Thus, traditional African cosmologies and beliefs continue to exert significant influence on Africans today. Western religious cultures regard many aspects of African religions—such as witchcraft, ritual killing of animals, Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. Several examples of such traditional and cultural beliefs and practices abound in Africa. In traditional African culture the world of the ancestors and the abode of the dead is understood as a sphere beyond the realm of the living. Another set, "Twins of Storm," retained authority to govern thunder and lightening. The initiated are priests and priestesses and may hold titles within the cult. If the living maintain a cordial relationship with the ancestors, one of the spirits returns to be reborn into the lineage. Then there are priests and holy persons, who are intermediaries between the seen (the living) and the unseen worlds. Community morals govern the family unit, from maternal and paternal relatives to extended families, clans, and lineages. Proper burial entails a performance of elaborate funeral ceremonies by all members of the deceased's descendants. The process of divination allows the deities' feelings and messages to be revealed to humans. This is because traditional weavers manufacture textiles from palm fronds and also because Ògún's preferred food and drink come from the oil palm tree. In contemporary Africa the persistence of sacred practices is a source of conflict between devotees of African religions and outsiders. The traditional African religions or traditional beliefs and practices of African people are a set of highly diverse beliefs that includes various ethnic religions. In the fourteenth century "outsiders" began to inquire into the nature of African cultures and religions. Thus, they are important places to communicate with spirits of the dead, with God, and with the heavenly world. Òsun Grove in Òsogbo, Nigeria, is a good example of an environmental landmark that has been moved into the realm of the sacred. Because of their personal associations with a divinity, priests and certain religious specialists honor food taboos; it is also thought that, by doing so, they can perform rituals effectively for observers of these restrictions. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974. There is an apparent contradiction in the simultaneous belief in ancestor veneration and reincarnation. From the 1500s to the 1900s the transatlantic slave trade took African religions to the Americas and the Caribbean. They may be in shrines or temples, or they may stand on their own. According to the Yoruba (an ethnic group from Nigeria), the life force that pervades all phenomena exists in an eternal cycle of complex interactions between cosmic domains; these interactions should always remain in balance. Parrinder, Edward Geoffrey. Indigenous African religions are by nature plural, varied, and usually informed by one’s ethnic identity i.e. Narratives about the creation of the universe (cosmogony) and the nature and structure of the world (cosmology) form the core philosophy of African religions. In this narrative Legba (messenger of the Supreme Although ritual has changed over time according to the social, political, environmental, and spiritual needs of individuals, it continues to be a real connection with the past—a connection that Africans take seriously as they pass their culture from one generation to the next. Unlike Western myth, which seems partial to the reign of sky beings and portrays heaven as the abode of the Supreme Being, many African cosmologies consider the sky and the earth as equally significant spheres through which the divine create an enchanted universe. Gender is a major factor in many traditional ancestral cultures; males rather than females have tended to benefit from ancestral ideology. In African cultures celebrating the transition from childhood to adulthood takes many forms. Despite their seemingly unrelated aspects, there are common features to these systems, suggesting that African traditional faiths form a cohesive religious tradition. Various African cultures have developed intricate sets of ethical customs, rules, and taboos. Magistrate Sahr Keikura has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of... Dear Madam Sylvia O. Blyden, I have read the trash you referred to as an address... By Haja Adama Kamara. With autonomy came a revitalized study of religions, which recognized the religious pluralism of independent countries. To the observer of religious practices, rituals are more visible than mythic narratives, but rituals often relate to myths by conveying and reinforcing the meanings and values that communities hold sacred. Muslim and European colonial traders, travelers, slavers, missionaries, military personnel, mercenaries, and administrators frequently recorded naive accounts of African cultural customs, traditions, and religions. Initiation often takes place for several days or months in auspicious natural locations, such as forests or grasslands, where the initiates are afforded closer contact with the invisible realm, the spirits, and God. ." It is known worldwide for its powerful ability to represent abstract ideas and spiritual forces. Furthermore, African cultural practices contain elements of indigenous religion. Although African religions have not embarked on a systematic theology, the myths, rituals, and stories of the gods and ancestors point to a profound statement on moral justice. Africans integrate this religious worldview into every aspect of life. By contacting the supernatural realm of spirits, gods, ancestors, or other divine beings, the diviner attains a state of possession or shamanic trance, usually through dancing and other ritual performance. Scarification or tattoo is a permanent mode of cultural adornment signifying identification with beliefs; motifs are often based on abstract designs, leaf forms, and totemic flora and fauna. Clients listen to the poetic recital and identify aspects of it that relate to their problem. London: Paul Hamlyn, 1967. These narratives are conveyed in a linguistic form that scholars often refer to as myth. Lineage or familial misfortune signifies punishment for the past sins of members of the lineage. This is the defining characteristic of African religion wherever it is practiced. Some of us perhaps are too wrapped up in our illusory dreams and wild imaginings to take account of the rich traditional beliefs and cultural practices to which we are indissolubly bound such that we easily dismiss them off-handedly as trivial traits scarcely repaying any serious attention. Breaking the laws of the community offends the ancestors, who may wreak disaster upon the offender and community as well. The message and sacrifices contained in Ifa verses are a genre of oral tradition; they preserve the Yoruba religious worldview through myths, proverbs, songs, and poetry. Man quickly broke the covenants and that is what has caused a separation Creator God and humans. This occurred especially in Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Trinidad, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and other locations where African populations were extensive. This extraordinary belief in ancestral interconnection is so strongly embedded in the psyche and consciousness of Africans in general that it is believed to act as a potent spiritual tranquilizer that instills a sense of optimism in them as a people and equally effective enough to produce instant positive results, even in a crisis of the most serious kind. There is no one “African Traditional; Religion”, there are many, and Christianity could be said to be one of them, since it has been in Africa as long as it has been in Europe, and almost as long as it has been in Asia. Within Africa itself expressions of culture are abundant such that large amounts of cultural diversity are found not only across different countries but also within single countries as well. Oral narratives define morals and values for traditional religions, just as written texts do for religions that have sacred books. of the people which are all together. African arts and religious meaning overlap in visual symbols, music, dance, proverbs, riddles, names of people and places, myths, legends, beliefs, and customs. "African Traditional Religions Missionary groups of Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, and others Christian denominations are also active in the country. More than 100 million Africans still adhere to the traditional African religions. African religions, religious beliefs and practices of the peoples of Africa.It should be noted that any attempt to generalize about the nature of “African religions” risks wrongly implying that there is homogeneity among all African cultures.. Some African societies have creation myths that correlate with their social and political organization. Cole, H.M. (1982). Each generation expresses and reinterprets the myths, making the events revealed in them relevant to contemporary conditions. Even if followers of indigenous African religions convert to Christianity of Islam, they often continue to practice their traditional rituals. The diviner holds the chain by the middle and throws it on a mat, making a U shape, so that four nuts fall on each side of the mat. Eating habits and diet differ vastly among regions of Africa. Nehanda, considered an incarnation of an oracle spirit, was eventually hanged by colonial authorities in 1898. These are usually colorful affairs with dancing, music, eating, drinking, praying (and other religious activities), wearing masks and costumes, and general merrymaking. Proper burial rites and ceremonies ensure a peaceful passage. PRESIDENT BIO ADDRESS AT THE PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA COCKTAIL ON 18 DECEMBER 2020, Pres. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates. Several other African cosmologies are also characterized by an emphasis on primordial disorder, conflict, or chaos. This entry presents a brief, general picture of Africa's traditional religious heritage, focusing on the major beliefs because…, ••• African Religion evolved gradually as people experienced different life situations, raising questions and reflecting on such mysteries of life as birth and death, joy and suffering, the forces of nature, and the purpose of life. The Winye of Burkina Faso center their creation myth on female and male twins, whom the Supreme God sent as primordial parents to establish human life in the created world. I have always personally developed a hankering to discover more profoundly the traditional beliefs and cultural practices that bind and unite us as Africans. The living must avoid and respect the resting places of the dead. 3 (1981): 724–45. The four linguistic phylums spoken in Africa are: Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, and Khoi-San. Ifa Divination: Communication between Gods and Men in West Africa. This is why it is qualified as traditional, in comparison to the other religions, e.g. During their long periods of apprenticeship diviners memorize Ifa verses, which may be as long as 256 odu. In 2003 Abimbola was appointed the adviser to the president of Nigeria on culture and tradition. . Theoretical Explorations in African Religion. Start studying African Religions and Beliefs. Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1986. Awolalu and Geoffrey Parrinder (an English Methodist minister who taught religion in Nigeria), put in place a structure for the study of African religions that later scholars adapted for their own studies. The Igbo people of Nigeria's Owerri region traditionally believe that Alà, goddess of Earth, together with Amadióhà, god of thunder and lightning, oversee the essential aspects of village life. In Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara, edited by John Middleton. There are a number of West African babalawos (diviners) of African origin practicing in major American urban centers, such as Atlanta, Miami, and New York City. Idowu, E. Bolaji. Highly trained diviners have largely been responsible for memorizing and transmitting important historical and cultural events to the living generation. Similarly, the name for a medicine healer is sumãnkwafo, amawato, onisegun, and dibia. Puberty rituals signify the coming of age, when elders reveal to the younger generation the ancestral secrets of deep knowledge. Beginning in the late twentieth century hundreds of African Americans embraced Yoruba traditions by founding the Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village near the city of Sheldon, South Carolina. Personal or individual rituals often surround events that happen in everyday life. In particular, both Islam and Christianity have affected the practice of African traditional religions. Major scholarly research about African traditional religions had a late start. There is a continuing belief about the sacredness of lizards and chameleons in Zulu culture. If delivery becomes difficult, the father of the child climbs onto the roof of the house to a spot above the mother's belly. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. Myths do, however, retain similar structures and purposes: to describe the way things were at the beginning of time and to explain the cosmic order. In African cosmological narratives creation is always portrayed as a complex process, whether the universe is said to have evolved from preexisting matter or from divine thought. At times rulers have been described as gods or as endowed with God's divinity. In African Religions in Western Scholarship (1971) p'Bitek wrote that the viewing of African religions through Euro-Christian spectacles should cease. Perhaps the most fascinating of these pioneer movements are the Yoruba-inspired African American traditions. Their rebellious behavior, however, caused dismay; they resorted to acts of sorcery and refused to submit to the natural succession of generations. Traditional African Religion What is traditional African religion? Shrines, religious objects, and sacred places are decorated with many forms, shapes, and colors to express religious concepts. These two schools reflect an insidious racist ideology that influenced the initial study of African religions. Western colonialists negotiated and drafted treaties with African leaders, stripping Africans of their lands, depopulating the countryside, destabilizing their economies, overturning political rule, and uprooting cultural and lineage continuity. African societies do not clearly delineate an individual's religious title. Religion in Africa. Typically, traditional cults limited membership solely to birthright. It is thought that the fortune of the deceased and that of their descendants become equally volatile and that the community is thus temporarily endangered. However, the CIA World Factbook, claims that the two Christian denominations have an equal percentage of adherents, each accounting for about 25% of the national population. This practice still remains virtually the same in most parts of Africa. Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices. New York: Praeger, 1963. History of African traditional religion Christianity came to Africa from the outside, it happened, as the legend says, in 42, then the Orthodox Coptic Church was formed by the Apostle Mark. The diviner prescribes a remedy, which is usually a sacrificial ritual, but in a case of grave illness medicinal herbs may offer a cure. Various herbs and plants contain special powers that are useful for religious purposes. Priests and priestesses are natural leaders because they are in direct service to God and dedicate themselves to the deities for life. A priest can be a diviner, a king can be a seer, and a prophet can be a priest and a diviner. And above all, African traditional religion nurses the belief and conviction that there exists good and bad spirits everywhere and that it is only due to the existence of these spirits that communication between humans and the Supreme Being is made possible. Adherents to Western religions have sometimes viewed African religions as "inferior." "How Man Makes God in West Africa: Yoruba Attitudes toward the Orisa." The faithful usually designate natural places as sacred sites based on historical or special events. Marriage rituals signify the betrothal of individuals to each other, to the lineage, and to the community. Rather, they have certain vital elements that function as core beliefs. Traditional Religion to include the beliefs and practices of Native African peoples with regard to the supernatural, those which were handed down by the ancestors and which people hold on to as their link with both the past and eternity. Religious leaders play numerous roles in a traditional African society. Today, the continent's various populations and individuals are mostly adherents of Christianity, Islam, and to a lesser extent several traditional African religions. Thus, to have many children who can preserve one's memory is to secure one's immortality. In a later post I will discuss some of the differences or contrast between African Traditional Religion and … A twin in Yoruba culture is forbidden to eat the meat of the colobus monkey, because the Yoruba believe that twins have kinship relationships with them. The lives of gods and humans become entangled through daily experiences. In avoiding the word "death," people uphold the belief that an individual is greater than death itself. Marriage to a close relative, incest, and disrespect of property and life are taboo. “The fulcrum around which everything seems to revolve in Africa”, says some religious scholars of high repute,“ is religion ”. Africans believe that punishment may be communal or may pass from one generation to another. Because religion is a way of life, it relates to culture and society as they affect the worldview of the African people. The three essential features of African traditional religions are belief, worship and morality. ." Genevieve Slomski According to traditional belief, there are powerful spirits who, acting through spirit mediums, have been involved in historical events in Africa. There are myths that say the world was created out of an existing abyss or a watery universe uninhabited by animate beings. The belief in God as a supreme being is central to all the traditional religions but there are a few where this is not so. Initiation ceremonies occur most commonly during puberty. spiritual needs of many peoples. In traditional African cultures family members habitually offer food and drink to their ancestors. Because religion permeates Introduction to African Religion. Such designs are incorporated into everyday objects; these may be a writing board, comb, game board, or scissors. In other cases the Supreme Being instructs lesser deities on how to create by providing them with materials to undertake Moral Imagination in Kaguru Modes of Thought. The Yoruba believe that the death of an elder who has worked diligently to provide unity and strength in the lineage causes the entire household to become empty and devoid of cohesion. The gifts do, however, hold some local legal weight, because if a marriage does not last, it is expected that the value of gifts be returned to the family who gave them. Today, around 10 percent of the African population still practice some form of traditional religion. Attendants use natural objects to wash, clothe, and bury the body, which is often covered in animal skins, leather, cotton, bark cloth, or leaves. Most people live in households that include not only the nuclear family (father, mother, children) but also members of their extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, and nieces, cousins and others). From the postcolonial years in the 1960s to the early 1990s, the study of African religions entered a mature phase. Leaders in African traditional religions are the people who impart religious wisdom and guidance to believers. Such natural spaces are usually set aside from everyday uses such as grazing cattle, washing clothes, and growing crops. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. Devotees of traditional religions awakened to the possibility of losing their faith, and to compensate they extended the criteria for membership. Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices. Various roles carry distinct names in West African languages. Who knows, God in His infinite wisdom, would have listened and responded to them all, but alas….!! In many African societies deceased souls live in forests, rivers, riverbanks, hills, or other natural places. In many instances the Kaguru ancestors are approached communally. They are not fixed, because accounts may vary from generation to generation or even among individuals who tell these stories. The extended family system readily springs to mind in a discussion confined to African cultural beliefs and traditions. Press, 1973. Masks, costumes, and body design accompany religious ceremonies. Religion in Africa is multifaceted and has been a major influence on art, culture and philosophy. This entry presents a brief, general picture of Africa's traditional religious heritage, focusing on the major beliefs because these underlie the…, Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion of Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu origin developed primarily in the Northeast by African slaves from Nigeria and their…, religion rebirth but in terms of the particular qualities of the deceased. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977. However, although Christianity and African Traditional Religion share some striking similarities, closer examination of African traditional beliefs reveals that the contrasts are far more striking than the similarities. The two complementary realms represent the world's governance and agricultural life. Turner, Victor W. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Khapoya, V.B. Stephen W. Angell Natural religious sites are vast in number, and every traditional African culture has many. . Some religious and non-religious scholars alike have always highlighted that of all the races in the world that God created the African is said to be the most notoriously religious. Religion gives meaning and value to all forms of African artistic expression, including literature, music, visual art, and dance. All traditional religious practices incorporate ritual, although the forms vary greatly from region to region, ethnic group to ethnic group, and even from individual to individual within the same religious tradition. It is embraced by Africans In most West African communities burials take place on pieces of land within the family's compound; these are regarded as secured places where the dead will be at peace. Their traditional religions, however, are perhaps the least understood facet of African life. Most religions can … In some southern African religious groups, however, the Supreme God is not considered to be remote. ——. As African religious cultures spread from Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad, and other places of the diaspora to the United States, new forms emerged that catered to the While the Supreme God serves as the adjudicator in such conflicts, one demigod eventually takes To the most senior set of twins Mawu-Lisa bestowed authority to rule the Earth. The matrilineal agricultural people of central Zambia require that males offer sacrifices to the ancestors on the right side of a doorway, while females offer sacrifices on the left. African cosmogonic myths, which explain the origins of the universe, contain a people's conception of superhuman beings—the Supreme Being, the divinities, the demigods, and the spirits that operate in the created world. Because the spirits inhabit the natural world, no practical distinction exists between the natural and the supernatural world. To the African people who espouse them, myths reveal significant events and episodes of the most profound and transcendent meaning. A taboo frequently restricts the kinds of materials used for building shrines and altars. Altars are small structures where offerings can be placed and sacrifices performed. The elders determine what displeases the ancestors, whom to blame for the ancestors' displeasure with the living, and who will interpret the ancestors' will. The gods are concerned with many issues in the day-to-day life of the people, including their fertility, agricultural production, governance, and health and well-being. During such days ordinary community activities—fishing, farming, and buying or selling at the market—are prohibited to honor the deities. At times rulers have been described as gods or as endowed with God's divinity. Thus, newborn grandsons take the name of their deceased grandfathers. The primary rites of passage in African religious life are birth and naming, puberty, marriage, achieving elder status, and death. Deities inhabit a world primarily created for humans, and they exercise tremendous influence over day-to-day human affairs. Abimbola, Wande. Younger generations must care for their elders, children must obey their parents and elders, and parents must teach, provide, and care for their children. Yet they are unlike humans in that they are immortal, superhuman, and transcendent. Indeed, in ancient African kingdoms, whenever the power of the king waned, he committed suicide to save the community. Traditional African religion, aside from the disconcerting diversity of its actual forms of expression, is in reality much more than (those) in the west mean by the term «religion». Rebirth of the deceased spirit occurs through a grandchild (not a child, because the spirit must skip a generation). Thus, culture includes other societal aspects: language, customs, values, norms, rules, dressing, music, work, arts, religion, dancing and so on. A seer in these respective languages is an okõmfo, bokonõo babalawo, and amoma. The ceremonies are usually performed apart from the community to preserve an aura of mystery for initiates. Encyclopedia.com. Beliefs and practices of ancestor worship vary according to the local culture and religious traditions. When outsiders evaluate indigenous cultures and religions, they often judge practices and beliefs as controversial. African traditional religions have creatively responded to this religious onslaught by formulating new ways of survival, such as developing literature, institutionalizing the traditions, establishing associations of priests, and creating schools for the training of its priests. However, the date of retrieval is often important. How can the ancestors live in the underworld and at the same time return to their lineage to live again? Such history, however, can be difficult to cross-reference with historical world events. command over the others. Such mythic figures and culture heroes include Oduduwa in Nigeria, Shaka the Zulu in South Africa, and Osei Tutu in Ghana.