This basic tenet has led Africans to attribute to persons designated by terms we might translate as "witches" or "sorcerers" characteristics that resemble those of their counterparts elsewhere. And one such tale was recorded in a Berlin journal which Leo Frobenius read before he ever visited Africa to see things for himself. This is an intellectual attitude complete with racial pride and prejudice. www.studiesincomparativereligion.com. This is the same word as the French fetiche. Lightning and thunder are manifestations of the thunder god. According to the Yoruba, 401 orisha “line the road to heaven,” and diviners identify among them the personal orisha to which an individual should appeal for guidance, protection, and blessing. They undergo strict training and learn many skills, including how to use herbs for healing and other, more mystical skills, like the finding of a hidden object without knowing where it is. SYMBOLISM, The First English Journal on Traditional Studies. KEY WORDS: pregnancy, birth rites, naming rites, puberty rites, ritual He is in a class by Himself. Presumably these terms are used in an attempt to distinguish between enlightenment and barbarity. This word means indigenous, that which is aboriginal or foundational, handed down from generation to generation, upheld and practised by Africans today. (vi) Animism: The great advocate of the theory of animism was E. Tylor in his Primitive Culture. Please enter description and then submit. Please select a category and then submit. TRADITION . Notes to Admin required. 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. This is a religion that is based mainly on oral transmission. Some call it Spirit. Hutchinson.. Divinatory ritual is the centrepiece of African religions, because it opens to all a channel of mediation with the gods. ), African Ideas of God, Edinburgh, 1966, p.1. The effect of colonisation on Africa's traditional religion is seen in the views of colonialists that African traditional religious practices are fetish, barbaric, ritualistic and demonic. Of these, four were the physical elements—fire, air, water, and earth—of which the entire world is composed. Traditional African religion is very popular and arrived here with our North and West African ancestors. If, for example, a piece of wood representing Obatala (a Yoruba deity) is eaten by termites, the worshippers of Obatala will not feel that their god has been destroyed by the termites, because the piece of wood is only a symbol, serving as a visible or concrete embodiment of that which is symbolised. , 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. 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.”. A believer's family still has influence over him or her even if they live far away. If this is the object of the symbol, it must be wrong to describe it as an idol. Since it is a religion practised by living persons today, changes are to be expected. Please enter language and then submit.  P. A. Talbot, The Peoples of Southern Nigeria, O.U.P., 1926.  E. G. Parrinder, African Traditional Religion, London, 1954. for as long as they've been in existence. Parrinder made this mistake because in his West African Religion he claimed that the Supreme God or Creator is “sometimes above the gods, sometimes first among equals.”.  See Idowu, African Traditional Religion, p.88. The noticeable fault among the missionaries was that they were particularly subjective, and they could not see anything good in African Traditional Religion. But to say that the African Traditional Religion is animistic would not be correct. Even when interpreters were used, one could not be sure that the interpretation would be accurate. We must also point out that, to the Africans, the material has meaning only in terms of the spiritual. These dimensions can all be used in the service of peacemaking. Its study has to go hand-in-hand with the study of the people who practise the religion. This means attributing a living soul to inanimate objects and natural phenomena. When we examine the names, we gain a greater insight into the peoples’ concept of God, as they are descriptive of His character and attributes.  E. B. Idowu, African Traditional Religion, S.C.M., 1973, p.87. For example, the Iroko tree is not an ordinary tree; it is believed to be inhabited by a spirit; the Oshun River (in Western Nigeria) is believed to be more than an ordinary river because the spirit (Oshun) dwells in it and this makes the river efficacious in many respects, especially during barrenness. People have looked to religion to answer questions like "Where did the world come from? Traditional African religion and culture is passed on from parents to children through stories. and Eleda (the Creator) by the same people. 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. European and other foreign settlers brought most of these religions. Among other things it said: And similar to this was the dialogue that took place between Edwin Smith, who had gone out as a missionary to Africa, and Emil Ludwig, an eminent biographer. By the 19th century the Arabs moved to East and Central Africa. 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. Holism/Organism: the Law of Harmony And we agree with Professor Idowu that the purpose of the study should be: [*] Editorial Note: Dr. J. Omosade Awolalu is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and has specialised in the field of the African Traditional Religion. Like Eastern belief systems, the Dagara see the universe and life as circular rather than linear.  The most successful of them all, perhaps, was R. S. Rattray whose extensive study of the Ashanti in present Ghana was based on informed knowledge of their language and the willingness to learn from the people by actually participating in some festivals. B. Ellis, and S. S. The Africans do not and cannot represent Him in the form of an image as they can do with the divinities. The elders are the final authority and are trusted completely. In this way, the difference between the material object and the reality represented by it becomes obscured. Prayers said during worship by Africans have been described as fetish prayers; the functionaries of a cult have been described as fetish priests; herbs prepared by African priests have been labelled fetish herbs, and not medical preparations, however efficacious such herbs may be; and taking an oath has been described as undergoing fetish. He is also called Olorun (the owner of Heaven). The people follow many spiritual traditions and religious faiths. Most of them were Bantu -speaking people and were the ancestors of many South Africans, especially the Nguni groups like the Zulu and Xhosa. This is deliberate. The term “Primal” is used to refer to religions which were there prior to the so-called “universal” religions such as Christianity, Islam, etc. Short Description is required. 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. This is why it is not appropriate to describe the religion as polytheistic. But in spite of all these differences, there are many basic similarities in the religious systemseverywhere there is the concept of God (called by different names); there is also the concept of divinities and/or spirits as well as beliefs in the ancestral cult. African Traditional Religion.  E. G. Parrinder, African Traditional Religion, p.24.  S. F. Nadel, The Nupe Religion, London, 1954.  See Evans Pritchard, Theories of Primitive Religion, 1965, pp.103ff.  C. Bouquet, Man and Deity, Heffer, Cambridge, 1933, p.106. Several of them did their investigations as best as they could among the peoples whose languages most of them did not understand. There are spiritual leaders, kinds of priests or pastors in most traditional African religions. Although traditional African religion recognises a Supreme God, followers do not worship him or her directly as they do not feel worthy enough. (i) Primitive: The New Webster Encylopedic Dictionary defines primitive as ‘pertaining to the beginning or origin; original; first; old fashioned; characterized by the simplicity of old times.’. In actual fact, some of these early investigators were more careful than some modern ones who appear to know too much theoretical off-the-spot anthropology and sociology, and who just pick from the researches of other people or rush to Africa during the summer flight, interview one or two people and then rush back to produce volumes.  These theorists had fantastic tales to tell about Africa. This is part of democracy. It is often combined with elements of Christianity and Islam. The versions of these religions as they developed in the New World became known as African Diaspora religions. 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. 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.