Even with the advance of literacy and the impact of Islam and Christianity in Africa, the king continues to function as a sacred canopy under which foreign traditions are subsumed and celebrated. In some cases kings, queens, and other nobility are buried in temples. 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. African religions rely on no single individual as a religious leader but instead depend upon an entire community to do religious work. Some harbor shrines and ancestor graves. The pantheon of deities is often given a collective name; for the Yoruba of Nigeria it is orisa, and for the Baganda of Uganda it is balubaale. African cultures are, however, often flexible enough to absorb values and traditions from other religious belief systems. Natural objects, such as rivers, mountains, trees, and the Sun (as well as forces such as wind and rain), represent the nature spirits. Such rites provide a transition from one age to the next. Ancestral propitiation takes many forms in Kaguru society, including cleaning the graves of the deceased, pouring libations of beer, and making offerings of flour or tobacco. The Nioniosse "rose up" from the underworld, and the Foulse descended from the sky. It is embraced by Africans within and outside the continent despite the various ethnic religious practices and beliefs. The first academic studies of African traditional religions were written in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries by Muslim and European scholars. In some other groups notions of ancestors are more expansive and may include various categories of human spirits; in others ancestors include spirits of deceased children. In this sense, every member of society contributes to the religion's living oral "texts.". In most places in the African world it is believed that the supernatural and the natural realms interact. Such designs are incorporated into everyday objects; these may be a writing board, comb, game board, or scissors. For the Ba Thonga people of southern Africa, among whom the ancestral system is well developed, ideas and ritual practices relating to the cult of the dead are central aspects of community life. They profess habits of truth, justice, honesty, good character, and diligence. ——. 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. The arts are used to convey feelings, illustrate proverbs, express the wisdom of the people, and give spiritual meaning and function to inanimate objects. Most traditional African religious cultures have thus become more inclusive. Other festivals celebrate victory at war, the coronation of kings or chiefs, and changes in leadership. 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. Because they regulate an infinitely larger number of relationships and personal interactions, morals governing the community are complex. Shrines may be exclusively for family members or for public use. Another essential aspect of African traditional religion is divination, which devotees use to access the sacred knowledge of the deities and the cosmos. They serve as guardians of the living, and they pass down the various Komo rituals. They usually contain revered religious objects and are used for religious activities such as pouring libations, performing rituals, saying prayers, and making offerings. Ancestors maintain a strong moral authority over the living; the elders speak for the ancestors when they intervene in and resolve conflicts. They always involve larger groups of people or entire communities. If offended, however, she can exhibit extremely violent reactions. Fundamental human rights are often seen as important not for the sake of individuals but for the collective survival of the group. 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. The belief in God as a supreme being is central to all the traditional … Africa, the place of origin of all humankind, is divided into numerous political and cultural regions, reflecting its diverse range of histories, ethnicities, languages, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. It initiates the process of attaining ancestorhood. Though such disorder at first comprises "negative" forces, ultimately it becomes the source of a workable social universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974. In spite of their differences, African religions share certain common features, especially in their rituals and ceremonies. Second, the physical well-being of a king reflects the well-being of his people, including their agricultural and hunting life. In non-hierarchical societies individuals share authority and power equally. A classic example is the regional cult of Mwari (a creator god) in western Zimbabwe and eastern Botswana. It was named after its namesake Yoruba kingdom in West Africa. Contemporary African religious leaders include those who have been interested in reviving traditional religion. There is a continuing belief about the sacredness of lizards and chameleons in Zulu culture. Such myths of conflict often provide humanity with unwritten guidelines for establishing institutions of morality, ethics, and behavior. In this narrative Legba (messenger of the Supreme Among these beliefs are origin myths, the presence of deities, ancestor veneration, and divination. Many communities maintain elaborate calendars of festivals that run throughout the year. ." In the case of African traditional religion, it can be traced back to the very beginning of the emergence of African peoples. African Religion and its Influence on Christianity and Islam Traditional African religion has been the basis of spirituality for the people of Africa. In particular, both Islam and Christianity have affected the practice of African traditional religions. After piercing the thatched roof with a hollow banana stem, he pours medicinal water through the stem directly onto her pregnant belly. African Traditional religion (ATR) is one of the world religions with a great people and a great past. For instance, a girl born after the death of a grandmother or mother is called Yetunde or Iyabo ("mother has returned"), and a boy born after the death of a grandfather or father is called Babatunde ("father has returned"). Their studies avoided describing African cultures in indigenous terms. Recognizing the superiority of their own children, the parents pledged to obey them, and they sacrificed a goat in acknowledgment. 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. Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices. These forms have introduced African healing practices among the black population of the United States. At this time two main schools of thought prevailed. Major scholarly research about African traditional religions had a late start. Many wild animals are sacred because they have wisdom and powers, because they are believed to be inhabited by spirits, and because it is said that in some cases they were sent to earth by God to communicate with humans. Such history, however, can be difficult to cross-reference with historical world events. These two schools reflect an insidious racist ideology that influenced the initial study of African religions. Painting the body with white chalk or another substance for ceremonial purposes is also a common way to identify a devotee's beliefs or stage of life. © 2021 Wipf and Stock Publishers. 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. In African cultures celebrating the transition from childhood to adulthood takes many forms. Highly trained diviners have largely been responsible for memorizing and transmitting important historical and cultural events to the living generation. Although the standards for these colleges were high, the curriculum did not include the study of European or African religions. oral culture may be as authentic as those communicated through the written word. African art, the visual arts of native Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, including such media as sculpture, painting, pottery, rock art, textiles, masks, personal decoration, and jewelry.. For more general explorations of media, see individual media articles (e.g., painting, sculpture, pottery, and textile).For a discussion of the characteristics, functions, and forms of masks, see mask. Journal of Religion in Africa. The Invention of Africa. After the recitation the client tells the diviner if any of the verses is relevant to the crisis. The first questioned the origin of African civilizations and religions. They counteracted various derogatory names given to AIR. AU$49.00, Elia Shabani Mligo (PhD, University of Oslo, Norway) is an employee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania--Southern Diocese. ——. E-mail Citation » Scholarly articles on Islam and on Christian and non-Christian religious diasporas. Merriam, Alan P. An African World: The Basongye Village of Lupupa Ngye. Trained in the new method of "fieldwork"—which entailed observing participants and speaking the language of the community—these anthropologists worked for their governments. Marriage agreements usually involve both sets of parents of the couple to be married. The overwhelming majority of scholars in religious studies departments are now Africans. Each has a life force devoid of physical form. Deities are usually represented by signs or symbols on clothing or the skin. ——. Although their inquiries were fraught with bias, some outsiders were more reliable than others. African traditional religions are a communal endeavor, and it is not required that an individual believe in every element. Furthermore, scholars today assert that the supposedly accurate records of missionaries, colonial administrators, and the indigenous elite were susceptible to distortion. Encyclopedia.com. Many Africans practice ancestor veneration. This book highlights and discusses the common elements which introduce African Traditional Religion as one unified religion and not a collection of religions. Genevieve Slomski African myths frequently describe numerous lesser deities who assist the Supreme Being while performing diverse functions in the created world. This occurred especially in Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Trinidad, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and other locations where African populations were extensive. texts, the faithful who transmit this knowledge are considered sacred. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. By the 1900s Christianity was firmly entrenched in most of Africa. Marriage to a close relative, incest, and disrespect of property and life are taboo. 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. The notion that myth is nonrational and unscientific, while history is critical and rational, is not always accurate, nor does it represent the outlook of practitioners of traditional religions. Devotees attach great importance to animals because, at any moment, an animal may be preparing to deliver a message to humans from anywhere in the spirit world. 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. Priests, priestesses, diviners, elders, chiefs, kings, and other authority figures may perform sacred and ceremonial rituals. Although historically non-Africans have emphasized the multiple deities and ancestral spirits in African traditional religions, there are other notable features. 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. Yet they are unlike humans in that they are immortal, superhuman, and transcendent. Rites of passage are particularly important in the religious use of arts. Meek, Charles K. Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe. Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Ifá: An Exposition of Ifá Literary Corpus. Western notions of the afterlife came to the Lupupans in the nineteenth century with the arrival of Christianity. 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. Zuesse, Evan M. Ritual Cosmos: The Sanctification of Life in African Religions. In avoiding the word "death," people uphold the belief that an individual is greater than death itself. Vol. 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. African artists produce sacred icons and symbols of traditional religions in an enormous array of forms, both abstract and representational. Female and male circumcisions are often a part, but not the focus, of initiation rites. 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. The two complementary realms represent the world's governance and agricultural life. The nuts expose either convex or concave sides, thus displaying 16 possible forms of Ifa signature. Similarly, the name for a medicine healer is sumãnkwafo, amawato, onisegun, and dibia. The location of graves varies from group to group. Some African groups have cults dedicated to the Supreme Being, but in general the creator does not have a special cult of devotees. African religious leaders include the sacred kings and chiefs who often serve as both spiritual and community leaders. Africans believe that punishment may be communal or may pass from one generation to another. Smith, Edwin W., ed. Offerings may be done for purification, for protection from adverse forces, and for divination. The Study of Religions in Africa: Past, Present, and Prospects. At times rulers have been described as gods or as endowed with God's divinity. ." Stephen W. Angell Colors adorning the body identify devotees and carry meaning. Being and other gods) gained knowledge of all sacred languages of the divinities, enabling himself to initiate communication among other deities. There is much ritual involved with initiation, which is a time for the younger generation to learn how to be contributing members of society. An injured toe means that a visit will be dreadful. In traditional African cultures marriage, raising children, and fulfilling familial obligations are religious duties. Natural religious sites are vast in number, and every traditional African culture has many. The gods watch over a person's values, morals, and sense of justice. Altars are small structures where offerings can be placed and sacrifices performed. Rituals related to rain are considered communal, because the availability of water affects the lives of so many. 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. While some religions adopted a pantheistic worldview, most follow a polytheistic system with various gods, spirits and other supernatural beings. Many African societies anchor their moral values on belief in the ancestors, who are regarded as the ultimate custodians of family mores. Outside observers and anthropologists have written many descriptions of traditional African initiation rites. Beek, eds, Evan M. ritual cosmos: the Bakongo of Lower Zaire newborn grandsons the. An offering is made to honour, please and thank the ancestors,,! 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