to admire in
African Traditional Religions
IN THE RELIGIOUS SPHERE
- There is widespread belief in a supreme God, unique and transcendent.
- Africans have a sense of the sacred and a sense of mystery; there is high reverence for sacred places, persons and objects; sacred times are celebrated.
- Belief in the afterlife is incorporated in myths and in funeral ceremonies.
- The invisible world of spirits and ancestors is always present and the intentions of these spirits can be ascertained; care is taken to ascertain the will of the spirit to whom sacrifices may be due or from whom protection may be sought.
- Religion enfolds the whole of life, there is no dichotomy between life and religion.
- Ancestors mediate between God and man.
- Belief in the efficacy of intercessory prayer is widespread.
- Bodily purification is required before one may approach to offer sacrifice to God; there are nevertheless provisions for spiritual purification also.
- It is believed that sin harms the public good, hence there are periodical purification rites in order to promote public welfare.
- Worship requires a fundamental attitude of strict discipline and reverence.
- Pardon is final and acknowledged by all: an offence, once forgiven, is never recalled.
IN THE RITUAL SPHERE
- Rites form an essential part of social life.
- Ancestors and the dead are invoked by rites.
- The seasonal cycles and the stages of life are sanctified by ritual action. Ritual attention is given to crisis situations.
- The whole person, body and soul, is totally involved in worship.
- In worship and sacrifice there is co-responsibility each person contributes his share in a spirit of participation.
- Symbols bridge the spheres of the sacred and secular and so make possible a balanced and unified view of reality.
- Rites of passage, of initiation and of consecration are widespread.
- There are many rites of purification of individuals and communities.
- The sick are healed in rites which involve their families and the community.
- Religious sacredness is preserved in ritual, in dress and the arrangements of the places of worship.
- Some of the traditional blessings are rich and very meaningful.
IN THE RELIGIO-MORAL SPHERE:
- There is respect for life: children are treasured, abortion is an abomination.
- The sacredness of human life is guarded by taboos and rituals.
- There is respect for the dignity of man; each man has his own inalienable chi ("selfhood", "destiny").
- To be faithful in undertakings is regarded as becoming a man.
- That life makes moral demands is accepted, and this is shown among other things by the sense of the person and attachment to life itself.
- Sin is perceived in both its personal and communal dimensions.
- Moderation in the use of alcohol is inculcated: only adults may drink. Drunkenness is shameful. Indeed moderation is required in every aspect of human behaviour.
IN THE RELIGIO-CULTURAL SPHERE:
- Attention is given to locating man within his environment and making him feel at home in it.
- Tradition is handed down through stories, poems, hymns, proverbs, riddles and art.
- The whole community is involved in the training of the young, and education itself has a necessary community and social aspect.
- The moral education of youth is taken seriously.
- Life has a festive dimension and is celebrated in adequate rites.
- Old folk are held in high esteem. The community regards their wisdom as prophetic, that is, as able to give direction for living in the circumstances of the present day.
- Silence is treasured as a value.
- Marriage is an alliance between families and persons; cultural provisions are made to uphold its stability.
- Youth is give a gradual initiation to life and society.
- Blood alliances bind with a bond that is rarely broken.
IN THE RELIGIO-SOCIAL SPHERE:
- Hospitality is a duty and is the most common value in African Traditional Religion all over Africa.
- Between kith and kin and people of the same clan there is a very strong sense of sharing and of solidarity and belonging.
- Efforts are made to secure and promote justice and peace within the community.
- The nuclear family and the extended family have been the pivots of the African social system.
- Respect for authority, sanctioned by the ancestors, is strong and represents the common will.
- The poor and the sick are taken care of, widows and orphans are looked after.