Traditional African Religion

Topics: Africa, African traditional religion, Human Pages: 7 (2494 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Traditional African Religion

Before one starts to outline the traditional religion in Africa, one must first explain the way Africa is as a whole. Without the knowledge of the past combined with knowledge of culture, one would have a very vague, if any, understanding of traditional religion.

Out of all of the continents, Africa is the most central. It is told that the first man was found in Africa, so with this, many feel that Africa is the birthplace of human culture. Within this continent, there are many different lifestyles, which are lived. Many blame the variety of lifestyles on western influence, but the truth is that different lifestyles began thousands of years before the west had influence on Africa. African's lifestyles revolve mostly around what is called "triple heritage." Triple heritage consists of traditional African beliefs, Islam beliefs, and the beliefs of western cultures. Due to different heritages, the African people speak Swahili, Arabic, and English. Today, the people of Africa have little interest in what is going on outside of Africa.

With three different heritages found in one area, it is rather easy to see why different lifestyles can be found. One of the major differences within these cultures is the argument between being monotheistic or polytheistic. Monotheistic is the belief in one and only one god, while polytheistic is the belief of having multiple gods. For example, some people of Africa worship many aspects of nature believing that a god is in charge of every aspect of nature. Another difference is the role of women. Within traditional African beliefs, the women are full of diversity and very important to the men, while in other cultures, they may not have as much respect. Even within the African beliefs you can find some tribes in which the woman do not receive the respect deserved.

Another matter that must be understood is that of time. The concept of time is a key factor to the interpretation and understanding of African religion. The question of time is of little or no academic concern for the African people. For them, time is merely a composition of events that have occurred, those that are taking place, and those which will occur. With this belief, time falls into three sub-categories. These include; potential time, actual time, and no time. Potential time is defined as what is certain to happen, or what falls within the rhythm of natural phenomena. Actual time is what is present and what is past. It moves "backwards" rather than "forward", and people set their minds on what has taken place, not the future. No time, in turn, is defined as what has not taken place or what has no likelihood of an immediate occurrence.

According to traditional concepts, time is considered to be a two-dimensional phenomenon, with a long past, a present, and virtually no future. The linear concept of time is western thought, with an indefinite past, present, and future, is practically nonexistent to African thinking. The future is absent because the events that lie in it have not taken place, they have not been realized, and therefore, they cannot constitute time.

The Africans use what is called a phenomenal calendar, rather than a calendar that is based on traditional time. Time is established by using events rather than time itself. A day is also constructed this way. Time is not known, it is perceived. Nine o'clock is not nine o'clock; rather nine o'clock is when the cattle are milked. Time is referred to as the event in which is taking place during that part of the day.

Understanding time is important in understanding the thoughts and beliefs of the African people. Understanding ontology is important as well. As defined by Webster's ontology is "a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being." Ontology is the way in which the Africans believe. Expressed ontologically, God is the origin and creator of all...
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