(Also: Aido Wedo (Dahomey), Aido Hawedo, Danbala Wedo (Haitian), Oshunmare (Yoruban))
Aido Hwedo was a west African demigod whose primary function was holding up the world but was also associated with moisture and fertility*. In Dahomey mythology, Nana Buluku (or Mawu, the one god) created Aido Hwedo, the Rainbow Serpent, to serve him. The serpent carried the god as he created the Earth. The writhing motions of the serpent carved the rivers and valleys into the land, while its dung created mountains and nourished the soil so that crops would grow. When the new world was completed, it was so full of plants and animals that Nana Buluku feared it would tip over and collapse. He ordered Aido Hwedo (or, in some versions, asked or the serpent offered) to wind himself around the world to cushion its great weight.
Because the serpent could not stand the heat, Nana Buluku created the oceans for Aido Hwedo to lay in. He remains coiled under land with his tail in his mouth, occasionally shifting himself for comfort and thus causing earthquakes. So that he would not devour himself, Nana Buluku charged the red monkeys that lived beneath the sea to forage for the Rainbow Serpent’s preferred food: iron bars. On that day when the supply of iron bars runs out, Aido Hwedo will begin to chew on his tail and his convulsions of pain will cause the world to collapse.
Aido Hwedo seem relatively uncomplicated until all of the various forms, responsibilities and genders are taken into account. Worship of the Rainbow Serpent can be found in Africa, Australia and Central and South America. In some mythologies he is not held under the world, rather he flies from waterhole to waterhole, bringing rain to those regions that require it. There is also the problem of name variations, raising the question of whether two gods (or demigods) with similar names or functions in different regions are the same deity. Aido Hwedo is also:
Danbala Wedo – Haitian; the oldest and most respected of the Vodou lwa; a rainbow snake.
Ayida Wedo – Haitian; the wife of Danbala Wedo; a rainbow snake; together with her husband, she connects the land and the waters, burrowing and creating life. Also known as Aida Cuedo or Ayida Cueddo.
Oshunmare – Yoruban and Brazilian; same as Aido Hwedo.
The Rainbow Serpent – Aboriginal; formed the valleys and rivers with its twisting movements; the rainbow serpent Kalseru is associated with fertility and rain; the rainbow serpent Julunggul is the Great Goddess.
*A common theme among Rainbow Serpent myths of various lands.