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|Traditional African religions|
The traditional African religions (or traditional beliefs and practices of African people) are a set of highly diverse beliefs that includes various ethnic religions.Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in an amount of higher and lower gods, sometimes including a supreme creator, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional African medicine. Most religions can be described as Animism with various polytheistic and pantheistic aspects. The role of humanity is generally seen as one of harmonizing nature with the supernatural. According to Lugira, "it is the only religion that can claim to have originated in Africa. Other religions found in Africa have their origins in other parts of the world."
Adherents of traditional religions in Sub-Saharan Africa are distributed among 43 countries and are estimated to number over 100 million.
Although the majority of Africans today are adherents of Christianity or Islam, African people often combine the practice of their traditional belief with the practice of Abrahamic religions.The two Abrahamic religions are widespread across Africa, though mostly concentrated in different areas. They have replaced indigenous African religions, but are often adapted to African cultural contexts and belief systems.
Followers of traditional African religions are also found around the world. In recent times, traditional religions, such as the Yoruba religion, are on the rise. The religion of the Yoruba is finding roots in the United States among African Americans and some others.
Animism builds the core concept of traditional African religions, this includes the worship of tutelary deities, nature worship, ancestor worship and the belief in an afterlife. While some religions adopted a pantheistic worldview, most follow a polytheistic system with various gods, spirits and other supernatural beings.Traditional African religions also have elements of fetishism, shamanism and veneration of relics.
Traditional African religions can be broken down into linguistic cultural groups, with common themes. Among Niger–Congo-speakers is a belief in a creator god or higher deity, which is considered by some to be a widespread and ancient feature of Niger-Congo-cultures,along with other more specialized deities, ancestor spirits, territorial spirits, evil caused by human ill will and neglecting ancestor spirits, and priests of territorial spirits. New world religions such as Santería, Vodun, and Candomblé, would be derived from this world. Among Nilo-Saharan speakers is the belief in Divinity; evil is caused by divine judgement and retribution; prophets as middlemen between Divinity and man. Among Afro-Asiatic-speakers is henotheism, the belief in one's own gods but accepting the existence of other gods; evil here is caused by malevolent spirits. The Semitic Abrahamic religion of Judaism is comparable to the latter world view. San religion is non-theistic but a belief in a Spirit or Power of existence which can be tapped in a trance-dance; trance-healers.
Some esearchers, including historical ethnolinguist Christopher Ehret, suggest that monotheistic concepts, including the belief in a creator god or force (along with the veneration of many lesser deities and spirits) are ancient and indigenous among peoples of the Niger-Congo ethnolinguistic family (of much of West Africa and Central Africa) and date to the beginning of their history, in a form substantially different from the monotheism found in Abrahamic religions. Traditional Niger-Congo religion also included polytheistic and animistic elements.
Traditional African medicine is also directly linked to traditional African religions. According to Clemmont E. Vontress, the various religious traditions of Africa are united by a basic Animism. According to him, the belief in spirits and ancestors is the most important element of African religions. Gods were either self-created or evolved from spirits or ancestors which got worshiped by the people. He also notes that most modern African folk religions were strongly influenced by non-African religions, mostly Christianity and Islam and thus may differ from the ancient forms.
West and Central African religious practices generally manifest themselves in communal ceremonies or divinatory rites in which members of the community, overcome by force (or ashe, nyama, etc.), are excited to the point of going into meditative trance in response to rhythmic or driving drumming or singing. One religious ceremony practiced in Gabon and Cameroon is the Okuyi, practiced by several Bantu ethnic groups. In this state, depending upon the region, drumming or instrumental rhythms played by respected musicians (each of which is unique to a given deity or ancestor), participants embody a deity or ancestor, energy or state of mind by performing distinct ritual movements or dances which further enhance their elevated consciousness.
When this trance-like state is witnessed and understood, adherents are privy to a way of contemplating the pure or symbolic embodiment of a particular mindset or frame of reference. This builds skills at separating the feelings elicited by this mindset from their situational manifestations in daily life. Such separation and subsequent contemplation of the nature and sources of pure energy or feelings serves to help participants manage and accept them when they arise in mundane contexts. This facilitates better control and transformation of these energies into positive, culturally appropriate behavior, thought, and speech. Also, this practice can also give rise to those in these trances uttering words which, when interpreted by a culturally educated initiate or diviner, can provide insight into appropriate directions which the community (or individual) might take in accomplishing its goal.
Followers of traditional African religions pray to various spirits as well as to their ancestors.This includes also nature, elementary and animal spirits. The difference between powerful spirits and gods is often minimal. Most African societies believe in several “high gods” and a large amount of lower gods and spirits. There are also religions with a single Supreme being (Chukwu, Nyame, Olodumare, Ngai, Roog, etc.). Some recognize a dual God and Goddess such as Mawu-Lisa.
Traditional African religions generally believe in an afterlife, one or more Spirit worlds, and Ancestor worship is an important basic concept in mostly all African religions. Some African religions adopted different views through the influence of Islam or even Hinduism.
There are more similarities than differences in all traditional African religions. – ebb and tide, waxing and waning moon, rain and drought – and the rhythmic pattern of agriculture. According to Gottlieb and Mbiti:The deities and spirits are honored through libation or sacrifice (of animals, vegetables, cooked food, flowers, semi-precious stones and precious metals). The will of the gods or spirits is sought by the believer also through consultation of divinities or divination. Traditional African religions embrace natural phenomena
The environment and nature are infused in every aspect of traditional African religions and culture. This is largely because cosmology and beliefs are intricately intertwined with the natural phenomena and environment. All aspects of weather, thunder, lightning, rain, day, moon, sun, stars, and so on may become amenable to control through the cosmology of African people. Natural phenomena are responsible for providing people with their daily needs.
For example, in the Serer religion, one of the most sacred stars in the cosmos is called Yoonir (the Star of Sirius).With a long farming tradition, the Serer high priests and priestesses (Saltigue) deliver yearly sermons at the Xoy Ceremony (divination ceremony) in Fatick before Yoonir's phase in order to predict winter months and enable farmers to start planting.
Traditional healers are common in most areas, and their practices include a religious element to varying degrees.
Since Africa is a large continent with many ethnic groups and cultures, there is not one single technique of casting divination. The practice of casting may be done with small objects, such as bones, cowrie shells, stones, strips of leather, or flat pieces of wood.
Some castings are done using sacred divination plates made of wood or performed on the ground (often within a circle).
In traditional African societies, many people seek out diviners on a regular basis. There are generally no prohibitions against the practice. Diviner (also known as priest) are also sought for their wisdom as counselors in life and for their knowledge of herbal medicine.
Virtue in traditional African religion is often connected with carrying out obligations of the communal aspect of life. Examples include social behaviors such as the respect for parents and elders, raising children appropriately, providing hospitality, and being honest, trustworthy, and courageous.
In some traditional African religions, morality is associated with obedience or disobedience to God regarding the way a person or a community lives. For the Kikuyu, according to their primary supreme creator, Ngai, acting through the lesser deities, is believed to speak to and be capable of guiding the virtuous person as one's conscience.
In many cases, Africans who have converted to other religions have still kept up their traditional customs and practices, combining them in a syncretic way.
Some sacred or holy locations for traditional religions include Nri-Igbo, the Point of Sangomar, Yaboyabo, Fatick, Ife, Oyo, Dahomey, Benin City, Ouidah, Nsukka, Kanem-Bornu, Igbo-Ukwu, and Tulwap Kipsigis, among others.
This list is limited to a few well-known traditions.
Vodun is practiced by the Fon people of Benin, and southern and central Togo; as well in Ghana, and Nigeria.
Zulu traditional religion contains numerous deities commonly associated with animals or general classes of natural phenomena. Unkulunkulu is the highest God and is the creator of humanity. UNkulunkulu was created in Uhlanga, a huge swamp of reeds, before he came to Earth. Unkulunkulu is sometimes conflated with the Sky Sun god UMvelinqangi, god of thunder, earthquake whose other name is Unsondo, and is the son of Unkulunkulu, the Father, and Nomkhubulwane, the Mother. The word Nomkhubulwane means the one who shapeshift into any form of an animal. Another name given for the supreme being Unkulunkulu is uSomandla the ultimate Source of all existence.
Orisha are spirits sent by in Yoruba religion. to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Ayé (Earth).Most Òrìṣà are said to have previously existed in the spirit world (òrun) as Irumole and incarnate as human beings here on Earth (ayé). Others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities upon their deaths due to extraordinary feats.
Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition, practiced mainly in Brazil by the povo de santo. Candomblé originated in Salvador, Bahia at the beginning of the 19th century, when the first temple was founded. Candomblé is practiced primarily in Brazil, and is also practiced in other countries, including Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela, having as many as two million followers.
Candomblé Ketu is the largest and most influential branch (nation) of Candomblé, a religion practiced in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The word Candomblé means “ritual dancing or gather in honor of gods” and Ketu is the name of the Ketu region of Benin. Its liturgical language, known as Iorubá or Nagô, is a dialect of Yoruba. Candomblé Ketu developed in the early 19th century and gained great importance to Brazilian heritage in the 20th century.
The Yoruba religion comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practice of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in present-day Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, commonly known as Yorubaland. It shares some parallels with the Vodun practiced by the neighboring Fon and Ewe peoples to the west and to the religion of the Edo people to the east. Yoruba religion is the basis for a number of religions in the New World, notably Santería, Umbanda, Trinidad Orisha Haitian Vodou, and Candomblé. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of Itan, the total complex of songs, histories, stories, and other cultural concepts which make up the Yoruba society.
Nana Buluku, also known as Nana Buruku, Nana Buku or Nanan-bouclou, is the female Supreme Being in the West African traditional religion of the Fon people and the Ewe people (Togo). She is the most influential deity in West African theology, one shared by many ethnic groups other than the Fon people, albeit with variations. For example, she is called the Nana Bukuu among the Yoruba people and the Olisabuluwa among Igbo people but described differently, with some actively worshipping her, while some do not worship her and worship the gods originating from her.
Palo, also known as Las Reglas de Congo, is a religion with various denominations which developed in Cuba among Central African slaves and their descendants who originated in the Congo Basin. Denominations often referred to as "branches" of Palo include Mayombe, Monte, Briyumba, and Kimbisa. The Spanish word palo "stick" was applied to the religion in Cuba due to the use of wooden sticks in the preparation of altars, which were also called la Nganga, el caldero, nkisi or la prenda. Priests of Palo are known as Paleros, Tatas (men), Yayas (women) or Nganguleros. Initiates are known as ngueyos or pino nuevo.
Religion in Africa is multifaceted and has been a major influence on art, culture and philosophy. Today, the continent's various populations and individuals are mostly adherents of Christianity, Islam, and to a lesser extent several traditional African religions. In Christian or Islamic communities, religious beliefs are also sometimes characterized with syncretism with the beliefs and practices of traditional religions.
Various terms have been used to refer to the religious beliefs of the 175 ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines, where each had their own form of indigenous government prior to colonization from Islam and Spain. They are characterized as being animistic, and have been collectively referred to as Anitism or Bathalism or the more modern and less Tagalog-centric Dayawism.
Yoruba literature is the spoken and written literature of the Yoruba people, one of the largest ethno-linguistic groups in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. The Yoruba language is spoken in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, as well as in dispersed Yoruba communities throughout the world.
Fiji is a mixed society religiously with most people being Christian but with sizable Hindu and Muslim minorities. Religion tends to split along ethnic lines with most Indigenous Fijians being Christian and most Indo-Fijians being either Hindu or Muslim.
Christianity is the most widely professed religion in Benin, with 48.5% of the nation's total population being members of various Christian denominations. Consequently, it plays an important role in shaping the country's social and cultural life.
Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals. In most religions which accept polytheism, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, and can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator deity or transcendental absolute principle, which manifests immanently in nature. Most of the polytheistic deities of ancient religions, with the notable exceptions of the Ancient Egyptian and Hindu deities, were conceived as having physical bodies.
Santería, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla de Ifá, or Lucumí, is an Afro-American religion of Yoruba origin that developed in Cuba among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the "worship of saints". Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language is the Lucumí language, a remnant of Yoruba language composed of a lexicon of words and short phrases that is used in rituals but no longer spoken as a vernacular and mostly not understood by practitioners.
Akan religion comprises the traditional beliefs and religious practices of the Akan people of Ghana and eastern Ivory Coast. Akan religion is referred to as Akom. Although most Akan people have identified as Christians since the early 20th century, Akan religion remains practiced by some, and is often syncretized with Christianity. The Akan have many subgroups, so the religion varies greatly by region and subgroup.
Mun or Munism is the traditional polytheistic, animist, shamanistic, and syncretic religion of the Lepcha people. It predates the seventh century Lepcha conversion to Lamaistic Buddhism, and since that time, the Lepcha have practiced it together with Buddhism. Since the arrival of Christian missionaries in the nineteenth century, Mun traditions have been followed alongside that religion as well. The traditional religion permits incorporation of Buddha and Jesus Christ as deities, depending on household beliefs.
Vodun art is associated with the West African Vodun religion of Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana. The term is sometimes used more generally for art associated with related religions of West and Central Africa and of the African diaspora in Brazil, the Caribbean and the United States. Art forms include bocio, carved wooden statues that represent supernatural beings and may be activated through various ritual steps, and Asen, metal objects that attract spirits of the dead or other spirits and give them a temporary resting place. Vodun is assimilative, and has absorbed concepts and images from other parts of Africa, India, Europe and the Americas. Chromolithographs representing Indian deities have become identified with traditional Vodun deities and used as the basis for murals in Vodun temples. The Ouidah '92 festival, held in Benin in 1993, celebrated the removal of restrictions on Vodun in that country and began a revival of Vodun art.
African divination is divination practiced by cultures of Africa.
Kongo religion is a broad set of traditional beliefs from the KiKongo speaking peoples. The faith bases itself in the idea of a main creator god named Nzambi Mpungu who made the world and spirits who inhabit it. Priestly doctors known as Nganga try to heal followers minds and bodies. Mediatory roles like being a Nganga require legitimization from the other world of spirits and ancestors. The universe is split between two worlds, one of the living and a world of the dead, these worlds are split by a body of water. Humans continually pass through these worlds in cycle.
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