Divine Players: A Glossary for “The Half-God of Rainfall”

AUG 31, 2023

The Half-God of Rainfall invites audiences on an odyssey from a Nigeria to Greece via the NBA, fusing mythology and sports lore. In the process, Ellams brings to life Greek gods and goddesses, as well as the deities honored in Yoruba spirituality. This glossary offers additional information about the Greek and Yoruba deities at the heart of the story, as well as context for some of the other legends—both on and off the court—referenced in the play.

Note: This article includes mention of sexual violence.

Terracotta illustration of the main characters of The Half-God of Rainfall, with Demi at the center.

The characters of The Half-God of Rainfall. All character illustrations by Angeline B.

Main Characters in the Play

Òrìṣà (or “Orisha”): In the Yoruba spirituality of Western Africa (also referred to as Ifá), the Òrìṣà represent personified natural forces and deified ancestors, in addition to sacred objects and spaces. The Òrìṣà are also central in other syncretic traditions throughout the African diaspora, including Santería, Vodou, and Candomblé.

Elegba (also known as Èṣù or Eshu): Known as the trickster Òrìṣà, Elegba is a messenger between heaven and earth, associated with crossroads, beginnings, and opportunities. Essentially a force for good, he nevertheless requires frequent praise to fulfill his responsibilities. He is renowned for his clever surprises.

Hera: In the Greek pantheon, Hera is the queen of the gods and goddesses, as well as the wife and sister of Zeus. (Some stories emphasize that, before their wedding, Zeus took the disguise of a wounded bird in order to catch Hera’s attention and assault her.) She is worshipped as a goddess of marriage and birth and she is known for her rage at Zeus’ many infidelities and frequent sexual violence.

Oṣun (or Oshun): Referred to as the river Òrìṣà, Oṣun is linked to water, purity, love, fertility, and sensuality. She is known to be one of the most powerful Òrìṣà. In many myths, Oṣun and her waters are depicted as a guardian or nurturer of humankind.

Ṣàngó (or Shango): A warrior Òrìṣà linked to fire and lightning, Ṣàngó is represented by his oṣè—a double-headed battle-axe. According to tradition, Ṣàngó is both a personified natural force and a deified ancestor of the Yoruba people.

Zeus: The king of the Greek gods and goddesses. The husband of Hera, Zeus reigns over the sky from Mount Olympus, wielding thunder and lightning. Known for his infidelity, Zeus pursues, seduces, and assaults many different goddesses and mortal women throughout Greek myth—often while disguised or in the form of an animal.

Terracotta illustrations of: Hera with a clenched fist; and Sàngó crackling with thunderbolts.

Hera and Ṣàngó.

The Basketball Pantheon

Players mentioned in The Half-God of Rainfall

Allen Iverson (b. 1975): Also known as “A.I.” and “The Answer.” Widely regarded as one of the most culturally influential basketball players ever. His career spanned 1996 to 2010, and he is most well-known for his time with the Philadelphia 76ers. His personality and his flamboyant flare made a pervasive impact on mainstream society.

Michael Jordan (b. 1963): NBA legend widely known as the “greatest of all time” (G.O.A.T.). Wearing his famous number 23 jersey, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six championships between 1985 and 1998. As his moniker “Air Jordan” suggests, he is especially famed for his ability to jump so high that he appeared at times to be flying over the court.

Kevin McHale (b. 1957): A power forward for the Boston Celtics from 1980 to 1993, McHale won three championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986 alongside fellow Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Robert Parish.

Reggie Miller (b. 1965): A Hall of Famer, Miller played for the Indiana Pacers through his entire career, spanning 1987 to 2005. Ranked fourth highest for the number of career three-pointers in NBA history, he was known for his rivalries with Michael Jordan and the New York Knicks during the late 1980s and 1990s.

Alonzo Mourning (b. 1970): A Hall of Famer mostly widely known for his time with the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA. With a career spanning 1992 to 2008, Mourning won a championship with the Heat in 2006 alongside fellow Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Gary Payton, and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade.

Hakeem Olajuwon (b. 1963): Originally from Lagos, Nigeria and nicknamed “the Dream,” Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential basketball players of all time. From 1984 to 2001, he played the center position for the Houston Rockets, where he was known for his offensive skill and shot-blocking ability.

Dennis Rodman (b. 1961): Nicknamed “the Worm,” Rodman is a Hall of Famer whose NBA career spanned 1986 to 2000. He is especially remembered for his time with both the Detroit Pistons (where he won two championships in 1989 and 1990) and the Chicago Bulls (where, alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, he won three consecutive championships from 1996 to 1998). Known best for his bold expressiveness, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest rebounders and defensive players ever.

Clyde Drexler (b. 1962): Nicknamed “Clyde the Glide,” Drexler spent the majority of his career (1983-1998) with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he is known as one of the greatest players in the franchise’s history. In 1995, he also won a championship with the Houston Rockets alongside basketball greats Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith.


Terracotta illustrations of: Elegba opening a portal; and Zeus with a fistful of lightning and a swan at his side.

Elegba and Zeus

Other Mythological Figures Mentioned in the Play

Aido-Hwedo (or Ayida-Weddo): A spirit in the Afro-Haitian Vodou tradition represented as a rainbow serpent, known as a goddess of fertility.

Allvis (also Alviss or Alvis): A dwarf and master smith in Norse mythology, known for his wisdom.

Amun-Ra: The oldest of the Ancient Egyptian gods, associated with sun and air.

Apollo: Greek god of music, poetry, art, light, the sun, archery, plague, medicine, and knowledge. The son of Zeus and twin brother to Artemis.

Ares: The god of war in Greek mythology, embodying both valor and violence.

Artemis: Greek goddess of wild animals, the hunt, vegetation, chastity, and childbirth. The daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo.

The Furies (or Erinyes): Powerful goddesses of vengeance in Greek mythology, known to pursue the guilty, tormenting them to madness.

Hades: The Greek god of the underworld, banished from Olympus by his brother Zeus.

Heracles (or Hercules): A famous demigod in Greek mythology—born to a mortal princess, Alcmene, whom Zeus seduced while disguised as her husband, Amphitryon.

Hermes: The Greek messenger god, associated with trade, thieves, travelers, athletes, and border crossings. He serves as a guide for souls to Hades’ underworld. A son of Zeus.

Icarus: In Greek mythology, Icarus is the son of Daedalus, a legendary mortal craftsman and inventor. The two were imprisoned on Crete for Daedalus’ role in the creation of the minotaur. When father and son tried to escape on wings made of feathers and wax, Icarus’ wings melted as he flew too close to the sun, and he fell into the sea.

Kali: Goddess of time, destruction, and change in Hindu mythology. A powerful force of both destruction and creativity.

Leprechaun: A fairy in Irish tradition associated with the form of a tiny old man. Known as a cobbler who, if caught, will give up a pot of hidden gold.

Leda, Europa, and Ganymede: Mortals pursued by Zeus. Leda was a Spartan queen, whom Zeus attacked in the form of a swan (fathering Helen of Troy in the process). Europa was a Phoenician princess; Zeus transformed into a bull in order to abduct her (thus fathering Crete’s King Minos). Ganymede was a Trojan hero renowned for his beauty; Zeus took the form of an eagle to carry the youth to Olympus, where he served as cup-bearer to the gods.

Ògún: The Òrìṣà of iron and war. Known for his destructive creativity, Ògún serves as a guardian of the laws of nature, ready to deal out repercussions to those who break them.

Òrúnmilà: A powerful and ancient Òrìṣà representing wisdom and intellectual development. Said to be the architect of the Ifá divination system.

Prometheus: A Titan who attempted to steal fire from the gods for mankind’s benefit—although successful, he was caught and sentenced to eternal torment in Hades, where an eagle (the emblem of Zeus) is said to rip out and eat his liver every day.

Satet (or Satis): Ancient Egyptian goddess of archery.

Set (or Seth), Chaac, Indra, Feng Lung (or Lei Gong), Whaitiri, and Thor: Gods associated with thunder in, respectively, Ancient Egyptian, Mayan, Hindu, Chinese Daoist, Māori, and Norse traditions.

Vishnu: One of the supreme deities according to Hindu tradition, Vishnu creates, protects, and transforms the universe, taking many different forms, or avatars.

Yemọja: The great mother of the Òrìṣà and the goddess of deep water, she is praised as the giver of life. In the Yoruba language, her name literally translates to “mother of fish.”

By William Pryor

All character illustrations by Angeline B.


Dramaturgical research by The Half-God of Rainfall dramaturg Iyvon E and NYTW 2050 Artistic fellow Thalia Sablon.
“Ifa of the Yoruba People of Nigeria” (UNESCO)
“Orisha” (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Basketball Reference
Encyclopedia Mythica

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