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African Religions Chapter 3 The Complexities of Africa 90

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Title: African Religions Chapter 3 The Complexities of Africa 90


1
African Religions
  • Chapter 3

2
The Complexities of Africa
  • 900 million people
  • 3,000 Ethnic and Linguistic Groups
  • Social organizations range from small tribes to
    vast empires
  • Centuries of European colonialism changed the
    content and structure of many traditional African
    religions

3
Western Stereotypes
  • Stereotypes threaten to distort the reality of
    African religion
  • Misconception of a dark land of savagery and
    superstition
  • Misguided thought of Africa is a unified whole

4
Keep in mind
  • There is no single religion, theology, worldview,
    or ritual system that unites all of Africa
  • There is a lack of written records from the
    pre-modern Native Africans which limits our range
    and depth of studies
  • We must remember the bias and interpretations of
    foreign cultures in Africa

5
Native Religions
  • Most African religions have a belief in a high
    god.
  • This high god is distant, retired, and
    uninvolved.

6
The Lesser Spirits
  • Most African religions are animistic, believing
    that the world is full of lesser spirits.
  • Lesser spirits rule creation and can be helpful
    or harmful.
  • Lesser spirits are subject to prayer, flattery,
    and sacrifice.

7
More on the lesser spirits
  • Plants, animals, weather, water, the Earth all
    things are spirits or life forces
  • Lesser spirits are often personified in Gods or
    Goddesses
  • The most common worship is offering food and
    drink.

8
Ancestors
  • Ancestors are recognized as spiritual forces.
  • The dead enter into a spirit world and remain
    active in the lives of the living.
  • The dead as a cloud of witnesses (page 55)

9
More on Ancestors
  • The living consult, pray to the dead to receive
    benefits and avoid harm
  • The fear of gods is unimportant compared to the
    fear of and respect for ancestors
  • Ancestors enforce the moral code
  • Worst punishment by ancestors is infertility on a
    couple
  • Ancestor spirits know and can control the future

10
More on Ancestors
  • Efforts to appease the ancestor spirits includes
    offering gifts, sacrifices, rituals, and
    consultations.
  • Ancestors contact the living often in dreams
  • Diviners have the ability to contact ancestors

11
Sacrifice
  • Most common is a daily offering of food and drink
  • Animal sacrifice is practiced on serious
    occasions
  • Human sacrifice is rarely present in African
    religions

12
Rites of Passage
  • Birth of child Blessing bestowed by the spirit
    world

13
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14
Puberty Initiation into the norms of social
behavior
  • Initiation rituals for boys and girls differ and
    are often long and severe
  • Ritual circumcision for boys test of courage and
    a bodily sign of their religious and cultural
    identity
  • Ritual circumcision for girls no clear rationale
    and is less and less common in modern Africa

15
Yao Tribe
  • To most African communities, facing the knife is
    akin to being a real man. Male circumcision is
    an important rite of passage that moves the young
    man that undergoes it a notch higher towards
    marriage and earns him a respectable position in
    society.

16
Marriage
  • Chastity in marriage is highly valued
  • Polygamy is practiced by elites of many societies

17
Death
  • Making the dead comfortable in their new
    existence to prevent hauntings
  • Rapid burial
  • Dead can point out who caused their demise
  • Lack a system of belief in judgment and
    retribution after death

18
A Death Ritual
  • During an African burial, an animal would often
    be sacrificed. They believed that it was a
    respectful thing to do and that it served as food
    on their long journey to the heavens. Most of the
    time they would give sacrifice an ox, if the
    person was the last living in their family the ox
    would help take them to the afterlife. Africans
    were also buried with their personal possessions.
    Africans could only refer to some one as dead if
    they were the last one in their family to die.

19
Religious Leaders
  • Generally a minimal need for priests because
    rituals are performed by individuals
  • Some Western African religions have priests
    priestesses for maintaining temples and altars

20
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21
Spiritual Curers are Common
  • Illnesses have religious and natural causes
  • Curers use divination to find the cause
  • Curers combine herbs, offerings, and spiritual
    powers
  • Curers cleanse houses of spells, witches, and
    curses
  • Diviners, healers, exorcists are closely related

22
Prophets
  • Speak the words of gods in times of crisis

23
The Chief King
  • Most African societies lack monarchy
  • Societies with monarchies revere the king and
    queen as representatives on ancestors or gods

24
Non-native African Religions
  • Ancient Greeks religion influenced North Africa
    and Egypt
  • Christianity and Judaism have been present in
    Africa since the 1st century
  • Hinduism, Buddhism, and Bahai brought to Africa
    by immigrants

25
African Religions Today
  • Colonialism, artificial nation states,
    urbanization, HIV/AIDS, political instability,and
    rapid population growth upset the traditional
    social orders of traditional religion
  • Traditional African religious practices have
    diminished, but have not been eliminated

26
Rise of Christianity Islam challenges
traditional African religions
  • Lesser spirits and ancestors become Christian
    Saints or
  • Muslim Jinn
  • Syncretistitc movements
  • combining African Christian,
  • and/or Islamic beliefs
  • and rituals are increasingly
  • present
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