African spirituality is decades old, and it had branched into other forms of religion with time. Because of its wide array of faith, people call it the “Rainbow Nation.” There are three major religions in the African Subcontinent: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and traditional African spirituality or religion. The first two are pretty standard in society so let’s talk about the third less known form that has been practiced for centuries.
What is African spirituality?
African spirituality originated from the Western and Central areas of Africa. It is based on oral practices and traditions. This means they are passed down to newer generations through word of mouth through ancestors. The elders had the complete authority of spirituality and were trusted blindly.
Just like other religions, traditional African spirituality has its spiritual leaders. In the Zulu culture, certain leaders are in charge of divinity and healing. They are known as mystics or sangomas. It is somewhat similar to counseling and fortune-telling. Ancestors must select these healers after they complete strict training and learn skills such as using herbs for healing or mystical skills, like finding hidden objects. They are present on all significant occasions, such as weddings or births.
History of African spirituality:
There are multiple sects and variations of African spirituality, but many values remain the same. One of them includes the existence of one creator, God, who has created the entire universe. Many myths of different African people have concluded to this one story. It says that once the world was stable, the Supreme Being withdrew, and he does not involve himself with human life anymore.
A common myth states that, after the first woman struck the sky when she lifted her pestle to pound millet, God disassociated from the world. The tale goes on to talk about how this withdrawal brought illnesses and death, but it also gave people freedom from God’s limitations, giving birth to free will.
How to practice African spirituality?
This idea is based on the concept that the community is the most important thing. One can only maintain the community if people always stay together, and separation is worse than death. The moral order is the second most crucial concept so that order in the community and a sense of security exists. The ancestors are guardians of both of these concepts.
The healers are always given high importance at all times. During all gatherings, they arrive, and an offering is usually made to honor and thank the ancestors. This offering is in the form of slaughtering a chicken, sheep, or cow. The ancestors then bless the gathering and receive the offering.
African spirituality and God:
People who follow this concept believe in a supreme Godlike figure, but they deem themselves unworthy to communicate with this Supreme Being. They then call on their ancestors to pray or speak to the Supreme Being on their behalf. The Supreme Being is considered to be the only link between the believers and the Earth.
The Supreme Being is only called upon during extreme dire situations when people are completely helpless. If the issue is minor, they ask elders for assistance, but if it is something as grave as droughts or epidemics that could hurt the whole community, they turn to the Supreme Being.
Worship of ancestors:
Elders or ancestors are always highly respected- the older they are, the more worthy they are of respect. Worship is an extension of this respect. People believe that respect occurs when belief exists and belief only exists if worship does. This idea led to the concept of worshipping elders as well. People think that their ancestors have a spiritual connection with them even after they have passed, so their spirits are worshiped.
Most ancestral spirits are said to be kind and good and do positive things for their people. Adverse actions only occur as minor illnesses as a form of punishment and warning, so people realize that they have turned to the incorrect path. To satisfy these unhappy ancestors, believers set themselves straight and make offerings in beer and meat.
Other than sacrifices and worship, they practiced other rituals as well. We can see cults and divinities in the form of shrined and alters created in honor of spirits and ancestors. They don’t necessarily have to be massive monuments, but they can be as small as a little marker in an enclosed area.
Relations with divine beings were made in offerings, prayers and sacrifices– specifically blood sacrifices. They believe that bloodshed releases forces that sustains life. It is more important than most ceremonies dedicated to ancestors or other divinities.
Practices that are adapted universally:
Today, people have adapted to some practices from their religion, and it is now common to practice, respect, and enjoy it.
Traditional African healing techniques:
Mystics used to be well versed in terms of healing with herbs. In ancient times, there was no medicine, so they discovered the medicinal properties of herbs and plants, and many are still used today because of their effectiveness.
Art and aesthetics:
Traditional African art consists of five main features: Luminosity, self-composure, youthfulness, resemblance to a human being, and clarity of form and detail which is the complexity of balance, composition, symmetry, and smoothness of finish. This art and aesthetic are still appreciated and continues to inspire artists worldwide.
Folk Tales and music:
These were stories they would tell their children and instruments of their designs used in festivals. These folk tales have become campfire stories, the instruments are still played today, and the songs have become forms of inspiration with a modern touch.
may have answered questions such as “what is African spirituality,” “how to practice African spirituality,” and so on. It is a prominent, ancient form of spirituality that was so deeply rooted in African society that many people practice it today. Moreover, people had evolved their practices so much that other religions still use some versions of their ideologies and traditions.