African Traditional Religions

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African Traditional Religions

Table of Content


African Traditional Religions3

Major Beliefs in African Religion4

Fundamental Principles4



Rites and Symbols7

Life after Death9

Cultural Impact9


End Notes14

African Traditional Religions


This report presents a brief, general picture of Africa's traditional religious heritage, focusing on the major beliefs because these underlie the general attitudes of individuals and society and shape their worldview. Various terms are used to refer to the indigenous religious heritage, including African religion, African traditional religions, African indigenous religions, and African religious traditions. This report makes use of the most current term, ''African religion''. It is clear that in such a vast continent, there are diversities of religious life and concepts, but there are also similarities that make it possible to give a general picture.

After a brief word on the origin of African religion, this report considers it in terms of belief in God and other spiritual beings, mystical power, and the continuation of human life after death. It describes how human beings are seen to be at the center of the world, and traces the journey of individual life from birth to death and beyond. Moral and ethical values are shown to regulate people's relationships with one another, nature, and God. African peoples give health and related problems much attention, for both their physical and their spiritual welfare. Religions originating outside of Africa, together with the influences of ''modern'' life, also have an impact upon the traditional religious heritage.

African Traditional Religions

Each African people have developed its own specific religion, which has become an integral part of its cultural heritage. We can therefore say that there are as many religions as there are traditional African populations. Among the African population is not widespread proselytizing, i.e. the attempt to convert others to their religion, because every religion is directly linked to the identity of a given population. It is therefore not possible to trace the various traditional African religions a common historical origin, nor a unique geographical distribution that allows us to follow the expansion on the continent. It generally uses the term traditional to distinguish those that have an African origin, imported from the great religions, such as' Islam or Christianity, which over the years attracted a very large proportion of the population. In this regard it is worth remembering that the terminology used by Western scholars to classify the religious dimension in Africa is sometimes very inaccurate and diminishes the extraordinary complexity and variety.

Major Beliefs in African Religion

As an all-embracing worldview, African religion has a number of beliefs held in common by the community. Individuals cannot reject a particular belief, since beliefs are part and parcel of the wider community. The term “community” is used here to refer to a grouping of persons in a particular area who lead a fairly similar cultural life, within a given people or in a town.

Fundamental Principles

Despite the changes that continually occur in the religious world, Africa is still possible to recognize some elements common to the various African religious traditions among themselves.

First, the center of all religions under discussion is ...
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