Nyame (oNyAMe, The Shining One) Ashanti (Ghana) The all-knowing, all-powerful Supreme God, Creator of the universe, and head of the Ashanti pantheon of gods and goddesses (known as the abosom). As with many African gods, Nyame was remote from humans and unconcerned about their daily activities. In some traditions, Nyame was considered to be male, in others to be female, and in still others to be androgynous—at the same time both male and female.
Nyame was one part of a triune deity, or triad, which consisted of Nyame, Nyankopon, and Odomankoma. Nyame represented the natural universe; Nyankopon represented its kra, or life-giving power; and Odomankoma represented the creative force that made the visible world. Not all Akan-speaking people make these distinctions among the three names of the deity. Those who distinguish between Nyame and Nyankopon identify Nyame as the female element, symbolized by the Moon, and Nyankopon as the male element, symbolized by the Sun.
In some traditions, after Nyame created the Earth and peopled it with humans, he lived on Earth among people. In one tale, this situation ended when a woman bumped Nyame with her pestle as she pounded grain in her mortar. Angry, the god went away to the sky. In a different version of the myth, Nyame was watching a group of women pounding grain. The women asked him to leave. When he did not move, they rushed at him and struck him with their pestles until he left Earth for the sky.
According to one myth, in the beginning, people could not reproduce. Nyame sent a python down to Earth to teach people how to mate. After that, children were born.
In one tale about the origin of death, Nyame sent his servant—a goat—to give humans the message that although death would come to them, they would not remain dead. They would come to live with Nyame in the heavens. On the way, the goat stopped to eat some grass. Annoyed by this delay, Nyame sent a sheep with the same message. Unfortunately, the sheep got the message wrong; it told people that death would be the end. When the goat finally arrived, the people told it that they had accepted the sheep’s message. In this way, death came into the world. In a different myth, people had grown tired of dying, so they sent a sheep to take a message to Nyame asking him to let them continue to live. To make certain the message got to Nyame, they also sent a dog. Being faster than the sheep—which had stopped to eat grass—the dog reached Nyame first. However, he gave the wrong message. He told Nyame that people wished to remain dead rather than join Nyame in the heavens. Nyame agreed to this, and when the sheep arrived with the correct message, Nyame could not reverse his decision.
Nyame’s goat was also responsible for thwarting Nyame’s plans with respect to his sons, Bia and tano. Nyame planned to give Bia, his favourite, the most fertile and beautiful parts of the country of Ashanti (now Ghana). Tano would receive the barren coastal lands (now the Côte d’Ivoire). Nyame sent the goat to tell his sons to come to him for their inheritance the next day. The goat preferred Tano to Bia, so it instructed Tano to disguise himself as Bia and go to Nyame very early in the morning. Deceived, Nyame gave Tano the land intended for Bia. When Bia arrived, Nyame realized what had happened, but it was too late to correct the error.
In some myths, Nyame appears as the father of the trickster-hero Anansi the spider.