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African Traditional Religions

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Traditional African Religion

The Religious Sphere

There is widespread belief in a supreme God, unique and transcendent. Africans have a sense of the sacred and sense of mystery; there is high reverence for sacred places, persons and objects; sacred times are celebrated. Belief in the after life is incorporated in myths and in funeral ceremonies. Religion enfolds the whole of life; there is a difference between life and religion. Ancestors mediate between God and men. It is believed that sin harms the public good; hence there are periodical purification rites in order to promote public welfare. Worship requires a fundamental attitude of strict discipline and reverence.

The Ritual Sphere

Rites form and essential part of social life. Rites invoke ancestors and the dead. The whole person, body, and soul are totally involved in worship. There are many rites of purification of individuals and communities. Religious sacredness is preserved in ritual, in dress and the arrangements of the places of worship. The sick are healed in rites, which involve their families and the community. Some of the traditional blessings are rich and very meaningful. In worship and sacrifice there is co-responsibility each person contributes his share in a spirit of participation. Symbols bridge the spheres of the sacred and secular and so make possible a balanced and unified view of reality.

An important part of the African traditional religion is the presence of spirits.

The Spiritual Sphere

In the African world spirits are everywhere in persons, trees, rivers, animals, rocks, mountains and ever automobiles and other personal effects. The presence of these spirits in the African society offers a serious challenge to the behavior patterns of the people on the continent and elsewhere because traditional religious practices



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