Portal:Traditional African religion

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Welcome to the Traditional African religions portal

Bienvenue sur le portail religions traditionnelles africaines

A wooden Nommo figure of the Dogon or Tellem people of Mali, believed to be made in the Mopti Region between the 11th and 15th century. The figure is now housed at the Brooklyn Museum, The Adolph and Esther D. Gottlieb Collection. This human form with raised arms is very common in Tellem sculptures symbolizing prayer for rain.

The traditional African religions (or traditional beliefs and practices of African people) are highly diverse and include various ethnic religions. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme creator, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional medicine. The role of humanity is generally seen as one of harmonising nature with the supernatural.

While adherence to traditional religion in Africa is hard to estimate, due to syncretism with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, practitioners are estimated to number over 100 million, or at least 10 percent of the population of the continent.

African diasporic religions are also practiced in the diaspora in the Americas, such as Haitian Vodou.

"African traditional religion is inextricably linked to the culture of the African people. In Africa religion has been understood as an integral part of life in which every aspect was knit together into a coherent system of thought and action, giving significance and meaning and providing abiding and satisfying values. Religion, culture, politics, and society were part of a seamless whole and no part of it could stand on its own. The absence of a specific word for "religion" in many African languages is an indication of this African holistic understanding of life. Words related to the concept of religion may be translated as "customs," tradition," or "way of life.".

Source : "The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions", (Editor: Department of Global and International Studies University of California Mark Juergensmeyer Professor of Sociology and Director, Santa Barbara), p. 537, Oxford University Press, USA (2006), ISBN 9780199727612 [1]

Selected article

The Nommo are mythological ancestral spirits (sometimes referred to as deities) worshiped by the Dogon tribe of Mali. The word "Nommo" is derived from a Dogon word meaning "to make one drink." The Nommos are usually described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures. Folk art depictions of the Nommos show creatures with humanoid upper torsos, legs/feet, and a fish-like lower torso and tail. The Nommos are also referred to as "Masters of the Water", "The Monitors", and "The Teachers". Nommo can be a proper name of an individual, or can refer to the group of spirits as a whole.

More about Nommo and its relation to Dogon astronomy...

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Festivals & Events

There are several religious festivals found in the various Traditional African religions. Some of these are listed below next to their corresponding religion :

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Babacar Sédikh Diouf

Source: Diouf, Babacar Sédikh, "Le Sérère, Paganism Polythéiste ou Religion Monothéiste" [in] Camara, Fatou Kiné (PhD) & Seck, Abdourahmane (PhD), "Secularity and Freedom of Religion in Senegal: Between a Constitutional Rock and a Hard Reality", p 860-61 (PDF - p. 2-3) [2]


Selected biography

Father Henry Gravrand (France, 1921 - Abbey of Latrun, Palestine, 11 July 2003) was a French Catholic missionary to Africa and an anthropologist who has written extensively on Serer religion and culture. He was one of the leading pioneers of interfaith dialog and believed that Traditional African religion was the "first covenant between God and man".

More about Father Henry Gravrand...

Did you know...

A terracotta sculpture from the Nok era believed to be made between the 6th century BC–6th century CE
Nok culture
Geographical range West Africa
Period Iron Age
Dates circa 1000 B.C.E. — circa 300 C.E.
Type site Nok
Major sites Samun Dukiya, Taruga, Jos
Followed by Kwararafa



For more Traditional African religion topics, see Category:African traditional religions.

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