Woyengi is the creator goddess of the Ijaw people of Nigeria. She is also known as the goddess of fate in certain depictions.
The Ijaws are an ethnic group majorly found in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, with significant population clusters in Bayelsa, Delta, and in Rivers who live by fishing supplemented by farming and trading. Population figures for the Ijaws are placed at just over 6 million, accounting for around 1.8% of the Nigerian population.
Although the Ijaws are now primarily Christians, they also have elaborate traditional religious practices and some parts of the population still believe in Woyengi to be the almighty creator of the universe.
The creation Story
The creation story of the Ijaws starts with the creator Goddess’ Woyengi’ standing on the edge of the universe and observing an earth filled with animals and vegetation, but nothing else. Through the void, she descended to the earth on a bolt of lightning.
Before Woyengi made her appearance on earth, several objects emerged: an iroko tree, a large table, a chair, and a creation stone. Then, she sat on the chair and put her feet on the creation stone, and from there, she started molding humans from the earth’s soil.
Originally, these humans were created without genders. Woyengi let the first humans she created choose whether they would rather be a man or a woman. These humans were also told to determine the kind of life they would like to live on earth as well as decide their manner of death. This series of events is the reason why Woyengi is also known as a fate goddess.
Among the people created by Woyengi were two women, one of whom chose to give birth to many children and the other of whom chose to wield magic power over the world.
The two women grew up as sisters, and, when they came of age and married, they both fulfilled the destiny set for them at their creation. Yet the woman who was given magic power, Ogboinba, became discouraged with her choice, because, although she could heal and prophesy, she could not enjoy the love of a child.
Ogboinba, who wished to change her gifts from magical powers to childbearing, went on a journey to meet Woyengi so she could fulfill her wish. Ultimately, Woyengi vehemently denied Ogboinba’s request, reminding her that the choice she had made was hers alone.
However, Ogboinba was adamant and challenged Woyengi to a magical battle. Woyengi was enraged by Ogboinba’s audacity and took away her powers instead. To escape Woyengi’s rage, Ogboinba fled into the eyes of a pregnant woman, where she is said to remain to this day.