four elements of african traditional religion

Traditional African religion is based on oral traditions, which means that the basic values and way of life are passed from elders to younger generation. Leo Frobenius refutes the statement made in the journal that he read in Berlin in 1891 (cited above) and said: In addition to these eminent men who have attempted a systematic study of African religion should be mentioned the most recent ones like S. F. Nagel who did pioneering work on the Nupe Religion[19] and E. G. Parrinder who has produced several works on African Traditional Religion.[20]. But they were proved wrong. This tradition is practiced by the Yorubas and some other West African tribes that are thought to have migrated around the Western Coast of the continent. They cherish their tradition; they worship with sincerity because their worship is quite meaningful to them; they hold tenaciously to their covenant that binds them together. The dictionary meaning of fetish is any ‘object, animate or inanimate, natural or artificial, regarded by some uncivilized races with a feeling of awe, as having mysterious power residing in it or as being the representative or habitation of a deity’; hence fetishism is the worship of, or emotional attachment to, inanimate objects. The word idol is used to describe the object which is an emblem of that which is worshipped by the Africans. The object may be a piece of wood or of iron or a stone. The Nupe call Him Soko, the Great One; He who dwells in Heaven; and they also designate him Tso-Ci meaning the Owner of us, the One to whom we belong. This is part of democracy. These dimensions can all be used in the service of peacemaking. The most important thing is that in the new South Africa religion and spirituality are used to create greater understanding and harmony rather than to divide people as was done in the past. It is used principally to aid man’s perception and concentration and to remind the worshipper of the divine presence. People are also encouraged to learn about and respect different spiritual practices. Africans are not so low in intelligence as to be incapable of distinguishing between an emblem or symbol of worship and a doll or toy. There are many different religions and some of them have been celebrating their faith, telling their stories and teaching their principles for thousands of years. I and II. Today, the countries of Africa contain a wide variety of religious beliefs, and statistics on religious affiliation are difficult to come by. These are the societies whose religion reveal have a number of the basic features of all religions (Burnett 1995:57). [11] Noel Baudin, Fetishism and Fetish Worshippers, New York, 1885. We can understand what the problems are. “In very precise language” says Professor Mbiti “The Bacongo describe the self-existence of God when they say, that ‘He is made by no other, no one beyond Him is.”[26], We see, then, that the greatest emphasis is on the Supreme Being. [13] T. J. Hutchson, Impressions of Western Africà, 1858. African Traditional Religion. The idea behind the use of such an expression is engendered by racial pride. The term “Primal” is used to refer to religions which were there prior to the so-called “universal” religions such as Christianity, Islam, etc. European and other foreign settlers brought most of these religions. South Africa is called the rainbow nation because of its variety of people, cultures and religions. Every locality may and does have its own local deities, its own festivals, its own name or names for the Supreme Being, but in essence the pattern is the same. Every religion has some belief in the existence of the spirit. Map: Bantu-speaking people moved into southern Africa from West and Central Africa and brought their religion and traditions with them. This means attributing a living soul to inanimate objects and natural phenomena. [24] E. G. Parrinder, African Traditional Religion, p.24. [22] E. G. Parrinder, African Traditional Religion, p.16. Most of them were Bantu -speaking people and were the ancestors of many South Africans, especially the Nguni groups like the Zulu and Xhosa. And one such tale was recorded in a Berlin journal which Leo Frobenius read before he ever visited Africa to see things for himself. [6] See John Oman, The Natural and the Supernatural, C.U.P., 1931, p.485. This Ghanaian Adinkra symbol means \"except for God\" and symbolizes the supremacy of God. African Traditional Religion has been evolving; there is in it the element of continuity as well as discontinuity. Traditional African religion is a way of life in which ancestors are part of every major event such as wedding, births and deaths as well as less important ones such as getting a job and finishing university. Many different languages, religions and types of economic activities developed on this continent. African Traditional Religion is a thriving scholarly business, but a serious disconnect exists between contributions that celebrate a generalized African Traditional Religion and those that describe particular religions and aspects of religion on the basis of ethnographic and archival research. One might also give credit to Farrow and Frobenius who did thorough research among the Yoruba of South West Nigeria. Africa Traditional Religious System as Basis of Understanding Christian Spiritual Warfare 1. The purpose of this is to help to orient a person who would like to work in the context of Africa. But the monotheism may need some modification; hence Professor Bolaji Idowu has suggested diffused monotheism because “here we have a monotheism in which there exist other powers which derive from Deity such being and authority that they can be treated, for practical purposes, almost as ends in themselves”[27]. Origins of major world religions reflected in SA. ), African Ideas of God, Edinburgh, 1966, p.1. Linguists claim that the word is of Portuguese origin. The symbols or emblems may fall into disuse or crumble or be replaced, but the spiritual entity represented never changes. Sangomas are part of spiritual traditions and are responsible for healing and telling the future. It is often combined with elements of Christianity and Islam. Among such terms can be mentioned; primitive, savage, fetishism, juju, heathenism, paganism, animism, idolatry, and polytheism. [5], But, as a contrast to these theorists, we have genuine seekers after truth who showed their doubts as to whether there could be any people anywhere in the world who were totally devoid of culture and religion, especially with particular reference to the knowledge of the living God. Alchemists eventually associated four triangular symbols to represent these elements. [7], Father Schmidt had earlier been working among the Pigmies of the Congo in Central Africa. A cow, sheep or chicken is slaughtered and the ancestors are called to receive the offering and bless the gathering. As much as anything, Vodou is an ancestral religion meant to evoke the African homeland. Here, while Parrinder was trying to discourage the use of the term animism in connection with the religion of Africa, he created another problem by suggesting the term polytheism. During the 17th century, European settlers came near the Cape of Good Hope. We speak of religion in the singular. Hence Professor Idowu aptly describes this period as the “period of ignorance and false certainty” in the study of African Traditional Religion. This is the same word as the French fetiche. At least, they raised doubts in the minds of those who might earlier have accepted the statements of the stay-at-home investigators and curio collectors. It is a religion that is practised by living men and women. The people follow many spiritual traditions and religious faiths. In traditional African religion the community is the most important part of someone's life. The best interpreter of African Religion is the African with a disciplined mind and the requisite technical tools. While we commend the effort of the foreign investigators for committing to writing their investigations about African Traditional Religion, we need to point out that a great number of them used misleading term in describing the people’s beliefs. 3 Leo Frobenius, The Voice of Africa, Vol. Most of the "traditional" groups of people living in South Africa arrived here from West and Central Africa about 1 500 years ago. For example, P. A. Talbot in his Life in Southern Nigera devoted three chapters to Juju among the Ibibio people and discussed the various divinities among them. Prominent among such people were Andrew Lang, Archbishop N. Soderblom,[6]and Father Schmidt of Vienna. To please these unhappy ancestors, usually offerings of beer and meat are made. African Religion is ancestor worship. Its study has to go hand-in-hand with the study of the people who practise the religion. More than ten million Jews from all over the world observe the Sabbath every week and millions of Muslim pilgrims travel to Mecca in the Middle East every year. They do this because they have certain religious beliefs and because their religions guide their lives. The early Portuguese who came to Africa saw that the Africans used to wear charms and amulets and so they gave the name feitico to such things. Sulfur, mercury, and salt are classical elements. Presumably these terms are used in an attempt to distinguish between enlightenment and barbarity. The Supreme Being is called upon in times of great hardship and need, like drought or epidemic that may threaten the entire community. Of these, four were the physical elements—fire, air, water, and earth—of which the entire world is composed. The individual only exists within the community and separation from it is sometimes worse than death. They started coining expressions like “a high god”, or “a Supreme God”. In other words, animism is a part definition of every religion. The word pagan is from the Latin word paganus meaning peasant, village or country district; it also means one who worships false gods; a heathen. Practice Afrocentric Meditation. From our own study of the African Traditional Religion, we find there are unmistakably elements of animism. Religious resources are contained in the four main elements of which religions consist. In Ghana, He is called Onyame, the Great and Shining One who is high and above all. People have looked to religion to answer questions like "Where did the world come from? This is why it is not appropriate to describe the religion as polytheistic. ", "Why are we here? The most prominent were R. S. Rattray,[14] P. A. Talbot,[15] A. When Ludwig got to know that Edwin Smith was in Africa as a missionary he was surprised; and in his surprise he asked, “How can the untutored Africans comprehend God ? Please enter language and then submit. Whatever happens, the use of the word primitive by Western scholars is derogatory and, therefore, obnoxious. COSMOLOGY  . 2 E. B. Idowu, African Traditional Religion, S.C.M., 1973, p.87. Religion in most African societies also supports moral order. B. Ellis,[16] and S. S. These divinities act like intermediaries between men and God. [1] J. S. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, Heineman, 1969, p.1. To visit a new web site, "Frithjof Schuon Archive," dedicated to featured Studies contributor Frithjof Schuon, click here. We are not unconscious of the fact that Africa is a large continent with multitudes of nations who have complex cultures, innumerable languages and myriads of dialects. They did not know, and they never confessed their ignorance about, Africa and the Africans. How can divinities, however minor, be described as toys? presuppositions about life in a Traditional/Primal society. The Ibo call Him Chükwu, that is the Great Chi or the Great Source of life and of being. A heathen, according to the New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary, is ‘a pagan; one who worships idols or does not acknowledge the true God; a rude, barbarous and irreligious person.’. It is the religion which resulted from the sustaining faith held by the forebears of the present Africans, and which is being practised today in various forms and various shades and intensities by a very large number of Africans, including individuals who claim to be Muslims or Christians. © World Wisdom, Inc. Since it is a religion practised by living persons today, changes are to be expected. Others were anthropologists and sociologists who examined religion just by the way. [25] E. G. Parrinder, West African Religion, London, Epworth, 1949, p.26, 1969 edition, p.12. 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. Many of these gods are the expression of the forces of nature, which men fear or try to propitiate: These gods generally have their own temples and priests, and their worshippers cannot justly be called animists, but polytheists, since they worship a variety of gods.”[24]. What do the followers of this religion believe? Folk religions are challenging to measure. This is not a “fossil” religion, a thing of the past or a dead religion. The Yoruba, for example, never rank the Supreme Being, Olodimave with the divinities (orisa), neither do the Edo confuse Osanobuwa with the divinities (ebo). The origin of the divinities can be traced; the divinities can be represented; they are limited in their power; they came into being by the power of the Supreme Being who is unique, wholly other and faultless and who owes His existence to no one. The Africans do not and cannot represent Him in the form of an image as they can do with the divinities. The various divinities that are represented are in fact technically representatives or servants of the Supreme Being. It is not the religion of one hero. Juju is, therefore, one of the misleading and derogatory terms used by investigators out of either sheer prejudice or ignorance. The fifth element, which goes by a variety of names, is more rarefied than the four physical elements. African Traditional Religion cannot easily be studied by non-Africans. Present eminent African scholars, like Professor E. Bolaji Idown and Professor John Mbiti, have emphasized the fact that the world of the Africans is a theocratic one, ruled and governed by the decree of the Supreme Being. These objects are symbolic. [9] C. Bouquet, Man and Deity, Heffer, Cambridge, 1933, p.106. The difference between that type of polytheism and the structure of African Traditional Religion is that in Africa the Supreme Being is not of the rank and file of the divinities. Through modern changes, the traditional religion cannot remain intact but it is by no means extinct. Before we had foreign investigators to give the world an idea of what the religious beliefs of the Africans looked like, there were theorists who have never been in Africa but who regarded it as the “Dark Continent” where people had no idea of God and where the Devil in all his abysmal, grotesque and forbidden features, armed to the teeth and with horns complete, held sway. 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