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Dan Ayidohwèdo
    Aido-Hwedo, bas-relief
    Abomey Museum coll.

The Serpent as head-rest for the earth

There are some who say the world is a machine. Somebody made it, but if there was one Mawu or many, history does not tell us. Aido-Hwedo, the serpent, is a vodun, but is not of the family of the gods. They say he is not the son of the Great Mawu, because Aido-Hwedo existed before any of the children of Mawu; before Sogbo. They say that Aido-Hwedo came with the first man and the first woman of the world.

Now, when the Creator made the world, she1 had Aido-Hwedo with her as her servant. Aido-Hwedo carried her in his mouth everywhere. We do not know if the world was there already. We know the earth was the first created, because the world is like a calabash. The top is put on last.

Wherever the Creator went, Aido-Hwedo went with her. That is why the earth is as we find it. It curves, it winds, it has high places, and low places. That is the movement of the serpent Aido-Hwedo. Where Mawu and Aido-Hwedo rested there are mountains, because the mountains were made by the excrement of Aido-Hwedo. That is why we find riches inside mountains2. They say too, that the cowries are the dung of Aido-Hwedo.

Now, when the work was finished, Mawu saw that the earth had too much weight. There were too many things: too many trees, too many mountains, too many elephants, too much of everything. It was necessary to rest the earth on something. So Aido-Hwedo was told to coil himself into a circle and rest as a carrying pad underneath the earth. Now, Aido-Hwedo does not like heat, so Mawu made water for him to live in.

So he is in the sea. But it is not he who commands the sea. It is Agbè (Mami Wata), a Son of Mawu, who commands there, because those who command must be of royal blood. Now, when Aido-Hwedo stirs, there is an earthquake.

That is why the Serpent is used as a head-rest for an overburdened earth.


1. Mawu (Segbo) is customarily regarded as female.
2. Aido-Hwedo symbolises fortune and continuity

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