The Anuak people are a Nilotic ethnic group native to the marshlands of the Sobat River in southeastern South Sudan and western Ethiopia. Numbering approximately 300,000 individuals, the Anuak have a rich and diverse cultural heritage, with a belief system centered on a variety of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures. This article aims to provide an overview of Anuak beliefs, mythology, and rituals.


  • Jok: Jok is the supreme deity and creator of the Anuak pantheon. He is believed to be responsible for the creation of the world and everything in it. Jok is omnipresent and omnipotent, watching over the Anuak people and intervening in their lives when necessary. He is not directly worshipped, but his presence is acknowledged in daily life.

  • Tore: Tore is the sky god, often associated with thunder, lightning, and rain. He is considered to be the primary enforcer of Jok's will, acting as a mediator between Jok and the Anuak people. Tore is sometimes perceived as a mercurial figure, capable of both providing life-giving rain and unleashing destructive storms.

Mythological Creatures and Heroes

  • The Nyankore: The Nyankore is a mythical creature, part human and part serpent, that resides in rivers and lakes. It is believed to have the power to cause diseases and misfortunes, and is often invoked in rituals aimed at warding off evil spirits or seeking protection from harm.

  • Agwei: Agwei is a legendary hero who is said to have saved the Anuak people from a great flood by constructing a large raft. He is revered as a wise and resourceful figure, with many tales emphasizing his ingenuity and cunning.


The Gilo: The Gilo is a complex initiation ceremony for young Anuak men, marking their transition into adulthood. The ceremony is held once every few years and involves rituals such as circumcision, physical endurance tests, and the sharing of traditional stories and proverbs. The Gilo serves to reinforce the values and beliefs of Anuak society, as well as to foster a sense of unity among participants.

Rainmaking: Rainmaking rituals are conducted by the Anuak during times of drought to seek Tore's intervention. These rituals involve the sacrifice of a white bull, followed by prayers and songs imploring Tore to bring rain. The ritual is typically performed by a designated rainmaker, who is believed to possess the power to communicate directly with Tore.

Unique Beliefs

  • Spirit possession: The Anuak believe in the existence of spirits, which can possess individuals and cause various physical and psychological ailments. To treat such afflictions, the Anuak turn to spiritual healers known as 'jom', who perform rituals to expel the spirits and restore the afflicted person's health. This process often involves the use of traditional medicines, drumming, and dancing.

  • Balance of opposites: The Anuak worldview is characterized by a belief in the balance of opposites, with the forces of good and evil in constant struggle. This concept is evident in the dual nature of Tore, who can be both a benevolent provider and a destructive force. It is believed that by observing the proper rituals and maintaining social harmony, the Anuak people can maintain a balance between these opposing forces and ensure the continued prosperity of their community.