African Traditional Religion - By Very Rev. Prof. Noah K. Dzobo
The indigenous idea of religion in Africa South of the Sahara has gone through an interesting history of misrepresentation and misinterpretation simply because as our elders say, If you are not prepared to lick your lips during the harmattan season (harmattan is a parching land wind which blows from December to February in West Africa) the harmattan will chap it for you. And so one time African traditional religion was characterized chapped as animism and is supposed to be a belief in the existence of spirits and practices that go along with it, and that human beings live in a spiritual universe and the spirit of God the Creator permeates all his creation (Immanence) both animates and ananimates. Africans who are neither Moslems nor Christians are therefore religiously called animists. This term is still used to refer to Africans in Southern Sudan who are not Moslems not Christians. At another time African Traditional Religion was described as fetishism which comes from the Portuguese word meaning idol and so Africans were referred to as idol worshippers. This was followed by such ignorant characterization as heathenism, spiritism and paganism. Paganism comes from the Latin word Paganus meaning rural dwellers. At another time African Traditional Religion was fashionably described as polytheism. That is, the worship of many gods as over against monotheism which is the worship of one god. At another time African Traditional Religion was described as ancestor worship. It is my contention that Africans do not worship their departed relatives but they value and cherish the relationship that exists among them in this life and death does not terminate this relationship and so it extends into the next world. Through the ancestral veneration this relationship is reinforced and cherished. In African society, as Wilbur C. Harr said, Human existence is a (relational) responsibility and not a self-centred isolationism. Pierce Beaver, 1960, p. 200). African Traditional Religion was once called a superstition, that is, fears and beliefs that have no rational grounds. African indigenous cultures, like any other cultures, contain some false and irrational fears, but the essence of African Traditional Religion is not false beliefs and fears that it may contain, but rather it is the unique and ultimate spiritual principle of comprehension that it has evolved for understanding our human existence. African Traditional Religion is therefore something more than a superstition and for that matter it is more than magic. All these characterizations are loaded with value judgements and are intended to create the impression that Africans are worshipping wrong objects either from nature or created by human beings, in short they are worshipping the creature and not the Creator. African Traditional Religion is therefore taken to be based on false natural revelation instead of on historical and personal revelation as we have in Judaism and in Christianity. On the basis of this false western Interpretation and Characterization of African religious awareness the Christian West came to the conclusion that either African Religious Culture is a Tabularasa or has been sown with religious false tares and so Africans must be saved, converted and taught to worship the one true God called Yahweh. The question is, what is the true nature of the religious / spiritual awareness that the West encountered in Africa, South of the South during their first contact with the African continent? My answer to this question is in two parts: the first answer will deal with some general aspects of the African Traditional Religion and it will be brief; the second answer will take up a specific traditional spiritual apprehension as is found among the Ewe and Akan of Ghana.
Please rate this
Gadget Votes: 0 |NaN out of 5