Sacrificial rituals and festivals in which food is shared reinforce the communal bond between the participants, the ancestors, God, and the lesser deities. Africans from time immemorial are accustomed to communicating with the ancestors as if they were alive and physically present and could hear and decipher what was being communicated. Introduction to African Religion. The female twin held back her own offspring for a year; after she finally gave birth, the children—twins themselves—rebelled against their parents by establishing themselves as an autonomous pair. While there have been great male and female religious leaders throughout Africa's history, none can be elevated above others in their importance to religious history. 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. It is common for the various African gods and deities to have their own yearly festivals. 3. Many Africans practice ancestor veneration. Africa 51, no. In particular, both Islam and Christianity have affected the practice of African traditional religions. Male initiates leave the village, and while they are still in the presence of family and friends, they remove their clothing. Such myths of conflict often provide humanity with unwritten guidelines for establishing institutions of morality, ethics, and behavior. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. The deceased person's soul remains a presence in the lives of individuals and must be respected by the living. Several other African cosmologies are also characterized by an emphasis on primordial disorder, conflict, or chaos. Thus, newborn grandsons take the name of their deceased grandfathers. It was named after its namesake Yoruba kingdom in West Africa. In African traditional religions certain days are declared by community leaders to honor the gods. African Mythology. In some societies this realm, called il, is considered to exist within the earth itself. African traditional religions are a communal endeavor, and it is not required that an individual believe in every element. Each has a life force devoid of physical form. Traditional African Religion What is traditional African religion? The initiation Somé describes is full of associations with nature. They even go further to assert that if it were only for the quantum of prayers offered from the lips of Africans, particularly from adherents of the two predominant denominations, Islam and Christianity, then the numerous challenges confronting black Africa, ranging from poor leadership, governance inadequacies to the lack of employment opportunities, would all be a thing of the past. According the mythology, these twin gods took command of vital functions in developing the Fon economy: cultivating land for agriculture, building roads and paths, manufacturing tools, and improving weapons of war, farming, and hunting. Offerings may be done for purification, for protection from adverse forces, and for divination. Encyclopedias almanacs transcripts and maps, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices. Proper burial rites and ceremonies ensure a peaceful passage. Among these beliefs are origin myths, the presence of deities, ancestor veneration, and divination. Diviners are responsible for determining the cause of illness, which in some causes are believed to … B. Ellis, [16] and S. S. Farrow. Even if a person has a number of spiritual skills, however, he or she may concentrate efforts in a single area. The Yoruba, a people of southwestern Nigeria, practice perhaps the most complex African divinatory process, a classic form of wisdom divination called Ifa, discussed below under SACRED BOOKS. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural and passed down from one generation to another through folk tales, songs and festivals, include belief in an amount of higher and lower gods, sometimes including a supreme creator or force, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional African medicine. African cosmology (explanation of the nature of the universe) tends to assert that there is a Supreme God who is helped by a number of lesser deities. Second, the physical well-being of a king reflects the well-being of his people, including their agricultural and hunting life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. After piercing the thatched roof with a hollow banana stem, he pours medicinal water through the stem directly onto her pregnant belly. AFRICAN RELIGIONS Many people are involved in religious leadership, and a single religion can have priests, priestesses, sacred kings and queens, prophets, prophetesses, and seers, all of whom have been important religious leaders throughout the ages. In 2003 Abimbola was appointed the adviser to the president of Nigeria on culture and tradition. Their rebellious behavior, however, caused dismay; they resorted to acts of sorcery and refused to submit to the natural succession of generations. In addition to abstract forms, many religious artists borrow from forms found in nature—such as insects, trees, leafs, and animals—to produce intricate design motifs. 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. Priests and followers often wear white clothes as a sign of purity. Without a natural landscape and the reverence for the spirituality and mystery to be found in nature, much of the power of African culture would be greatly diminished. They are thought to be the meeting places between heaven and earth and between visible and invisible worlds. The success of Islam is partially a result of its continued toleration of traditional beliefs and practices—or at least its allowance of indigenous beliefs to adapt to a form compatible with Islam. There are myths that say the world was created out of an existing abyss or a watery universe uninhabited by animate beings. Many species of birds, including the ostrich, vulture, dove, and heron, inspire artists. It originated from the soil of Africa. In a later post I will discuss some of the differences or contrast between African Traditional Religion and … Characteristics of African religion A Supreme being: Throughout most of Africa there is belief of a supreme being, described by one or more names, either...Elements of Religion James Morales REL-133 April 17, 2013 Joseph Becker Elements of Religion Religion is a way of life for much of mankind, and though all religions are not the same, do all religions do the same thing? In many myths the Supreme God, after creating the universe, withdraws to a comfortable distance and delegates the affairs of the universe to lesser divinities. For instance, Yoruba devotees of an orisa (deity) wear red and white marks on their foreheads. It initiates the process of attaining ancestorhood. They reward good deeds and punish bad deeds. Elements of African Traditional Religion [Elia Mligo] is 20% off every day at It was overtaken in the region by Islam in the seventh century—frequently by military incursion, commercial trading, and the nonviolent missionary efforts of merchants. Parrinder, Edward Geoffrey. Priests and priestesses are natural leaders because they are in direct service to God and dedicate themselves to the deities for life. At times rulers have been described as gods or as endowed with God's divinity. The first Africans who arrived on North American shores brought their own religious worldviews with them…, The African diaspora is a term that refers to the dispersal of African peoples to form a distinct, transnational community. In this narrative Legba (messenger of the Supreme Pan Afric…, African Sleeping Sickness (Trypanosomiasis), African Side-Necked Turtles: Pelomedusidae, African Religions: New Religious Movements, African Traditional Religions: Functionaries, African-American Award Winners and Honorees—Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, U.S. Postage Stamps, African-American Award Winners in Entertainment, African-American Mayors in U.S. Cities, Representatives in U.S. Congress, and Heads of State in the Americas, African-American Membership in U.S. Shrines, religious objects, and sacred places are decorated with many forms, shapes, and colors to express religious concepts. B. Conteh is the Director of the Mechanical Services Department (MSD ) of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA ). The traditional African understanding and the interpretation of Christianity have deep roots in these fundamental beliefs of the African traditional religions. In traditional African cultures marriage, raising children, and fulfilling familial obligations are religious duties. MacGaffey, Wyatt. Ibadan: Oxford University Press Nigeria; New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Contact with Catholicism in Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti produced new forms of religious syncretism called Candomblé, Santeria, and Vodun. Common Beliefs Although Africa is a huge continent with many different peoples and traditional religions, some beliefs and practices are common through many of the religions. Some African groups have cults dedicated to the Supreme Being, but in general the creator does not have a special cult of devotees. Perhaps the most fascinating of these pioneer movements are the Yoruba-inspired African American traditions. Although most body art carries little association with Ògún (the Yoruba god of iron), raised-scarification design has been associated with Ògún because Yoruba body artists traditionally use iron implements to create intricate patterns and shapes on the skin. For instance, the Yoruba believe that the Supreme Being, Olódùmarè, designated the orisa (deities) responsible for creating the universe. Religion and Society in Central Congo: The Bakongo of Lower Zaire. This is because Africans assume that respecting elders is a way of acknowledging the wealth of their experiences, their contributions to community growth, and that they are close to the world of the ancestors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. (December 22, 2020). 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. Over the years African traditional religions have increased and diminished in regional importance according to social and political changes. On the other hand, in predominantly Muslim states such as the Sudan, Islamic fundamentalists and pro-Arab Sudanese have been implicated in the oppression and slavery of millions of Sudanese Christians and ethnic minorities. If offended, however, she can exhibit extremely violent reactions. Most religions can … Individuals or groups of people practice divination in order to discern the meanings and consequences of past, present, and future events. Because African religions focus on contemporary worldly salvation, Africans believe that bad character is punished in this world. In wisdom divination the client seeks help from a diviner, who uses certain divination instruments to diagnose the cause of illness and prescribes appropriate ritual sacrifices and medicine. Domestic animals such as dogs, goats, and roosters are often used for sacrificial purposes, and certain of their body parts—such as feathers, nails, entrails, horns, beaks, and blood—are used as offerings and for divining. Berber, Karin. African Traditional Religion: A Definition. Escape from it would spell doom for many an African family into whose households can be found an appreciable proportion of totally destitute individuals who are forever seeking family succor and assistance for their existence and livelihood. This entry presents a brief, general picture of Africa's traditional religious heritage, focusing on the major beliefs because…, ••• Temples are located all over the continent, especially among the ethnic groups in southern Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda. The fact that myths have endured for generations gives them their authority. Beliefs and practices of ancestor worship vary according to the local culture and religious traditions. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates., "African Traditional Religions Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1994. The extended family system readily springs to mind in a discussion confined to African cultural beliefs and traditions. An example is a story among Zulus in which a chameleon and then a lizard are sent to Earth by God to tell men that he has arranged death to be a part of the cycle of human life. 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. At times supreme gods are understood to be females and males who complement each other as husband and wife or brother and sister, similar to Mawu-Lisa in the religion of the Fon of Benin. Devotees of African traditional religions often perform rituals to induce rain; such rituals feature dancing, singing, and chanting.
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