Have you heard of the African women warriors?
You must have heard of the Greek mythology “Amazon Women” who were brutal. They were the daughters of Ares and Harmonía whose only concerns in life were all things war, security and protection. What if we told you the world had a realistic version of that? But more importantly, these women were Africans… the African Women Warriors. Let’s travel back in time, 400 years ago to a distant past in West Africa. The birthplace of voodoo, former home to the Dahomey Kingdom, present-day Benin Republic. In the 1600s the people of Gedevi found their way to a north-southland on the coast of West Africa. Where they settled and thrived. A few decades later their population began to rapidly grow, most of the people started yo expand and move to further parts of the land. By mid-1600, one of the expanding communities became a kingdom, the Kingdom of Dahomey. With its fast rise by claiming multiple towns, accumulating major power and claiming victory during wars they became one of the strongest kingdoms in Africa.
A Dahomey Woman
First Generation of African women warriors
In 1645 the first record of these women warriors was documented during the reign of King Houegbadija. The third King of Dahomey created a group of elephant female hunters and called them “Gbeto” which means “Huntress”. These women trained and became Women Warriors for their Kingdom. They were skilled and fought with different wild animals especially the elephants for various purposes. For example, its trunk which was considered as an ornament for royalties and meat which was eaten. Their vigorous training made them muscular but when they got back to their homes, a lot of people deemed them to be, ugly and not worthy to be mothers. The King out of the kindness of his heart decided to marry them all and called them his “Ahosi Wives”.
The Ahosi of Dahomey
The “Ahosi Wives” were traditionally married to the King and called wives, even though married they had no sexual relations with the King. The wives also weren’t involved in family activities. Soon rumours began to spread among the villagers about their relationship. It was believed that the Ahosi wives were given off to respected kingdoms as wives to boost the King's relationship with those selected kingdoms.
Mino Warriors of Dahomey
After King Houegbadja died, his daughter Queen Hangbe, took over the throne in 1708. She took rulership over the community while they waited for her brother to come of age to succeed the previous king's seat. During her ruling tenure, she established a female bodyguard and morphed them into a women warrior group. She called them “Mino”, meaning “Our mothers”. These warriors were trained vigorously, and three things were instilled into them; loyalty, discipline and survival. Their natural instinct deepened as they trained with each other, prisoners and hunting large animals. The initiation process focused on their pain threshold; their emotional and mental states hardened they didn’t hesitate to kill even during training.
Their intensive and gruesome acts during training spread like wildfire throughout kingdoms, They commanded respect, people would bow and offer gifts to them whenever these women walked on the streets. Strength was the determinant for the beauty of the Dahomey Amazons. When her brother, King Ágata finally succeeded the throne, the women remained under her guidance and during wars in the mid-1700s, he used the women warriors to defeat neighbouring kingdoms. During the early 1900s, when the colonizers came as sailors they referred to the group of women as “Dahomey Amazons”. According to them, they had similar attributes to the ancient Anatolia and the Black Sea. On 30th of November 1975, after their arrival of the invaders, the Kingdom of Dahomey fell. The colonizers renamed the new country after the body of water surrounding it, 'Benin'. Dahomey historical museum still contains relics and history of the kingdom's past till date.
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