Origin and Sources of African Religion

African Religion evolved gradually as people experienced different life situations, raising questions and reflecting on such mysteries of life as birth and death, joy and suffering, the forces of nature, and the purpose of life. Its history is bound up with the history of each people or tribe, and goes back to prehistoric times. Some elements distinguish it from Christianity and Islam, the other major religions of Africa, while other elements resemble them. African religion is practiced in the early twenty-first century mostly in the southern two-thirds of Africa, including Madagascar, where Christianity is statistically dominant. In the northern one-third, dominated by Islam, African religion exists beneath the surface, among indigenous peoples, despite their having been subjugated and dominated by Arab immigrants for many centuries.

African religion is found primarily in oral sources, including stories, myths, proverbs, prayers, ritual incantations, songs, names of people and places, and the specialized and carefully guarded knowledge of religious personages. Other sources are art and language; ceremonies and rituals; religious objects and places like shrines, altars, and ceremonial symbols; and magical objects and practices. It also emerges among Christians and Muslims in times of crisis like severe illness or death, disputes, political and sports competitions, examinations, and the search for employment. Since the nineteenth century these sources have increasingly been recorded in writing, and since the second half of the twentieth century, on film and on audiotapes and videotapes.

African religion spread to the western hemisphere through African peoples who were forcibly transplanted to the West Indies and the Americas by the slave trade. It settled there and survived in a mixture with Christianity, despite the influence of other cultures and environments. For example, the spirit possessions that abound among people of African descent in Brazil and the West Indies have their origins in Africa. Voodoo in the Caribbean and macumba in Brazil are remnants of African religion that have been modified to suit local practice. Some names of people in Jamaica, like Cudjoe, Acheampong, Kwaku, and Obi are originally African, but these are said to be disappearing. After careful study of the American scene, Gayraud Wilmore concludes that "an essential ingredient of Afro-American Christianity prior to the Civil War was the creative residuum of the African Religions," characterized by a spirituality of response to the reality of the spirit world and its reaction with objective reality (1983, p. 26).

Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about. We have been discussing depression and anxiety and how different information that is out on the market only seems to target one particular cure for these two common conditions that seem to walk hand in hand.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment