Metal working in Africa was and still is considered a form of magick. Metal workers are feared and also respected in some African societies because of their potential to benefit or negatively effect the lives of those around them. These people were venerated and held important positions in society alongside royalty and other authorities.
In Africa, when one examines closely, there is an ancient cultural reference to a spirit or god of iron and metalworking. In the Yoruba this god is called Ogun* and North Nigeria, the god is called Ogu or Gu. Traditionally in the West African region, one chooses to make the position of smithing a sacred and secret trade.
In the Mande culture, blacksmiths are said to control a force called Nyama which is liken to chi and prana life force. It is a hot and wild force that must be mastered and used to transform when forging metals that are worked with, ultimately creating a form of powerful art. The ability to control this energy is said to be carried through the family. They believed this ability to be hereditary and that metal working is controlled by the ancestors and spirits. Members of the blacksmith family are taught the Daliluw, which is the secret knowledge of the use and nature of nyama.
As quoted from a book on art forms in Africa concerning the Mande people-
“Nyama is the foundation that nourishes the institution of smithing, so that it may nourish society, is the simple axiom that knowledge can be power when properly articulated…. One must first possess it (nyama) in substantial amounts and then acquire the knowledge to manipulate and direct it to capitalize on its potential benefits. Acts that the difficult or dangerous—like hunting, or smelting, and forging iron—demand that a greater responsibility of energy and a higher degree of knowledge be possessed by the actor (Perani, Smith 1998: 71).
It is interesting to note that many of these blacksmiths and metal workers are also practitioners of divination, amulet making and medicine and many were also trained to be high priests. These initiates and trainees would separate themselves from society and conduct many rituals before they went into the "mother" (earth) to become a metallurgist. Rituals of purification and fasting was done in preparation to engage in this highly sacred and magickal act and ensure the timing was correct to go along with this.
In ancient Africa, the metal worker was often seen as a very powerful sorcerer and had the power to direct the forces of nature. The will of the smith was used to transmute metals despite the danger in the act. It is also interesting to note that Mande blacksmiths were called "the first sons of the earth" and near their forge were the forms of the 4 elements present to aid in their smithing and ritual practice.
The blacksmith was known as an enlightened one and one who deals with numerous amounts of universal energy.
Though the actual act of forging metal is performed in these African societies to make weapons and tools, the spiritual and allegorical significance still remains. The Mande culture, along with majority of true African culture, has been infiltrated. The Mande still have their ancient beliefs but many of them have adopted the poisonous program of Islam due to centuries of invasion. This is the case in many traditional African religions such as in Vodun/Voodoo which I have already written about.
The metal working tradition relates to spiritual transformation and for those of you not aware, "metal work" or "metal working" is spiritual alchemy and the metals are the Chakras. If you look on the Daemons section you will see that many of them, especially, Azazel, specialize in metal working.
In my study of metal working in traditional African religion, it seems that this one spirit that has smithing, craft and metallurgy under his domain is in association with our god Azazel. If not specifically Azazel, it is a sure thing it is of our ancient gods.
Azazel is a master at spiritual alchemy and in the Xian Bible and in enemy grimoires, it reads that he is known to have taught men to make swords, shields and body armor and that he is a master at working with metal, minerals and geology. This is all spiritual.
In reference to "first sons of the earth", it could have roots in the Mande's connection in working with earth, mining and using it to gain spiritual transformation. Working with the earth spiritually in alchemy.
*Ogun/Gu is also an aspect of the Sacral chakra ruled by Mars and associated with war and Iron.
The Unknown lore of Amexems's Indigenous People, Noble Meyer
Perani, Judith. Smith, Fred T. (1998) The Visual Arts of Africa, gender, power, and life cycle rituals