The Proverbs, Wits and Wisdom Of Ancestral Africa

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The Proverbs, Wits and Wisdom Of Ancestral Africa

Anger does nobody good, but patience is the father of kindness.

Not to aid one in distress is to kill him in your heart.

Birth does not differ from birth; as the free man was born so was the slave.
In the beginning our Lord created all. With him there is neither slave nor free man, but every one is free.

Boasting is not courage. He who boasts much cannot do much. Much gesticulation does not prove courage.

Borrowing is easy but the day of payment is hard.

He who waits for chance may wait for a year.

Wherever a man goes to dwell his character goes with him.
Every man’s character is good in his own eyes.

Charity is the father of sacrifice.

There is no wealth without children. It is the duty of children to  wait on elders, not elders on children.

You condemn on hearsay evidence alone, your sins increase.

Men despise what they do not understand.

If thou seeketh to obtain by force what our Lord did not give thee, thou wilt not get it.

_Danger of Beauty_
He who marries a beauty, marries trouble.

_Danger of Poverty_
Beg help and you will meet with refusals; ask for alms and you will meet with misers.

_Danger of Wealth_
It is better to be poor and live long than rich and die young.

A man’s disposition is like a mark in a stone, no one can efface it.

_Doing Good_
If one does good, God will interpret it to him for good.

_Duty to One’s Self_
Do not repair another man’s fence until you have seen to your own.

You cannot kill game by looking at it.

_Evil Doer_
The evil doer is ever anxious.

We begin by being foolish and we become wise by experience.

Familiarity induces contempt, but distance secures respect.

Faults are like a hill, you stand on your own and you talk about those of other people.

_Faults of the Rich_
If thou art poor, do not make a rich man thy friend.
If thou goest to a foreign country, do not alight at a rich man’s house.

_Favor of the Great_
To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better.

After a foolish action comes remorse.

A person prepared beforehand is better than after reflection.
The day on which one starts is not the time to commence one’s preparation.

He who forgives ends the quarrel.

There are three friends in this world–courage, sense, and insight.

Hold a true friend with both of your hands.

Thou knowest the past but not the future.
As to what is future, even a bird with a long neck can not see it, but God only.

Gossip is unbecoming an elder.

A matter dealt with gently is sure to prosper, but a matter dealt with violently causes vexation.

There is no medicine for hate.

It is the heart that carries one to heaven.

He is a heathen who bears malice.

Hope is the pillar of the world.

Lack of knowledge is darker than night.
An ignorant man is always a slave.
Whoever works without knowledge works uselessly.

Since thou hast no benefactor in this world, thy having one in the next world will be all the more pleasant.

He who injures another brings injury upon himself.

Laziness lends assistance to fatigue.
A lazy man looks for light employment.

One does not love another if one does not accept anything from him.
If you love the children of others, you will love your own even better.

If one knows thee not or a blind man scolds thee, do not become angry.

Him whose mother is no more, distress carries off.

_Necessity of Effort_
The sieve never sifts meal by itself.

_Old Age_
There are no charms or medicine against old age.

The dawn does not come twice to wake a man.

At the bottom of patience there is heaven.
Patience is the best of qualities; he who possesses it possesses all things.

Ordinary people are as common as grass, but good people are dearer than the eye.

Bowing to a dwarf will not prevent your standing erect again.
“I have forgotten thy name” is better than “I know thee not.”

A poor man has no friends.
He who has no house has no word in society.

Property is the prop of life.
A wealthy man always has followers.

Sleep has no favorites.

Strife begets a gentle child.

The sun is the king of torches.

Trade is not something imaginary or descriptive, but something real and profitable.

Lies, however numerous, will be caught by truth when it rises up.
The voice of truth is easily known.

If you love yourself others will hate you, if you humble yourself others will love you.

Boasting at home is not valor; parade is not battle; when war comes the valiant will be known.
The fugitive never stops to pick the thorn from his foot.

A man may be born to wealth, but wisdom comes only with length of days.
A man with wisdom is better off than a stupid man with any amount of charms and superstition.
Know thyself better than he who speaks of thee.
Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse.
A counsellor who understands proverbs soon sets matters right.


The butterfly that brushes against thorns will tear its wings.

If the dog is not at home, he barks not.
A heedless dog will not do for the chase.
A lurking dog does not lie in the hyena’s lair.

He who can not move an ant, and yet tries to move an elephant, shall find out his folly.
The elephant does not find his trunk heavy.
Were no elephant in the jungle, the buffalo would be a great animal.

If the fly flies, the frog goes not supperless to bed.

When the fox dies, fowls do not mourn.

When the goat goes abroad, the sheep must run.

When the rat laughs at the cat, there is a hole.
The rat has not power to call the cat to account.
The rat does not go to sleep in the cat’s bed.

He who goes with the wolf will learn to howl.

Complied by:

A. O. STAFFORD (1916)



     R. F. Burton, Wit and Wisdom from West Africa.
     S. W. Koelle, African Native Literature.
     A. B. Ellis, The Yoruba Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West
     Heli Chatelin, Folk Tales of Angola.

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3 thoughts on “The Proverbs, Wits and Wisdom Of Ancestral Africa”

  1. Blessed is the Man who seeketh JAHS Divine Wisdom and LOVE….This kind of word opens my days daily with Joy

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