Therefore, the Ifa Religion may indeed be the oldest monotheistic religion in the world. Materials may be ground into powders and mixed with other substances. To the most senior set of twins Mawu-Lisa bestowed authority to rule the Earth. How can the ancestors live in the underworld and at the same time return to their lineage to live again? Cole, H.M. (1982). As a female, Mawu is associated with the Moon and has power over the nighttime and the western universe. ." Next to God are the divinities which are spiritual beings who owe their origin to and are dependent on God and are messengers of God. The Creative Communion: African Folk Models of Fertility and the Regeneration of Life. Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. In traditional African cultures festivals are scheduled to occur during major rites of passage, including birth, circumcision, coming-of-age initiation, marriage, and death. In the African cosmological vision death does not cease or annihilate human life—it is merely the inevitable transition to the next stage of life. Since it is a religion practised by living persons today, changes are to be expected. This is because he occupies the realm beyond the physical abode of humans and thus remains outside their immediate influence. Mawu-Lisa once gathered their children together to distribute what they owned among them. The divinities although recognized as being demanding are considered as good and just. Oral myths elude permanent display on paper, stone, or other media; African traditional religions remain changeable according to the needs of their followers. 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. Like all elements of African traditional religion, artistic expressions are integrated with everyday life. Shrines are usually the center of a family's religious life and are the connection between the visible and invisible world. Over the years African traditional religions have increased and diminished in regional importance according to social and political changes. The interaction between Western and traditional African religious traditions has influenced religious innovations in Africa, such as African Initiated Churches and Islamic mystical traditions (Sufism). The traditional African understanding and the interpretation of Christianity have deep roots in these fundamental beliefs of the African traditional religions. Meek, Charles K. Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe. ••• By using local languages and converting Africans from their ancestral religions to Christianity, missionaries paved the way for early modernization and Western colonialism. Shrines are often established above familial and ancestral gravesites; the grave itself may also serve as a shrine. Merriam, Alan P. An African World: The Basongye Village of Lupupa Ngye. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. For example, African cosmogony posits the existence of a Supreme Being who created the universe and everything in it. African cosmogonic narratives explain how the world was put into place by a divine personality, usually the Supreme God in collaboration with lesser supernatural beings who act on his behalf or aid in the creative process. Van Binsbergen, Wim, and Matthew Schoffeleers. Encyclopedia.com. 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. 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. African Traditional Religion has grown out of the African soil. Some are deemed more sacred than others. Smith, Edwin W., ed. A head priest is chosen by his predecessor; otherwise, village elders or a chief's council make this decision. The rapid spread of Pentecostal Christianity and fundamentalist Islam has greatly affected the role of indigenous religion in African society. Diviners have vast accumulations of secret knowledge and are highly intuitive about human nature. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 1990. The Nioniosse command the "cult of the earth" and other rites relating to fertility, and the Foulse command the reigning monarchy, personnel, chiefs, and kings. People consult diviners for any number of issues, but the most common reasons are for a misfortune, such as sickness, death, or calamity; spirits are likely to have knowledge about the causes of a misfortune. The study of African religions today is a global phenomenon, with methodologies and theoretical approaches that range from collecting ethnographic data to addressing the works of missionaries who try to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. African societies do not clearly delineate an individual's religious title. Some African groups have cults dedicated to the Supreme Being, but in general the creator does not have a special cult of devotees. Return from African Traditional Religions to Homepage. African religious leaders include the sacred kings and chiefs who often serve as both spiritual and community leaders. AFRICAN RELIGIONS By the 1700s Islam had diversified and grown popular. Any crime is considered to defile the land and thus to offend Alà; violations include incest, adultery, larceny, birthing abnormal children, hostility, kidnaping, and murder. 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. Nakedness is common in traditional African cultures. Death is one of the most important events of an African community, and often there are extended and complex rituals associated with it. The ancestors are responsible for perpetuating their lineage, not only by making possible the procreation of the living members of the lineage but also through rebirth. Trained in the new method of "fieldwork"—which entailed observing participants and speaking the language of the community—these anthropologists worked for their governments. From the 1500s to the 1900s the transatlantic slave trade took African religions to the Americas and the Caribbean. 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. Even if followers of indigenous African religions convert to Christianity of Islam, they often continue to practice their traditional rituals. 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. Praying is the commonest form of worship among traditional African peoples. Participants are taught about their people's beliefs, history, and traditions as well as about raising a family, the secrets of marriage, and other practical information. These three scholars established the idea of the centrality of a Supreme God surrounded by myriad lesser gods. African Traditional Religion is traditional because Africans were not converted into it like Christianity or Islam and others. Perhaps the most fascinating of these pioneer movements are the Yoruba-inspired African American traditions. Devotees of African traditional religions often perform rituals to induce rain; such rituals feature dancing, singing, and chanting. 3 (1981): 724–45. Moral Imagination in Kaguru Modes of Thought. Traditional/Indigenous African religions are the traditional beliefs and practices of African people including the various traditional religions and customs. While the Supreme God serves as the adjudicator in such conflicts, one demigod eventually takes There is no shame associated with it, because it is perceived as an expression of a relationship with the spirits of nature. Intuitive divination uses the deep spiritual insight of the diviner, who has great power to reveal issues and concerns of the client. They profess habits of truth, justice, honesty, good character, and diligence. Africans integrate this religious worldview into every aspect of life. Traditional artists typically carve images that express the powers of God, demigods, ancestors, and spirits as intermediaries between deities and humans. Certain sacred children may also become ancestors. The primary rites of passage in African religious life are birth and naming, puberty, marriage, achieving elder status, and death. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1986. In addition, the deceased must have died a good death; Africans regard premature death that results from an accident or a "shameful disease" (such as smallpox, leprosy, and AIDS) to be a dreadful death. Binding the couple is accompanied by exchanging gifts, which is largely a way of thanking the parents of the bride or groom for bringing up their child in a good manner. The myths of many African cultures describe the Supreme God's global significance and place him or her high above the other deities in the pantheon. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme creator, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic, and traditional medicine. Bascom, William Russell. 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. London: Longman, 1979. Among these beliefs are origin myths, the presence of deities, ancestor veneration, and divination. 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 African traditional religions guidance is provided through myths, which are handed down orally. African Ideas of God. African Traditional Religion has been evolving; there is in it the element of continuity as well as discontinuity. Such rites provide a transition from one age to the next. At the end of the twentieth century, Islam spread into areas such as Rwanda, where the trauma of civil war, ethnic violence, and genocide implicated Christianity and left Islam with a reputation for being on a higher moral level. 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. In several cultures a supreme deity performs creation through mere thought processes. Seasonal festivals commemorate annual events such as field preparation, planting, harvesting, hunting and fishing periods, and the New Year. Today, Christianity and Islam are religions practiced by the majority of people living in Africa. likes and dislikes, and care is taken to respect the deities' preferences. 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. This myth gives credence to the importance of the underworld as the sphere that nourishes human life. Temples are located all over the continent, especially among the ethnic groups in southern Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda. In Yoruba religion, for example, each deity has In some cases kings, queens, and other nobility are buried in temples. Several other African cosmologies are also characterized by an emphasis on primordial disorder, conflict, or chaos. Religion of the Central Luo. Wild pigs protect and guide elungu and run errands for the ancestors. In his novel Things Fall Apart (1958), Chinua Achebe (born in 1930) discusses the ethnic slurs used in his native Igbo language; Christians refer to followers of traditional religions as "nonbelievers, heathens, and lowly people (ndi nkiti)." Clients listen to the poetic recital and identify aspects of it that relate to their problem. Living in harmony within a community is a moral obligation ordained by God for the promotion of life. There is also a class of innumerable spiritual beings who may be good, mischievous or evil. Ifa divination spread in West Africa between the Edo of the Benin kingdom (now in southern Nigeria) and the Fon of the Republic of Benin, as well as among the people of African descent in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States. Some structures are built for specific religious purposes, to protect the faithful from inclement weather, or to protect religious objects from the elements. African artists produce sacred icons and symbols of traditional religions in an enormous array of forms, both abstract and representational. Newborns are said to come from the place of the ancestors, not necessarily in actual physical In many creation stories God is likened to a potter who creates humans out of clay and then pours the breath of life into them. Communities in the Congo, like many other African cultures, often view kinship, lineage, chieftaincy, and elderhood as factors that unite the ancestors with the living. A seer in these respective languages is an okõmfo, bokonõo babalawo, and amoma. It deals with their cosmology, ritual practices, symbols, arts, society, and so on. By the 1930s colonial governments in Africa had opened several colleges (as offshoots of European institutions) across the continent. ," John S. Mbiti says in African Religions and Philosophy. Human conduct is most important within African traditional religions and the belief in God implies a certain type of conduct. For example, in the Ba Kongo (a group of peoples who live in the Congo and Angola) and Kaguru (an ethnic group of Tanzania) societies, the elders are closest to the ancestors, and they wield much influence on how to consult and propitiate them. INTRODUCTION TO AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION Welcome to the summary lecture of African Traditional Religions. African art is a central part of traditional religious expression. The three main religious traditions—African traditional religion, Christianity, and Islam—constitute the triple religious heritage of the African continent. The lives of gods and humans become entangled through daily experiences. In principle, an individual's spirit can reside on Earth in another body three times, after which the cycle is complete; that individual may appear a fourth time as a fierce totemic animal, perhaps a leopard. Ancestors maintain a strong moral authority over the living; the elders speak for the ancestors when they intervene in and resolve conflicts. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999. According to traditional belief, there are powerful spirits who, acting through spirit mediums, have been involved in historical events in Africa. The rites for these stages often contain aspects of both communal and personal ritual. Africans are a deeply spiritual people. All kinds of seeds and the most delicious parts of domesticated crops are appropriate for ritual offerings. Devotees of traditional religions awakened to the possibility of losing their faith, and to compensate they extended the criteria for membership. Traditional African cultures have various standards and restrictions for attaining ancestral status and spirituality, and at times even a child may become an ancestor. Practitioners of African traditional religions have been victims of conversion and intolerance. There is also a belief that the spirits of witches and wizards are able to leave their bodies and inhabit lower animals in order to harm other people. Cambridge, England: Roots and Branches, 1996. Thus, doctrine tends to be more flexible than it is in text-based religions, and it changes according to the immediate needs of religious followers. Examples are Ifa divination verses, which amount to 256 chapters of text. The Ifa corpus is a large body of poetic oral narratives that are memorized by diviners and recited during divination performances. Mbiti regards African Traditional Religion(s) (ATR(s)) as monotheism and as a praeparatio evangelica, and maintains that the Christian God is the same as the God worshipped in ATR(s). In contemporary Africa the persistence of sacred practices is a source of conflict between devotees of African religions and outsiders. "How Man Makes God in West Africa: Yoruba Attitudes toward the Orisa." Although a large proportion of Africans have converted to Islam and Christianity, these two world religions have been assimilated into African culture, and many African Christians and Muslims maintain traditional spiritual beliefs. Proper burial entails a performance of elaborate funeral ceremonies by all members of the deceased's descendants. African Traditional Religion is now widely taught in African universities, but its identity remains essentially negative: African belief that is not Christianity or Islam. In most African communities a deceased person must be properly buried to become an ancestor. Although the standards for these colleges were high, the curriculum did not include the study of European or African religions. ——. Mbiti's work inspired numerous studies on God in African religions. Similar to the oral traditions, the arts of architecture, design, sculpture, textiles, dance, drumming, and music function as sacred "texts," transmitting and reinforcing traditional religions for new generations. "Religion in Africa." Traditional Religions The religions practiced by the majority of people living in Africa are Christianity and Islam. It is an amalgam of moral ideas and practices that permeates all of life at personal and social levels (ibid.). Not every member of society performs all rituals; instead, a particular ritual may be prescribed for certain members of a community. 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. 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