Folk and fairy-tales, by P.C. Asbjornsen, trans. By H. L. Braekstad, New
Die Religion der afrikanischen Naturvolker, by W. Schneider,1891.
The Great Berber Goddess Libya (also known as Sibyl or Libica),
by Michelangelo, part of the Sistine Chapel. Source: Wikipedia
The Goddess Libya has so many names (or titles) including Sibyl
and Libica. The massive book represents the Berber civilisation created
by Berber women, before the onslaught of patriarchy sent them back to slavery,
where they remained so to this day.
This matriarchal Tamazight civilisation had inspired Libya's neighbours (like
Ancient Egypt and Greece) to incorporate the obscure mysteries of Libyan lore
into their mythologies long before they ended up as corrupt "political
cartoons" in classical mythology.
The powerful muscular body reflects the power Berber women had in prehistoric
times before the onslaught of patriarchy. They were the goddesses of the Goddess
(regulating religion); the priestesses of the temple (venerating Mother);
the oracles (foretelling the future); the Queens (governing the egalitarian
kingdom); and the Amazon fighters (defending the nation). Men then suckled
like babies in the cradle of civilisation: LIBYA.
The prophesy of the Libyan Sibyl was simple: "coming of the
day when that which is hidden shall be revealed."