As you can see from some of the early reports of Africa, African religion was simply not taken seriously, or it was dismissed wholesale as crude idolatry. It deals with their cosmology, ritual practices, symbols, arts, society and so on .because religion is a way of life, it relates to culture and society as they affect the worldview of the African people. The term “juju” comes from a French word which is used for a child’s toy doll. And some of the factors that underlie African religion have become more appreciated as time has developed, and we’ve been able to learn more about these religions. The second tier is often, though not always, bifurcated between a group of non-human divinities and a cult of human but divinized ancestors. The effect of colonisation on Africa's traditional religion is seen in the views of colonialists that African traditional religious practices are fetish, barbaric, ritualistic and demonic. African Traditional religion (ATR) is one of the world religions with a great people and a great past. Now “shaman” is a word which comes actually from Siberian culture, and a shaman is someone who manipulates the spirits, and the spirit can sometimes possess them and animate the shaman, and can even speak through them. And what he points out is that the enlightenment world-view in the west created what he calls the “excluded middle”, in a sense that we had a scientific world-view that accepted all of the things of the sense-world. How can all of these exist as actors or participants in a system that is non-contradictory? He, the maker of all things, transcends everything, he is supreme, unreachable, beyond the scope of our understanding of who he is. Well you should always view African religion as divided into multiple tribes and clans that practice various religious activities. The purpose of this is to help to orient a person who would like to work in the context of Africa. The religious beliefs, practices and the provision of social services of these immigrant religions have impacted on the religious and cultural life of the traditional communities. This book highlights and discusses the common elements which introduce African Traditional Religion as one unified religion and not a collection of religions. The world beyond us is simply put aside as not really subject to our normal societal inquiry. 6. African Traditional religion (ATR) is one of the world religions with a great people and a great past. To the African, the visible and the invisible – the material and spiritual, the temporal and non-temporal, the sacred and the profane -- all overlap and shade into one another. And the world of the enlightenment only gives us the world obtainable by the five senses. The print version … The major focus of the book is discussing the need for studying ATR in twenty-first-century Africa whereby … But in this case, we’ll refer to “deity” as that supreme being who occupies the highest tier, and as I mentioned before because there are hundreds of versions of African Traditional Religion in the world, and in sub-Saharan Africa, then of course we have to leave this as a generic supreme being but realize that it will be fleshed out in a particular form, in a very personalized form in the particular theologies of the local tribal religions. Abstract. There are four foundational religious beliefs in the traditional religions: (1) the belief in impersonal (mystical) power(s); (2) the belief in spirit beings; (3) the belief in divinities/gods and (4) the belief in the Supreme Being. Many of the World Religions are more known than ATR in many parts of Africa (Adedeji, 2012). This is also true in the African Traditional Religion. Traditionally, east Africans were farmers and livestock herders. Since it is a religion practised by living persons today, changes are to be expected. "This is the most minimal and fundamental idea about God, found in all African societies," Mbiti writes in African Religions and Philosophy. You approach people directly, you speak to them directly; you don’t go through intermediaries. Lines are drawn by religions even though many look to religion as a way of life. These cults developed during the early stages of cultural contact between persons of European and African origin, because members of the subordinate group could neither acquire the religion of the dominant group nor participate as comembers in the historic Christian denominations. Usually it’s in the context of moral issues. For example, in 14 of the 19 countries surveyed, more than three-in-ten people say they sometimes consult traditional healers when someone in their household is sick. We’ve seen this in films and books about Africa. In Africa the traditional religions are a major source for the study of the African experience of God. This is a basic cosmology. connotes some element of primitiveness, I have nevertheless used it in this essay for lack of a better term. Now this is important because many times in the west we think of religions in terms of belief systems. Today, the discussion continues with a look at the notion and nature of God in African traditional religions. So at this time we’re going to examine a particular example of this in the Yoruba religious cosmology in African religion. African religions are very diverse. So if you wanted to discuss the possibility of a marriage arrangement, you would go through a wide range of people in order to finally get back the answer, rather than going directly. And so because of that, it’s become more and more useful in recent days to speak about African Traditional Religions and talk about them in broad ways that would seek to bring together certain coherent structures that make up African religion. In taboo, it can mean also that a physical object, a person, or a place, can not only be forbidden, but may carry spiritual powers that one has to manipulate ritually. The first four are always found. Of these, four were the physical elements—fire, air, water, and earth—of which the entire world is composed. It is embraced by Africans within and outside the continent despite the various ethnic religious practices and beliefs. 4. 3. Elements of the traditional religion that a Christian would need to consider when sharing the Christian faith/gospel with a person from this community. Before religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism permeated African societies, African people had an awareness and acknowledgement of a god, a supreme being, greater than all things. He has control over everybody and everything. The people were born, nurtured and they grew in it. So these figures became almost mythically viewed in the western literature that more or less summarized western Africa and other parts of Africa, and their traditional religion. The beliefs and practices of the traditional religions in Africa can enrich Christian theology and spirituality." All Rights Reserved. A member of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group. To fathom these changes, both instructors and students in comparative religion and theology must fully understand African Traditional Religion to comprehend the new forms of Christianity that emphasize prophecy, healing, well-being, and wealth. And so there’s a little more flexibility regarding the role of beliefs and how that functions with the larger structure of African religion. These statements await further exploration by African theologians. I mentioned earlier this term “herbalists”, and I said this was in place of the term “witch doctor”. African art, music, oral literature, all display the religious and social patterns of its culture. Again, this implied that at the bottom of the religious scale was the un-tutored African. But certainly there’s no single codified system of beliefs and practices. Welcome to the summary lecture of African Traditional Religions. African arts and religious meaning overlap in visual symbols, music, dance, proverbs, riddles, names of people and places, myths, legends, beliefs, and customs. He said “Africans combine a belief in the existence of an omnipotent and omnipresent supreme god, with multitudes of subordinate deities.” So here you have the fact that we just simply cannot easily summarize African religion with a single term like “animism” or “animistic” or “primal” or “fetishism” or whatever. conversions of the indigenous people, mainly, from African Traditional Religion (ATR) to the two mission religions. The fourth element common to most religions is the need for believers to belong to a faith community in order to practice sacred rituals and reinforce the truth of sacred stories. The major cults of this type are Haitian vodou, Cuban Santería, and Trinidadian Shango. He was trying to find a way to capture the one and the many in the African context. And this allows us to look at it as a structure, and then the particulars can be filled in based on where you are and what you’re looking at. But over time we’ve begun to realize that, first of all, you actually have at the basis of even the more “advanced religions” many primitive and tribal beliefs. The Africans inhabit a much bigger universe, and therefore they do not see this clear line of demarcation between the material / the spiritual, the visible/ the invisible, and so forth. It is embraced by Africans within and outside the continent despite the various ethnic religious practices and beliefs. The number of traditional elements in medieval alchemy varies from 4, 5, or 8. We had a Christian overlay that gave us a strong sense of heaven, of God, eternal life, of the life to come – the eternal verities of the Christian faith we all accepted. So what you should envision is a spectrum that does not have clear demarcation, and sometimes the categories can become confused or overlap. Generally speaking, early observers of African religious practices all too quickly took appearance for reality, and symbol for the symbolized, and means for the end. Rosalind J. Hackett as a guest-editor has been responsible for those pages. Course: Essentials of African Traditional Relgions, Lecture: Introduction to African Traditional Religion. African Traditional Religion, on the other hand, was supremely absorbent. That’s their deity. Elements of African Traditional Religion A Textbook for Students of Comparative Religion by Elia Shabani Mligo and Publisher Resource Publications. The continued influence of traditional African religion is also evident in some aspects of daily life. Last week, in a veiled comparison between African traditional religions and Christianity, which is the major religion in Jamaica, some of the key elements of African traditional religions were discussed using Kenya-born Professor John S. Mbiti, a well-known scholar and researcher of African religions, as the main reference. With African Traditional Religions you must be much more careful about speaking about belief systems in the same way, because Africans will actually tolerate quite a wide variety of beliefs as long as it supports the same rituals or certain rituals or ritualistic explanations of why this is being done or why this is being believed. To them, he is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere). So in other words you basically have mediators such as priests or sometimes chiefs or what used to be called “witch doctors” (we’ll call these “herbalists”), mediums, diviners, prophets – these are all people that are exercising ritualized power in order to keep the system in harmony. Now let me explain what a cosmology is, as opposed to traditional examination of a world religion. Although animism still is in fact present in Africa like fetishism or juju, it is simply inadequate as an all-encompassing expression that is descriptive properly of African Traditional Religion. The Greeks proposed the existence of five basic elements. This all-knowing and omnipresent being is also omnipotent. Traditional African religion is very popular and arrived here with our North and West African ancestors. The hominid race was walked the land of Africa around 8 million to 5 million years ago. The beliefs and practices of the traditional religions in Africa can enrich Christian theology and spirituality." The elements of nature are out of the control of man, but are controlled by this almighty supreme being. Stream the classes, or download and listen to them offline. In the African culture, it’s more natural to assume that the reason is spiritual, and therefore you go to a healer that will conduct rituals or chants, or use these fetish objects or whatever is necessary in order to deliver you from this spiritual problem. If we want to ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, we go directly to the father. This book highlights and discusses the common elements which introduce African Traditional Religion as one unified religion and not a collection of religions. For the African, the universe is filled with various levels and sources of power and energy. They had a lot of trade with the Arabs along the coast of east Africa, and this is where Islam is actually the strongest, in this area. When we get sick, even devout Christians that get sick, we assume that the reason for the sickness is naturalistic, so we go to the doctor, we get medicine that will manipulate the antibodies or other sources of the disease that need to be destroyed in our body with various medicines. Of course the Christian world- view comes in and challenges this by saying there is a world beyond the sensory world; the enlightenment world-view is inadequate. So for example later on we’ll look at how this works out in Nigeria. It seemed to be that Africans worshipped innumerable mystical forces, ghosts, ancestors, divinities of various kinds, and yet they seemed also to have occasional references to a supreme god. African traditional religious system has the following components: A. Foundational Religious Beliefs. That occurs on the second tier. Evaluation of the impact American or European policy has had on Native American or African Tribal Religion beliefs and practices. Mbiti says, "So God confronts men as the mysterious and incomprehensible, as indescribable and beyond human vocabulary. And therefore it’s nearly impossible to talk about African Traditional Religion as if it exists as a single coherent body of beliefs and practices which can be identified as “African religion”. To efficiently study the African Traditional Religion (ATR), one must also study the people who practice this religion. But if you want just a quick and overly broad answer, the "Basics" section of my source is better than nothing. Sulfur, mercury, and salt are classical elements. So this shaman figure is used quite a bit in these societies. It is often combined with elements of Christianity and Islam. Since American religion is a broad phenomenon, the term African American religion must be defined. ATR is the original religious belief and practice of the Africans. Visit the President's page to see his availability to speak at your church or ministry. They’ll make sacrifices, they’ll offer chants and so forth, and this is the general structure of the African Traditional Religion. Marriage is very important in all cultures, but certainly in the African culture there are different kinds of emphases in marriage, but the wedding is a very important legal and social event, and it involves certain kinds of rites of passage and rituals that are practiced during that time. African traditional religion refers to the indigenous or autochthonous religion of the African people. Fetishism refers to the use of a natural or artificial object which is believed to have supernatural power or preternatural power to protect or aid its owner. Another term that’s used a lot in African religion is the phrase “rites of passage”. The print version … The traditional African religions or traditional beliefs and practices of African people are a set of highly diverse beliefs that includes various ethnic religions. So this is something that is part of the fetishes or ritual objects that are manipulated in African society. It could absorb elements from any and every religious system that came its way — absorb them, that is, on its own terms. Africans are notoriously religious in the sense that all levels of life are filled with religion. It is often combined with elements of Christianity and Islam. The BiblicalTraining app gives you access to 2,100 hours of instruction (129 classes and seminars). Most converts from Africa are from it: for the rest it has not much to offer. Elements of African Traditional Religion A Textbook for Students of Comparative Religion by Elia Shabani Mligo and Publisher Resource Publications. The third level in African Traditional Religion is the earthly tier, which is the functionaries who are responsible for maintaining the harmony, balance, and order in the African traditional system. This knowledge of God through belief; became the cardinal point of the religion of Africans. So we will often ask the question: “What does a Hindu believe about God or man, or sin, or whatever?”; “What do Muslims believe about salvation?”; and so forth. These five elements he called the structures of African Traditional Religion, while Awolalu and Dopamu see them as the features of West African Traditional Religion (1979: 32-35). Because of the general acceptance of the evolutionary theory which dominated the latter half of the 19th century, Tyler’s theory was interpreted to mean that animism gave rise to polytheism, which in turn evolved further to the stage of one supreme god over all other spirits, and this eventually led to the idea that ultimately Trinitarian monotheism was the highest form of religion. Read reviews from world’s largest community for readers. And even nature itself is part of this ongoing continuum. First of all, as I said before, we’re going to refer to it in the plural – African Traditional Religions, because there are over a thousand different distinct African peoples with their own religious systems. Naming West African Religion. Daily functioning of traditional African is fundamentally religious functioning. It originated from the soil of Africa. Essentials of African Traditional Religions, by Dr. Timothy Tennent, Lecture 1: Introduction to African Traditional Religion, Lecture 2: African Traditional Religion in Practice, Lecture 3: Tier 3: The Role of Ancestors in Yoruba Cosmology, Lecture 4: Christian Interaction with ATR, Essentials of African Traditional Relgions, Introduction to African Traditional Religion. Sometimes the ceremony, even though it’s associated with birth, may wait for weeks or months or even as long as a year after the birth to make sure that the child is going to live before they perform this rite of passage for the birth. In order to conceal the underlying nature of their religious beliefs from the slavemasters, the practitioners of these religions identified the ancestral gods and goddesses of Africa with certain Catholic saints, a practice that continues today. If you look at African religion region-by-region, generally sub-Saharan Africa is divided into west Africa, east Africa, and south Africa. Yet, contact can be established with him. The following are the useful basic themes in exploring the African worldview: Supreme Being In traditional African society, there is implied and widespread belief in a Supreme Being, God. There are certain things which you should not do that are considered to be taboo – that would create chaos in the society. Many different languages, religions and types of economic activities developed on this continent. "For most of their lives, African peoples place God in the transcendental plane, making it seem as if He is remote from their daily affairs. Thus, strictly speaking, religion in its pristine form is no longer in existence. connotes some element of primitiveness, I have nevertheless used it in this essay for lack of a better term. From our own study of the African Traditional Religion, we find there are unmistakably elements of animism. Instead, we should see at the top tier a supreme being, but this supreme being is frequently a distant figure, maybe associated with creation or some kind of larger power to keep things in order or in harmony, but is not the focus of the daily religion of Africa. From the viewpoint of cultural content, these religions represent the most extensive blend of African and European traditions and ritual… African Traditional religion (ATR) is one of the world religions with a great people and a great past. It is a tolerant, accommodative and peaceful religion that … Something that’s a very common aspect of traditional religions is the recognition that some objects carry spiritual power, and therefore should be forbidden in some ways. Only by giving a belief system a proper name can a comprehensive, complex theology and cosmology emerge, along with a mor… It’s filled with dramatic geographic differences and cultural diversity. African Traditional religion (ATR) is one of the world religions with a great people and a great past. African Traditional Religions are still practiced today, along with Christianity and Islam. "This is the most minimal and fundamental idea about God, found in all African societies," Mbiti writes in African Religions and Philosophy . The traditional African religions or traditional beliefs and practices of African people are a set of highly diverse beliefs that includes various ethnic religions. And so therefore divinity and deity are separate in Africa. And it can create great problems if you don’t do that. Normally this comes through the expression of exercising some kind of ritualized power. African Traditional religion (ATR) is one of the world religions with a great people and a great past. In addition, the Ijaw practice a form of divination called Igbadai , in which recently deceased individuals are interrogated on the causes of their death. African traditional religion have a future for many reasons .first, these religions articulate world view that continue to provide a basis for morality, supporting what Laurent Magesa has called “the moral traditional of abundant life” secondly African traditional religions are linked to … 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. But certainly traditionally, in the Christian world-view in the west, we did not have this kind of open frontier approach that you find in Africa between the visible and the invisible world, where spirits and deities and God all interact in a very dynamic way. In African religion you must distinguish between the term “deity” and the term “divinity”, because in the west, we often use the word divinity or deity almost interchangeably because we’re in a context where monotheism has been dominant. Waaq is the name of a singular God in the traditional religion of many Cushitic people in the Horn of Africa, denoting an early monotheistic religion. East Africa comprises the modern states of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The religious beliefs, practices and the provision of social services of these immigrant religions have impacted on the religious and cultural life of the traditional communities. 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