Awonifa

Study the Teachings of Ifa

Shankpanna, or Shakpana, who also came from the body of yemaya, is the Small-pox god. The name appears to be derived from shan, to daub, smear, or plaster, which probably has reference to the pustules with which a small-pox patient is covered, and akpania,[1] a man-killer, homicide. He is accompanied by an assistant named Buku,[2] who kills those attacked by small-pox by wringing their necks.

Shan-kpanna is old and lame, and is depicted as limping along with the aid of a stick. According to a myth he has a withered leg. One day, when the gods were all assembled at the palace of Obatala, and were dancing and making merry, Shankpanna endeavoured to join in the dance, but, owing to his deformity, stumbled and fell. All the gods and goddesses thereupon burst out laughing, and Shankpanna, in revenge, strove to infect them with small-pox, but Obatala came to the rescue, and, seizing his spear, drove Shankpanna away. From that day Shankpanna was forbidden to associate with the other gods, and he became an outcast who has since lived in desolate and uninhabited tracts of country.

Temples dedicated to Shankpanna are always built in the bush, at some little distance from a town or village, with a view to keeping him away from habitations. He is much dreaded, and when there is an epidemic of small-pox the priests who serve him are able to impose almost any terms they please upon the terrified people, as the price of their mediation, To whistle by night near one of Shankpanna’s haunts is believed to be a certain way of attracting his notice and contracting the disease. As is the case with Sapatan, the small-pox god of the Ewe tribes, who have perhaps adopted the notion from the Yorubas, flies and mosquitos are the messengers of Sbankpanna, and his emblem is a stick covered with red and white blotches, symbolic, it seems, of the marks he makes on the bodies of his victims.